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Droughts developing more rapidly says global study

April 16, 2023

By Paul Homewood


For the first time a new study has confirmed droughts across the world are developing more rapidly as a result of climate change.

The international study identifies flash droughts – which intensify in a matter of weeks – have become more frequent since the late 1950s over 74% of the world’s 33 global regions, especially those over North and East Asia, the Sahara and Europe.

The Met Office’s Dr Peili Wu is one of the paper’s authors. He said: “The transition to more flash droughts is being driven by a combination of rainfall deficit along with amplified rates of soil moisture loss.”

The paper highlights that the transition from slower-onset droughts to flash droughts is projected to expand to most land areas. This transition will become most pronounced with higher rates of global greenhouse emissions.

Obviously, a drought begins with a period with a relative absence of rain or snow. However, increased temperatures and sometimes stronger winds can rapidly amplify the loss of moisture in the soil, exacerbating the speed of the drought’s onset and impacts. This rapidity can lead to the creation of a flash drought. Droughts in their many forms can last for different time periods, from weeks to decades

This has all the trappings of a study written purposely to “prove” a preconceived agenda.

It is of course predicated on a half degree rise in temperatures, the sort of difference between temperatures in Sheffield and Birmingham. Does Birmingham have flash droughts and Sheffield none? Silly question really.

As Dr Wu admits, “flash droughts” do not actually exist, he himself had to invent the term a few years ago, no doubt to pin them on global warming.

The level of moisture in soils is governed by all sorts of factors, but particularly agricultural practices. To attempt to tease out a climate influence is to all intents and purposes impossible, as it would be undetectable.

But there are other serious issues about this study. The first is that global warming has made the world wetter on the whole.

The second is that extra CO2 in the atmosphere has helped to green the planet. In particular, higher concentrations of CO2 mean that plants lose less water to the air. In other words, transpiration is reduced.


Thirdly global cooling in the 1960s, 70s and 80s led directly to massively severe droughts across a wide swathe of the world, from the Sahel across to India and China. The cause was the expansion of the polar air mass which pushed the rainbelts towards the tropics.


Global warming does not lead to more severe droughts, whether flash or not – global cooling does.

Indeed, the world during the ice age was a very dry one, as cold air can hold less moisture. And it is dry air which sucks the moisture out of the ground like a sponge. That is why cold deserts like the Gobi are every bit as dry bas the Sahara.

There is very little global data with which to analyse droughts, but there is plenty in the US.

And NOAA’s data is quite explicit. Droughts are now much less severe than they were in the past.


I am quite sure that Dr Wu and his colleagues are perfectly aware of all of this. That is why they have invented flash droughts, which with some dodgy computer modelling has enabled them to claim something which does not exist.

  1. Micky R permalink
    April 16, 2023 6:04 pm

    Is global warming occurring?

    • Broadlands permalink
      April 16, 2023 6:19 pm

      Yes… Since the middle of the last century the global average temperature anomaly (according to NOAA, 2021) was warming the planet a staggering plus 0.84°C. But that was lower than it was in 2016. A climate crisis is occurring?

      • April 16, 2023 7:19 pm

        Of course satellites back in the first half of the 20th century were steam driven…and as for the still unequal distribution of temperature gauges world wide today, back then those were mercury thermometers located mainly in Western countries and the FEW which were not were in Western enclaves of foreign lands.
        I begin to smell a rat when all the usual suspect “bought” media starts hyperventilating about a crisis or a shortage to facilitate further control over our lives and charge us more, in this case by pushing a crisis over drinking water. Almost all of our problems are caused by poor management of supply. Strangely, the Newsom character in California has stopped a number of water management projects which were given the go-ahead before he came sadly into power. Now why would he do that in a State which has significant water management issues?
        It hardly also can help that between the year 2000 and 2020 the world population increased by 27% mainly in places with little or no credible water infrastructure.
        However, on the subject of precipitation, here is the strangest thing of all. I for my many-fold sins work as a geophysicist in the oil industry. One way of subdividing geological units seismically is by climate because the change from warm to cold, cold to warm produces easy to recognise acoustic boundaries. This is because climate affects the amount of runoff and hence sedimentation. However, it is cold periods which are characterised by low sedimentation rates because there is a reduced precipitation and supply of runoff from the land. Warm periods are characterised by more precipitation and an increased amount of runoff and thereby are presented as thicker units acoustically separated from each other by thinner units deposited during cold periods. This makes complete sense because during cold periods more water is locked up in ice.
        Clearly everything I have learned must be wrong and indeed the seismic sequence stratigraphic method must be a fiction because science in 2023 cannot surely be as simply about producing heavily modeled output to satisfy their paymasters narrative…. can it?

