Claims of Southwestern USA ‘Megadrought’ Are All Wet

By Anthony Watts

The media this week are hyping a new study claiming global warming is causing a new megadrought in the American Southwest. In reality, the recent drought in the American Southwest is nothing new when you look at historical data.

The new study, published in Science, is titled “Anthropogenic megadrought.” The title alone suggests this is more of an opinion piece than a work of science.

In the abstract of the paper, author David Stahle claims evidence shows:

“…that the 16th-century megadrought was the worst multidecadal drought episode in the Southwest over the past 1200 years, and that the second-worst event occurred from 2000 to 2018 over southwestern North America (SWNA) and may be ongoing. The study also pinpoints substantial anthropogenic (human) contribution to the severity of the current drought.”

That sounds quite conclusive, and media stories from the Associated Press, USA Today, Washington Post, New York Times, and many others are uncritically distributing the claim made by the paper and its sole author.

Is the USA in a “megadrought”? Looking at April 14th 2020 data from the United States Drought Monitor, it sure doesn’t seem so. While there are indications of some drought in the USA Southwest, there seem to be equally large areas that have no drought conditions at all. And, just one year ago, there were no indications of drought in the southwest USA whatsoever. This might be why Stahle only used data through 2018, because the “no drought” year of 2019 didn’t support the claims of “megadrought”. Cherry picking anyone?

Looking at the USA drought monitor map for summer 1934 and summer 2019, the difference becomes clear.

Using a tree-ring-based drought record from the years 1000 to 2005 and modern records, scientists from NASA and Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory found the 1934 drought was 30 percent more severe than the runner-up drought (in 1580) and extended across 71.6 percent of western North America.

Another study suggests that the 1934 dust-bowl drought didn’t even make the top 10 in terms of severity, and another found a “megadrought” in the Southwest USA during the time of the Roman Empire.

With that historical data, it is impossible to claim our use of fossil fuels in the last century is leading to a new megadrought.

Here’s the punch line; the notion that the Anthropogenic megadrought paper published by Stahle is flawed is perfectly illustrated by a single chart also using tree ring data from the Western USA.

https://wattsupwiththat.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/california_drought_timeline.png
Figure 1 Timeline from 800 AD to present showing dry/wet periods in the Western USA. Data from E.R. Cook et al published in Earth Science Reviews, chart by Karl Kahler, Bay Area News Group with annotation added by Anthony Watts. Click image to enlarge.

The chart above uses data from the 2007 E.R.Cook et al. study  showing severe droughts lasting as long as 200 years going back to 1200 years ago. Meanwhile, at the far right, the drought we’ve experienced in the 21st century is clearly evident and miniscule by comparison.

Clearly there have been long-lasting severe droughts in the Western USA long before “man-made climate change” became a social cause célèbre of the left. It is even clearer that the current claim of an impending megadrought is simply the questionable opinion of one scientist that has been serially and uncritically regurgitated by the mass media.

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134 thoughts on “Claims of Southwestern USA ‘Megadrought’ Are All Wet

  1. The Four Corners area (where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona meet) has many buildings abandoned around year 1200. That is commonly referred to as an Anasazi culture. Its demise is usually ascribed to an extended period of drought.

    • 1100-1500 were rough times in NA due to droughts.

      http://www.kgs.ku.edu/Hydro/Publications/2012/OFR12_18/KGS_OF_2012-18.pdf – Page 17

      We could be shifting back into those conditions slowly as the Little Ice Age gives way to the Modern Warm Period. This paper is a preemptive shift of the focus away from where it has been since 2015 – the global average temperature – back to regional climate patterns, i.e. NA drought, polar vortex, etc, because the IOD and ENSO appear to finally be setting up for La Nina in the second half of 2020.

      • Well, it’s different today.

        Arizona has two major dam systems, the Salt River and the Verde River. According to today’s Salt River Water Report,
        Salt River dams 98% full,
        Verde River dams 100% full.

        If anything, that a bit much rain.

    • I remember the 4 Corners Times from 1200.

      “Megadrought blamed on stone tools!”

      The story went on to say how life was better in 1,100 because life was simpler back then.

      • Derg is right, there was real social distancing back then – not like our new Torquemada-quarantine.

    • The abandonment of the Mesa Verde NP cliff dwellings have been conclusively and rather precisely dated using dendrochronology to a 2 -3 year abandonment period centered on a civilization/social organization collapse of 1275 AD. The occupants basically in that 3 year period just dropped what they had been doing for almost 400 years and walked away with whatever they could carry and widely dispersed to lower elevations in NM and AZ.

        • Archaeologists claim there is evidence of social upheaval as the reason of the abandonment. Which begs the obvious question, “Why then after 400 years of steady growth?”
          Starvation would that. No maize crops for several seasons from late spring cold cold and droughts to an early September cold before the maize had ripened provide the social stress needed to fractures hierarchical social contracts/arrangments. The social structure fractures. The young and healthy head out to greener pastures and never return. The older, more settled boomers collapse and are taken advantage of by charlatans offering security for what little meager rations remained. Everyone fled or died.

    • George,

      The Anasazi left the high deserts of Central Az, around then, too, and moved to Phoenix which surprised me as it’s much hotter in Phx., at least, now. However, they built a canal system to catch water flowing from the No. and those canals, upgraded, of course, are still in use today. I presume the move enabled them to take advantage any waters coming down the mountains.
      Phoenix today still depends on capturing as much water as they can wrangle out of parts north of them.
      As they old saying in Az. goes, “Whiskey’s for drinking, water’s for fighting over.” Some things never change and that is one of them.

