USA Today Almost Gets the Drought Story Right

Parts of the country are in the midst of a brutal drought, as we have noted many times. A USA Today article, “A drought for the ages,” explains:

Drought, a fixture in much of the West for nearly a decade, now covers more than one-third of the continental USA. And it’s spreading.

As summer starts, half the nation is either abnormally dry or in outright drought from prolonged lack of rain that could lead to water shortages.

Last year, the N.Y. Times blew its drought coverage by failing to mention how global warming makes severe drought more likely. USA Today doesn’t make that blunder, but it is still a bit confused:

Dry episodes have become so persistent in the West that some scientists and water managers say drought is the “new normal” there. Reinforcing that notion are global-warming projections warning of more and deeper dry spells in the Southwest, although a report in last week’s Science magazine challenges the climate models and suggests there will be more rainfall worldwide later this century.

“It seems extremely likely that drought will become more the norm” for the West, says Kathy Jacobs of the Arizona Water Institute, a research partnership of the state’s three universities. “Droughts will continue to come and go, but … higher temperatures are going to produce more water stress.” That’s because warmer temperatures in the Southwest boosts demands for water and cause more to evaporate from lakes and reservoirs.

Yes, the Science magazine article (subs. req’d) talked about greater precipitation globally, but hardly refutes the notion that the Southwest will face more droughts. Indeed, in April, Science published research that “predicted a permanent drought by 2050 throughout the Southwest.”


This is only a tiny criticism of USA Today. Overall, this is one of the better articles to appear on US drought and climate change in the mainstream media.