NOAA report unable to pinpoint causes of the historic 2012 U.S. drought

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 7:27 PM GMT on April 12, 2013

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The extreme 2012 drought in the Central Great Plains of the U.S. was more intense than any drought since record keeping began in 1895, says a new NOAA assessment of the historic drought, released Thursday. However, the study was unable to pinpoint the cause of the drought. Other major global droughts in recent years have been linked to global warming and/or natural variation in patterns of sea surface temperatures, but these factors were seemingly not important in causing the drought of 2012, said the team of 19 atmospheric scientists, led by Martin Hoerling of the NOAA Modeling, Analysis, Predictions and Projections Program (MAPP). Their study attributed the drought to a random natural variation in the jet stream, which caused it to become "stuck" far to the north in Canada. Since rain-bearing low pressure systems travel along the jet stream, the northwards displacement of the jet stream resulted in abnormally dry conditions over the Central U.S. "This is one of those events that comes along once every couple hundreds of years," said Hoerling.



Key findings of the report
The researchers focused on a six-state region--Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri and Iowa, and found that the amount of precipitation in 2012 was only 53% of the long-term average. This was the driest year since record keeping began in 1895, surpassing the previous record driest years of 1934 and 1936, during the great Dust Bowl drought.

The researchers called the 2012 drought a "flash drought"--it developed suddenly in May, and was unrelated to the 2011 drought over Texas and surrounding states. The 2011 drought had a separate and well-understood trigger (a change in the jet stream and storm tracks, due to a La Niña event in the Eastern Pacific.)

The 2012 drought was not predicted by long-range weather forecast models. The new report concluded that our ability to predict drought is limited, but some new experimental techniques could improve future drought forecasts. For example, NOAA's long-range GFDL forecast model and the European EUROSIP model correctly anticipated the summer 2012 heat and dryness over the Central U.S. in projections made as early as January 2012.


Figure 1. Drought-damaged corn in a field near Nickerson, Nebraska, Aug. 16, 2012. The great U.S. drought of 2012 was the most extensive U.S. drought since the 1930s Dust Bowl. Over a six-state region--Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri and Iowa--precipitation during 2012 was only 53% of the long-term average., making it the driest year since record keeping began in 1895. Damage from the 2012 drought is at least $35 billion, and probably much higher. The associated heat wave killed 123 people, and brought the U.S. its second hottest summer on record. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Criticism of the report
Dr. Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research was critical of the report's conclusions. In comments posted in Joe Romm's blog at climateprogress.org, Dr. Trenberth said that the study failed to "say anything about the observed soil moisture conditions, snow cover, and snow pack during the winter prior to the event in spite of the fact that snow pack was at record low levels in the winter and spring" and "no attempt was made to include soil moisture, snow cover anomalies, or vegetation health" in the climate model runs performed.

I would have liked to have seen the paper mention the growing body of research that has linked unusually early May snow melt in the Northern Hemisphere and Arctic sea ice loss in recent years to unusual summertime jet stream patterns, like the jet stream pattern observed during 2012. A March 2013 paper by scientists at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in Germany found that under special conditions, the atmosphere can start to resonate like a bell. This causes the jet stream pattern to freeze in place and amplify, leading to months-long periods of weather extremes. They showed that warming of the Arctic due to human-caused climate change might be responsible for this resonance phenomenon, which became twice as common during 2001 - 2012 compared to the previous 22 years. One of the more extreme examples of this resonance occurred during the summer of 2012, and could have been the cause of the 2012 drought.

Other blogs on the report
Yes, Climate Change Is Worsening U.S. Drought — NOAA Report Needlessly Confuses The Issue by Joe Romm at climateprogress.org

Global Warming Not Significant in 2012 Drought: Report by Andrew Freedman of climatecentral.org

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Jeff Masters

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Guys, Im working on my hurricane chart...

I do an update every Saturday, tell me your numbers if you want to see your name on there tomorrow (if not then wait another week).

[All if I fix a major and unintentional flaw that happened some minutes ago]
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14869
Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 82 Comments: 7056
Quoting JohnLonergan:


You must be peeking at the trendsetters over at Neven's Arctic sea ice blog, most of their graphs project to the next 2 to 4 years.
no to be honest i only chill on the wunderground and my predictions if you ask are based upon my own observations and likly outcome i see in that time frame
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Quoting Tornado6042008X:
Hmmmmmmm.... It got really quiet for quite a while right after I posted that GFS forecast map.


