Posted on | October 23, 2008 | 4 Comments
A reader familiar with my longstanding interest in how one defines “drought” sent along this interesting story from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation:
Federal Government-selected experts want people to start using the word “dryness” to describe Australia’s worst drought in a century.
The word “drought” makes farmers feel bad, says the Government’s hand-picked Drought Policy Review Expert Social Panel.
The politically-correct push also aims to make farmers accept that drier weather is here to stay, and is not a temporary crisis, the panel’s newly released report said.
I’ve not read the underlying report, but I suspect they’re on to something here. One of the problems with the use of the word “drought” to describe climatic conditions that are essentially the dry side of the normal range of variability is that it lets you off the hook. We see that here in the southwestern U.S. all the time. We take the wet side of the probability distribution in stride, not noticing the bounty, but then when we get to the dry side, we call it a “drought” and act all surprised.