Right Opinion

Another Drought to Bite the Dust?

Joe Bastardi · Jun. 16, 2018

In this day and age of “everything is the worst ever,” we were supposedly seeing a Southern Plains perma drought and the start of a new dust bowl, which raises the question: Why is it man-made if there was a previous dust bowl? The 2012-2013 reversal is amazingly similar to the 1950s reversal.

Then we moved to California, where one winter of heavy rains mitigated that state’s drought. Keep in mind, with over 40 million people in California, the demand for water is always going to be a problem. Normal is not good enough anymore. But the point is that another doom-and-gloom drought got busted up.

The latest place to experience drought is the Southwest. Yes, it’s normally dry there, but it’s drier than normal. And of course it's starting to garner attention. This is not like Florida, however, because even in an average year there is less precipitation in the Southwest; smaller increments of below-normal rainfall lead to enhanced representations of dry conditions. Suppose, for instance, your normal rainfall is 100 inches per year. You would have to be 30 inches below average to have the same below-normal percentage as an area that has an annual mean of 10 inches but is three inches below average. That being said, it can reverse pretty quickly too, and we may be about to get a real good lesson in that.

Check out this map.

It may look very different by the end of the year. Why? 
 Well, I have an active tropical cyclone season forecasted for the southeast and southwest Pacific. (By the way, the Far East needs to look out. It could be a big typhoon year there, opposite of last year. A lot of headlines may show up from that area.) The two times of the year it can rain a lot from remnant tropical cyclones in the southwest U.S. are early and late. That is when the jet stream is strong enough to pick up these systems. We are going to see Tropical Storm Bud’s moisture moving toward there.

Texas also loads up, but I don't think the system responsible for it will get a name. Regardless, there will be squally weather there Saturday night into Monday.

There could be another feature also develop off Mexico this weekend on the Pacific side that helps send more moisture into the Southwest after this period.

During the latter part of the season (September-October), I would look for more features to aim at Mexico from the Pacific and work into the Southwest with moisture.

The models are seeing it.

July-September precipitation anomalies put a dagger of wet into the heart of the drought.

It is east of California, so the wet March-April with normal summer drying still means a big wildfire worry there. Further east, this may mean less. Of course, what the models absolutely convey is that it will be wetter than average, so the drought will be dented. In fact, this is the kind of pattern where I would be more worried about flash flooding as the year wears on, as those desert areas are prone to it. The natural back-and-forth swing is once again showing up, and six months from now the problem, if not destroyed, will at least be dented.

Let’s see if this perception has merit. It’s all linked. While the active seasons in the tropics return to the Pacific, notice the dry anomalies in the Caribbean. The deep tropics in the Atlantic are projected to go the opposite way of last year. That does not make the U.S. immune, as features that develop further north out of the deep tropics can be a problem. But in terms of averages, it’s the Pacific that will be ramping up this year, and the indirect effect may be to help bust up the Southwest drought.

There are no “perma droughts,” just natural swings back and forth. And I am outlining this before the fact. Let's see how it turns out.


Joe Bastardi, a pioneer in extreme weather and long-range forecasting, is a contributor to The Patriot Post on environmental issues. He is the author of “The Climate Chronicle: Inconvenient Revelations You Won’t Hear From Al Gore — and Others.”

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