Everybody chilled out after seeing your post!
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Hmmmmmmm.... It got eerily quiet for quite a while right after I posted that GFS forecast map.
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Heres a some childhood weather humor for yal..
When I was around pre-school age, my brother(who was 6 at the time) told me that when you see Orange on the radar, that means it's a hurricane..

Then in a few months, i asked my parents what a radar actually was..such memories. :D
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Quoting Thrawst:


As in it not existing or simply moving southward?

Could be either, but probably the latter.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 109 Comments: 30291
on some other note

these fellas have time to do this... but cool I guess

Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14869
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

Nevermind. I went back to last night's run and see why they outlined the risk area. Should look a little different in the morning.


As in it not existing or simply moving southward?
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Quoting BaltimoreBrian:


We were talking about that in chat.



we won't see that phrase during the hurricane season in weeks, oh wait... busy season!!!... then we won't in months
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14869
Quoting PedleyCA:
Got real quiet here....


We were talking about that in chat.

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Quoting PedleyCA:
Got real quiet here....


YAY, you two broke the silence.
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Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14869
Got real quiet here....
Member Since: Posts: Comments:


Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 82 Comments: 7056
132. flsky
"I missed you, too."

Quoting BaltimoreBrian:
But to show what a well mannered man you are, you should have said "Ich habe dich auch vermisst."


;)
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Pattern looks like it's going back to its old March self.

Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 109 Comments: 30291
I say July 13.
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Quoting BaltimoreBrian:


You look good for a man with cataracts. And that works on several levels ;)


I'm just a little old man who just sits and posts weather blogs. By the way, the first system should develop on May 17.
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Quoting wxchaser97:

What was the Clinton, AR tornado rated?

An EF2.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 109 Comments: 30291

Good evening bloggers! Good afternoon Aussie if you are on the blog. Okay. I know that this is still at least 10 days out and much of the east has had summerlike temperatures this week. So please don't "harm me" when I show you all this. Okay here I go....................................yep going to show you...........*GULP*......
11-15 Day 850mb Anomalies

Happy April 12th everybody!........right?........ *Nervous laughing*.
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But to show what a well mannered man you are, you should have said "Ich habe dich auch vermisst."


;)
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
The tornado that killed one person yesterday afternoon has been given a final rating of an EF3, with maximum sustained winds of 145 mph. Here's what's amazing though...the tornado was on the ground for 1 hour 17 minutes and tracked 68.4 miles!

What was the Clinton, AR tornado rated?
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Good afternoon/evening all.

Flash flood watch is in effect for the western Hawaiian Islands through late tomorrow. The approaching cold front from the west will bring unsettled weather there with a chance of heavy rain as well as thunderstorms in my location. Calm weather should return by next week.

FLOOD WATCH
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE HONOLULU HI
330 PM HST FRI APR 12 2013

...FLASH FLOOD WATCH FOR KAUAI NIIHAU AND OAHU THROUGH SATURDAY NIGHT...

HIZ001>011-131430-
/O.CON.PHFO.FF.A.0005.000000T0000Z-130414T1600Z/
/00000.0.ER.000000T0000Z.000000T0000Z.000000T0000 Z.OO/
NIIHAU-KAUAI WINDWARD-KAUAI LEEWARD-KAUAI MOUNTAINS-
OAHU SOUTH SHORE-WAIANAE COAST-OAHU NORTH SHORE-OAHU KOOLAU-
OLOMANA-CENTRAL OAHU-WAIANAE MOUNTAINS-
330 PM HST FRI APR 12 2013

...FLASH FLOOD WATCH REMAINS IN EFFECT THROUGH LATE SATURDAY
NIGHT...

THE FLASH FLOOD WATCH CONTINUES FOR

* KAUAI...NIIHAU AND OAHU.

* THROUGH LATE SATURDAY NIGHT.

* AN APPROACHING COLD FRONT WILL PRODUCE HEAVY SHOWERS AND
THUNDERSTORMS OVER KAUAI OVERNIGHT AND SATURDAY. ISOLATED HEAVY
SHOWERS ARE POSSIBLE OVER OAHU TONIGHT WITH THE CHANCE OF
FLOODING RAINFALL INCREASING ON SATURDAY.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

A FLASH FLOOD WATCH MEANS THAT CONDITIONS MAY DEVELOP THAT LEAD
TO FLASH FLOODING. FLASH FLOODING IS VERY DANGEROUS. REMEMBER
THAT IT DOES NOT HAVE TO BE RAINING HEAVILY WHERE YOU ARE FOR
FLASH FLOODING TO OCCUR.

MONITOR THE LATEST FORECASTS AND BE PREPARED TO TAKE IMMEDIATE
ACTION IF FLASH FLOOD WARNINGS ARE ISSUED.

