The temperatures of Midwest streams have warmed as the hot, dry summer depletes them, resulting in thousands of dead fish. Some water temperatures have even risen to nearly 100 degrees, and the damage is evident.
About 40,000 shovelnose sturgeon were found dead in Iowa last week as water temperatures rose to 97 degrees, according to the Associated Press.
Moreover in Nebraska, fishery officials said they have counted thousands of dead sturgeon, catfish, carp, and other species in the Lower Platte River, including endangered species such as the pallid sturgeon.
Making matters worse, in Illinois so many fish died that their carcasses clogged an intake screen near a lower power plant, lowering water levels to the point that the plant had to shut down a generator. Biologists from the state counted thousands of dead large and smallmouth bass and channel catfish, and that the state-endangered greater redhorse fish population is being compromised.
"It's something I've never seen in my career, and I've been here for more than 17 years," said Iowa's fisheries biologist Mark Flammang with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). "I think that what we're mainly dealing with here are the extremely low flows and this unparalleled heat."
The epidemic has also arrived in Georgia as huge amounts of dead fish washed ashore of a lake in Butts County last week. Officials at the state's DNR estimated around 2,300 carp, bass and catfish have died, according to FOX 4 Dallas-Fort Worth.
"I wouldn't be surprised if it was in the 90's in this very small, shallow area, and the fish are stressed out," said Keith Weather of the DNR, according to FOX 4. "They can't take it and they die."
As one of the hottest and driest summers in history rages on, more than half of the U.S.'s counties are suffering from some form of drought, with some even declared by the Department of Agriculture as natural disaster areas. Thousands of heat records have been broken across the country this year.