Throwback Thursday #1 – Joe Romm's "permanent drought"

Today I begin a new feature, “Throwback Thursday” with the purpose of highlighting past claims of climate doom made by scientists, pundits, and alarmist activists…that have not come true. It’s a bit of a take off from the “Throwback Thursday” on Facebook, where people post old pictures from their past, except here, it’s not just the age, it’s the fact that these lousy predictions really do deserve to be “thrown back” into the faces of the people that made them.

We’ll examine each claim, show it exactly as it was made and the context, and then show why it failed in the present or near present.

If you have some you’d like to see covered, put them in WUWT Tips & Notes (see it on the menu bar above) and send it in with the [Throwback Thursday] tag on it.

THE CLAIM: Dust Storm Marks Beginning of Southwest’s “Permanent Drought”

Made: July 11th, 2011

Romm-permanent-droughtWHAT WAS SAID:

A 2-mile high, 50-mile wide Dust Storm enveloped Phoenix yesterday.  Tonight, on NBC (video here), Brian Williams called it “The Dust Storm that Swallowed Up an American City.”

Back in April, the USGS released a report on Dust-Bowlification that concluded drier conditions were projected to accelerate dust storms in the U.S. Southwest.  In large parts of Texas and Oklahoma now,  the drought is more intense than it was during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.

In 2007, Science (subs. req’d) published research that “predicted a permanent drought by 2050 throughout the Southwest” — levels of aridity comparable to the 1930s Dust Bowl would stretch from Kansas to California.  Last year, a comprehensive literature review, “Drought under global warming: a review,” by NCAR found that we risk multiple, devastating global droughts worse than the Dust Bowl even on moderate emissions path.  Another study found the U.S. southwest could see a 60-year drought this century.

So the monster dust storm — a haboob — that hit Phoenix is just the shape of things to come for the entire Southwest.


He’s referring to this video:



Monsoon rains of August 19th, 2014 caused major flooding:

And as far as “permanent drought” goes, a year later in July 2012, It looked like Romm’s permanent drought prediction might come true, as much of the CONUS was under drought conditions, a whopping 79.98% was under some level of drought…



…but now that has dropped to less than half that value, and the southwest is recovering. There are values in Arizona that exceed 200% of normal precipitation for the region, and U.S looks quite wet this last month in many places.


So much for Joe Romm’s prediction of “permanent drought”. Maybe he’d do better to study what happens to precipitation with ENSO patterns rather than wail about climate.

Let’s call it a “Romm Bomb”, shall we?

h/t to Tom Moran and to Chip Knappenberger for some ideas in this post.




77 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday #1 – Joe Romm's "permanent drought"

    • Very interested to see the precipitation map for CONUS for the last month. Although Ulric Lyons’ year ahead forecast is specifically for the UK it is revealed by interpreting solar signals therefore is, albeit more loosely, global also.
      For the UK Ulric has been spot-on accurate so far this year. On only two occasions has he been a day or two ‘out’ from the predicted shifts.
      I did point out to him around the turn of the century my observation that ‘when it rains in England it rains in Japan and New Zealand (and several elsewheres I paid attention to back then) more often than not’.

  1. This needs to compiled over time into a searchable database. In the future all predictions of doom must be put in the context of past predictions. Credibility matters.

    • Yup, going to need a really, really, huge cloud base! Large enough to block out the Sun!

      • I don’t want to be a downer here but “Steve Goddard” (Real Science) has been using this approach of holding climate alarmists to account for ages and should be acknowledged for all such efforts.
        The main added value though would be collating all these wrong predictions in a central place.

      • Yep.. It’s gonna take up lots of space.. 🙂
        I’m with Joe Ford that ‘t’d be helpful to make it searchable, if possible.

    • Totally agree. Great idea. Suggest that it has a permanent link so one can access rgularly.

      • There already is one. Look at the top of the page. “Climate FAIL Files” So far only 3 are liested. These new ones should be added.