      • Yep we are really in a drought, the reservoirs on the salt river chain are full has not been that way in the 25 I have started coming down here where I have lived full time in the last 13 years. Drove to Roosevelt lake last Sunday to see what it looks like full. I am not certain but I think the same is true for the two reservoirs on the Verde.

  2. Trees are not even round. Tree-ring width can be anything the researcher wants it to be. Not rain gauges, not thermometers, and the famous bristlecone strip-bark pines only grow for six weeks out of a year! Please no more tree rings…

    • Yes, just measure the tree rings from the tree behind the larger tree shading it, and you would have a complete different data set. If that smaller tree were in an old hollow from a big ole rotted stump that collected and retained water more, or was on a higher mound of dirt that made it naturally less available for a water supply, it would be a complete different tree ring than the larger tree and rings being measured or even the two smaller trees being measured if one had a wet spot and the other a dry spot, all within a dozen feet of each other. As a forester, I see this all the time and we all use it to give the answer we usually want for any purpose.

      Or just move over the hill or mountain a mile or two, and you might have a whole different general species growing, as in a Pine growing on a south aspect, and Spruce or Cedar growing on the north aspect, maybe only a few miles apart. Tree rings should only be used in a general sense, with many multiple random samples and additional data from other sources, such as general historical hydrology records for the entire general area. And all local conditions recorded and noted. Soil temperature being a big one as well. Then the puzzle starts to make a little more sense when everything is accounted for. It also helps to be truthful about what is being measured for any purpose. As you say, I can pretty much giver you any answer you might want, and we do so regularly. Michael Mann certainly did with great effect and most of the world bought into it for many years and still do.

        • I’ve been a forester for 47 years in Massachusetts- yet , the Greens here are very strong- they’re always trying to influence forestry policies in the state- they never ask foresters about the forests, they deny what we say- they’re now trying to shut down all forestry work on several hundred thousand acres of state owned forests- even though the state does very little forestry work- all, to save the climate! We know that if they win that battle – with a law they’re pushing- they’ll come after private sector forestry. As for tree rings- it’s absurd to think that tree rings are thermometers. With a very large sampling- it might give some clue- but it’s going to have huge error bars. I’ve seen stumps where the rings on one side are 10 times larger than on the other side. Many, many things effect the growth of rings. I have no clue about ice cores or corals offering as temperature proxies- but tree rings?- that’s nuts.

      • Might a “canker” or an “injury” to one side of the tree result in asymmetrical ring growth? (Just curious.) Or might some sort of root issue cause asymmetrical growth?

  3. Recently visited my family in Phoenix. Timed the trip of spring training. Arrived Monday night March 9th and it rained Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. That Thursday game was called on account of the weather. They subsequently shut down Spring Training for the Corona. Before I left we got two more days of rain.

    Now this was march, not their monsoon season and I am talking steady rain with intermittent downpour throughout the day with nighttime thunder and lightning on 2 of those days.

    One thing i can assure the readers, between March 9th and March 19th Southern Arizona was not experiencing drought conditions and the news reported Snow in the north with hazardous driving conditions.

    Anecdotal but true story. I lived in the mid-Atlantic and recall drought conditions there into the southeast 3 decades ago on different seasonal occurrences. All the while the evening news would ring their hands with end of days anxiety. Shit happens and man burning fossil fuel is an all too convenient scapegoat explanation with massive political overtones.

    • I grew up in Phx. Lived all around AZ actually. Rain in Spring is normal, it does rain in the Sonoran Desert, rain in the summer is also pretty normal. It just doesn’t rain like it does in other parts of the country as it is a desert.

      Spring is gorgeous because the spring rains bring on the desert flowers and the entire landscape turns beautiful colors for a week. I hope you got to see a glimpse of the beauty of my home desert before you had to leave. It’s an annual event and the papers usually have a headline of Piccacho(sp?) Peak in bloom.

      • Far be it from me to argue with you jenn. But, allow me to paraphrase just about everyone I encountered while in country “Holy [insert desired four letter word here]! It never rains like this in Arizona this time of year. This resembles our monsoon weather in late summer.” I heard this, from so many different Arizonans, over the course of the 10 days, so many times, I lost count.

        Now it IS a desert. So nobody is claiming that there is not a drought condition in Phx, Just that it didn’t just happen in the last 100 years, as man industrialized with fossil fuels, so something else is afoot.

        • Rain is THE talk of the town normally, so if it was unusually heavy, then it was headline and comment worthy. LOL.

          I remember the spring it snowed, in fact I remember every time it snowed when I lived there (that would be 2X). Everyone just stopped what they were doing and went outside–you could have landed a B52 on the capital building and it wouldn’t have been noticed but the snow….well that was IT.

          Too bad you didn’t get to see the bloom before you left, it looks like the entire desert has been bathed in color.