&&

$$

WROE/LUTU-MCMOORE
Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 82 Comments: 7056
Quoting JohnLonergan:


You must be peeking at the trendsetters over at Neven's Arctic sea ice blog, most of their graphs project to the next 2 to 4 years.



I prefer 2025.
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Quoting Grothar:


I do?


You look good for a man with cataracts. And that works on several levels ;)
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:


i believe the arctic will be ice free in summer by 2015 and by 2020 greenland suffering dire conditions


You must be peeking at the trendsetters over at Neven's Arctic sea ice blog, most of their graphs project to the next 2 to 4 years.
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The tornado that killed one person yesterday afternoon has been given a final rating of an EF3, with maximum sustained winds of 145 mph. Here's what's amazing though...the tornado was on the ground for 1 hour 17 minutes and tracked 68.4 miles!
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 109 Comments: 30291
Quoting BaltimoreBrian:



Ich habe dich vermisst! Du siehst gut aus.


I do?
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Quoting Grothar:


Thank goodness. I thought it was my cataracts finally going.



Ich habe dich vermisst! Du siehst gut aus.
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A random update from Seattle:

Seattle has received 3.3 inches of rainfall so far this April, well over the 2.51 inch average (which was reached on April 7). With the forecast for cold and wet weather, it will be interesting to see if we approach the record of 6.57 for April.

Also, if you are planning to travel any of the passes through the Cascades prepare for winter weather. With temperatures 15F below normal, the snow level will be around 2000ft.
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116. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Seychelles Meteorological Services
Tropical Cyclone Advisory #29
DEPRESSION TROPICALE, FORMER IMELDA (10-20122013)
4:00 AM RET April 13 2013
======================================

At 0:00 AM UTC, Tropical Depression, Former Imelda (994 hPa) located at 15.9S 59.3E has 10 minute sustained winds of 30 knots. The depression is reported as moving south at 5 knots.

Near Gale Force Winds
====================
70 NM radius from the center, extending up to 100 NM in the northeastern quadrant, up to 110 NM in the southwestern quadrant, and up to 180 NM in the southeastern quadrant

reaching gale force winds from 50-100 NM radius from the center in the southeastern semi-circle due to gradient effect

Dvorak Intensity: T2.5/2.5/D 0.5/12 HRS

Forecast and Intensity
=======================
12 HRS: 16.6S 59.3E - 35 knots (Tempête Tropicale Modérée
24 HRS: 17.3S 59.3E - 30 knots (Depression Tropicale)
48 HRS: 19.6S 59.1E - 25 knots (Depression se Comblant)
72 HRS: 19.5S 60.1E - 25 knots (Depression se Comblant)

Additional Information
=========================
Deep convection has rebuilt during the last 6 hours in the southern semi-circle, seems to organize into banding pattern.

Given the current state of the circulation and the rather hostile environment (dry air in the mid-level, weakening low level convergence as a barometric col approaching from the southwest), franche re-intensification appears now unlikely, however the system may temporarily benefit of the convergence with the ridge in the southeast, and intensify slightly, before to undergo a northwesterly vertical winds shear on and after Sunday. Imelda has moved southwards during the last hours slowing down. According to numerical weather prediction fields in the low and middle level (where should be the steering flow now), the combined effect of the ridge located to the southeast of the system in low level and the barometric col passing to the south of the system, should give a more southwards component to the track tomorrow and Sunday.

Before the middle of next week, the filling up low should track westwards or west northwestwards steered by the trade-winds flow.
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:



double image just messin with settings


Thank goodness. I thought it was my cataracts finally going.
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Quoting Astrometeor:


3rd term? He had four terms....


see.. that's how bad it was back then
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14869
Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:
Not so weather related but seen in the news today...

April 12, 1945 (68 years ago)

FDR (Franklin Delano Roosevelt) dies in office in his third term...
RIP.

(not trying to bring politics up though, just stating the fact)
FDR is less politics than history to me... lol...
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Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:
Not so weather related but seen in the news today...

April 12, 1945 (68 years ago)

FDR (Franklin Delano Roosevelt) dies in office in his third term...
RIP.

(not trying to bring politics up though, just stating the fact)


3rd term? He had four terms....
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faster and faster
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Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:
Not so weather related but seen in the news today...

April 12, 1945 (68 years ago)

FDR (Franklin Delano Roosevelt) dies in office in his third term...
RIP.

