On the Arizona-California border, the Colorado River below the Palo Verde Dam is running at 110 percent of its median flow. Utah is “having an astounding winter,” and “in certain watersheds, it’s breaking records.” In New Mexico, the Pecos River near Lake Arthur is flowing at 108 percent of its median. Flagstaff’s “received 84.5 inches of snow in the season to date, well above its normal total of 46.6 over the last 30 years.” (More is on the way today and tomorrow.) The Muddy River near Glendale, Nevada is at 99 percent of its median.
Great news. But let’s not forget that quite recently, in their endless worst-case-scenarioing about the “climate crisis,” media within and beyond the American Southwest were breathlessly “reporting” that the region was plagued by a “megadrought”:
• Santa Fe New Mexican (editorial): “It’s not a drought — it’s a megadrought”
• National Public Radio: “Study finds Western megadrought is the worst in 1,200 years”
• Associated Press: “West megadrought worsens to driest in at least 1,200 years”
• WBUR’s On Point: “How New Mexico is learning to live with the megadrought”
• The Washington Post: “Rio Grande runs dry in Albuquerque for the first time in 40 years”
Tony Heller is a geologist who was born and raised in New Mexico, worked as a wilderness ranger northeast of Santa Fe, and is a former employee of Los Alamos National Laboratory. He took particular issue with the Post‘s hysterical headline. In a devastating debunking video made right after the article was published, Heller explored U.S. Geological Survey data showing that north of Albuquerque, the Rio Grande’s flow was “normal,” and down at Elephant Butte, it was “much higher than normal.” (Watch the video to learn what he believes to have happened in the Duke City.) Furthermore, long-term data reveal that New Mexico “has swung back and forth between very wet periods and very dry periods many, many times,” Heller inconveniently noted. Centuries before America had SUVs, China had air conditioning, and India had call centers, water supply in the Land of Enchantment was wildly variable.
Nine years ago, a California media outlet conducted a similar assessment: “The longest droughts of the 20th century, what Californians think of as severe, occurred from 1987 to 1992 and from 1928 to 1934. Both, [Scott Stine, a professor of geography and environmental studies at Cal State East Bay] said, are minor compared to the ancient droughts of 850 to 1090 and 1140 to 1320.”
But don’t expect “green” politicians, eco-activists, and left-wing ideologues disguised as journalists to explain the complete facts on drought here or anywhere else. Fully on board with the belief that “the science is settled,” they’ll deploy anecdotes, preposterous predictions, and outright dishonesty to demonize coal, oil, and natural gas.
You’ll find no better example of such trickery than NASA’s depiction of Lake Mead‘s water loss between December 2000 and June 2022. Look at the chart below.
Those savvy about statistics will quickly realize that the vertical axis does not begin at zero. Thus, the casual observer will be shocked by an apparent 88 percent loss over the two decades. In reality, the loss was 14 percent. Unwanted, of course, in a consistently thirsty region of the country, but nowhere close to the catastrophe presented.
What’s the future for drought in the American Southwest? No one knows. In all likelihood, water levels will continue to be annoyingly erratic — regardless of whether the energy sector is “decarbonized” via costly government mandates.