Summary: The “permanent drought” in California, like the now ended “permanent drought” in Texas, is ending. But like the panic about Texas, it is rich in lessons about our difficulty clearly seeing the world — and the futility of activists exaggerating and lying about the science. Of course, they should have learned this after 29 years of trying (starting from James Hansen’s 1988 Senate testimony).
Warnings of a permanent drought in California
Remember all those predictions of a “permanent drought” in California? Those were examples of why three decades of climate alarmism has not convinced the American people to take severe measures to fight anthropogenic climate change: alarmists exaggerate the science, and are proven wrong — repeatedly. When will the Left learn that doomster lies do not work?
Wired, May 2016: “Thanks El Niño, But California’s Drought Is Probably Forever“. “California is still in a state of drought. For now, maybe forever.” The article gives no support — none — for this clickbait claim. In January Wired attempted to weasel away from their claims by defining drought to mean needing more water than nature provides (“A Wet Year Won’t Beat California’s Never-Ending Drought“). Orwell nodded, unsurprised.
The NYT did no better in “California Braces for Unending Drought“, May 2016. The closest the article comes to supporting their headline is an odd statement by Governor Brown: “But now we know that drought is becoming a regular occurrence…” Drought has always been a regular occurrence in California. The governor also said that “California droughts are expected to be more frequent and persistent, as warmer winter temperatures driven by climate change reduce water held in the Sierra Nevada snowpack and result in drier soil conditions.” That is probable. But it is quite mad for the NYT to call more frequent droughts “an unending drought.”
Status of the California drought
“During the past week, a series of storms bringing widespread rain and snow showers impacted the states along the Pacific Coast and northern Rockies. In California, the cumulative effect of several months of abundant precipitation has significantly improved drought conditions across the state.”
— US Drought monitor – California, February 9.
Precipitation over California in the water year so far (October 1 to January 31) is 178% of average for this date. The snowpack is 179% of average, as of Feb 8. Our reservoirs are at 125% of average capacity. See the bottom line summary as of February 7, from the US Drought monitor for California.
The improvement has been tremendous. The area with exceptional drought conditions have gone year over year from 38% of California to 0%, extreme drought from 23% to 1%, severe drought from 20% to 10% — while dry and moderate drought went from 18% to 48%, and no drought from <1% to 41%. See the map below. And the rain continues to fall.
For data about the western states see the dashboards at NOAA’s Western Water Assessment. For a longer-term perspective on the western drought see NOAA’s “Western drought: It ain’t over ’til…well, it ain’t over” by Deke Arndt, 2 February 2017. It will take years of good rain and snow to recharge California’s groundwater.
Journalists could have told us that historical data shows that past droughts in the US southwest lasted for centuries, a grim warning encouraging us to prepare. Droughts, often long and fierce, are the natural climate of this region. But telling the truth was boring — bad clickbait — and would have been politically useless for the Left. But their exaggerations and misrepresentations of science — and failed predictions — have only eroded away the public’s support for sensible measures to control and allocate water use.
This has been their way since they discovered that weather porn was good clickbait and might support their campaign for aggressive public policy measures to fight anthropogenic climate change. The result: contributing to the public’s loss of trust in the news media and an almost complete failure to get their policy changes.
In this as in other things, only a reality-based community can reform America. Too bad neither Left nor Right has any interest in giving up their tribal beliefs to focus on the often-inconvenient truth. Look here for ideas about ways you can help.
For More Information
- Droughts are coming. Are we ready for the past to repeat?
- Everything you want to know about California’s drought (except when it will end), Nov 2014.
- Key facts about the drought that’s reshaping California, March 2015.
- Our response to California’s drought shows America at work to enrich the 1%.
To learn more about the state of climate change…
…see The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters and Climate Change by Roger Pielke Jr. (Prof of Environmental Studies at U of CO-Boulder, and Director of their Center for Science and Technology Policy Research).