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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Quoting hydrus:
The latest EURO run has more winter weather....and severe...


Will Xerxes conquer or fall flat?
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Quoting CaribBoy:
Well.... there is another nice spin near the Lesser Antilles and it has sustained convection this time! But I would really prefer to see it 3 degrees south lol... we still need rain in the NE Carib :-)



Link


where are you driving this at?
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14873
Well.... there is another nice spin near the Lesser Antilles and it has sustained convection this time! But I would really prefer to see it 3 degrees south lol... we still need rain in the NE Carib :-)



Link
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Yonzabam I'm not going to gainsay the NOAA report on the flash drought. They are the experts in the field. And I did provide a list of billion dollar disasters from which each may form their own conclusion.
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List of all billion dollar weather disasters (with adjustments for inflation) in the USA since 1980. From which you can draw your own conclusions.
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Quoting BaltimoreBrian:
Thanks Dr. Masters. It's a good reminder that single events can't be definitively ascribed to global warming. It's more valid to look at trends.


True, but how much of a trend does the NOAA need before it says the drought is causd by global warming?

They've ignored the research which ascribes changes in the jet stream to reduced temperature contrast between polar and temperate latitude air masses, due to increased meling of Arctic snowfields and sea ice.

I think they're going to be embarrassed by this report in years to come.
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Magnitude 5.8
Date-Time: Friday, April 12, 2013 at 20:33:17 UTC
Saturday, April 13, 2013 at 05:33:17 AM at epicenter
Location: 34.369N, 134.831E
Depth: 14km (8.7 miles) (poorly constrained)
Region: NEAR S. COAST OF WESTERN HONSHU, JAPAN

Distances
9 km (5 miles) NW of Sumoto, Japan
20 km (12 miles) NNE of Fukura, Japan
28 km (17 miles) SSW of Akashi, Japan
31 km (19 miles) NE of Naruto, Japan

And I thought such character name was made up...oh well, what do you know.
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14873
Thanks Dr. Masters. It's a good reminder that single events can't be definitively ascribed to global warming. It's more valid to look at trends.
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Big 6.0 quake in the island of Honshu, Japan...

INTENSITY DOWNGRADED TO 5.8
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14873
Drought not linked to Global Warming? Next thing someone will tell us that that current hyper-active hurricane seasons we are having is not related to AGW. Oh wait, someone has already done that........
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The latest EURO run has more winter weather....and severe...
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Thank you, Dr. Masters, for clearing up some of the confusion surrounding the drought report.
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USGS has initially placed the Japan earthquake at a 6.0, and quite shallow:

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zerohedge‏@zerohedge2 min
INITIAL ESTIMATE FOR JAPAN QUAKE MAGNITUDE IS 6.7, JMA SAYS

zerohedge‏@zerohedge2 min
EARTHQUAKE REPORTED IN JAPAN'S HARIMA-NADA, JMA SAYS
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BULLETIN - IMMEDIATE BROADCAST REQUESTED
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DENVER CO
224 PM MDT FRI APR 12 2013

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN DENVER HAS ISSUED A

* SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING FOR...
EAST CENTRAL WASHINGTON COUNTY IN NORTHEAST COLORADO

* UNTIL 315 PM MDT

* AT 224 PM MDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED A
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING DESTRUCTIVE WINDS UP TO
ABOUT 70 MPH
. THIS STORM WAS LOCATED 2 MILES WEST OF PLATNER...OR
5 MILES EAST OF AKRON...MOVING SOUTHEAST AT 35 MPH.

* LOCATIONS IN THE WARNING INCLUDE BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO PLATNER AND
OTIS.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

DAMAGING WINDS UP TO 62 MPH WERE REPORTED AT THE AKRON AIRPORT WITH
THIS STORM
. THIS IS A DANGEROUS STORM...SEEK SAFE SHELTER AND STAY
AWAY FROM WINDOWS!

