Note to Yale Climate Connections – There Is no Link Between Droughts and Climate Change

Originally posted at ClimateREALISM

A May 11, 2023 opinion piece in Yale Climate Connections (YCC) titled, “Climate change and droughts: What’s the connection?” link climate change and droughts in the United States. The opinion is provably false. There is no evidence climate change is making droughts in the United States worse.

The YCC article opens saying, “For tens of millions of Americans, drought has become an ever-present natural disaster.”

Figure 1: August 10, 2021, U.S. Drought map. Source: U.S. Drought Monitor

To bolster this claim, the article cites this August 10, 2021 graphic from the U.S. Drought Monitor:

The YCC goes off the rails by citing a U.S. drought map from nearly two years ago, while making arguments about drought in the present. When you access the map that they should have referenced for their May 11th, article, dated May 9, 2023, an entirely different picture emerges, as seen in figure 2 below:

Figure 2: May 9, 2023, U.S. Drought map. Source: U.S. Drought Monitor

Unsurprisingly, YCC seems to have chosen the August 10, 2021, map for their article because the plethora of deep reds fits the narrative that climate change is causing drought, whereas the most recent map shown in figure 2, undermines this claim since virtually all the drought in the Western United States has dissipated. This is a very inconvenient truth for the story the YCC opinion piece is trying to tell.

Later in the article, the author asks and answers this question:

Is global warming causing more droughts?

Scientists see a clear correlation between droughts and global warming. But a correlation between two events does not always mean one caused the other.

It can be tricky to attribute an increase in droughts to global warming because droughts are variable. In other words, they can occur every year or every few years, last for years or decades, and cause varying levels of dryness. That makes it difficult to distinguish random events from those possibly shaped by human-caused warming.

So, which is it YCC? Is there a clear correlation, or is it tricky to make a correlation? The answer lies in real-world data, not in the opinions of pundits and doomsayers.

In this graph of data, seen in Figure 3, provided by the National Centers for Environmental Information, (NCEI) it shows the contiguous United States percentage area product of very wet and very dry data, derived from standardized precipitation values, which are based on the U.S. Climate Divisional Dataset.

Figure 3: data showing percentage of U.S that is either very wet (green) or very dry (orange) since 1895. Source, NCEI:

There is no upward or downward trend in this data. However, examining the data carefully shows that some of the biggest dry spikes are far in the past, such as in October 1952, when 78.42% of the contiguous United States was listed as very dry. This happened well before “human caused climate change” was ever even a subject, during a period when the Earth was in a cooling trend. No drought since has matched the one experienced in 1952, or multiple dry periods that occurred even earlier in the 1930s and early 1900s.

Despite the historical record, YCC makes this claim:

In a 2020 study in the journal Science, for example, researchers observed how human-caused climate change is contributing to the 21st-century megadrought in the Western U.S. and northern Mexico by evaluating trends in modeled temperature, relative humidity, and precipitation data between 1901 and 2018. According to the study’s findings, human-caused warming accounts for 46% of this drought’s severity.

The key difference is this: “…modeled temperature, relative humidity, and precipitation.” Model outputs are not the same as and do not match real-world data. Modeled data should never be used as a substitute for actual data when examining the past where actual data is available.

From Climate at a Glance: Drought, here are a few facts that YCC should have considered before falsely implying that climate change is increasing drought.

At the same time Yale was claiming the second hottest year on record, the U.S. had record low area of drought on May 23, 2017, when only 4.52% of the contiguous U.S. was in drought. On April 9, 2019, that record was beaten when only 4.36% of the contiguous U.S. was classified in drought by the U.S. drought monitor.

The U.N. IPCC reports with “high confidence” that precipitation has increased over mid-latitude land areas of the Northern Hemisphere (including the United States) during the past 70 years, while the IPCC reports having “low confidence” about any negative trends globally.

Droughts have always occurred, and they always will. The available evidence shows that recent years display no trend of increasing drought. If droughts aren’t worsening then climate change can’t be causing worse droughts. Instead, global and U.S. drought data show recent droughts have been less frequent and severe than the droughts of the early and mid-twentieth century. The recent drought history of the United States reflects natural variability, not a long-term trend upwards amid modest warming. Indeed, he United States recently underwent its longest period in recorded history with fewer than 40 percent of the country experiencing “very dry” conditions.

