Climate Change Not the Cause of 2012 Drought, According to New NOAA Study

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=”font-family:>2012 Drought
Source:  US Water Alliance, “The 2012 Drought,”, Aug. 9, 2012

On Mar. 20, 2013, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Drought Task Force released a new study which found that the 2012 Great Plains drought, the worst US drought since record keeping began in 1895, was the result of “natural variations in weather patterns” and was not caused by “human-induced climate change.”

The 2012 drought, which affected Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota, had previously been widely attributed to climate change.  In his 2013 State of the Union Address President Barack Obama warned that “we can choose to believe that hurricane 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.”

Dr. Martin Hoerling, senior author for the new NOAA report, “An Interpretation of the Origins of the 2012 Central Great Plains Drought,” stated that although he is an “advocate of global warming… the science also tells that every drought that’s occurring isn’t a result of climate change.”

Dr. Kevin Trenberth, former head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, immediately challenged the findings of the NOAA drought report, stating that the report “has some useful material in it describing aspects of the drought in 2012 in the central US. But it is quite incomplete in many respects, and it asks the wrong questions… It is well established that all events such as the one nominally analyzed have a large component from natural variability… The question never addressed is what does global warming and human influences bring to that?”

According to statistics from the National Climatic Data Center, 2012 was the warmest year on record in the United States since record keeping began in 1895.  In 2012 the annual temperature was 1.0°F warmer than the previous record year 1998.


Michael Martinez, “Study: Natural Causes, Not Human Activity, Behind Plains Drought,”, Apr. 13, 2013

NOAA Climate Program Office, “NOAA-Led Report: 2012 Central Great Plains ‘Flash Drought’ a Result of Natural Variations in Weather,” (accessed Apr. 15, 2013)

Barack Obama, “2013 State of the Union Address,”, Feb. 12, 2013

Joe Romm, “Yes, Climate Change Is Worsening US Drought – NOAA Report Needlessly Confuses the Issue,”, Apr. 12, 2013

Christopher F. Schuetze, “Climate Change Didn’t Cause the Big Drought,”, Apr. 15, 2013

US Global Change Research Program, “NCDC Announces Warmest Year on Record for Contiguous U.S.,” (accessed Apr. 15, 2013)