By Gary McManus
I’ve been getting a lot of questions concerning our current drought and how it relates to the Dust Bowl drought of the 1930s. And while it has been as severe as just about any comparable 10-12 month period of the 1930s, the obvious answer is “give it another 10 years.” Yes, this drought is still a baby at just about one year old. Regardless, it is probably more apt to compare it to the 1950s drought, which was also a Southern Plains drought (the 1930s drought was centered in the Northern Plains).
Is the current drought the start of one of those infamous decadal-scale droughts of our past (i.e., the 1910s, 1930s or 1950s)? That’s difficult to say, of course. Research shows that those droughts correlate fairly well to sea surface temperature anomalies in the Pacific or Atlantic oceans, or some combination thereof. The 1950s drought, arguably the drought of record (1900 forward) for the Southern Plains, has been linked to a combination of La Nina and the negative phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO).