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Was Climate Change a Factor in US Drought of 2012? or Not?

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Dry Lake Bed During Last Year's Drought - Climate Changed?
Dry Lake Bed During Last Year’s Drought – Climate Changed?

Every time there is a weather event out of the norm, some people may be quick to blame climate change, but recent data suggests this may not be the case, sort of.

Last year’s drought in the US, for six states – Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri and Iowa – was the worst four-month period of drought since records started being kept in 1895. With ⅔ of the Lower 48 in the grip of drought, many shouted “Climate Change!” but a paper by Martin Hoerling, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA], says that “Climate Change was not a significant part, if any, of the event.”

The jet stream would usually draw moist air from over the Gulf of Mexico, but got stuck over Canada in 2012. Other scientists point to shrinking arctic sea ice as the cause [read: climate change], but Columbia University’s Richard Seager says there is no valid connection. Why do Hoerling and Seager discount climate change as the cause? Computer simulations were able to link Mediterranean droughts to climate change, but not the US drought last year.

At the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Kevin Trenberth noted that the report left out a few variables like the lack of snowfall in the Rocky Mountains and the high-pressure system exacerbated by climate change. NOAA blames natural variations and the so-called hundred-year event which are supposedly just a fluke. Trenberth says that climate change is most definitely related, saying “this was natural variability exacerbated by global warming. That is true of all such events from the Russian heat wave of 2010 to the drought and heat waves in Australia.”

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