      • ThinkingScientist permalink
        April 17, 2023 9:57 am

        pardonmeforbeathing…..yeah, its obvious that seismic stratigraphy must be the work of the devil, given its early origins from Exxon and its publication in AAPG Memoir 26.

        Hopefully I don’t need the /sarc tag.

        If you worked in seismic strat interp we may even know each other…my job is special projects type geophysics, mostly oil and gas, primarily seismic QI and impedance.

    • Ariadaeus permalink
      April 17, 2023 5:13 am

      It certainly has. After the collapse of the USSR c.1990 the Russian government closed all of the weather stations in Siberia to save money. As you probably know Siberia is a very cold place and the low temperatures record were no longer in the mix. This caused about 0.5 degrees of ‘warming’.

  2. April 16, 2023 6:18 pm

    Meanwhile, in the real world, droughts are not worsening, neither globally…

    …nor in the USA…

    …nor in Europe:

    Rising CO2 levels have increased global agricultural productivity by roughly 20% through “CO2 fertilization,” and higher CO2 levels also reduce drought impacts by making crops more water-efficient and drought-resilient. Both of those have contributed to a drastic reduction in famines.

    Higher CO2 levels are also causing measurable “greening” of the Earth, which in some arid regions has been quite spectacular.

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      April 17, 2023 8:39 am

      No doubt but photosynthesis uses water, so more growth means more water used inbthat growth. It’s possible that this contributes to dryer soil and i wonder if they have allowed for that?

      • ThinkingScientist permalink
        April 17, 2023 9:45 am

        A significant part of water use by plants is loss through stomata during transpiration.

        There is evidence that higher CO2 in the atmosphere means stomata can be smaller for gas exchange, thus less water loss.

  3. Gamecock permalink
    April 16, 2023 6:22 pm

    ‘For the first time a new study has confirmed droughts across the world are developing more rapidly as a result of climate change.’

    Morons. Droughts are weather. Climate is the generalized weather of an area over time.


    Demand to know just exactly where on earth is a climate changing. The answer is nowhere. It’s not a trick question. ‘Climate change’ is a fabrication.

    • dennisambler permalink
      April 20, 2023 4:51 pm

      Bang on. I have said this many times, but of course it turns you into a “climate change denier”.

      I love the phrase “flash drought” from a “flash scientist”

  4. catweazle666 permalink
    April 16, 2023 6:35 pm

    Click to access mueller-sahel.pdf

    • ThinkingScientist permalink
      April 17, 2023 9:53 am

      As a related aside, I was actually involved in privately and independently reviewing a paper back in the 2000’s that couldn’t get published. It was investigating whether claims of worsening Sahel desertification was an artefact of change of measuring stations as opposed to a real world climatechange. The authors couldn’t get it published.

      Image my surprise after the Climategate emails were published when I saw this referred to as a paper being actively suppressed by one Dr Jones….

  5. April 16, 2023 6:36 pm

    The narrative is everything is deteriorating due to AGW. They/AGW proponents can’t produce empirical evidence proving AGW so they are giving the people FUD …. fear, uncertainty, and doubt. When you control the media you control the propaganda.

  6. MrGrimNasty permalink
    April 16, 2023 6:43 pm

    Graham Stuart MP was just on GBNews saying offshore wind used to be £120+, now just £39 at the latest auction. More = cheaper he says. How long do we have to wait until it actually gets cheaper? When do people start to shout liar?

    • Mike Jackson permalink
      April 16, 2023 7:06 pm

      Is he comparing apples with pears, by any chance? If the £39 is under CfD then it’s meaningless for as long as suppliers refuse to activate that agreement and stick to selling at world prices.
      What idiot thought that idea up, anyway? Deben, maybe?

      • MrGrimNasty permalink
        April 16, 2023 8:56 pm

        Yes, as Paul has highlighted, they don’t (ever?) actually supply at the low bid prices. Also it doesn’t include all the imposed whole system costs that renewables cause.

      • Ben Vorlich permalink
        April 16, 2023 9:05 pm

        According to Wikipedia
        Developed in Britain in 1974 as a way to leverage gold, CFDs have been trading widely since the early 1990s.CFDs were originally developed as a type of equity swap that was traded on margin.
        The invention of the CFD is widely credited to Brian Keelan and Jon Wood, both of UBS Warburg, on their Trafalgar House deal in the early 1990s.

