University of Nebraska claims record drought in the USA? Not so fast…

From the University of Nebraska-Lincoln  comes a news release about the 12 year old U.S. Drought Monitor dataset, proclaiming “record worst ever” as if this has some relevance in history. Sorry, I have to call BS on this. Take June 1934 for example:

Well over half of the USA then was in moderate to severe to extreme drought.NOAA wrote in 2002 describing the summer drought then:

The most extensive national drought coverage during the past 100 years (the period of instrumental record) occurred in July 1934 when 80 percent of the contiguous United States was in moderate to extreme drought.

Compare that to June 2012 where UNL claims 47 percent of the CONUS is experiencing “some level of drought”:

Color me unimpressed with the University of Nebraska’s PR fear mongering which can easily be dispelled in a few seconds of Internet search. Source: NCDC here. Now let’s see how many feckless reporters pick up this UNL press release  from Eurekalert and run with it as “worst ever” without bothering to check history.

US Drought Monitor shows record-breaking expanse of drought across US

Nearly 47 percent of nation experiencing some level of drought, officials say

More of the United States is in moderate drought or worse than at any other time in the 12-year history of the U.S. Drought Monitor, officials from the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln said today.

Analysis of the latest drought monitor data revealed that 46.84 percent of the nation’s land area is in various stages of drought, up from 42.8 percent a week ago. Previous records were 45.87 percent in drought on Aug. 26, 2003, and 45.64 percent on Sept. 10, 2002.

Looking only at the 48 contiguous states, 55.96 percent of the country’s land area is in moderate drought or worse – also the highest percentage on record in that regard, officials said. The previous highs had been 54.79 percent on Aug. 26, 2003, and 54.63 percent on Sept. 10, 2002.

“The recent heat and dryness is catching up with us on a national scale,” said Michael J. Hayes, director of the National Drought Mitigation Center at UNL. “Now, we have a larger section of the country in these lesser categories of drought than we’ve previously experienced in the history of the Drought Monitor.”

The monitor uses a ranking system that begins at D0 (abnormal dryness) and moves through D1 (moderate drought), D2 (severe drought), D3 (extreme drought) and D4 (exceptional drought).

Moderate drought’s telltale signs are some damage to crops and pastures, with streams, reservoirs or wells getting low. At the other end of the scale, exceptional drought includes widespread crop and pasture losses, as well as shortages of water in reservoirs, streams and wells, creating water emergencies. So far, just 8.64 percent of the country is in either extreme or exceptional drought.

“During 2002 and 2003, there were several very significant droughts taking place that had a much greater areal coverage of the more severe and extreme drought categories,” Hayes said. “Right now we are seeing pockets of more severe drought, but it is spread out over different parts of the country.

“It’s early in the season, though. The potential development is something we will be watching.”

The U.S. Drought Monitor is a joint endeavor by the National Drought Mitigation Center at UNL, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and drought observers across the country.


To examine the monitor’s current and archived national, regional and state-by-state drought maps and conditions, go to


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We still need rain. Badly.
[Moderator’s Suggestion: Schedule a car wash, a concert or an outdoor water-color exhibit. -REP]

I think this is the worst in 12 years, according to the press release. They couldn’t wait another 18 years to say something remotely connected to climate, as opposed to weather.

Yes, I referred to their 12 year long dataset…which means virtually nothing in the context of the US drought history. The problem is their headline and of course ignoring history without even a caveat. -Anthony

There are other past months/seasons that beat our our present conditions as well. August of 1936, for instance:


Like some religious fanatics seeing a painting of the Virgin Mary cry tears of blood, or a potato in the shape of Jesus, the warmists are exulting in what they see as signs from their ‘god’.

Apparently the new warmist weapon is timebase shortening.

This isn’t the first time they’ve exaggerated a drought. Their funding depends on droughts. “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

Do not look at the sinful maps my children! Shun the deniers!

The phrase “12 year history” is a non-sequitor – there is NO history in a 12 year time period…


The 1974 – 1977 period was pretty bad in a good chunk of the US.

Pamela Gray

That reminds me of the hoopla over the record number of record temperatures being set. If the current sensors are filled with new sensors, of course we will have a record number of records.


July 5, 2012 at 5:07 pm
A spud in the shape of Jesus is at least a curiosity, but one deliberately carved is not even that.
The church of gore worships a clumsily hacked man-made thing that needs constant repair and maintenance.


July 5, 2012 at 5:31 pm
The 1974 – 1977 period was pretty bad in a good chunk of the US.
I think it was in 74; I was riding with my dad, returning from a fishing trip, when it started to rain. The guy on the radio stated that it was the first rain in AZ in 168 days!

Louis Hooffstetter

I work near Beaufort, SC and routinely travel between there and Charlotte, NC. While the Palmer Drought Severity Index shows this area to be under moderate drought conditions, lake and stream levels are normal and there is no evidence of stressed vegetation anywhere. Rainfall may be slightly lower than average, but I’m at a loss to understand how anyone could call this a drought.


