Despite claims made by environmentalists and the Obama administration, a study released Thursday suggests the record-high drought that ravaged agricultural production across the Great Plains region last year was not caused by manmade global warming.
“The Central Great Plains drought during May-August of 2012 resulted mostly from natural variations in weather,” read a report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s drought unit.
“Neither ocean states nor human-induced climate change, factors that can provide long-lead predictability, appeared to play significant roles in causing severe rainfall deficits over the major corn producing regions of central Great Plains.”
According to the report, the jet stream, that typically pushes moist air from the Gulf region northward, was stuck too far north in Canada and did not bring spring rains.
The lack of thunderstorms and rainfall in July and August made last summer the driest and hottest on record, creating drought conditions across two-thirds of the U.S. — which were even hotter and drier than the infamous “dust bowl” of the Great Depression era. The report stated that a “sequence of unfortunate events” occurred suddenly, making the drought unpredictable.
“This is one of those events that comes along once every couple hundreds of years,” Martin Hoerling, a NOAA research meteorologist and lead author of the report, told the Associated Press. “Climate change was not a significant part, if any, of the event.”
Hoerling factored climate change into computer simulations of the the drought, but found it was not a factor in this particular drought. Hoerling previously used the same method to determine that climate change had been a factor in a 2011 drought in Texas.
Environmentalists and the Obama administration have held up extreme weather events, including the severe drought, to highlight the need to immediately address climate change.
“Yes, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15,” Obama said in his State of the Union address. “Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods — all are now more frequent and more intense. We can choose to believe that superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science — and act before it’s too late.”
Other scientists have challenged the NOAA study. Climate scientists Kevin Trenberth with the National Centre for Atmospheric Research said the study failed to take into account the lack of snowpack in the Rockies or how climate change could have kept the jet stream away.
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