    • Bill,

      FYI,

      “Most of the region was dry this week outside of a few areas in Montana and western Wyoming while in the Southwest, record-setting rains continued in southern California and into Arizona. Over the last 6 weeks, areas in and around Kern County, California have gone from significant precipitation deficits to well above normal readings accompanied by flooding in the region. Most of southern California recorded 800 percent of normal precipitation just in the last week and 200-400 percent of normal over the last 30 days. Temperatures were cooler than normal over the southwest areas of the west and Montana while most of the rest of the region was 2-4 degrees above normal and northern California was 6-8 degrees above normal. The current water year has been dry over much of the region and this has allowed further degradations to be shown in portions of northern California up to Washington. In western Oregon, the current conditions are similar to 2000-2001 and 2004-2005 with the exception of the near-normal snowpack. Some counties in southwest Oregon are reporting the earliest start to the irrigation season since 2000-2001 with several counties preparing to file drought declarations with the state of Oregon. Severe drought was expanded over much of northwest California northward into Oregon. Severe drought was also expanded in the interior of Washington. Abnormally dry conditions and moderate drought were also expanded over eastern and western portions of Oregon and Washington this week as well as western Montana and northern Idaho. In southern California, moderate drought and abnormally dry conditions were removed from Kern County and vicinities in response to the record-breaking precipitation. Improvements were also made to areas of severe and moderate drought in northeast Arizona and to abnormally dry areas of northeast and north central Arizona.”
      source: https://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

      Record rainfalls, but we’re in a Mega-Drought. Those Climate Dowsers got it so wrong.

      • It was reported on KNX this morning that Southern California is officially out of drought conditions as of yesterday, owing to rains in late March and early April. Note that KNX is our local CBS affiliate, a part of the MSM, so it must be true. It also must hurt to have to report it.

        But, of course, just being out of drought last year, and now, are isolated data points of the much bigger mega-drought.

  4. I wondered what those headlines were about. i hadn’t recalled reading about a drought in the Southwest in the last couple of years. I knew that there had been one in California, but hat it had ended.

    Thanks for clearing that up Anthony.

    • Walter
      I’m here in Melbourne, Australia
      I use google on my phone to search and access WUWT and Judith Curry’s Climate ect.
      But my phone keeps suggesting “articles for you” that are from BBC, NYTimes, the Guardian and renewable providers, even though I never access these site.
      I got the US mega drought BBC article two days ago.
      I have another one today ‘Theres no more water’ Climate change is drying island. NYTimes article about east Africa.
      PS my phone never suggests sceptical articles

  5. Good takedown Anthony. With rising CO2, the earth is greening to the tune of over 20% more “leafing out.” The first satellite data report from NASA (2014?) showed new forest cover had expanded in extent by 15% in 30 years -thats over half a trillion new trees- and it’s fattened existing tree stock. The most noticeable effect was greening inward from the fringes of arid areas because plants in high CO2 need less water. You don’t here a whisper about drought in the sahel in Africa or Lake Chad drying up, anymore. CO2 is busy drought proofing the US southwest and every dry area in the world.

    It took the “consensus” by complete surprise. They made some awkward desperate attempt to ‘show’ that this was bad news for climate and then they basically went quiet. NASA, too had one update and, like their CO2 imagery, where most carbon dioxide emissions were from the Congo they went quiet.

    IPCC science has found no evidence (low confidence) that extreme weather displays a connection to global warming or CO2 from whatever sources, let alone anthropo, although the frantic ‘scientific’ paper mill is rushing to produce ‘evidence’ that IPCC can use.

    The great Irony is that the only palpable climate change in evidence is the greening of the planet, it’s human caused, it is spectacular and climate science doesn’twant to talk about it!

    Actually, sceptics don’t seem to want to talk about it either. They’ve let the consensus control the topics, sceptics being largely reactive. Hammer this greening miracle! Use it in your speeches and videos. It is simple for ordinary folk and other science disciplines to see instantly that ‘carbon’ is hugely a net benefit – bumper crops and expanding habitat for our fellow creatures. Hey, its even an endothermic process – in this role, CO2 is a cooling agent. It’s “worse than they thought” in consensus parlance.

    • I’ve read that draughs are the effect of …cold not warm: warm=wet, therefore, a v.good for plants. The driest place on Earth is South Pole and Antarctica plus Atacama Dessert in South America (on the influence of the very cold current of Humboldt. We are in Adozen interglacial period for now 11700 years where one has cycles (warm-cold) every 1000 years and now we are in the warm cycle but exceptionally cooer than other ones.(one of the opinion on youtube: When the Sahara was Green). I think it has a sense either.

      • Kris, yes very cold is dry. In their own research showing a long southwestern N.American drought in the 16th century, they seem unaware that this was in the midst of the Little Ice Age! It seems investigative sceptics know the pitiful theory of the consensus better than they do.

  6. When I saw this in the paper, I could tell it was one of those hype articles with little real information. Verrry interesting, but schtupid!

  7. From this drought monitor map, it is easy to deduce that we are in a wetter than average time.

    https://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

    They categorize drought locally in term of percentiles for that location. Any place will be labeled “exceptional drought” 2% of the time and colored dark brown. The lesser conditions are the next 3, 5, 10 & 10%. The regions labeled SL are both short and long term drought but the color is the max of the two conditions.

    30% of the US should have some color for short term drought and 30% should have some color for long term. Counting the SL regions double, the total colored area should be 60% of the map. We’re way short of that and the percentages for extreme and exceptional drought are even more below average.

    • “Any place will be labeled “exceptional drought” 2% of the time and colored dark brown.”