July 5, 2012 at 4:45 pm
We still need rain. Badly.
[Moderator’s Suggestion: Schedule a car wash, a concert or an outdoor water-color exhibit. -REP]
Taking a Cub Scout Troop on a camping trip as only one of two adults always worked for me!
[REPLY: Oh Yeah. Scouting. Just one hour a week. Bwaa-haa-haa-ha! -REP]


Unfortunately, the mental gestalt of ‘warming’ has become part of the unconscious mind, like the idea that Nixon started the Vietnam War, or the idea that Three Mile Island killed lots of Americans.
When a notion goes unconscious, it’s impossible to dislodge it with mere facts. It would take a complete turnaround of the whole propaganda apparatus (by which I mean TV). All TV shows, from drama to comedy to “news”, would have to subtly and casually refer to the correct facts for about 20 years, every millisecond of every day, to undo the damage done by 20 years of universal and subtle references to the lie in all TV shows every millisecond of every day.


Another example of lying while telling the truth.


As always I take great interest in my little outpost in that tiny little strip on the southern east coast of Florida. Interestingly, as one might expect for coming out of La Nina (association not necessarily causation) there has been a lot of rain in Miami and above average rain in West Palm Beach (closer to where I am) Fort Lauderdale has me scratching my head a bit, Naples too (my precip plots for ENSO have wet conditions pretty much everywhere for El Nino, dry for La Nina). This all roughly matches up with the above map for June, when you keep in mind that we have come out of pretty bad moisture deficit from last year.


I believe the summer drought of 1930 was worse east of the Mississippi than 1934.

So I’ve been following the drought monitor as well as rainfall based on estimates. Frankly, the drought monitor is not making sense to me. For example, in this week’s totals, which are totaled Tuesday through Monday, includes rains in South West Georgia from tropical storm Debby. Yet, South East Georgia is unchanged from the previous week. That just does not make sense.


The 1930s steadily become cooler. Maybe the 1930s drought will ease too.

Robert Monical

If you look at the UNL historical data, it starts at Jan 4, 2000. An interesting variation of the Y2K problem.


For the life of me, i can’t understand why they do this. It simply makes skeptics think Warmists are idiots and the proof of the same is there for all to see.

Theo Barker

Left a comment letting them know that their headline is too “tabloid” for a university, and an embarrassment to me as an alumnus. Reminds me why I quit subscribing to the local paper: according to their weather page we’ve been in a perpetual drought for the last 10 years despite 3 consecutive years of full reservoirs. They report the YTD precipitation for a single station, but the “normal” YTD value is for the entire water district, including mountain stations that consistently receive almost double that single station!


Indeed, the worst in history.
I’m betting man’s evil CO2 will squelch the next glacial period too:)

The article said the U.S. Drought Monitor only started 12 years ago. How did you find one from 1934?


I wonder how many friends and relatives invested in grain futures prior to the announcement?


Ok, never mind. They said this is the worst drought in the last 12 years.

Wow, was not 1934-5 the previous temp record holder till recent modification of such?
It was interesting to see that date on the graph for some reason with respect to the subject matter of the post….
Perhaps memory is failing me?

Keith Pearson, formerly bikermailman, Anonymous no longer

These multi-culti, moral (and scientific) relativistic *fools* put this tripe out there, *knowing* what the facts are. Zero credibility for their honesty. Not stupid people, therefore, their integrity is…in doubt. Anthony among many others in science, government, online, and normal schlubs such as I, are educating the masses to their willful dishonest pictures of facts.

Why would the University of Nebraska be so stupid? was it some idiot grad student?

Tom in Texas

Damned 1934

Mark T

Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” comes to mind.


Whenever I run across strange laws, strange rules, fact free announcements that affect markets, I get a whiff of rot and the smell of money. There was a nice ~$.40 jump today in the wheat and corn futures market.

The map shows “extreme drought” where we live, in South Colorado. Yes, it has been dry for a month or so (though not as dry as several years ago, when most of the wells went bust). However, last three or four days we had strong refreshing rains every evening. Drought has stopped. Birds, rabbits, and deer rejoice.


the current map at for July 3 looks to be not as dire as that June one in the article


A drought is a short term categorization. Look at fluctuations in the levels of lakes and prairie potholes in the Dakotas and the wet and dry cycles take on a different look. Devils Lake in ND was almost dry in the mid 1930’s now after decades of just slightly wetter weather it’s 60 feet deep almost overflowing. There is a natural mistake people make expecting a stable kind of normal for the climate.

Michael Tremblay

It’s also the hottest day in history since I started recording temperatures yesterday!!!
As is the case with most of these modern AGW disaster mongers they refuse to recognize that their sample size is ridiculously small and go on trumpeting that they are seeing the worst of this or the worst of that in an effort to spread their gospel.


