The Drought in California and the Western US…

The El Nino condition in the eastern equatorial Pacific is now beginning to taper off.  So what does this mean for weather patterns around the world?  The answer is very complex and, as is often the case, the RobertScribbler blog has done an excellent job of dissecting the situation.  If you are interested, here is a link to that post.

In this post, however, I want to look at what is going  on in the western and Central US as El Nino wanes.  Below is the latest US Drought Monitor status.  Plainly, the drought in California and the remains extremely severe.  But what is perhaps just as important is that we are seeing the first tendrils of drought begin to form in the upper Midwest and in Texas.  The critical thing here is that El Nino barely made a dent in the drought, at least so far, and since it is waning (and the blocking ridge off the western US is starting to rebuild), it seems unlikely that we will see any epic rains in California for the brief remaining rainy season.  In short, this El Nino, which Californians pinned so many hopes on, has been something of a bust, delivering only a normal amount of rain so far this season.  And, I should note, the rain it did deliver was pretty much all before late January.  Since then, California has been hot and dry.  It was in this same period that the blocking ride off the coast started rebuilding, so we are seeing an ominous pattern emerge that, if it remains, portends another year of grim drought for  the state.

Drought Monitor 26 February 2016

Beyond Califoria, though, is the expectation that the Western and Central US will fall into a very hot and dry pattern through the fall, with potentially significant drought possible. If this happens, we can expect another epic fire season in the west, and we can expect crops to be significantly impacted in the Western and Central states.  Such a situation also means increased draw-downs from the Ogallala Aquifer, a system that is already under immense pressure.  This system, which supplies water to one of the most productive agricultural area in the US, is rapidly shrinking and farms at the margins and seeing their wells go dry.   If we see expanding drought in the Western and Central states, it will mean hardship, increased food prices, and a more rapid decay in critical water systems (which will have significant long-term ramifications).


It seems that what we are setting up for is a fairly wild and damaging spring and summer, with heat, drought, and storms that are much less frequent but far more damaging.  This is not good news, but it is consistent with the global pattern of accelerating system decay and a planet that  has transitioned from nurturing to hostile to life.  I’ll be keeping an eye on this for you, but as I have warned in the past, we just keep getting closer and closer to the National Center for Atmospheric Research maps that were released a few years ago to some laughter, but are not laughed at now.  The map for the 2030’s (below) predicts a US that is much, much deeper in drought and water crisis than anything seen during the Great Dustbowl years in the US.

NOAA 2039 Projection

So what should we do?  Three things:  aside from taking seriously the advice to “get out of the cities”, we should be conscientiously building a closer relationship with Christ while we simultaneously transfer dependence to Him and away from this world.  Second, we should be proclaiming the gospel to a distracted and disinterested world, knowing that that condition of the soil is no excuse for not planting and knowing that even the hardest and rockiest soil can be brought into productivity by the Holy Spirit.  Finally, we should be helping others who are suffering in the world (through ADRA, for instance) while we examine our own use of resources and try to do no harm to others.  We can boil all this down to “Do as Christ would do” but sometimes it is good to be specific.

Scott Christiansen