      The 2019 graphic above shows Washington State west of the Cascades (where I live) as being in severe drought. I must have missed it. Seemed pretty normal to me.

  8. Wait the first line: In the 16th century…

    BAM! done

    Isn’t the entire CAGW argument that we are destroying the Earth since 1950 due to fossil fuels? Last I checked, they didn’t have cars in the 16th century. So what bearing does that have on this supposed “megadrought”? NONE.

    When are these people going to realize that the Earth is NOT Pleasantville?

    • Problem is, most kids these days have grown up in Pleasantville with our exceptionally stable Modern Warm Period supplying bountiful harvests, in addition to utilization of fossil fuels. They think this is the norm, (and are taught this) but not really understanding that the majority of the time, the weather (climate) is extremely harsh, such as the last 2.6 million years we revert to advancing glaciation and global droughts on vast scales for that majority of that time. This is the unfortunate part, that there are no guarantees with climate or weather but the kids are being taught there is.

      Sorry, but there are no guarantees, and the weather/climate we have had there last 30-40 years is probably as benevolent as it gets. Our only real long term fear should be a significant cooling event, which is also a natural cycle it seems every 1000 years, as are warming periods. When we can explain and predict natural variation, then we might be able to attribute the small amount of climate sensitivity to GHG’s. In the mean time, I will take warming over cooling, just as an insurance policy against the true destruction and drought that cooling brings.

  9. Drought, extreme weather and sea level rise are the big three “Climate Crises” scares regularly cycled through the unquestioning and apparently gullible news media.

    • They aren’t gullible Steve. They are liars. Propogandists. Saw a survey of “journalism” students conducted by Columbia University. When asked why journalism was the field they selected the answer selected by over 80% of the students was “Because I want to make a difference”. IOW from the very beginning most of those at gravitate towards a career in “journalism” are activists.

  10. This mega drought is so severe that it is even effecting the water levels of the Great Lakes (don’t you know?). These lakes are at record lows and any so-called flooding is just caused by irresponsible land use. This is true also of the Red River, where there is so little water now Winnipeg no longer needs its by-pass and can convert that into a skate park.
    We all know that the dust-bowl was an invention of a shrewd novelist to bring around the arrival of the socialist paradise (and sell movie rights), just like the moon landings were filmed in Houston or when the media covered up that invasion from Mars that Orson Wells tried to warn the world about.
    The time to act is now!

    • PROOF! Lake MI shorelines are eroding right now due to severely low lake levels….wait, that’s a headline…

      GREAT LAKES EROSION CAUSED BY WATER SNAPPING BACK DUE TO LOW LEVELS:
      The evil being in the Great Lakes is at it again, expanding the space between water molecules to erode our shorlines. We must act now! Only a great sacrifice will appease the evil one and bring our water levels back to where they are supposed to be! Quick! Act Now! Enlist in our cause as a paid sponsor. Read more here…..yadayadayadayadayadayada……

    • Expulsive, you should know being on the world’s most visited Climate Science site and most decorated Science site (see right side panel for awards) your political propaganda doesnt get the free ride you are used to on the echo chsmbers you usually visit. Here is an advisory on Great Lakes levels for March 2020!

      Water Level Advisory

      Water levels for Lake Superior, Lake Michigan-Huron, Lake St. Clair, Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and Montréal Harbour are above their all-time average for this time of year and are above the level of Chart Datum.

      https://waterlevels.gc.ca/C&A/bulletin-eng.html

      Expulsive you are welcome here, but you aren’t among fools. Have a real take next time for your own good and provide proof of claims. Many came here assuming the climate worriers were correct and were converted to the sceptical side by logic and science. Coming here at all marks you as at least interested in seeing what WUWT has. That separates you from the chaff. Disagree all you want, but bring your best game. “Climate talking points”, especially when demonstrably untrue won’t cut it here.

      • Yeah Gary (I think you are a distant cousin based on your name) it was sarcasm, but maybe too subtle? (Though I don’t see how)
        I pass by flooded areas a lot when driving through Gardenville on my way to Picton…while the Lake is not as high this year it has been very high the last 2.

        • Expulsive you got me! This néomarxiste putsch climateering has got me so jaded my usual prairie humor has been eaten up!

          We might just be related indeed. I am actually from Winnipeg and in 1962, I was a hydrologist working on the preconstruction work on the brand new Greater Winnipeg Floodway as a graduate engineer in the class of 1961 U of M. I guess I’m a bit older than you, so may be some kind of uncle or great something or other. I am a great- great-great uncle to known relatives!

          Cheers Gary.

    • David, the middle part of your medieval warm period is actually the Dark Ages cooling period 600- 900. Viking settlement in Greenland came with the warming after 900.

    • David, Climate Audit found the claims made in McKay and Kaufman 2014 were largely unfounded.

    • Hm, the year 600 AD would be a proof: draught is an effect of cooling and not vice versa (Antarctica, Atacama Dessert dessert in South America-Humboldt cold current. Now, we are in theory in a warm cycle(every 1000 years) in interglacial (Adozen, 6-12000 years period) but unusually colder one than previous cycles.

  11. “One study suggests” One study finds” “One study concludes” One study using proxies which has not been tested by replication is pretty meaningless unless you are selling a narrative. Much of our media , scientific community, political elites, and others imagining themselves on the ramparts are behaving like well fed cowards. The system as far as they represent a system is failing in its basic purpose. If that happens over a long period of time fundamental change will come. Considering that we’ve had a more or less successful society allowing for steady progress in society and science for years it’s hard to imagine what that change will look like.