    • For completion, and to show the true depths of their lack of understanding the climate, the index list of predictions should indicate whether the prediction was/is true, or proven false.
      There have been so many predictions, it should be of no great surprise that many have proven wrong. I think the real eye-opener is how few any have come close to being realized. There seems to be fewer correct predictions than random chance based on history would dictate. The climate has become remarkably unremarkable wrt consistent trends (e.g, long-term pattern change, like droughts lasting for decades) or number of extreme events.

    • Also, never forget what is usually never mentioned by anyone in the MSM about these Phoenix area summer dust storms: they don’t just come up out of the clear blue sky, they are always the result of cold air downdrafts plunging out of giant thunderstorms. Every. Single. Time. Even if torrential rain drenches the area, the surface dirt dries out in a day and the next thunderstorm blasts away the new dust. You can have above average rain totals in the area and still get giant dust storms. So where’s the AGW-driven drought from such things?

      • Agree, these dust storms (not haboobs as in Sudan) happen from downdrafts of thunderstorms. They happen less frequently than in Phoenix, but they occur in many places in AZ.

  2. Today I begin a new feature, “Throwback Thursday” with the purpose of highlighting past claims of climate doom made by scientists, pundits, and alarmist activists…that have not come true.

    Headlines that never came to pass based on what an “expert” says are soon forgotten yet “the wrong” remain “experts”.
    Wake some people up!

  3. what’s going on in the Colorado River Basin? Looks like lots of rain. Is Lake Meade recovering? Or is there water being re-purposed to some bureaucratic rule?

      • The graphic looks impresive, like going from zero to full, but when one pays attention at the vertical axis, one realises that we are talking about less than a 1% increase in water levels. Do you always select your axis to create these false impressions?

      • Nylo, This is a graph of elevation at the water surface. The elevation change of the lake was an increase of over 100 feet, and the average depth is something like 140 feet. Lake Powell does NOT drop to sea level, thus it is not a 1% change.

      • Need to read the chart more carefully, the rise appears to be around 25 feet. But here’s the thing: 25 feet in two months for a lake the size of Powell is nothing short of amazing. That is a humongous amount of water.

      • Nylo, did you trade in your brain for a handfull of sillyputty?
        Yes, the chart shows ~24′ vertical rise. It has ~85′ to get to full pool (3,700′). But releases from Parker Canyon dam due to the urgency to bring Mead up will likely keep it from getting in the next few years, even if the rains continue. The website link also haslots of data on inflows and outflows and required minimum releases from Parker.
        Keep in mind the surface spreading effect of these enormous reservoirs. Each additional vertical foot is a whole lot more water than the previous foot.

    • fossil, Lake Mead won’t ever be refilled because Las Vegas & southern Cal would have to be “blacked out” to do so. They are addicted 24/7 to the dam’s hydro-power — whatever the dam can put out, they need every kW….

      • ” Lake Mead won’t ever be refilled because Las Vegas & southern Cal would have to be “blacked out” to do so. They are addicted 24/7 to the dam’s hydro-power —”
        Anyone got any numbers on water discharge through the dam(s) and volume of discharge per KWH generated? My old slide rule overheated from lack of data!

  4. We had exactrly the same thing in Oz a few years back. CAGW alarmist, Professor Tim Flannery ( Tima Flam for short) predicted ‘endless drought’, that our dams would never fill again etc. A bunch of Labor ( ~Democrat) State governments raced out and spent billions on hyge desalination plants and of course, once the contract were let and construction started it RAINED. It flooded, the dams filled and over flowed and flooded towns and cities.
    Yer gotta love dear old Gaia. She is a gal with a riotous sense of humour and she just hates puffed up little little dribbledicks like Tim Flam and Joe Romm, it seems to me.

    • Flim-Flam Flannery lost his plum $180k “job” last year as the Climate Change Commission was dismantled. About time too, although that hasn’t stopped him from trying to rip us all off further.

  5. More and more of the same! Do these idiots prefer that their moronic predictions are wrong, or that life on our planet will cease due to an extra 80 molecules of CO2 per 1 million molecules of other atmospheric gasses. I will not apologise for including this link again!

