AP: Drought Worsens For More Than Half Of Country — But Only Because It Didn’t Rain!

“The worst U.S. drought in decades has deepened again,” reports the AP. “Scientists struggled for an explanation other than a simple lack of rain.”

Over half of the continguous U.S. has been in a drought since summer. The latest U.S. Drought Monitor report showed a rise in the extent and increases in the severity of drought:

The report showed that 60.1 percent of the lower 48 states were in some form of drought as of Tuesday, up from 58.8 percent the previous week. The amount of land in extreme or exceptional drought — the two worst classifications — increased from 18.3 percent to 19.04 percent.

The AP has a bizarre form of balance in the story, I guess so those suffering in the drought won’t feel as bad:

A federal meteorologist cautioned that Wednesday’s numbers shouldn’t be alarming, saying that while drought usually subsides heading into winter, the Drought Monitor report merely reflects a week without rain in a large chunk of the country.

Seriously! I feel so much less alarmed knowing that the drought worsened only because we had “a week without rain in a large chunk of the country.”

“The places that are getting precipitation, like the Pacific Northwest, are not in drought, while areas that need the rainfall to end the drought aren’t getting it,” added Richard Heim, a meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center. “I would expect the drought area to expand again” by next week since little rain is forecast in the Midwest in coming days.

How reassuring!


24 Responses to AP: Drought Worsens For More Than Half Of Country — But Only Because It Didn’t Rain!

  1. “Scientists struggled for an explanation” these are presumably the “scientists” at places like AEI, since actual climatologists are not at any kind of loss as to the causes.

  2. catman306 says:

    “Dustbowlification” is a much better descriptor than the old ‘desertification’.

    Especially after finally watching Ken Burns’ Dust Bowl. At PBS.

    Which of FDR’s programs are still being followed by farmers in the southern plains?
    I hope most of them by most of the farmers. We don’t need another dust bowl.

  3. Paul Magnus says:

    Meanwhile in the UK…. for the 2nd month running…

    Floods and gales bring chaos and misery to UK guardian uk

  4. Rob Painting says:

    Joe, perhaps a more nuanced explanation of this US drought situation is in order?

    The scientific evidence does indeed indicate that, long-term, drought will afflict the US because the sub-tropical dry zones will expand poleward, and will engulf the US. Not only that, but as the world gets warmer, lack of rainfall will see much more extreme heatwaves, and therefore much more devastating drought.

    Short-term, however, drought is also influenced by ENSO (La Nina/El Nino) which, as the world warms, has driven, and will further drive more extreme precipitation anomalies, i.e stronger droughts and greater floods. So, when the next El Nino arrives (maybe next year?), these areas seeing intense drought now, may be experiencing intense flooding. This wetter-than-normal interval (for the central US) may persist, if the climate moves into an El Nino-dominant period.

    If this does happen, contrarians will cite this as evidence you were wrong. Yes, yes, I know they’ll claim that anyway – facts are not their forte. More importantly, to rational readers, the message may lost.

    Lack of context may have some readers expecting US drought to be permanent, rather than a recurring feature in the next few decades.

  5. Stephanie Liaci says:

    Rob, that’s a great point. I’m pretty sure though that just as politics divides on party lines, those who understand climate change will realize that even a complete end to the drought doesn’t mean a thing.

    And those who deny will deny it if even ONE rainy day comes. If it snows a lot in one state, they use that as “proof” that there is no warming.

    How can you educate idiots who just don’t want to learn?

  6. Paul Magnus says:

    Interesting pics…
    The future is going to be a swampy one with variable coast lines…

    Britain under water: Towns and fields submerged after days of rain as deluge and 50mph gales are set to continue over the weekend

  7. Paul Magnus says:

    and dusty one ….

  8. Ozonator says:

    Using extremist media logic, rain could have worsened the wildfire season based on the Cuyahoga River and the Houston Ship Channel catching fire in the past.

  9. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    ENSO was an artifact of the climate stability that has ended. A new age of climate derangement is upon us.

  10. catman306 says:

    Climate instability means you can’t use this year’s weather to predict what will happen next year and the years that follow.

  11. Joe Romm says:

    I have written an awful lot of posts on drought. I think readers know this one won’t be permanent.

  12. David Goldstein says:

    If a strong ENSO does come next year- while it may curtail the droughts, it will (as I understand it) likely give a strong boost to global temps as well. And, totaly off-topic, but am I the only one who suspects that we would have already seen significantly more warming if not for the aerosals from Asia in past decade. It just gives me a ‘bad feeling’ that as this aerosal effect diminshes thinks may get MUCH worse and quickly.

  13. prokaryotes says:

    An economy crippling disaster in the making. How many years till we start acting (reducing emissions)?

    The collective denial getting really pathetic.

  14. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Nothing lasts forever. We can only talk in probabilities. This drought could last one more month, or a year, or ten or one hundred. We simply do not know, and, with the US grain belt being critical to global food supply even a moderately bad outcome could prove rapidly disastrous.

  15. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Absolutely. The aerosols have suppressed a good deal of warming, just as global dimming from Western industries did so from the 1940s for several decades. We are, I would say, already past two degrees average warming, with God knows how much more guaranteed by forcings, feedbacks and the Right’s insanely fanatical obstructionism. In other words we are almost certainly already a ‘Dead Civilization Walking’.

  16. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Brainless frogs with the water already boiling about them, too frightened, too brainwashed, to save themselves. What an epitaph!

  17. Greatgrandma Kat says:

    Both drought and flooding ruin crops, when there is nothing left to fall back on, and a bad year hits the worlds breadbaskets I’m sure the deiners will have another creative excuse to dazzel us with. In the mean time on with the work at hand, to find that climate connection realization that will finally (or even kind of) get humans moving in the right direction on emissions before we become the next great extinction story of planet earth.

  18. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    It’s not death, really-it’s just the absence of respiration, over a long period.

  19. Bkoehler says:

    Instead of Keystone, we should build pipelines for water that crosses the nation. Jobs, clean liquid (more or less), etc

  20. Spike says:

    Yes once again my village is surrounded by fields swimming in water and more is on the way – fortunately I am on higher ground.

    Recently I came across this startling paper from 2004, another indicator of how sensitive the hydrologic cycle is to modest climate change.

    “The results suggest that up to 20% of the world population might inevitably be affected by increased flood events in the course of global warming.”


    “There is a significant risk that even a small increase in global mean temperature
    by less than 0.5C brings about a significant increase in flooding probabilities
    which can affect up to 20% of the world population.”


    “Given the possibility that these shifts might happen with rather small increases in global mean temperature, adaptation measures need to be taken soon, which calls for an increasing effort to study and understand the processes of adaptation.”

  21. Joan Savage says:

    Drought forecast carries into to mid-February 2013.

    The spokespersons who expect that this drought will end with normal seasonal winter precipitation didn’t look first before they leaped.

  22. Uncle B says:

    America has enough firepower to bomb its way out of anything God brings them?

  23. The drought map looks an awful lot like the presidential vote map. Now I know why they are called the “red states”. Brought to you by the GOP.

  24. Ian Monroe says:

    Loved your talk at Common Pitch Chile today, Al! I’m working with a Start-Up Chile / Stanford University / UC Berkeley / MIT team to build a personal sustainability tool that’s geared to reincentivize the global economy in the ways you were envisioning. We’d love to partner w/ your work and Charly at R21! Check us out at and