  12. Tree rings again! It is silliness. Plus warmer means more rain, not less. If there were any historical megadroughts, they were short-lived and in cold periods, not warm.

    The SW is already a desert. The average annual rainfall for Yuma is 3.3 inches. How can you drought that! Is a year with 2.9 inches a drought? Is one with 4 inches a pluvial?

    If you need more rain, move to Oregon. Funny thing — many Oregonians move to Arizona when they retire. Perhaps rain is not all it’s cracked up to be.

    We need to shutdown/lockdown the junk science centers before they infect everybody with poisonous nonsense.

    • “Tree rings again! It is silliness. Plus warmer means more rain, not less. If there were any historical megadroughts, they were short-lived and in cold periods, not warm.”

      Depends on the region. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we get MUCH less rain in the summer months, when my lawn is brown. It’s nice and green the rest of the year.

      • That is weather
        He is referring to the overall climate, warmer means more rain
        Generally
        Here on the canadian prairies we have certainly been in a wet period for many years

        • No, the climate in the PNW is less rain in warmer months, by far. The climate in the Canadian prairies can’t be compared to the PNW, they are different. There is no “overall climate”.

    • Well, East of the Cascades in Oregon is more like Nevada and Arizona in the SE corner and More like Wyoming in the NE Corner. Not all Doug Firs and Rain. However it’s still colder in the Winter.
      Like Northern Arizona..

    • Thermodynamics, warmer doesn’t mean anything. Average air temp is actually controlled by gravity off insolation.

    • Peer review is something that makes people feel better but which has no actual benefit. link

      The above link refers to medical journals but, as far as I can tell, the problem exists in every science. We have a massive replication crisis and peer review doesn’t help in the slightest.

  13. Anthropogenic global warming catastrophe is always somewhere out there, unverifiable by average people who notice nothing where they are. The arctic, for example. And now there’s megadrought! You can see why the unverifiability of it makes it expandable to your tastes, like ear candy to people who want the world to end, and dry kindling to the media. I mean, if we are already in a megadrought then what do you call a drought that actually affects people?

  14. ” 2007 E.R.Cook et al. study”

    Is that the same Ed Cook in the CRU emails that said we know “f**k all” about climate variability more than 100 years ago? Such an honest guy.

  15. Much of the central US is semi-arid desert. The southwest is a mixture of arid and semi-arid desert.

    What do these media mavens think arid and semi-arid actually mean?

  16. I believe we are due a mega drought but the weather we’ve experienced over the last few decades is a far cry from a mega drought. I remember reading a couple of papers a good while back – back before every author included the obligatory “due to climate change” statement in every paper – and they suggested we are in the window for another mega drought. But by window they meant anytime over the next century.

  17. My reply to a similar region, based on THIS “Study”

    ‘Megadrought’ emerging in the western US might be worse than any in 1,200 years

    https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/04/16/drought-worst-western-megadrought-here-study-says/5145929002/

    My full reply using the NOAA Precipitation data for the same region covered in the “study” in three time periods:

    2015-2020
    2001-2020
    1900-2020

    The results was,

    Increase precipitation/ decade
    Increase Precipitation/ decade
    Flat Precipitation/ decade

    The study was all lies

    My post with the Links to the NOAA data

    https://www.usmessageboard.com/threads/megadrought-emerging-in-the-western-us-might-be-worse-than-any-in-1-200-years.818304/post-24482639

  18. “…the 16th-century megadrought was the worst multidecadal drought episode in the Southwest over the past 1200 years, and that the second-worst event occurred from 2000 to 2018 over southwestern North America (SWNA) and may be ongoing…”

    “Multidecadal” in my book is 2 decades or more. 2000-2018 is a few years short of 2 decades. I guess in the world of spin, 2000-2011 is “multidecadal” because it ventures into a second decade. Or even 2009-2011 since it spans parts of two decades.

  19. If I understand it correctly if the forecast La Nina is as strong as is predicted by some we should see the SW US drying out again. We should also see an increased probability of hurricane strikes on US shores this coming season.

  20. Just in the last week of February there were screaming headlines that San Francisco and Sacramento had not recorded a drop of rain in February for the first time ever recorded and that it signalled a bigger than ever drought. Of course Mother Nature read this and it hasn’t stopped raining since.

  21. ” Meanwhile, at the far right, the drought we’ve experienced in the 21st century is clearly evident and miniscule by comparison.”
    But the graph is titled “Percentage of the West affected by drought from 800 ad to 2000”.

  22. I disagree. Paleoclimatology and paleobiology both show a cyclic pattern of megadroughts in the American Southwest. This has been known for years, and several articles plus one book have been written in the past few years about it, with predictions that another megadrought seemed to have just started. It just doesn’t have anything to do with global warming. I wrote an op-ed in the Modesto Bee (California) a few years ago about this.

    Now this new article has appeared regurgitating the ones I mentioned but now blaming the incipient new drought on global warming. I expect the current CV19 pandemic to be blamed on global warming too.

    The cyclic megadrought science here is real. This new article blaming it on global warming is fake.

  23. Is this “Megadrought” anything like California’s “Permanent Droughts” (which are periodically interrupted by “Permanent Flooding)?