        So dating back to the era of Wilson and Heath, giving dubious financial experts time to work out ways to exploit them to the full

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      April 16, 2023 10:33 pm

      I wish some of their presenters would learn how to push back on that by quoting facts about what we are really paying for wind power back at the politicians. ROC subsidies are worth around £120/MWh on top of market prices (£105-110/MWh recently) for offshore wind. The average CFD payment on offshore wind was £177/MWh in the first few days of April with the new indexation applied.

      • ThinkingScientist permalink
        April 17, 2023 10:00 am

        I have emailed them at GB News repeatedly to give them the ammunition to push back but they never seem to take it on board.

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      April 17, 2023 8:45 am

      Amazing that now wind WILL be cheaper rather than IS cheaper. And none of these figures is comparable (indexation etc) nor real. Nor all-in cost. Not sure he’s a liar, just not remotely properly informed.

    • gezza1298 permalink
      April 17, 2023 1:22 pm

      Lying in ignorance I suspect given that he is an MP and they are intellectually challenged not to mention that the whole subsidy scam is – deliberately?? – complicated. However, GB News should be correcting him.

  7. Curious George permalink
    April 16, 2023 7:20 pm

    You can have more droughts or fewer droughts as desired. Just redefine “drought”. A favorite game of politicians.

    • cookers52 permalink
      April 16, 2023 11:01 pm

      In UK drought flooding is a common occurrence.
      Lost count of the times the local River has flooded when we are officially in drought.

  8. April 16, 2023 8:21 pm

    Your Met Office lies the same as our NOAA and NASA. Where are the lawsuits? We have a Federal data quality law that is ignored by everybody involved.

  9. Ray Sanders permalink
    April 17, 2023 4:54 am

    “Are you with me Doctor Wu? Are you really just a shadow of the man that I once knew? Are you crazy are you high or just an ordinary guy? Have you done all you can do? Are you with me Doctor…..”
    Guess Dr Wu should have laid off the cocaine.

    The lyrics make a lot more sense than this “new research paper” does

  10. Phoenix44 permalink
    April 17, 2023 8:36 am

    Can’t prove your hypothesis? Just invent new things! There research proves the null hypothesis – droughts aren’t getting worse – but we can’t have good news. So we get absurd new definitions. Truly this discipline has failed.

    • ThinkingScientist permalink
      April 17, 2023 10:18 am

      Its correlation mining I suspect. Keep digging through data records until a new metric appears that fits the narrative. Here’s what I think is a good example:

      Pop down to Figure 1 and look at the (a) panel of detrended correlations. They quote the statistical signficance for each month which look amazing. But note (a) the detrended patterns bounce everywhere month to month and (b) the only month (July) with a statistically significant correlation (p<0.003) is on a single attribute basis. When you look at so many crossplots this is wrong, its basic stats 101 wrong. If you correct the significance for 12 crossplots (all months) then the signifcance of R=0.48 is p<0.04 which is not so clever. And of course they likely looked at at least 36 crossplots in which case for R=0.48 we get p<0.12.

      Classic spurious correlation.

      • ThinkingScientist permalink
        April 17, 2023 10:27 am

        Postscript, from the abstract:

        When Arctic sea-ice is low in July, tornado activity in the United States in July is also low. The decreased activity during this month is attributed to the presence of unfavorable atmospheric conditions for tornado formation over central North America. Such a robust link could be used in forecasts of tornado activity.

        I think they will find that’s called northern hemisphere summer not a link between Arctic sea ice and tornados

  11. Ian Wilson permalink
    April 17, 2023 8:40 am

    Off topic, but according to internet news sources the Brecon Beacons National Park is to be renamed with a Welsh name because ‘beacons’ and associated burning of flares is unhelpful in achieving net zero and fighting the (alleged) ‘climate crisis’.
    To be fair, on Farming Today the spokeswoman for the park, Catherine Mealing-Jones, put more emphasis on Welsh heritage but she was the same person pushing the climate line on the internet news.

  12. ThinkingScientist permalink
    April 17, 2023 9:48 am

    Note the linked article:

    “The paper will be published …”

    As a geophysicist who studied half their degree in a soil science department I look forward to reading the paper when its actually published.

  13. April 17, 2023 10:37 am

    I also wrote about this yesterday. In my opinion, the paper should be retracted. The UK Met Office have no shame.

  14. gezza1298 permalink
    April 17, 2023 1:28 pm

    The answer is ‘anthropogenic global warming’, so how do we write the question to get the correct answer – climatology in a nutshell.

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