IF SEVERE WEATHER APPROACHES YOUR AREA...GO INSIDE A STURDY SHELTER
AWAY FROM CREEK BEDS AND OTHER FLOOD-PRONE AREAS. REMEMBER...A SEVERE
THUNDERSTORM CAN PRODUCE LARGE DAMAGING HAIL...DAMAGING WINDS IN
EXCESS OF 58 MPH...DEADLY LIGHTNING...AND VERY HEAVY RAIN.

&&

LAT...LON 4017 10319 4026 10308 4015 10278 3986 10280
3985 10279 3981 10280
TIME...MOT...LOC 2024Z 305DEG 29KT 4016 10308
WIND...HAIL 70MPH <.75IN

$$
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Thanks for another blog Doctor, You are very busy lately. You trying to catch up.
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Quoting indianrivguy:


Have a 5k fundraiser tomorrow morning,, no t-storm until later!!!!!


Hope you have great success at it !!
Member Since: March 1, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 6998
Quoting VR46L:
lot of places getting rain in the next 72 hrs



Have a 5k fundraiser tomorrow morning,, no t-storm until later!!!!!
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I'm not sure how many have saw this, but the preliminary rating for the Kemper and Noxubee counties tornado is an EF3.
The Notasulga, AL tornado and the Hazelwood, MO tornado were both rated EF2's.

AN NWS SURVEY TEAM CONTINUES TO WORK WITH EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT
PERSONNEL SURVEYING THE PATH OF THE TORNADO THAT MOVED THROUGH
KEMPER AND NOXUBEE COUNTIES YESTERDAY. WHILE THE TEAM HAS NOT
SURVEYED THE ENTIRE PATH AS OF YET...THE TEAM HAS DETERMINED THAT
THE TORNADO WILL AT A MINIMUM BE RATED EF-3...WITH A MAXIMUM WIDTH
OF AT LEAST THREE-QUARTERS OF A MILE.
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Quoting SFLWeatherman:
That what i have and i love it!:) I got it 2 days ago


I got a HTC yesterday ... was ready to throw it against a wall couldnt open the darn thing, until I rang Customer service ... thankfully its not one of those outsourced to India call centres instead it was local customer service !!

Now trying to get used to it ... my first android phone
Member Since: March 1, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 6998
RIP Jonathan Winters, never missed his show when I was a kid.
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lot of places getting rain in the next 72 hrs

Member Since: March 1, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 6998
CMC doesn't have as major of a snowstorm as the GFS, but this solution still is similar to the current storm.
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12z GFS forecast for next Wednesday...look familiar?

Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32832
Thanks Doc !!!
Member Since: March 1, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 6998
Thanks Dr. Masters.

GFS's depiction of the next week's system. It looks similar to the current storm.

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My ridging theory as to the Gulf in drought years just went out the window; just answered my question as to the 1934 and 1936 hurricane seasons (from Wiki). Actually, several Gulf strikes in both these years but no hurricanes/storms traversing the Caribbean in the 36 season.

1934

The 1934 Atlantic hurricane season ran through the summer and the first half of fall in 1934. The 1934 season was fairly quiet. However, it was a continuation of deadly seasons that had been going on since 1928.

A Category 2 June hurricane, the 1934 Central America Hurricane, carved an erratic path across Central America and the Gulf of Mexico, causing catastrophic flooding in Central America that killed 1,000-3,000 people.

Elsewhere, a tropical storm formed and existed entirely during the month of May, striking Florida and South Carolina and causing $155,000 in damage. A Category 1 hurricane passed over north Florida as a tropical storm and made landfall in central Texas, causing 11 casualties and $1–2 million in damage. Another Category 1 grazed Galveston. The extratropical remnant of a hurricane moved up the US East Coast, bringing hurricane force winds.


1936

The 1936 Atlantic hurricane season officially began on June 12, 1936, and lasted until December 6, 1936. These dates conventionally delimit the period of each year when most tropical cyclones form in the Atlantic basin.

The 1936 season was fairly active, with 20 tropical cyclones including 3 tropical depressions. Seven storms became hurricanes, of which one became a major hurricane. In addition, the season was unusual in the fact that no storms moved across large portions of the Caribbean Sea.[1] Seven storms, including three hurricanes, struck the United States. The season also set many records for the earliest date for a numbered storm, though all were surpassed by the extreme activity of the 2005 season.