Richard Carlson says: “The article said the U.S. Drought Monitor only started 12 years ago. How did you find one from 1934?”
Heh, kinda tricky, but the plots above are not drought monitor data, they are Palmer Drought data. Different metrics of drought. But since the “Drought Monitor” only goes back twelve years, if we want to compare past droughts, we need an index that goes back that far. The Palmer Drought Severity Index from NOAA goes back to 1895 I believe and is based off temperature and precipitation data. Many analyses have been done which suggest that if there are climate trends in drought in the US, they are mostly decreases, due to widespread increases in precipitation over time.

Frank Kotler

Q: What do you call an area that is experiencing neither drought nor floods?
A: Lucky!

@polistra. “When a notion goes unconscious, it’s impossible to dislodge it with mere facts. It would take a complete turnaround of the whole propaganda apparatus (by which I mean TV). All TV shows, from drama to comedy to “news”, would have to subtly and casually refer to the correct facts for about 20 years…”
Yes, that would be ideal, but that’s asking for a bit much. My thinking is that a television advertising campaign, supported by $100 million or so (a good campaign could be self-supporting, though, as conservatives [freshly energized by this issue, no kidding!!] would be willing to give mega-$ to an effective campaign), would change the equation dramatically. With our effective TV ad campaign, public opinion could move in significant ways, and this change in opinion would “rub off” on how the MSM covers global warming.
A tv & web ad campaign should be backed by a meticulously constructed reference website that will have extensive rebuttal resistant backing for all the claims made. My thinking, the ad campaign covers subsidiary points in individual ads, like the self-admitted dishonesty of the warmists, their ideological motivations (global govt & redistribution of $ & de-industrialization as dreamed of by the leftist econuts), bullshit on sea level and ice melt, etc. And the two main points, though, as I see it, are 1) nothing is wrong with the climate (yes, the hockey stick fabrication by leftist Berkeley graduate Michael Mann has been debunked, and that means that current temps are not unusual in any way), and 2) CO2 has not been credibly demonstrated to be a cause of climate scale temperature change (see this three minute video, which calls out algor for repeating the ipcc deceptions on CO2, for excerpting the foundation of point # 2:

something funny with that 2012 palmer index. I’m in East Texas, in that chart showing “severe drought”. Now last year we had a heck of a drought here, but now we have had a good spring and it seems plenty wet here, nothing like last year.


Interesting, none the less..


DesertYote wrote (July 5, 2012 at 5:43 pm):

[Moderator’s Suggestion: Schedule a car wash, a concert or an outdoor water-color exhibit. -REP]
Taking a Cub Scout Troop on a camping trip as only one of two adults always worked for me!

Cub Scout Pack! Boy Scouts are in troops. Cub Scouts are in packs.
(Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt for myself and my sons.)


It gets curioser and curioser. The Producers net short contracts outnumber the sum of both the Swap Dealers and the Managed Money net long contracts, according to the weekly soybean chart. Head fake anyone? This story seem to have been put out there to give legs to the drought means short crops buzz. As harvest time approaches it will be interesting to watch the drought and harvest stories.

G. Karst

Whenever they say “worst ever”, they are really addressing the naive student, who hasn’t lived long enough to experience climate ie 30+ yrs. Assuming, of course, if one accepts the 30yr climatic period paradigm. Everyone else has experienced a fuller dynamic range of both mid-summer heat/drought, as well as midwinter blizzards and cold.
O how they do labor. GK

Great post…and great points.
Hopefully, at least there will be some relief in CO…and even some rain in the TX panhandle in the next week. Those areas in GA in extreme drought should get some relief too.
Not enough to really make a dent in some places…but every bit helps.
Norfolk, VA


My post disappeared. Mods…it may have gone to spam. Haven’t posted on WUWT that much in a long time…but I used to post a lot. Thanks for checking.
Norfolk, VA
[REPLY: Chris, of course we know you. Patience is a virtue… but you knew that. -REP]


July 5, 2012 at 8:31 pm
DesertYote wrote (July 5, 2012 at 5:43 pm):
It started out as Boy Scout (15 boys on a trip that was rain all weekend) but after I wrote it, I recalled the trip I did a few years before when my son was a Cub Scout( 10 boys first night monsoon fury! but the next day was nice) and edited my comment. Didn’t reread because I was leaving work.


I’m kinda shocked that MSNBC, one of the bigger cheerleaders for Climate change, actually got it right. They even made it a point that the data was only for the last 12 years. And not one, let me repeat Not One, reference to “Climate Change”.
<quote.Drought conditions are present in 56 percent of the continental U.S., according to the weekly Drought Monitor.
That's the most in the 12 years that the data have been compiled, topping the previous record of 55 percent set on Aug. 26, 2003. It's also up five percentage points from the previous week.
The drought hasn't been long enough to rank up there with the 1930s Dust Bowl or a bad stretch in the 1950s, David Miskus, a meteorologist at the weather service's Climate Prediction Center, told