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By Cliff Harris

The ‘Flood of 2011' along the Mighty Mississippi River and its many tributaries is being compared to the so-called ‘500-Year Midwest Flood’ of the spring and early summer of 1993.

Flood-fighting, it seems, has become an annual pastime in the Mississippi Valley. Flood damage has been soaring in the past two decades.

In the past 18 years, Hannibal, Missouri, Mark Twain’s hometown, has seen a 500-year and a 200-year flood. Since 2008, there have been damaging floods every spring in Hannibal as well as other places along the Mississippi like Memphis, Tennessee, Greenville, Mississippi and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Elsewhere around the world, in just the past 10 months or so, there have been many 200 to 500-year floods that have caused huge losses of life and property from Pakistan and Bangladesh to Australia and Brazil.

Just this past week, President Juan Manuel Santos of Columbia called the major flooding in his South American country, "Chinese water torture." He added, "this 500-year flood has become Columbia’s worst natural disaster in recorded history."

After nearly a full year of almost endless rainfall, more than 1,000 people have been killed by floodwaters in Columbia. Cattle ranches and croplands have been destroyed by record flooding in 28 of the country’s 32 provinces.

Water-logged Andean mountainsides have collapsed. More than 3 million people have lost their homes and livelihoods. It’s "a disaster of Biblical proportions," according to President Santos.

What’s causing all these floods at the same time other parts of the planet are suffering from parching, crop-destroying droughts?

For example, much of Russia and China have endured the worst drought conditions in centuries. Russia was forced this past year to cancel wheat exports due to widespread crop failures. Wheat prices (and food costs) literally ‘skyrocketed’ on a global scale.

Now, parts of western and southwestern Europe are enduring parching drought, the worst such pattern in decades. As much as 30 percent of the 2011 E.U. wheat crop may have already been lost.

Our own hard red winter wheat regions of the southern Great Plains from Kansas southward to Texas have lost at least 30 percent of the 2011 crop due to weather conditions "drier than the infamous Dust Bowl Days."

It’s amazing that less than 500 miles to the east along the Mississippi River, we’re seeing some of the worst flooding in 500 years, ‘feast’ or ‘famine’ when it comes to precipitation, in close proximity.

For more than 20 years, I’ve frequently mentioned that we’ve entered a long-term climate cycle of WIDE WEATHER ‘EXTREMES,’ the strongest such cycle in more than 1,000 years, since the days of Leif Ericsson, the mighty Norse Chieftain, who with his powerful Vikings, actually farmed Greenland. Then came the ‘Little Ice Age’ that eventually wiped them out.

Since the latest cycle of global warming peaked about a decade ago, we have begun a slow, but steady, period of cooling in the mid-latitudes, this despite some lingering warming in the Arctic regions.

It remains my firm climatological opinion that when widely-opposing air masses clash headlong, there are usually dire, often deadly, meteorological and climatological consequences. That’s what led to our all-time record number of tornadoes in April and our record May flooding in the Mississippi Valley. Believe it!