Back to lurking for me today................:)
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That what i have and i love it!:) I got it 2 days ago
Quoting rmbjoe1954:


SFLW-

What phone did you get? My contract is up and am leaning to get a Samsung Galaxy III.
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Quoting rmbjoe1954:


SFLW-

What phone did you get? My contract is up and am leaning to get a Samsung Galaxy III.
I have the Samsung Dart...Takes pretty good pics
Member Since: October 3, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 6000
Thanks Doc
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He had (Edit - 25 yrs) experience Jed & spokesman said he would have been the last one they would have expected to have had an accident. Not going into cause yet, hope someone didn't fire up an improperly connected generator that caught him offguard. Have a buddy who works for the IL arm of Ameren - lots of respect for what those guys do. I work for an electrical eqpt mfgr and deal with electricity a lot, but wouldn't want that job.

Barely in the 40s today, expect will be in the 30s at gametime, will be tough playing those harmonicas.
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Quoting SFLWeatherman:
I love the camera on my new phone!!!:)


SFLW-

What phone did you get? My contract is up and am leaning to get a Samsung Galaxy III.
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Quoting Jedkins01:


Hah thanks, and yeah understood! You obviously are quite smart too!

I actually hadn't looked at the sounding, but I had done a lot of studying the analysis page at SPC. which can give you a similar result, although to "see" the different layers of the atmosphere and what's happening there is more tedious than the sounding graph

I'm curious to know the mathematics involved in creating a sounding graph. I'll probably find out in my classes over the next year or so :)


Gotta love them differential equations. :)

Yeah, I am usually all over the SPC Meso page. Tons of information on one page and easily flipped through. Then I pull soundings from the areas I'm looking to visualize through the 3rd dimension to get a different perspective.
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Thanks Dr. Masters. I would be curious to know if there is any current criticism out there of the position taken by Gray/Klotzbach over the past several years of no discernible impact, at this time, on the level of CO2 and the "numbers" in the Atlantic hurricane season. As far as potential trajectories, I think one could argue, if this type of summer pattern for the mid-West becomes a relatively consistent feature in the future and not an isolated event, that the ridging patterns could potentially affect trajectories down the road of storms heading into or towards the Gulf of Mexico. If it was in fact an isolated once in 200 year event, I would be interested (with a lack of satellite data) as to what the frequency was as to land-falling hurricanes, in the mid-to-Western Gulf of Mexico during the Dust Bowl years for a potential analog comparison during a severe drought year as to hurricane trajectories.

Only time will tell I suppose.
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Blogapalooza...:)
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SevereStudios‏@severestudios2 h
Tornado damage from yesterday in MS-- RT @cork_yonk: Tower on Prarie Point road in Noxubee County Miss. Link
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Quoting Jedkins01:


Impressive, that makes my phone camera quality look like trash, lol.
Guess I need to lose my Kodak Brownie....Geez
Member Since: October 3, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 6000
Quoting SFLWeatherman:
I love the camera on my new phone!!!:)


Impressive, that makes my phone camera quality look like trash, lol.
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 8021
Quoting seminolesfan:
I know you are a smart one, too. That's why I knew hitting the soundings to make sure we were both talking about the same noise made sense. :)



Hah thanks, and yeah understood! You obviously are quite smart too!

I actually hadn't looked at the sounding, but I had done a lot of studying the analysis page at SPC. which can give you a similar result, although to "see" the different layers of the atmosphere and what's happening there is more tedious than the sounding graph

I'm curious to know the mathematics involved in creating a sounding graph. I'll probably find out in my classes over the next year or so :)
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 8021
Well; I guess you showed the naysayers, huh? ;)
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Thanks Jeff...
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Quoting SFLWeatherman:
I love the camera on my new phone!!!:)
Fragipani... That is what leis are made out of
Member Since: October 3, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 6000
Thank you Dr. Masters... I saw a documentary about the great plains drought of 1930... Those poor people had no warning and many never survived.
Member Since: October 3, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 6000
I love the camera on my new phone!!!:)
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a new one???

Well thanks...
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14873

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

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