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Controversial NOAA report says climate change not responsible for 2012 drought

According to an Assessment Report of the NOAA Drought Task Force, the 2012 central Great Plains drought was not caused by climate change.

In fact, the task force concluded that the drought resulted mostly from natural variations in weather and that human-induced climate change did not seem to play a significant role in the severe rainfall deficits that impacted the central Great Plains between May-August 2012.

NOAA said that the 2012 central Great Plains drought was caused by the failure of moist Gulf of Mexico air to stream northward in late spring and the infrequent and dry nature of summertime thunderstorms.

The report led to some controversy among climatologists.

Thingprogress.org, for example, said the report is “needlessly confusing, scientifically problematic, and already leading to misleading headlines.” The website posted a Commentary from Dr. Kevin Trenberth, former head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

Dr. Trenberth said that the report is “incomplete” in some areas and that it “asks the wrong questions.”

Dr. Trenberth, for instance, noted that the report failed to discuss the observed soil moisture conditions, snow cover, and snow pack during the 2011-2012 winter.

According to the NOAA report, “An Interpretation of the Origins of the 2012 Central Great Plains Drought,” the drought was a “discrete extreme event” that was not a progression or a continuation of 2011’s record drought event that took place over the southern Great Plains.

NOAA also said that the extent and severity of the 2012 Central Great Plains Drought were not predicted. Though above normal temperatures were forecasted by climate models, the extreme heat wave was not.

Was NOAA’s report misleading? Did the report fail to answer some questions or take into account some data? Share your thoughts in the comments section.