The 2,340-mile-long Mississippi River is so low from hot, dry weather just a few months
after severe floods helped replenish it from critically low water levels last year.
A drought has heightened worries about a second year of costly shipping delays,
which amassed to an estimated $20 billion in losses last year, according to AccuWeather. About 40 days of low water in parts of the Mississippi — which runs through or touches the borders of 10 states — grounded barges, stalled traffic, blocked river ports at the height of harvest seaso n and revealed shipwrecks.
Cycles of drought and flood have always been a factor in the lives of people along the river, but climate change could drive wider swings and is generally expected to amplify those cycles.
According to a report from the Memphis Commercial Appeal, part of USA TODAY Network, the roughly 360-mile stretch between the Ohio River confluence to the north and the Arkansas River confluence to the south has been experiencing record water-level lows at several points, with more lows to come.
As uncertainty about weather and water grows, photos show the impact of drought on the Mississippi so far this year.
The Mississippi River's low water levels reveal land banks on the Big River Crossing trail in West Memphis, Arkansas, on Monday, Sept. 18, 2023. A palm tree grows on the levee in New Orleans where the Mississippi River is close to a near-record low on Friday, Sept. 15, 2023. Whistling ducks gather near the Mississippi River gage at New Orleans on Friday, Sept. 15, 2023. The river is experiencing near-record low levels because of a lack of rain up north. Barges float in the Mississippi River as a portion of the riverbed is exposed, Friday, Sept. 15, 2023, in St. Louis. A long stretch of hot, dry weather has left the Mississippi River so low that barge companies are reducing their loads just as Midwest farmers are preparing to harvest their crops and send tons of corn and soybeans downriver to the Gulf of Mexico. Midwest grain harvests loom. Will a low Mississippi River stall farmers' deliveries again? In this aerial photo, a tugboat pushing barges navigates between and around sandbars during low water levels on the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge, La., and Reserve, La. in Livingston Parish, La., Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023. In this aerial photo, barges are seen moored during low water levels on the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge, La., and Reserve, La. in Livingston Parish, La., Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023. In this aerial photo, barges are seen moored during low water levels on the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge, La., and Reserve, La. in Livingston Parish, La., Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023. Towboats line a service facility on the Mississippi River near Wickliffe, Kentucky. A discharge pipe snakes out from behind the Dredge Potter, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers vessel working to maintain a channel deep enough for shipping on the Mississippi River. Towboats line the shore near Cairo, Illinois, where the Ohio and Mississippi rivers meet. A towboat passes the river level gauge at Cairo, Illinois, where the Ohio and Mississippi rivers meet. This aerial photo shows shows a tugboat with barges navigating around a sandbar during a period of low water level in the Mississippi River near the Louisiana State Penitentiary in West Feliciana Parish, La., Friday, July 21, 2023. A Marquette Transportation barge is seen along the Mississippi River on Tuesday July 18, 2023, in De Soto, Wis. The flooded Mississippi River surrounds the homes on Abel Island near Guttenberg, Iowa, April 25, 2023. The Mississippi River, pictured from docking bay at Mud Island River Park in Downtown Memphis, Tenn., returned to normal water levels in March 2023 after experiencing a drought for a few months. James Isaacks walks where the normally wide Mississippi River would flow, Oct. 20, 2022, near Portageville, Mo. Photos of drought, climate disasters across the US in 2023
Here's a look at the various climate disasters and weather anomalies — including the first-ever
tropical storm watch issued for southern California, destructive flooding in the Northeast and deadly wildfires in Maui — that have impacted the country this year. Anthony Gola looks at his cattle and a dwindling stock tank near Thrall, Texas, during a drought on Aug. 24, 2023. Bones of fish lay on the bottom of a dry pool bed May 8, 2023, at Cheyenne Bottoms — a wetland in occupying approximately 41,000 acres in central Kansas,. Persistent drought conditions in recent years have dried up almost all of the pools this time of year. Boat docks in York, Pa., at Lake Redman, pictured Sept. 7, 2023, are high and dry as the reservoir is seven feet below its normal level. Contributing: John Beifuss, Memphis Commercial Appeal, Chris Kenning, USA TODAY This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Dropping Mississippi River water levels, drought impact in photos View comments