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American Drought & A Look Back At 2011

January 13, 2013
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By Paul Homewood


In my post yesterday about the US drought last year, I made the point that, nationally, 2012 was only the 15th driest on record since 1895.

John Hultquist pointed out, though, that the drought could have been made worse by the year before being drier. Nationally, rainfall in 2012 was at average levels, as the graph below shows. But what happened at a regional level?










In 2011, the main areas affected were Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico. Texas has been much less affected in 2012, and although Oklahoma and New Mexico have remained much drier than normal, the main attention has been focussed further north, around the Plains and Midwest.

In these latter areas, rainfall was above normal in  most areas during 2011.

NCDC also produce precipitation stats for agricultural areas, and in particular, the Corn Belt, as shown on the map below.








So, over the two years, precipitation has actually been pretty close to normal, and there is a clearly increasing trend.

As I said yesterday, there is no evidence that droughts in the US are either worse than during the 20thC, or are getting worse. Indeed the opposite is clearly the case.

One Comment
  1. John F. Hultquist permalink
    January 14, 2013 6:27 am

    Well done. Thanks.
    I think there is likely a media thing involved. It would work like this. Say in 2011 there are regional areas that are very dry. MSM reports on that place with photos and so on. Next year, 2012, a different place is very dry and the reporters concentrate there. Reports and photos follow. The reader and or watcher of the news isn’t putting push-pins in a map and making an analysis. Thus, the take-away is there were 2 years of drought.
    A WSJ** article (about corn and hog supply) says “. . . hasn’t reduced the size of its hog herd, partly because Minnesota had a better corn harvest than most of the country, making supplies there more abundant.”

    It also says “The U.S. currently produces nearly a third of the world’s corn and soybeans.” The context is that grain supplies are a bit low, mostly because so much of the world depends on North America.
    **1/12/2013, p.B6, Forecast Is Grist for Grains

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