The Hartford Courant is closing out 2020 with a misleadingly alarming story, titled, “Climate change in Connecticut in 2020: A massive storm, drought and a push to develop more wind energy.” The story falsely claims climate change has caused an increase in drought in the state, and resulted in unusual tropical storms striking Connecticut. Existing data, however, show there has been no increase in drought across Connecticut in recent years, nor are tropical storms striking the state at all unusual.
“Connecticut faced the worst drought in four years this summer and fall,” writes the Courant. However, as of December 24, 2020, the United States Drought Monitor (USDM) reports no region of Connecticut as experiencing even abnormally dry conditions, much less drought. Nor do USDM historical records indicate the state has experienced more than the historically normal incidences of drought over the past two decades or droughts of unusual length or severity.
The fact that, as reported by the Courant, Hartford’s 2020 rainfall is below the long-term historical average for precipitation, which is 49 inches on average annually, does not indicate Hartford is experiencing climate change-driven unusual weather. Indeed, since 2000, Hartford has experienced above average amounts of rainfall just as often as it has experienced below average rainfall. Indeed, two of the past three years have brought above-average rainfall to Hartford.
It would appear that the Courant’s writers don’t understand how “averages” are calculated. Had the paper chosen instead to examine 2011 or 2018 instead of 2020, it would have found the average precipitation was more than 10 inches above “normal” in each year.
In addition, the Courant decries the fact that Connecticut has experienced below average snowfall thus far in 2020, but for nine of the past 10 years Hartford experienced above-average snowfall. In short, there is no human-global warming fingerprint indicated for Connecticut in general, or for Hartford in particular.
This is not surprising. As discussed in Climate at a Glance: Drought, the United States is undergoing its longest period in recorded history with fewer than 40 percent of the country experiencing “very dry” conditions, and the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports with “high confidence” that precipitation has increased over mid-latitude land areas of the Northern Hemisphere (including the United States) during the past 70 years.
Concerning tropical storms, the Courant cites the single example of tropical storm Isaias as evidence that human-caused global warming is causing weather extremes. However, landfalling tropical storms and even hurricanes have not been uncommon for Connecticut historically. Indeed, tropical storms were recorded striking New England since pre-Columbian times, including dozens of tropical storms and hurricanes striking Connecticut since Colonial times. Indeed, at least 10 category 1 or more powerful hurricanes have made landfall in Connecticut since 1850, so Isaias was not unusual.
The Hartford Courant shouldn’t be allowed premise its desire for more wind power on the false claim that human-induced warming is causing an increase in drought or tropical storms in the state. The data is clear that neither claim is true.