Case Studies in Earth & Environmental Science Journalism

Recent Drought in the U. S. Southwest.

Questions to Ponder and Discuss


Background information:

McKee, Thomas, Doesken, N.J., Kleist, J., Shrier, C.J., Stanton, and W.P, Excerpt: “What is drought?” from A History of Drought in Colorado, Lessons Learned and What Lies Ahead, Colorado Water Resources Research Institute, February 2000. 

Climate of 2007 – February, U.S. Palmer Drought Index, National Climatic Data Center, March 7, 2007. 

Woodhouse, Connie, “Paleoclimate Overview” excerpted from Colorado River Basin Climate: Pale, Present, Future; Special Publication for Association of California Water Agencies and Colorado River Water Users Association Conferences, November 2005.  

Figure 11: Colorado River Basin, Map by Cartography Lab, Department of Geography, University of Colorado-Boulder. 

“Climatic Fluctuations, Drought, and Flow in the Colorado River Basin”, U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2004-3062 version 2.  August 2004. 

Colorado River Compact, 1922.  Text available at:

Technical Articles .

Piechota, Thomas, Timisena, T., Tottle, G. and Hidalgo, H.  “The Western U.S. Drought: How Bad Is It?” EOS, 85 (32): 301-308, August 2004. 

Cook, Edward R., Woodhouse, C.A., Eakin, C.M., Meko, D.M., and Stahle, D.W., “Long-term Aridity Changes in the Western United States” Science 306: 1015-1018, November 2004.

Abstract.  Hidalgo, H.G, “Climate precursors of multidecadal drought variability in the western United States”, Water Resources Research 40, W12504, doi:10.1029/2004WR003350, 2004.  

“Colorado River Basin Water Management: Evaluating and Adjusting to Hydroclimatic Variability” The National Academies Press, Report in Brief, February 2007. 

Popular Articles.

Williams, Hill, “What’s Causing California’s Drought?” The Seattle Times, February 18, 1991.  

La Rue, Steve, “Experts differ over whether region faces drought; Some observers foresee a decades-long dry spell,” The San Diego Union-Tribune, May 25, 2000.

Petit, Charles W., “Blame it on distant oceans – and perhaps on global warming,” U.S. News & World Report, May 20, 2002. 

“A Growing Thirst” The Economist.  January 25, 2003. 

Cos, Jack, “High or dry fickly flows have long challenged Coloradans,” The Denver Post, March 16, 2003. 

Burton, Greg, “Rains fail to quench drought; rivers haven’t been this low in nearly 100 years,” The Salt Lake Tribune, May 9, 2003.

Keahey, John, “Despite drought, streams still run briskly, Reality: Records prove some previous dry times in Utah were more severe,” The Salt Lake Tribune, August 10, 2003.

Stein, Theo, “Flood of legal tests may away complex ‘law of the river’; 1922 Colorado River pact set water allotments some call too generous,”  The Denver Post, April 4, 2004.

Wilkinson, Todd, “West faces a sixth year of epic drought” The Christian Science Monitor, April 27, 2004. 

Barry, Chips, “Drought is just a temporary condition,” Perspective, The Denver Post, May 2, 2004. 

Johnson, Kirk and Dean E. Murphy, “Drought Settles in, Lake Shrinks and West’s Worries Grow,” The New York Times, May 2, 2004.

Editorial Desk, “The Arid West” The New York Times, May 10, 2004. 

Meador, Ron, “Water and the West: Waiting for a return to ‘normal,’ unless this is normal,” The Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), June 13, 2004. 

Wagner, Angie, “Western drought beat Dust Bowl, could be worse in 500 years,” The Associated Press, June 17, 2004. 

Monteagudo Jr., Luis, “Worst drought in 500 years? Experts say dearth of rain in Western states ‘historic’” The San Diego Union-Tribune, June 30, 2004. 

Quillen, Ed, “Sobering thoughts on water,” The Denver Post, August 3, 2004.

Bauman, Joe, “The great Divide: Time to rewrite river law?” Deseret Morning News, August 8, 2004. 

Baird, Joe, “Colorado Compact: Ageless or dried up?” The Salt Lake Tribune, December 19, 2004. 

Nijhius, Michelle, “Written in the Rings” High Country News, January 24, 2005. 

McKinnon, Shaun, “States wrangle for Colo. River share,” The Arizona Republic, December 14, 2005.

Boxall, Bettina, “Severe Drought Traced Along Colorado River,” Los Angeles Times, May 27, 2006.

Magill, Bobby, “Drought addressed in new river agreement,” The Daily Sentinel, January 25, 2007.

Bowles, Jennifer, “Future of water supply at risk,” The Press-Enterprise, February 21, 2007. 

McKinnon, Shaun, “Climate shift may cut flow,” The Arizona Republic, February 22, 2007. 

O’Driscoll, Patrick, “Report warns water crisis looming in arid Southwest,” USA Today, February 22, 2007. 

Dean, Cornelia, “That ‘drought’ in the southwest may be normal, report says,” The New York Times, February 22, 2007.

Boxall, Bettina, “Report: Key Water Source is Affected by Global Warming” Los Angeles Times, February 23, 2007. 

Editorial, “A Pattern of Normal Drought”  The New York Times, March 3, 2007. 

Farquhar, Brodie, “Drought as the norm?” The Casper Star-Tribune, March 4, 2007. 

Anonymous, “NOAA reports U.S. likely to have above-average winter temperatures; La Nina arrives, southern drought concerns intensity” PR Newswire, October 9, 2007.

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