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Drought Task Force: Climate Change Not To Blame

Controversial NOAA report says last year's devastating drought could be characterized as 'flash drought'

Published on: Apr 18, 2013

Despite ongoing discussion that drought is strong indicator of climate change, a federal study released this spring by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says last year's drought was not instigated by climate change, but by a reduction in moisture coming in from the Gulf of Mexico.

The report authors point to two specific reasons why they believe the drought is not related to climate change: rapid onset and unpredictability.

"The event did not appear to be just a progression or a continuation of the prior year’s record drought event that occurred over the southern Great Plains," the study says, noting that it developed suddenly with near normal previous precipitation during winter and spring. The near normal rainfall gave little forewarning of subsequent failed rains.

Controversial NOAA report says last years devastating drought could be characterized as flash drought
Controversial NOAA report says last year's devastating drought could be characterized as 'flash drought'

Conducted by NOAA's drought task force, the report says the drought could be characterized as a flash drought – an event that appears quickly and yields significant growing-season impacts.

"Neither ocean states nor human-induced climate change, factors that can provide long-lead predictability, appeared to play significant roles in causing severe rainfall deficits over the major corn producing regions of central Great Plains," the report says.

Natural variations in weather, including lack of moist Gulf of Mexico air infrequent summertime thunderstorms were the key causes behind the drought, they note.

Impacts of the drought were extreme, resulting in loss estimates in excess of $12 billion. Specifically, river commerce and agricultural production was halted, leading to long-term impacts.

Though much of the Corn Belt is now seeing a drought reprieve – with short-term weather patterns actually headed the other direction, towards rain and cool temps – the Great Plains is still suffering from lack of moisture.

But, after 2012, NOAA researchers say the drought has done nothing to deter U.S. corn and soybean plantings for 2013. The expected corn acreage, 97.3 million acres, would be the highest since 1936. The expected soybean acreage of 77.1 million acres would be the fourth-highest planted area on record. For 2013, cotton plantings are expected to total 10.0 million acres, down 19% from a year ago.

Click to read the report, An Interpretation of the Origins of the 2012 Central Great Plains Drought.

Add Comment
  1. Anonymous says:

    We are sorely in need of some global warming in the northern plains, lets get Algore to come up and breathe some hot air to melt snow and warm the ground. Back in the 70's we nearly were always done with wheat and starting on corn in April, has not been the case for the last 20 years (except last years abberation). How about cold and snowy winters in Germany and UK? Global warming is for nutjobs that follow Algore and support the massive government control scheme. This has to be the most successful hoax in the last 25 years and to think of the otherwise intelligent people that drank the coolaid is depressing. Even the perpetrators that bought into this are starting to question why todays numbers don't follow their prescribed model, easy, it is called BS!

  2. Anonymous says:

    The value of any scientific theory is in its ability to help us understand the world. If the theory is well developed, it can be used to predict outcomes in the future with reasonable reliability. After some time, scientists are ready to move beyond that theory. They begin by "taking away" scenarios that the model can predict (usually they do this because recorded outcomes vary significantly from predicted outcomes on a routine basis). Eventually, the theory is presented only as an item of historical interest. We can describe that the world is a flat dish resting on the backs of four great elephants. Every now and then one or more stumble and the dish shakes and great waves move over the waters. The model helps us understand the world. So far, reconnaissance satellites have failed to detect these four great elephants or the dish.

  3. Anonymous says:

    About 8 years ago while reading the USDA publication “Global Warming and Agriculture, I noticed that the report used an emission scenario that was much less than actual in their calculations. Then, I began to notice that same error in many other papers on the subject and soon realized the implications: understatement and scientific hedging means that climate change will occur more rapidly and sooner than expected. In addition, since these emissions are long lived, the impacts will be felt for thousands of years. At the 2012 Cabot Lecture, Dr. Kevin Anderson (link below) clearly pointed the finger at scientists and governments for not accurately reporting how bad the climate situation truly is. He also explains why we cannot meet the 2 degree C (3.8 F) target set by the world’s governments and its impacts on us today (i.e. catastrophic). His talk is timely in light of the recent report from the World Bank that found: "Even with the current mitigation pledges fully implemented, there is roughly a 20% likelihood of exceeding 4°C by 2100. If they are not met, warming of 4°C could occur as early as the 2060s." There isn’t any wiggle room left for any negotiation. Globally, we are nowhere close to meeting our mitigation pledges and long lived CO2 emissions continue to accumulate in the atmosphere at an accelerating rate. Dr. Anderson is very animated and I think you will find it enlightening. And, as to the NOAA report, that's what they said about the Russian heat wave. However, subsequent studies found it climate change as a most siqnificant factor. I expect the same here.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Hey Anon - and the farming community had absolutely nothing to do with the Dust Bowl. Keep your head in the sand and when they're growing pineapples in Anchorage, get back to me.

  5. Anonymous says:

    The last place I want to find this sort of theoretical global warming flim-flam info furthered is here at Farm Futures. Humans have insignificant presence in the universe to affect the climate. The idea that your staff writers feel obligated to add a qualifier, "Despite ongoing discussion that drought is a strong indicator of climate change", with accompanying link, proves that your people lack the intellectual capacity to report as objective journalist. I have watched this creeping environmentalism slide into our urban and suburban cousin's world with disgust, but for us, people who make our living from and with the earth, to submit to such ridiculous, unproven tripe is infuriating. Do we have Stockholm Syndrome? Dr Michael Mann and his cohorts were proven to be charlatans, yet their body of "work" seems to stand!?!? Utterly pathetic!