2012 Great Plains drought not caused by climate change

Aug 14, 2013

From May to July 2012, the Great Plains region of the western United States faced a powerful and unpredicted drought. Following 7 months of normal rainfall, the drought was one of the largest deviations from seasonal precipitation rates seen in the region since observations began in 1895. When such extreme events take place today against the backdrop of ongoing global climate change, they raise questions about the relationship between climate change and natural disasters.

In a new modeling study, Kumar et al. use an ensemble of runs from an operational climate model, initialized with the observed conditions leading up to the 2012 Great Plains drought, to simulate the range of conditions that could have played out during the subsequent months. They find that the drought fell within the bounds of natural . The strength of the drought, they suggest, was a consequence of the multiple complex nonlinear systems that make up the and did not critically depend on the existence of a strong external forcing.

The authors note that their findings do not detract from the idea that climate change could enhance some . Rather, their research says that climate change was not a first-order forcing of the drought. They say that climate change and other pressures could still serve as "proximate causes," setting the stage for or enhancing, but not necessarily causing, extreme events. That the drought was driven by natural variability not requiring a steady background forcing, they say, will limit the predictability of similar future extreme events.

Explore further: Israeli port city closes 5 factories over cancer fears

More information: Do Extreme Climate Events Require Extreme Forcings? Geophysical Research Letters, DOI: 10.1002/grl.50657, 2013 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/grl.50657/abstract

Related Stories

Iowa scientists: Drought a sign of climate change

Nov 19, 2012

More than 130 scientists from Iowa colleges and universities say this year's drought is consistent with a warmer climate predicted as part of global climate change and more droughts can be expected.

Recommended for you

Mountain of electrical waste reaches new peak

12 hours ago

A record amount of electrical and electronic waste hit the rubbish tips in 2014, with the biggest per-capita tallies in countries that pride themselves on environmental consciousness, a report said Sunday.

China's struggle for water security

Apr 18, 2015

Way back in 1999, before he became China's prime minister, Wen Jiabao warned that water scarcity posed one of the greatest threats to the "survival of the nation".

Canada revises upward CO2 emission data since 1990

Apr 18, 2015

Canada revised its greenhouse gas emission data from 1990 to 2013 in a report Friday, showing it had higher carbon dioxide discharges each year, and a doubling of emissions from its oil sands.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Water_Prophet
1 / 5 (8) Aug 14, 2013
Nay, but droughts are not a condition measured in years, and the power of the curse is not how often.
Yet the plains seem increasingly cursed, without Water's benediction, as the years pass... and is that not of the Climate?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.