(not trying to bring politics up though, just stating the fact)


Just read comedian Jonathan Winters passed away today.
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10589
Quoting aspectre:
68 BaltimoreBrian: ...NOAA...Arctic nearly free of summer sea ice during first half of 21st century
The "trendsetters" approach...extrapolates to a nearly sea ice-free Arctic by 2020.
The "stochasters" approach...suggests a nearly sea ice-free Arctic by about 2030 but with large uncertainty in timing.
The "modelers" approach...show the earliest possible loss of sea ice to be around 2040...But the median timing of sea ice loss in these models is closer to 2060.
Whichever way forecast, the sunbathing spots are gonna get more than a wee bit crowded.


i believe the arctic will be ice free in summer by 2015 and by 2020 greenland suffering dire conditions
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:



double image just messin with settings


can you do something about the blurriness
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14869



double image just messin with settings
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68 BaltimoreBrian: ...NOAA...Arctic nearly free of summer sea ice during first half of 21st century
The "trendsetters" approach...extrapolates to a nearly sea ice-free Arctic by 2020.
The "stochasters" approach...suggests a nearly sea ice-free Arctic by about 2030 but with large uncertainty in timing.
The "modelers" approach...show the earliest possible loss of sea ice to be around 2040...But the median timing of sea ice loss in these models is closer to 2060.
Whichever way forecast, sunbathing spots are gonna get more than a wee bit crowded

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Not so weather related but seen in the news today...

April 12, 1945 (68 years ago)

FDR (Franklin Delano Roosevelt) dies in office
RIP.

(not trying to bring politics up though, just stating the fact)
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14869
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
I have no idea how SPC gets this..



when you've got this...



this...



and this...


Nevermind. I went back to last night's run and see why they outlined the risk area. Should look a little different in the morning.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 109 Comments: 30291

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Criticism of the report

Dr. Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research was critical of the report's conclusions (Interpretation of 2012 Central Plains Drought...)

"In comments posted in Joe Romm's blog at climateprogress.org, Dr. Trenberth said that the study failed to 'say anything about the observed soil moisture conditions, snow cover, and snow pack during the winter prior to the event in spite of the fact that snow pack was at record low levels in the winter and spring' and 'no attempt was made to include soil moisture, snow cover anomalies, or vegetation health' in the climate model runs performed.

-- Um, any reputable scientific report has to assess current conditions as much as possible and include them in the analysis if they are drawing conclusions from an event. Sloppy research imho.
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Quoting wxchaser97:

I don't like how the 18z GFS put me right on the edge of a few inches of snow. I want it to go farther north.


yeah, some 1-3" I see there for your area...
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14869
I have no idea how SPC gets this..



when you've got this...



this...



and this...

Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 109 Comments: 30291
Quoting GeorgiaStormz:
GFS fluctuates between showing a strong and a week surface low.... a week to figure this out and see how the ecmwf and cmc match up...may be more instability and definitely more shear last time.

I don't like how the 18z GFS put me right on the edge of a few inches of snow. I want it to go farther north.
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AWCN11 CWTO 122001

weather summary for all of Southern Ontario and the
National Capital Region issued by Environment Canada
==weather event discussion==

An active weather pattern has affected much of Southern Ontario the
past several days.

Southwestern Ontario received significant rainfall this week.

Below are total precipitation amounts since Tuesday that have been
reported as of 2 PM today. Some of the values below include
precipitation in the form of freezing rain, ice pellets and snow on
Thursday and Friday morning.


------------------------------------------------- ------------
Location rain amount (mm)
------------------------------------------------- ------------

Windsor 60
Sarnia Airport 85
London 67
Vineland 73
Ridgetown 65
Goderich 56
Kitchener 71
Elora 61
Hamilton Airport 66
Buttonville Airport 51
Pearson international airport 58
Toronto city 58

Many areas also received significant freezing rain on Thursday and
Friday. Several locales reported greater than 10 mm of freezing
Rain. Widespread power outages occured across much of Southern
Ontario due to the combination of ice accumulation and strong winds.

Below are freezing rainfall amounts from Thursday, most of it
occurring Thursday night and Friday, as of 2 PM today. These
Numbers are estimates, as freezing rain was mixed with or changed to
ice pellets, snow or rain at times.


------------------------------------------------- ------------
Location freezing rain amount (mm)
------------------------------------------------- ------------

London 7
Goderich 12
Kitchener 10
Hamilton 3
Toronto Pearson 10
Markham (Buttonville) 10
Wiarton 14
Collingwood 9
Barrie 10
Oshawa 10
Peterborough 16
Trenton 10
Beatrice 14
Petawawa 6
Bancroft 14
Brockville 12
Ottawa 4

This weather summary contains preliminary information and may not
constitute an official or final report.

END/OSPC
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About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.