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.




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July 16, 2015 3:51 pm


Henry Galt
Reply to  JoeF
July 17, 2015 3:10 am

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’.

Joe Ford
July 16, 2015 3:58 pm

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.

Green Sand
Reply to  Joe Ford
July 16, 2015 4:07 pm

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

Reply to  Green Sand
July 16, 2015 4:31 pm

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.

Olaf Koenders
Reply to  Green Sand
July 16, 2015 4:58 pm

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.

George Devries Klein, PhD, PG, FGSA
Reply to  Joe Ford
July 16, 2015 4:15 pm

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

Jeff in Calgary
Reply to  George Devries Klein, PhD, PG, FGSA
July 17, 2015 10:01 am

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.

Reply to  Joe Ford
July 16, 2015 7:10 pm

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.

Reply to  Joe Ford
July 17, 2015 1:26 am

Good Stuff Anthony. Has some useful debunks of similar predictions that I regularly cite to demonstrate the dangers of blindly accepting arguments from authority.

July 16, 2015 4:04 pm

Good idea for WUWT. And, I like Joe Ford’s comment.

July 16, 2015 4:05 pm

It should take a lot more days than Thursdays to cover all the CAGW misses.

July 16, 2015 4:06 pm

Looks like Joe Romm is the true “haboob” of the entire debacle – a big, dusty bag of hot air.

Reply to  Jack Mayhoffer
July 16, 2015 4:47 pm

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?

Leonard Lane
Reply to  Russell Cook (@questionAGW)
July 16, 2015 10:18 pm

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.

Gunga Din
July 16, 2015 4:08 pm

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!

July 16, 2015 4:12 pm

Does “throwback” refer to a particular article or to the writer of said article?

Reply to  inMAGICn
July 16, 2015 5:07 pm

Both. These people are throwbacks to the witch doctors and shamans of yore.

Reply to  Bart
July 16, 2015 7:06 pm

Frankly, I think the witchdoctors and shamans have more credibility.

July 16, 2015 4:22 pm

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?

Reply to  fossilsage
July 16, 2015 5:06 pm
Reply to  Latitude
July 16, 2015 7:41 pm

well, go figure, the amount being let in is N/A but all the upstream lakes are at 90% capacity and sending water on

Joel O’Bryan
Reply to  fossilsage
July 16, 2015 5:25 pm

Lake Meade “mostly” gets no more water than what Lake Powell releases send it .
Lake Powell hs risen dramatically in the past two months.
The 27 tracked reservoirs above Lake Powell(most in Western Colorado) are average >90% capacity. And the water spigot is still on with much more to come.

Mark from the Midwest
Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
July 16, 2015 5:50 pm

And the two big reservoirs below Mead are pretty close to 100% too

Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
July 17, 2015 5:31 am

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?

Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
July 17, 2015 6:02 am

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.

Gunga Din
Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
July 17, 2015 6:46 am

Here’s where the chart came from.
It is common to refer to lake levels in feet above sea level.
Here’s a lake in Ohio. This is a USGS site.

Jeff Mitchell
Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
July 17, 2015 8:13 am

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.

Joel O’Bryan
Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
July 17, 2015 8:45 am

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.

Reply to  fossilsage
July 17, 2015 6:09 am

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….

Harvey H Homitz.
Reply to  beng135
July 20, 2015 7:30 am

” 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!

M Seward
July 16, 2015 4:23 pm

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.

Olaf Koenders
Reply to  M Seward
July 16, 2015 5:02 pm

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.

July 16, 2015 4:24 pm

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!

Steve Reilly
July 16, 2015 4:30 pm

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.

Olaf Koenders
Reply to  Steve Reilly
July 16, 2015 5:07 pm

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

Reply to  Steve Reilly
July 18, 2015 1:03 am

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.

Steve Reilly
Reply to  LouMaytrees
July 18, 2015 5:34 am

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.

Clay Marley
July 16, 2015 4:54 pm

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.

