Ag Weather Forum

What 2012 And 1930s Droughts Shared

By Bryce Anderson , DTN Ag Meteorologist and DTN Analyst

Questions have been voiced during this past fall and into winter about whether there is any comparison between the big drought of 2012 and the Dust Bowl drought years of the 1930s. Were any environmental factors in play that offer any sort of comparison?

I posed that question in a Twitter note to the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (known as IRI). I got a reply from IRI communications officer Francesco Fiondella, and here is the transcription of his message:

"I spoke very briefly to one of our scientists here about any connection between the 1930s drought and the 2012 drought. He didn't really have much to add--there's no active research that we're doing here on that topic. He did say that the big worry is there is a negative PDO (Pacific Decadal Oscillation) in the Pacific and positive AMO (Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation) in the Atlantic, so warmer Atlantic-cooler Pacific that happened during the protracted droughts of the 30s, and it happened also in the 2012 drought. So the connection is that there are similar setups and whether or not that's going to continue going forward from last year's drought is still a question."

This is a potent comment. A brief way of saying what Mr. Fiondella told me is--"With the positive AMO and negative PDO, ocean patterns are in place that could indeed cause a repeat of drought conditions in 2013."

That's not a trite paraphrase. That is his message.

If you want to read more about the research that was done about 10 years ago on the relationship between the AMO and PDO when it comes to drought influence, you may go here:…


To follow my weather thoughts on Twitter, go to…



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MATT MULLER 12/31/2012 | 4:40 PM CST
Bryce, quite sobering. I just got up from the couch here in Arkansa where I'd been watching the PBS documentary on the dust bowl (a christmas present). Now I've read this. Back home we had an eighty percent chance of rain for our thirsty wheat and only got a tenth out of this system. Looks like after two years of drought and crop failures we will continue to pray for rain but be ready for more drought.

Matt Muller
Robert Winslow 12/31/2012 | 3:16 PM CST
Bryce...the scientist failed to mention whether this (negative PDO and positive AMO) had happened in years other than in the 1930s and in 2012. That would be helpful info to have before we infer any conclusions.
Lawrence Sullivan 12/31/2012 | 2:17 PM CST
Is there a site that we can visit that shows the AMO, PDO current temps along with maybe some forecasts?