Thursday, August 8, 2013

New Mexico Drought: Today's Journalists Don't Understand Science -- Or, Math

Yesterday's Los Angeles Times has a story about the very dry last two years in New Mexico. As these stories go, they try to play the "climate change" angle fairly: that we don't know. Fine, so far.

Unfortunately, the article includes some highly questionable comments:
click to enlarge
"New Mexico's rainfall has been below normal nearly half the time..."??!! That is precisely what one would expect: rainfall to be above normal about half the time and below normal about half the time. In fact, as I review their figures, it appears the period since 2000 has (as a whole) been slightly wetter than normal.

The next problem is when they talk about systems 'never" recovering (cropped headline at top and elsewhere):
There is absolutely no way to know whether systems will recover or not, as it depends on how long it stays dry.

This next quote also unfortunate:
The last three years have been the driest and warmest since record-keeping began here in 1895. ... a senior meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albuquerque, said even the state's recent above-average monsoon rains "won't make a dent" in the drought; deficits will require several years of normal rainfall to erase, should normal rain ever arrive.

Should "normal rain ever arrive"? Won't make a dent? As recently as two weeks ago, the climate change crowd was telling Kansans (experiencing the same drought as New Mexico, see darkest red area on map above) that this drought was due to climate change and using the same apocalyptic language . Here is just the most recent of many examples. Another example is here. And, here.

Since that July 25 meeting (first link) about climate change and the Kansas drought occurred, parts of Kansas have received more than eight inches above normal rainfall! Lake Cheney, the source of most of Wichita's drinking water, has gone from 59% full to 99.81% full as of tonight (don't worry, there is plenty of reserve for flood control) as the summer progressed.
The map above is for the two weeks as of 7am Wednesday. Here is the radar estimate of rainfall in western Kansas since yesterday morning:
The reds are more than four inches. The green polygons are flash flood warnings.

In other words, the climate change crowd was hugely wrong again. How wrong? Look at this headline:
As that global warming story (brown link above) was published, the eastern half of Kansas was about two weeks away from harvesting one of the best wheat crops ever.

About every twenty years, especially in the odd-numbered decades, there is a major drought somewhere in the Plains or Southwest. Sure enough, the past three years have been extremely dry in many areas. But, the fact that this drought has occurred "on schedule" (i.e., in an odd-numbered decade) is evidence the climate has not changed. 

As in Kansas, rainfall has been above normal over most of New Mexico. Some areas have received more than five inches (same scale as Kansas map above).

Additional rains are forecast for the next five days:
I agree this is not enough to break the drought but it is certainly "dented"-- at least in some areas.

I don't know when the drought will end in New Mexico, but it will eventually end just like the drought in Kansas has ended or is ending (depending on part of the state). I certainly hope it is in time to keep the damage from increasing. That said, there is no real evidence this drought is due to global warming.

4 comments:

  1. As always Mike, good article.

    According to what we've seen so far and what is forecast, it looks like August temps for Wichita will be as much as 3.0 deg below normal. How will this rank over the long run?

    http://www.accuweather.com/en/us/wichita-ks/67201/august-weather/29328_pc?monyr=8/1/2013

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  2. Most journalists I know are math challenged.

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  3. IF this continues, it will be one of the coolest Augusts ever.

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    1. Which of course is caused by climate change. Or global warming. :)

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