  6. Back in the 80s and 90s the goal posts were set at 2010. That was the “game over” year if we didn’t do something urgent to cut emissions. There would be temperature rises around the 2 or 3 degree mark, endless drought with massive crop failures causing food riots (even in places like the United States and Australia), extreme weather with increases in cyclones, massive sea levels rises generating 50 million climate refugees, plagues of tropical diseases invading the temperate zones and some children born in snowy areas who would never see snow in their lifetime. Well, we’ve had not one climate refugee, cyclones and hurricanes have actually decreased, crop yields have increased, we’ve seen record snow falls, sea levels rises have been to the order of a few millimetres a year as they’ve been centuries, and … well, need I go on? Now the goal posts have been shifted to 2030, 2050 and 2100, depending on what they happen to be raving on about at the time.

    • Let’s hold them to account – make them chisel their prognostications on their future tombstones. Now THAT’S a permanent record.

    • lol. well at least thats a new one – Back on the 80s – 90s they said temps would be 2 – 3 degrees warmer by 2010. Never heard that one before.

      • I wish I had kept a copy of every paper and article I read over the last four decades (I’d need a warehouse) but there were many that said: “scientists claim …” and went on to describe outrageous happenings targeting 2010, none of which have come to pass.

  7. We get those dust storms in Phoenix every year. That one wasn’t especially unusual.
    And ironically for Romm I suppose, they are generated from outflow coming from strong thunderstorms during our “monsoon” season. Admittedly “monsoon” is an exaggeration; it mainly means our summer humidity goes up, but it does generate some good storms and sometimes flooding.
    This year our June and I think May were wetter than usual, and there aren’t any long term trends I know of.

  8. RULE 5: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” Ridicule Mr Romm and use data at the same time to make it sting even more. Romm has similar stupid articles in the past about Arctic Sea ice disappearance for 2015, like the Gore and others.
    “Jornolist” guys like Romm with their exaggerated claims are now actually making it harder for the climate pseudo-scientists to deliver their carefully crafted alarmist message.

  9. I find it amusing how alarmists are getting more desperate because Mother Nature won’t cooperate.

  10. “Drought under global warming…”
    “Monsoon rains of August 19th, 2014…”
    The one-two punch of global warming.
    Joe Romm-Emanuel: “Never Let A Good Crisis Go To Waste”.

  11. I don’t know why these dust storms have been making it onto the TV news the last couple of years. I lived in Phoenix from 1972 to 1975 and we’d get several of these dust storms every summer. There’s nothing new about them and as mentioned in other comments they are result of outflows from dying thunderstorms that come down from the mountains. Thunderstorms mean someone got rain. Joe Romm is just making stuff up.

    • I saw them in eastern New Mexico too in the early 70s when I was stationed there. They were common to that area according to the locals.

  12. That % precipitation map for mid June through mid July for California is pretty much meaningless since the average precip for most of California in that period is close to zero. A few hundredths under to a few tenths over is going to show a huge percentage swing. That +800% dot in the eastern Sierra is around Markleeville where they had a few extra thunderstorms this year.
    There was a picture widely shown on the news last week of snow at the Tioga Pass entry station to Yosemite. I was just there 2 days ago and there is not a trace of any snow left. Except for the glaciers on north facing slopes there is pretty much zero snow left anywhere.

      • Make it 35 years, Hopefully we will have our flying cars by then. But for sure we will have them in 45 years. I really do believe we will.

  13. ‘Brian Williams called it “The Dust Storm that Swallowed Up an American City.”’
    In the meantime, Mr Williams is having his own problems, not with predictions but with, ahem, “inaccurate” reporting of events. From wikipedia:
    “In February 2015, Williams was suspended without pay from Nightly News for “misrepresent[ing] events which occurred while he was covering the 2003 Iraq War.”[11] A subsequent investigation by NBC found that Williams had made a “number of inaccurate statements about his own role” in events he reported over the years . . .”
    So. Can anybody ever get anything right?