The author of the YCC editorial ignored these easily discoverable facts, perhaps out of ignorance—which is doubtful since she is trained as a meteorologist—, perhaps out of laziness, or most likely, because it undermined her predisposition to promote an alarmist climate change narrative, in this case by connecting recent droughts to climate change. In any case, it was shoddy journalism. Instead of “seeking truth and reporting it” she, and YCC which published her story, promoted unwarranted fears over demonstrable facts about climate change and drought.

Anthony Watts

Anthony Watts is a senior fellow for environment and climate at The Heartland Institute. Watts has been in the weather business both in front of, and behind the camera as an on-air television meteorologist since 1978, and currently does daily radio forecasts. He has created weather graphics presentation systems for television, specialized weather instrumentation, as well as co-authored peer-reviewed papers on climate issues. He operates the most viewed website in the world on climate, the award-winning website

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Tom Halla
May 18, 2023 2:10 pm

YCC is doing advocacy, not journalism.

Reply to  Tom Halla
May 18, 2023 4:26 pm

YCC and the rest of the Climatossoffy sphere are doing advocacy and its aimed at the airhead, mainstream media who are only interested in schlok they can spin into a shock horror headline, an entree to some Climatossoffy xspurt coming on the show to drivel out the usual polished horsemanure.

Forget the military-industrial complex people, its the media-climateossoffy complex now.

Rich Davis
Reply to  ClimateBear
May 19, 2023 3:16 am

What’s wrong with the standard term Climastrology? 🤨

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Rich Davis
May 19, 2023 6:22 am

or climate-ossify meaning “using fake science to ossify the economy and civilization”

Rich Davis
Reply to  Tom Halla
May 19, 2023 3:26 am

I guess I’m in a pedantic mood, but why dignify propaganda with the respectable term advocacy?

Admittedly I did not read that article in full. Maybe you can quote where the Yalies made clear to the reader that it was an opinion piece? Rather than the usual serial misrepresentation of facts intended to deceive and lead the reader to a conclusion not warranted?

Dave Fair
May 18, 2023 2:14 pm

Lies, damned lies and CliSciFi.

It is difficult to maintain the edifice of dangerous climate change that is built on a foundation of lies. The Internet is exposing more and more of the lies and the liars.

Caleb Shaw
Reply to  Dave Fair
May 19, 2023 1:12 am

In order to avoid exposure the Mega-drought Alarmists will have to use cancel culture to cancel even the most innocent-seeming sources of data. For example, as the amazing snow-pack melts and dry-season rains persist, in the desert southwest, you can watch the water supply rebound by simply watching the levels of the reservoirs. Even the levels of small ones are on the web, but the big ones are most interesting to watch. Lake Powell can be seen here:

And Lake Mead can be seen here:

Inflow at Lake Powell is double the normal amount, and outflow down to Lake Mead is also well above normal, while Lake Mead has inflow above normal, yet there is less demand for irrigation due to rains, so outflow is below normal. Both show rising levels.

Even if Alarmists go so crazy that they shut down such websites, word gets around. I was picking up my Jeep at the repair shop and fell into a conversation with an extremely mild mannered gentleman, who never ventures any sort of political view, and to my surprise he knew all about the level of Lake Mead, because an acquaintance of his has retired there. When I mentioned the “mega-drought” he was typically silent, but gave a roll of his eyes which spoke eloquantly.

More Soylent Green!
May 18, 2023 2:28 pm

Gosh, everyone knows climate change is causing drought. Is the climate changing? Yes. Is there drought? Yes.

I rest my case. That’s my research, right there.

Rich Davis
Reply to  More Soylent Green!
May 19, 2023 3:32 am

Sarcasm done right, bravo MSG!

(Suddenly shudders) Hopefully I have not committed felony misgendering. Provisionally, brava!

Ben Vorlich
May 18, 2023 2:46 pm

Here’s an article from the Guardian, rain is a thing of the past for Italy?
Italy faces another year of severe drought after little winter rain or snow

This article is more than 2 months old

Vast areas along Po River already parched, raising fears for farming, hydropower and drinking water

Italy’s rivers and lakes are facing another year of severe drought after a winter of little rain and snowfall, raising the alarm on the implications for farming, hydropower and access to drinking water.