Pamela Gray
July 16, 2015 5:07 pm

I would say that Romms’ haralding permanent drought haboob went tits up.

Reply to  Pamela Gray
July 16, 2015 6:44 pm

I suppose we could also say it’s quite a dust-up.

July 16, 2015 5:12 pm

There are values in Arizona that exceed 200% of normal precipitation for the region…….comment image

Joel O'Bryan
July 16, 2015 5:14 pm

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.

July 16, 2015 5:41 pm

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

Bill 2
July 16, 2015 5:47 pm

Most of the southwest is still in drought.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Bill 2
July 16, 2015 11:27 pm

USDA metrics of measured soil moisture lag NOAA’s daily by at least a month.

July 16, 2015 5:47 pm

“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”.

July 16, 2015 6:09 pm

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.

James Francisco
Reply to  Chuck
July 17, 2015 11:55 am

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.

July 16, 2015 6:28 pm

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.

July 16, 2015 6:50 pm

Um, it is 2015. That’s well before 2050.

Reply to  Felix
July 16, 2015 7:21 pm

OK meet you back here in 45 years. If the prediction is correct, I will give you a ride in my flying car.

Reply to  Mick
July 16, 2015 7:25 pm

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.

Reply to  Mick
July 17, 2015 6:04 pm

You do understand that the premise of this post is completely false, right?

Steve Oregon
July 16, 2015 7:46 pm

“Real Climate’s Gavin declared global warming poster child Lake Powell dead as of 2004”.
Lake Powell lives and it’s a travesty that it refuses to die.

Reply to  Steve Oregon
July 17, 2015 6:03 pm

Do you have a quote from Gavin Schmidt about Lake Powell? Goddard was not able to come up with one. Did you think to check what has happened at Lake Powell since Goddard’s post?

July 16, 2015 7:48 pm

‘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?

Leonard Lane
Reply to  jez
July 16, 2015 10:31 pm

Not the lefties or the leftists’ MSM.

July 16, 2015 8:01 pm

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.

Hartog van den Berg
July 16, 2015 9:37 pm

Sent from TypeMail

July 16, 2015 9:47 pm

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?

Eyal Porat
July 16, 2015 10:25 pm

You missed the weaselling of Rohm: he said it would happen until 2050…
Now prove him wrong!

Reply to  Eyal Porat
July 16, 2015 11:56 pm

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

July 17, 2015 1:06 am

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.

July 17, 2015 5:37 am

Can’t wait until you talk about all of the dire predictions concerning the Artic that never materialized. The list will be long.

July 17, 2015 6:36 am

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

Joel O’Bryan
Reply to  MattS
July 17, 2015 9:00 am

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.

Pamela Gray
July 17, 2015 8:25 am

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.

July 17, 2015 11:31 am

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”.

david smith
Reply to  tjfolkerts
July 17, 2015 11:52 am

Rain means no dustbowl.
End of (Romm’s) story.

James Francisco
July 17, 2015 12:09 pm

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.

July 17, 2015 12:41 pm

I’m sure that in the future we will see these two:
Katharine Hayhoe
and Andrew Desslercomment image
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.

July 17, 2015 9:37 pm

Flagtaff, Arizona is seeing precipitation rates rise. More and more, it looks like the draught is nearing an end.

Reply to  stuinflag
July 17, 2015 9:37 pm
Reply to  stuinflag
July 18, 2015 8:04 am

No, No No! It can’t be……… It was said to be permanent! But I guess we will have to wait and see because according to this towards the end of July and into the first of August it’s going to be pretty dry in some places in the SW that have been wetter than normal and going to wet for some other places in the SW that have been dryer than usual.

July 17, 2015 10:04 pm

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.

Reply to  Bill
July 18, 2015 8:29 pm

In case you were wondering where all the snow and cold temps nicked off to Bill-
Surprise, surprise Melbourne Australia wakes up to its coldest winter morning temp in 18 years? It’s like this mate. Without the extremes we can’t work out those averages we so seldom experience 😉

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