  14. In the 1990’s I myself was predicting a return to weather of the 1930’s, due to my belief in a “sixty-year-cycle”. I expected another Dust Bowl and another 1938 Hurricane up the east coast. And guess what? I was wrong. That’s what you get, when you mess around with forecasting the weather.
    Big deal. Every time I’m wrong I learn something. Nor do I feel shattered when I’m wrong. Usually it can be made into a good story that makes people laugh. People love hearing about mistakes (as long as it isn’t their own).
    What I fail to understand about Alarmists is the fact that we have these past events, this history, that holds tales such as the Dust Bowl’s amazing stories, or accounts from the 1938 hurricane, and they strangely think that then was then, and if it happens again it is not history repeating itself, but something utterly new.

  15. A question.
    There was a recent story about the Sun’s internal circulation comprising two different types of flows, and when they are “in sync” the Sun has more output and when they are “out of sync” the Sun has less output. The models apparently correspond to actual data and suggest a Maunder Minimum type of event beginning in 2020-2030 and lasting for some period of time.
    The US Southwest has had epic periods of drought lasting decades and even centuries in the first half of the 1000-2000 millenium.
    Did those droughts take place during the actual Maunder Minimum?

    • Anth0ny:
      I think reference to the Numberwatch Warmlist is required. It is here.
      And it is very funny.

  16. Meanwhile Down Under Tim Blair reminds the usual suspects of their failed predictions-
    while the kiddies who would normally never experience snow in their lifetimes in most of the areas are out building snowmen and an experience to pass on to the next generation.
    It’s called weather and it’s the extremes which go to make up those average calculations we’re so fond of comparing every day with although strange as it may seem we hardly ever experience the average weather day.

  17. Most of southern California is desert, it doesn’t take much real change in precipitation to create a large percentage change in a desert.

    • don’t confuse climate with weather. The weather may be very wet for SoCal into this winter, but that won’t change the climatic reality of the Mojave Desert.

  18. There are land and marine based flora and fauna cycles that have adapted to and now likely depend on a drought cycle. Sudden interruptions that disrupt those long periods of sleep/plenty devastate these systems, starting the long road back to normal. Even sudden devastation are likely of benefit, just like coral bleaching, something that has occurred for eons, has undiscovered (or unmentioned) benefits to the overall long term health of a coral area. It has only been in the last part of the previous century that fire science has evolved to accept and understand, even use, the benefits of allowing natural fires to occur without undue interruptions.

  19. Anthony say: “There are values in Arizona that exceed 200% of normal precipitation… “
    Hmmm … the “200% above normal” area of AZ is near Winslow. Winslow averages ~ 0.3″ in June and 1.2″ in July. Since we have half of each month, that would be about (0.3+1.2)/2 = 0.75″ on average. So they got an extra ~ 0.75″ — eg one pretty decent 1.5″ rainstorm or a couple 0.75″ storms. And we see that that the drought map STILL shows drought in eastern AZ.
    So, the headline could just as accurately have read “Extra 3/4″ Of Rain Not Enough To Break AZ Drought”. Yawn. We are talking about one or two *weather* events bringing an inch or so of rain to generate those impressive looking “200%” areas. And as we all know, “weather in not climate”.

  20. I wonder if the money wasted on global warming prevention was spent on a national plumbing project that would move the excess water in people’s houses and city streets to reservoirs in drought stricken areas would work. If the money spent trying to find life on Mars were thrown in, it surely would go a long way to making the flooded areas dry and the dry areas wet.

  21. I’m sure that in the future we will see these two:
    Katharine Hayhoe
    and Andrew Dessler
    make the list since they both predicted permanent drought for Texas due to human activity and then when the flooding rains came both said it was because of “Climate Change”. And a little check will prove they have been wrong about other things as well.

  22. There is still a drought in California and dry and warm conditions exist all the way up into Alaska. It is nice that it is raining in the desert and I am glad the Colorado River Basin is getting more rain. Anyway I hear something over 12 million acres of forest have burned in Canada and Alaska due to low snow pack, and overall dry conditions (we are on pace for new records). Weather and climate is interesting and not always predictable. When these scientific papers were describing permanent drought, I think they were referring to longer time spans. I read scientific papers in 2011 predicting low or no CA snow pack – I was surprised to see it happen so fast (some also predicted more precip, but lower snow packs due to warmer temps). Don’t be so smug, the west is very dry and rain in the desert doesn’t really amount to much.

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