    The more Climate Changes, the more it stays the same.

  24. Quoting from the paper:

    “….and that the second-worst event occurred from 2000 to 2018 over southwestern North America (SWNA) and may be ongoing.”

    Really what does the NOAA Precipitation data show?

    +.55/ decade INCREASE in Precipitation for the SW Climate Region, for the 2000-2018 time frame.

    https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cag/regional/time-series/107/pcp/12/1/2000-2018?base_prd=true&begbaseyear=1900&endbaseyear=2000&trend=true&trend_base=10&begtrendyear=2000&endtrendyear=2018

    Bwahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!

  25. The magazine Science appears to not perform even high-school level fact-checking of articles that it publishes, based on the above article.

    Boxed quote extract from the Science article at the very top of the this WUWT article:
    “. . . that the 16th-century megadrought was the worst multidecadal drought episode in the Southwest over the past 1200 years, and that the second-worst event occurred from 2000 to 2018 over southwestern North America (SWNA) and may be ongoing.”

    Now, consider that statement in comparison to the above WUWT article’s annotated graph, presented as Figure 1 (source E.R. Cook, et.al.), that clearly reveals four—yes, count them, four multidecadal droughts over the last 1200 years, all of which are far larger than the drought period of 2000-2018. Therefore, the “second-worst event” portion of the quote extract is COMPLETELY FALSE.

    Next the same graph DOES NOT reveal any 16th century AD megadrought as is claimed . . . only a small red blip centered around 1580 AD that may have lasted as much as one single decade. Therefore, the “16th century megadrought” reference in the quote extract is COMPLETELY FALSE, based on the tree ring data.

    Getting two things factually incorrect in a single sentence, and then seeing that statement widely published is just . . . well, unacceptable. But that is what Science (the magazine, or rag I should say), but not science (the discipline), has come to in today’s world.

    • “Therefore, the “16th century megadrought” reference in the quote extract is COMPLETELY FALSE, based on the tree ring data.”

      And

      “Getting two things factually incorrect in a single sentence, and then seeing that statement widely published is just . . . well, unacceptable. But that is what Science (the magazine, or rag I should say), but not science (the discipline), has come to in today’s world.”

      I actually find it “unacceptable” you pontificate in ignorance of the paper.
      How about you actually read it before arriving at a conclusion without the facts of the study…
      …..

      https://sci-hub.tw/downloads-ii/2020-04-16/cd/10.1126@science.aaz9600.pdf

      And so too the others here answering the dog-whistle to criticism not knowing what the paper says.
      But then again it’s not what this place is about.

    • Ed,
      Highlighting full reservoirs to refute a drought is just ‘cherry picking’, dontcha know? /s

  26. I bought this article to check what it actually says. And what I read is really disturbing.

    The paper combines tree ring-based moisture reconstruction to 1900-century precipitation data – wait, that is what you would expect it to do, but no. It combines tree ring-based reconstruction to _modeled_ soil moisture data for years 1901-2018:

    “Here, we use 1586 tree-ring chronologies to reconstruct 0- to 200-cm summer (June to August) soil moisture and snow water equivalent (hereinafter termed “soil moisture” collectively) anomalies on a 0.5° latitude-longitude grid back to 800 CE across western North America [(30); Fig. 1]. Soil-moisture anomalies are standardized relative to the entire 800–2018 CE period, and the magnitude of negative anomalies indicates drought severity. The soil moisture record targeted in the reconstruction covers 1901–2018 and is referred to as Noah calibrated soil moisture (31). Because true observations of soil moisture do not exist, this soil-moisture record is modeled based on observed climate. Monthly precipitation, temperature, humidity, wind speed, and radiation data are used to force a bucket-type water balance model with inter month persistence tuned to emulate the Community Noah landsurface model (32)”.

    By doing this “Williams trick” is manages to transform the extremely flat precipitation data for years 1901-2018 into something entirely different. From the original precipitation data for this area you cannot see anything special at all for the years 2000-2018:
    https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cag/regional/time-series/109/pcp/12/11/1901-2018?base_prd=true&begbaseyear=1900&endbaseyear=2000&trend=true&trend_base=10&begtrendyear=1902&endtrendyear=2018

    But the data in the study looks like this (reconstruction: figure C):
    https://www.google.fi/imgres?imgurl=https%3A%2F%2Fscience.sciencemag.org%2Fcontent%2F368%2F6488%2F314%2FF1.large.jpg&imgrefurl=https%3A%2F%2Fscience.sciencemag.org%2Fcontent%2F368%2F6488%2F314&tbnid=ELcCUXkUQ-IpEM&vet=12ahUKEwjM8teI5_LoAhVCZxoKHYFwCfgQMygAegUIARDjAQ..i&docid=TxP-87FTJQokuM&w=1280&h=1035&q=Large%20contribution%20from%20anthropogenic%20warming%20to%20an%20emerging%20North%20American%20megadrought&ved=2ahUKEwjM8teI5_LoAhVCZxoKHYFwCfgQMygAegUIARDjAQ

    Sorry about the long link, but even the supplemental material seems to be behind the paywall. For some reason google see it, though.

    The whole result is based on something really weird happening in the climate model. This study is totally bogus and should be retracted.

    • The Williams, et al research article that you apparently paid for is reference #2 of the Stahl perspective that Anthony references.
      Quoting reference #2 from Stahl.