Vast areas of the Po – the country’s longest river that nourishes several northern and central regions – are already parched, while the water level on Lake Garda is the lowest during winter in 35 years.

The Po is adjacent to northern Emilia-Romagna region where the current floods are affecting thousands of people.

Reply to  Ben Vorlich
May 18, 2023 10:19 pm

The Po is adjacent to northern Emilia-Romagna region where the current floods are affecting thousands of people.

And the floods are caused by, yes, you guessed it, climate change as this article from The Guardian tells us:

Italy’s disasters suggest the climate crisis is at the gates of Europe

This week’s floods are latest weather disaster to hit country, as policymakers finally begin to respond to crescendo

May 18, 2023 2:48 pm

There Is no Link Between Droughts and Climate Change”

Careful, it would be much safer to say: “Climate Change did not cause [specific drought]“.

Reply to  KevinM
May 18, 2023 2:50 pm

(Because links imply “both ways”. Is any drought a sign of climate change?)

Last edited 19 days ago by KevinM
Rich Davis
Reply to  KevinM
May 19, 2023 3:49 am

No, not at all safer. How do you go about proving that? Rainfall fluctuates as the climate’s normal state. There is a high standard deviation on rainfall and a 30-year rolling average may have a meandering trend. Any particular drought will almost surely not be unprecedented, nor any subsequent wet period. It would take decades to demonstrate that an unusual drought is part of a series of droughts that deviate statistically from the prior state of the climate.

Maybe if you review 90-year old data from the 1930s you could conclude that those droughts were not the harbinger of climate change since there’s enough data to show that Dust Bowls didn’t become a permanent feature.

Anybody who attributes a drought or a flood to climate change is either ignorant or a liar.

abolition man
May 18, 2023 2:50 pm

Telling credulous children scary stories around the campfire is no way to help them sleep!
If Climate Believers want to really scare people they should talk about the 150MY+ drop in CO2 that will continue unabated without human intervention, or the next cooling period (or glacial onset) that begins after this mild warming period we are benefiting from currently ends due to wholly natural phenomena. But that would require studying the actual science; something that is verboten in the modern indoctrination center!

May 18, 2023 2:52 pm

The theory is that a warmer atmosphere will hold more water vapour which will cause more warming .
More water vapour will always cause more rainfall that goes without saying.
Those people predicting more droughts have conveniently disregarded this as they are only looking at the slight warming and disregarding this fact.
I have written hear before of the 2022 Tongan volcanic eruption that threw 185 million tonnes of water into the tropical atmosphere .This excess moisture took 12 months before the tropical weather system got into gear to push this excess heat and water vapour to Antarctica.
Two tropical cyclones hit the North Island of New Zealand causing major damage in January and February this year.
A lot of summer rain comes from the tropics to New Zealand but these two cyclones so close together were unprecedented .
Australia our closest neighbor has always had droughts , floods and fires but there is no way that these events can be linked to climate change .
This is because there has been no warming across Australia since records began which was posted here on WUWT this week.

Tom in Florida
May 18, 2023 2:57 pm

Just a note: The Aug 10, 2021 map was midway through the Florida rainy season hence not showing drought then. The May 9, 2023 map is about 2/3 through the dry season in Florida with May being the most dry and hot, not surprising it shows drought. Just an observation that timing is everything. For some reason I feel like having some cherry pie tonight.

May 18, 2023 3:12 pm

OH no!!!! Climate change is increasing flooding and insurance companies are shocking US homeowners with insurance cost increases. I am personally having some neuralgia problems which must be due to….you know….climate change? This stuff is just everywhere doing its evil work.

David Wojick
May 18, 2023 3:29 pm

Interesting that their website seems to have no contact info.

John Oliver
May 18, 2023 3:43 pm

With just some of the ocean current circumnavigation cycles taking say a millennium ( and that’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of complexity) ; it just seems absurd to act as if “ oh we here at Yale really have this CAGW warming thing down now” The Ivy league is a shadow of their former selves ; and probably over rated and over priced even in their hey day.

