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Katharine And The Texas Drought

November 28, 2011




In her interview with Yale 360, Katharine Hayhoe, Associate Professor of  Atmospheric Sciences at Texas Tech University, told us “increasing winter temperatures in Texas were a sign of climate change” (even though winter temperature trends over the last century show a decline). – Full story here

She also told us “our weather is becoming much more extreme, where it’s either feast or famine. I’ve been here ( in Lubbock, Texas) for five years and in five years ………………….. we’ve had two 100-year rain events(even though precipitation records for nearby USHCN stations showed nothing unusual happening). – See here

So what else did she have to say? Let’s have a look at this again.

What people are seeing and instinctively recognizing is a change in the average conditions. They are seeing very unusual things happen — birds here that you didn’t used to see, red fire ants here that we didn’t used to have, trees and plants are flowering earlier in the year, our weather is becoming much more extreme, where it’s either feast or famine. I’ve been here for five years and in five years we’ve had the longest dry period on record, we’ve had the record drought that we’re in right now, and we’ve had two 100-year rain events.

Long periods without rain are, of course, extremely common in Texas, and particularly so in the area of West Texas around Lubbock that Katharine is referring to, which is categorised as “dry semi-arid” under the Koppen Climate Classification. The dry spell Katharine talks about was in 2005/6, but we need to take a long term perspective on this to see what significance, if any, there is to be drawn.

The nearest USHCN station to Lubbock is Crosbyton, 33 miles away. According to USHCN records there over the last 100 years, the number of months with no precipitation can be analysed as follows :-


Decade No of months
1911-20 8
1921-30 5
1931-40 5
1941-50 5
1951-60 8
1961-70 5
1971-80 10
1981-90 2
1991-00 5
2001-10 5


This analysis shows quite clearly that the last decade has been absolutely normal and that there have been three decades previously when dry spells were more frequent. But was the dry spell in 2005/6 significantly longer than usual?

In Crosbyton this particular dry period lasted for 56 days. The same USHCN records in Crosbyton show that over the last 100 years there have been 28 occasions when dry spells of over 50 days occurred, in other words about once every 4 years. So I guess Katharine’s “once in 5 years” is par for the course! The longest dry spell over this period for Crosbyton was 88 days from October 1921 – January 1922. Perhaps the period from October 1970 – February 1971 was even worse as 112 days passed with just 0.02” of rain in the December.


I have difficulty in understanding why an intelligent and professional scientist such as Katharine cannot see these sort of things from a long term perspective. Is that not her job?



N.B. For anyone interested the dry months are listed below.

Jan 1912 Dec 1921 Dec 1945 Nov 1960 Oct 1975 Jan 1998
Jun 1912 Jan 1924 Nov 1949 Nov 1965 Jan 1976 Sep 1998
Apr 1913 Mar 1925 Mar 1950 Dec 1966 Dec 1976 Nov 1999
Aug 1913 Feb 1936 Dec 1951 Jan 1967 Nov 1977 Aug 2000
Feb 1914 Aug 1936 Oct 1952 Jan 1970 Dec 1978 Jan 2003
Nov 1914 Feb 1937 Dec 1953 Nov 1970 Nov 1980 Dec 2003
Nov 1915 Nov 1937 Feb 1954 Jan 1971 Jan 1986 Jan 2006
Dec 1917 Mar 1940 Mar 1956 Nov 1973 Nov 1989 Nov 2007
Oct 1921 Jan 1942 Dec 1958 Dec 1973 Oct 1992
Nov 1921 Feb 1943 Mar 1959 Feb 1974 Dec 1996
  1. JimBrock permalink
    November 29, 2011 4:11 pm

    Good quote from Oppenheimer. Bad source for openness. His connections with the Soviets cause him to lose his security clearance. And he was not open about this problem.

  2. December 3, 2011 4:04 pm

    If she has tenure, she can say anything without fear of getting fired. Tenure destroys a lot of once-good minds.

  3. George permalink
    December 4, 2011 11:21 pm

    Your region will likely continue to be dry for as long as we have La Nina conditions in the Pacific. Drought conditions in Texas and the Southeastern US are a normal response to La Nina and we appear to now be having two of these conditions back-to-back. In fact, this is the third La Nina since 2007-2008.

    So if the Pacific Decadal Oscillation is, in fact, swinging negative and we have more La Nina years than El Nino, expect more dry spells in Texas.

    Follow this graph:

    When it is below 0, you have a better chance of dry conditions. Of course it is all ultimately up to the wind and circulation patters but when the “NINO3.4 SST” index is negative, Texas stands a better than average chance of dry weather. So … considering the forecast for the coming year is for continued “negative” readings, it looks like Texas is in for another dry winter/spring/summer at this point.

  4. December 4, 2011 11:38 pm

    There is currently a story in this weekends Chicago Tribune about Katharine Hayhoe and her Evangelical position (and rational) for CAGW. There won’t be an online link for that story for a few days but this is a past story in the Chicago Tribune about something similar:

    I took interest in reading the story (and searching for more about her) just because of her outspoken Christian view that is connected to her CAGW belief.
    Just looking at her research history, she is a modeler, so that would explain why she is completely wrong about the droughts !!

    Going back to her outspokenness regarding her religion and her belief in CAGW…………………

    How do you think the MSM would portray her IF any person from Texas used his / her religious beliefs in science?????????

    The bloodletting would be ferocious !!

  5. December 4, 2011 11:46 pm

    “I have difficulty in understanding why an intelligent and professional scientist such as Katharine cannot see these sort of things from a long term perspective. Is that not her job?”

    No, her job is promoting CAGW !!!

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