      “A. P. Williams et al ., Science 368, 314 (2020). OpenUrl Abstract/FREE Full Text Google Scholar”

      So, by clicking that Stahl #2 reference link would give you the Williams article in “Free Full text.”

      No charges.

  27. Climate models are poor at predicting temperature changes and miserable at predicting precipitation changes.
    Historically, the annual precipitation in the contiguous 48 United States between 1895 and 2006, according to the U.S. National Climatic Data Center, U.S. Department of Commerce 2006 Climate Review, increased by 1.8 inches or ~6% during the 110 years. Year to year regional fluctuations are normal.

  28. Anthony,
    The Stahle essay is merely a alarmist perspective article on this study (below), also in the same issue of Science:

    Open access:
    https://science.sciencemag.org/content/368/6488/314
    “Large contribution from anthropogenic warming to an emerging North American megadrought”
    By authors: A. Park Williams1,*, Edward R. Cook1, Jason E. Smerdon1, Benjamin I. Cook1,2, John T. Abatzoglou3,4, Kasey Bolles1, Seung H. Baek1,5, Andrew M. Badger6,7,8, Ben Livneh6,9

    The research paper of course comes out of those two leading junk climate science universities in the US — Columbia U, and UC-Boulder.

    These fraudster snake-oil sellers use tree rings of course in their fraud. Tree rings can do anything. They can be thermometers accurate to better than 0.5 C while simultaneously being soil moisture monitors depending on the needs of these climate dowsers.

    It is pretty much circular logic for them. In their research article they wrote:

    “Here, we use 1,586 tree-ring chronologies to reconstruct 0- to 200-cm summer (June to August) soil moisture and snow water equivalent (hereinafter termed “soil moisture” collectively) anomalies on a 0.5° latitude-longitude grid back to 800 CE across western North America [(30); Fig. 1]. Soil-moisture anomalies are standardized relative to the entire 800–2018 CE period, and the magnitude of negative anomalies indicates drought severity. The soil-moisture record targeted in the reconstruction covers 1901–2018 and is referred to as Noah-calibrated soil moisture (31). Because true observations of soil moisture do not exist, this soil-moisture record is modeled based on observed climate.

    So they use 20th century to calibrate and then tree ring to discern climate and temperatures, then they use climate and temperature to use a model to guess soil-moisture. These guys are just doing nothing but smoke and mirrors.

    Those authors pretty much violated what Richard Feynman said was the First Principle of Science:

    “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.
    – Richard P. Feynman

    Not only do they fool themselves, they are making themselves into fools quite willingly for the climate hustle and their own self-serving rent-seeking.

      • Quoting exactly the listed author affiliations,
        “6Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO 80302, USA.
        7Universities Space Research Association, Columbia, MD 21046, USA.
        8NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, USA 20771, USA.
        9Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO 80309, USA.

        Sizzr,

        I know that people refer to it a CU to distinguish it from the Uof California system, but UC-Boulder is how it would come out from the above affiliation. When I write “UC-Boulder,” no one is going to think I’m referring to UC- Berkeley

        Joel

        • You can use what you want, I’m just pointing out that you are going against the proper convention. The proper acronym is CU for the University of Colorado, Boulder, which I don’t think that people will confuse with UC-Berkeley.

          The people that use “CU” includes the university itself. See the link below for example, “CU Boulder Today.”

          https://www.colorado.edu/today/syndicate/article/read?unit=1179

  29. Anthony Banton,

    I did, in fact, read the full content of the article that you linked [Williams et al., Science 368, 314–318 (2020) 17 April 2020], and offer the following observations:

    1) Direct quote from its Abstract: “We use hydrological modeling and new 1200-year tree-ring reconstructions of summer soil moisture to demonstrate that the 2000–2018 SWNA drought was the second driest 19-year period since 800 CE, exceeded only by a late-1500s megadrought.” This is fully consistent with what the above WUWT extract and article asserted was being claimed, and which I stated to be factually incorrect on two accounts.

    2) Direct quote from its Abstract: “Anthropogenic trends in temperature, relative humidity, and precipitation estimated from 31 climate models account for 47% (model interquartiles of 35 to 105%) of the 2000–2018 drought
    severity, pushing an otherwise moderate drought onto a trajectory comparable to the worst SWNA
    megadroughts since 800 CE.” So, not mentioned in the above WUWT article is the fact that the severity of the 2000-2018 drought is PREDICTED to be on a TRAJECTORY “comparable to the worst SWNA megadroughts since 800 CE.” If there is nothing else that the IPCC has taught humanity, it is that today’s best climate models (well, perhaps with the singular exception of the Russian Academy of Sciences climate model) are worthless in making climate predictions.

    3) Direct quote from its second paragraph: “Any attribution of recent drought to anthropogenic climate change must consider this region’s capacity for large internal hydroclimatic variability (16,17). Although 21st-century drought
    conditions have been clearly promoted by natural Pacific Ocean variability (18–20), certain elements are also consistent with projected drying due to anthropogenic radiative forcing(21–23).” Note the authors’ sleight-of-hand trick here: they state “consistent with” (presumably as a CYA maneuver), yet then assert CERTAINTY in the article’s title (“. . . from anthropogenic warming . . .”).