John Oliver
Reply to  John Oliver
May 18, 2023 3:56 pm

Hey that shoulda been Hay

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  John Oliver
May 19, 2023 6:33 am

“over rated and over priced”

Yes, in terms of education- but in terms of making connections, it’s still good if you can afford it. A friend went to the law school at Northeastern. When he took the bar exam, he said a higher percent of his fellow students passed than students from Hah-vid.

May 18, 2023 4:18 pm

Consider stopping using the nonsensical term “Climate Change”

Reply to  Eben
May 18, 2023 5:56 pm

Climate(s) are continuously changing.

As often beneficial to contemporary life as non-beneficial.

But no humans will ever live long enough individually to experience the swings in conditions in their regional climates.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Mr.
May 19, 2023 6:35 am

oh, heck- and here I was hoping it would warm up in my final years- living in cold, damp Woke-achusetts

May 18, 2023 4:37 pm

The grass grew 18″ over the last 2 weeks.
The water table is still 11′ down (25 years constant for May).
Snow pack is 150%, and highest in 15 years.

And yet, the US Drought monitor map, defines me as dry … Abnormally Dry

Rick Wedel
Reply to  DonM
May 18, 2023 5:02 pm

You gotta trust the science!

Rick Wedel
May 18, 2023 5:01 pm

Well, Joe Biden just put a trillion plus dollars into the anti-global warming kitty and it’s up for grabs. It would be surprising if there weren’t a lot more of these types of articles making the rounds. The latest toilet paper commercials during golf on television today told us that the tp company was carbon neutral, as they paid someone to plant trees somewhere. It may not be as carbon neutral leaving the nation’s bathrooms as it was going into them.

May 18, 2023 5:11 pm

perhaps out of ignorance“.

Roger Meiners et al (see WUWT) put it more succinctly: deliberate ignorance.

Bill Parsons
May 18, 2023 5:31 pm

the plethora of deep reds fits the narrative that climate change is causing drought…”

There’s plenty of deep red in the 1936 Palmer Drought graph – the “extreme” and “severe” drought rankings were widespread – covering most of the central United States for several months.


Yet there’s nothing particularly interesting about 1936 in the wet/dry graph.

My sense is that parts of the country experience extremes that really cannot be explained by climate science. And if you don’t like the “bomb cyclone” that flooded your area last winter, wait awhile and you should be able to re-commence your complaining about drought…

The worst flood on record on the Potomac occured in March, 1936 with water levels 40 feet above normal. Videos of this can be seen at the Great Falls Ranger Station and the water level is shown at the top of a pole outside the station. The extreme summer drought across the Midwest occured five months later.

comment image

Bill Parsons
May 18, 2023 5:39 pm

Trying again: 1936, August Palmer Drought Survey graph.
comment image

Last edited 19 days ago by Bill Parsons
May 18, 2023 7:25 pm

“We use hydrological modeling and new 1200-year tree-ring reconstructions of summer soil moisture to demonstrate…”

Uh huh. That’s what the 2020 study says.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  doonman
May 19, 2023 6:38 am

Not only are tree rings not thermometers- they’re also not soil moisture meters.

Steve Case
May 18, 2023 7:49 pm

NOAA’s Climate At a Glance shows precipitation in the USA 48 trending upwards since 1895:

USA Precipitation NOAA CAG.png
May 18, 2023 8:56 pm

The Southern Sierras currently have some 300% of normal snow moisture. No matter. The water year started anew April 1st and there is no carryover as far as the US Drought Monitor people are concerned. Their methodolgy is horrible as are their naming conventions. I mean the lowest rating is “Abnormally Dry.” Not Dry? And second and third tiers; moderate and severe? Inflammatory at best. If they were to track wet above normal then the Southern Sierras would be at least extremely wet or exceptionally wet.

May 19, 2023 6:00 am

Visiting family in the heart of the 2023 drought area. It rained fairly hard last night. Reports of 6+” just NW of Russell to well over 2″ in Hoisington. And it’s still raining softly over a broad area. I guess the climate changed.

Tom Abbott
May 19, 2023 6:58 am

The current drought monitor map will look a lot better in a few days, as the worst-hit areas are finally getting rain now, today.

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