Study: 2012 Drought Unrelated to Climate Change
Controversial NOAA report under fire
Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+.
A report by NOAA that the 2012 Great Plains drought was not caused by climate change is stirring controversy among climatologists.
The task force convened to study the drought—which eclipsed even the Dust Bowl in lack of precipitation—concluded that “mostly natural variations in weather” were responsible for the lack of rain. Instead of cliamte change, the report blames infrequent summertime thunderstorms and northward-shunted jet stream activity.
“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 reads.
In response, Dr. Kevin Trenberth, former head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research released a statement saying the report was “needlessly confusing, scientifically problematic, and already leading to mislead headlines.” He goes on to argue that the NOAA analysis failed to account for “the cumulative effects of drought on heat and wild fire risk.”
A number of studies previously projected that climate change will dry out the Central Great Planes and Southwest by pushing the jet stream north into Canada, as happened during the summer.
The 2012 drought had an estimated $12 billion damper on the economy and has been widely attributed to climate change.