    4) Even though E.R Cook is listed as one of the co-authors, the article makes no attempt to reconcile his data that is the basis of the WUWT Figure 1 graph that I referenced with the cited claims in the Science article. Moreover, in the sixth paragraph there is this statement: “The regionally averaged SWNA reconstruction (Fig. 1C) reveals four megadroughts that satisfy this criterion in the late 800s, mid-1100s,1200s, and late 1500s.” And in the subsequent seventh paragraph there is this statement: “The most severe SWNA 19-year soil moisture anomaly during the late-1500s megadrought was −0.80 s in 1575–1593.” (redefining “multidecadal” to mean 19 years). These statements are, again, inconsistent with the claim that 2000-2018 is the second-worst multidecadal (drought) event in the last 1200 years.

    5) From the second-to-last paragraph is this astonishingly revealing sentence: “Our relatively simple hydrological modeling approach also does not account for coupled land-atmosphere interactions or dynamic vegetation responses to climate.” Yet tree ring data is fundamental to the very basis of this article, as stated in its abstract (Item 1 above of this post).

    I could go on and on with the failings of this Science-published article, but need I really? Have you, yourself, read it?

    Now, you were saying something about answering to dog-whistles? . . . I think I hear the AGW camp calling you home.

  30. “Well, it rained all night the day I left,
    The weather, it was dry.
    Sun so hot I froze to death!
    Suzanna, don’t you cry.”

    • On the first part of the journey
      I was looking at all the life
      There were plants and birds and rocks and things
      There was sand and hills and rings
      The first thing I met was a fly with a buzz
      And the sky with no clouds
      The heat was hot and the ground was dry
      But the air was full of sound

      I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name
      It felt good to be out of the rain
      In the desert you can remember your name
      ‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain
      La, la

      After two days in the desert sun
      My skin began to turn red
      After three days in the desert fun
      I was looking at a river bed
      And the story it told of a river that flowed
      Made me sad to think it was dead

      You see I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name
      It felt good to be out of the rain
      In the desert you can remember your name
      ‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain
      La, la

      After nine days I let the horse run free
      ‘Cause the desert had turned to sea
      There were plants and birds and rocks and things
      there was sand and hills and rings
      The ocean is a desert with it’s life underground
      And a perfect disguise above
      Under the cities lies a heart made of ground
      But the humans will give no love

      You see I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name
      It felt good to be out of the rain
      In the desert you can remember your name
      ‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain
      La, la

  31. I’ve just been through a drought here in inland Australia and a fire to cap it off. Is this the worst drought I’ve seen? No, I don’t think so. The one in the early eighties was pretty crook. The one earlier this century was similar.

    Droughts happen all too frequently. However, high in the ivory towers of the megacities of the eastern Australian coastal fringe, far removed from having to live and farm through such extreme dry periods, there are plenty of publicity-seeking academic types who will happily announce that the next drought is the worst ever seen. It will be proof positive of a doomed future if we don’t change our ways.

    People should change their ways, indeed. They should stop listening to these so-called experts. Their expertise, it seems, is but a figment of a fevered imagination. It is not the planet that is getting hotter, rather the desperation of some to be noticed and that of others to misuse this to political advantage.

    The cult of the expert is now a mainstay of the radical left (and that’s almost all of the left, these days). Long ago, the radicals stormed the ivory towers, to assume the role of gate-keepers to knowledge, with a complicit media in tow. The real drought we face is one of scientific truth.

    • Yes, it is very funny to compare that linked graph to:

      a) Figure 1 of the above WUWT article . . . whatever happened to the pre-2000, multidecadal droughts? . . . oh, that’s right, we should not expect models to accurately hindcast factual history, should we?

      b) What is claimed in the Science article (the linked graph shows NOTHING unusual happening in “the late 800s, mid-1100s,1200s, and late 1500s.”)

      c) the “severity” of the 2000-2018 drought being based on computer model predictions of a future TRAJECTORY that will, it is claimed, “push an otherwise moderate drought onto a trajectory comparable to the worst SWNA megadroughts since 800 CE”; whereas the linked graph is so bold as to actually plot the Summer Palmer Drought Severity Index out to year 2100 . . . and with, no less, predicted “noise” levels about the future trend line that are only 50% to 30% of the “noise” in the PDSI-RNET data plotted from 800 to about 1900 AD. Just laughable!

  32. I have been in Tucson since the late 70’s and this is the latest I have had to wear my 1.5 suit to go into the pool because of the cooler temps. It has been wet and to prove that we have had some of the best wild flower displays in the last couple of years, this year in front of my house they lasted over 7 weeks. Please tell the morons to stop with the lies. On a side note I can tell the virus is coming to an end as Global warming is back in the news. That is the only time I would call that a good thing. Be safe and happy and bring back my sports, please…

  33. It’s raining in San Diego as I write this; and it has rained almost every day, sometimes torrential, for the past two weeks. Some megadrought.

  34. lol
    If “a picture tells a thousand words” then those first two diagrams surely tell two thousand words.

  35. I’ve lived in Southern california for quite a while (over 50 years) and then climate here is basically wet winters and dry summers. The climate is also one of decade or more long dry periods separated by very wet years. These decade long periods vary quite a bit in both duration and precipitation. That’s one reason I think any claim that “climate” can be determined by a fifty year period is nonsense. Several hundred years is more like it for So. Cal.

    Given all that, the previous drought is not significantly different than others I’ve seen here.

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