Stuff I Wrote Elsewhere

On hurricanes and drought (sub. req.):

The same global forces that unleashed Katrina on New Orleans may be quietly sapping the West of its water.

Drought and hurricanes seem to go hand-in-hand, said Julio Betancourt, a drought researcher with the U.S. Geological Survey in Tucson.

Betancourt is among a growing number of researchers pointing to a warming Atlantic as the guilty party. Already implicated in a burst of increased hurricane activity since the mid-1990s, the Atlantic is now being fingered as a suspect in western droughts.

But while the dramatic arrival of a hurricane is hard to ignore, drought has a way of quietly creeping in, said University of New Mexico scientist Lou Scuderi.

“Droughts— they’re just sort of there,” Scuderi said. “They’re persistent.”

The most recent piece of evidence comes from a team of scientists studying repeated multiyear droughts in the upper Colorado River basin— water supply to much of the western United States.

When the Atlantic warms— as it began to do in the mid-1990s— the Colorado River tends to dwindle, said Denver-based U.S. Geological Survey climate researcher Gregory McCabe.


  1. That’s interesting. Was there a lot of drought during the last major spate of hurricanes (circa the ’50s if I recall right)? Is there a paper on this?

  2. Steve –

    Indeed, for the arid southwest the 1950s was the most severe drought of the past century. I’ll post some links to papers about this when I have time this evening.

  3. A few papers dealing with ’50s and related drought (and more references in the footnotes therein):

    Allen and Breshears, Drought-induced shift of a forest-woodland ecotone: Rapid landscape response to climate variation, PNAS Vol. 95, Issue 25, 14839-14842, December 8, 1998

    Swetnam and Betancourt, Mesoscale Disturbance and Ecological Response to Decadal Climatic Variability in the American Southwest, Journal of Climate: Vol. 11, No. 12, pp. 3128–3147 (this is a terrific paper)

    McCabe et al, Pacific and Atlantic Ocean influences on multidecadal drought frequency in the United States, PNAS, March 23, 2004, vol. 101, no. 12, 4136–4141

    Cole, Overpeck and Cook (Multiyear La Niña events and persistent drought in the contiguous United States, GRL VOL. 29, NO. 13, 10.1029/2001GL013561, 2002) has good drought maps of the US by decade

    For hurricane frequency, there’s Goldenberg et al in Science a few years back: Vol. 293. no. 5529, pp. 474 – 479

  4. Pingback: jfleck at inkstain » Blog Archive » Drdought of the ’50s

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