There’s no doubt that last year’s historic drought will remain etched in farmers’ minds for generations to come, and a new study has named the culprit behind this epic event.
Man-man climate change -– a scapegoat blamed for similar weather events -– is off the hook.
Instead, extreme natural events led to the drought, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Drought Task Force.
"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," the report summary said.
Just how bad was the drought? Study leader Martin Hoerling, a NOAA meteorologist, told CNN reporters that the drought in Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota was the worst since record-keeping began in 1895, even eclipsing the notorious Dust Bowl droughts of 1934 and 1936.
"The event was rare, and we estimated maybe a once-in-a-couple-of-hundred-years event," Hoerling said.
Hoerling added, “I'm an advocate of global warming because science tells me that greenhouse gases have warmed the planet by about 1 degree Celsius in the last 100 years. So there's no question about that," he said. "But the science also tells that every drought that's occurring isn't a result of climate change."
The report also admitted that many meteorologists failed to accurately predict the drought.
“Summertime Great Plains rainfall has been in an upward trend since the early 20th Century and the last major drought occurred 25 years ago in 1988. The 2012 drought thus was a —climate surprise—, and would not have been anticipated from simple considerations of central U.S. rainfall behavior in the recent past,” the authors wrote.
As 2013 summer drought outlook, many climatologists and meteorologists agree that it may rival last summer’s drought, especially in areas west of the Mississippi River. Read more.