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Seth Borenstein Has A Problem With The Facts

May 19, 2016

By Paul Homewood 




More nonsense from Seth Borenstein:


With clay soil and tabletop-flat terrain, Houston has endured flooding for generations. Its 1,700 miles of man-made channels struggle to dispatch storm runoff to the Gulf of Mexico.

Now the nation’s fourth-largest city is being overwhelmed with more frequent and more destructive floods. The latest calamity occurred April 18, killing eight people and causing tens of millions of dollars in damage. The worsening floods aren’t simple acts of nature or just costly local concerns. Federal taxpayers get soaked too.

Extreme downpours have doubled in frequency over the past three decades, climatologists say, in part because of global warming. The other main culprit is unrestrained development in the only major U.S. city without zoning rules. That combination means more pavement and deeper floodwaters. Critics blame cozy relations between developers and local leaders for inadequate flood-protection measures.–houston-politics-of-flooding-20160518-story.html


The nearest USHCN station to Houston is Liberty, 40 miles away. Below is the whisker plot for daily rainfall there.




There is clearly no evidence of any rising trend in extreme rainfall. By far the wettest day came way back in 1994, when 18.5 inches fell on 18th October.



The next two nearest USHCN stations are Brenham and Danevang, and we see the same picture there.








But if your name is Seth Borenstein, why worry about facts?

  1. Jimmy Haigh permalink
    May 19, 2016 11:05 am

    I’m sure that Seth Berenstein is an anagram of something.

  2. Broadlands permalink
    May 19, 2016 11:46 am

    “Extreme downpours have doubled in frequency over the past three decades, climatologists say, in part because of global warming. The other main culprit is unrestrained development ..”

    Downpours in Houston have increased because of unrestrained development? That’s the other part?

    • spetzer86 permalink
      May 19, 2016 1:18 pm

      Unrestrained development certainly increases the dollars lost due to flooding. Just like coastal development increases costs of hurricanes.

      • Broadlands permalink
        May 19, 2016 8:02 pm

        Spetzer86… That’s true, but that is not because of “global warming”. That was true before development was restrained or unrestrained. I was puzzled as to what the other part was? ENSO?

  3. Broadlands permalink
    May 19, 2016 11:53 am

    US Southwest extreme rainfall…Texas

    “Records are replete with accounts of excessive precipitation. In all the Southwest probably the greatest single fall of rain was near Taylor, Tex., during the night of September 9 and 10, 1921. A total of 30 inches was recorded in 15 hours, thus averaging 2 inches per hour. Torrential rains over the southeastern portion of Texas in May 1923 resulted in Beaumont recording nearly 14 inches, and it was reported that the entire amount actually fell in 2.5 hours. In June 1913 nearly 21 inches of rain fell in 18 hours at Montell. Brownsville received 12 inches in 24 consecutive hours in September 1886, which helped raise the month’s total from a mean of 5.5 inches to an excess of over 25 inches.”

    Source: Monthly Weather Review, December 1934. “Meteorological Extremes of the Southwest”, Clarence E. Koeppe.

  4. 4 Eyes permalink
    May 19, 2016 12:04 pm

    Years, and years, ago I was told that Houston had sunk 2 feet because of groundwater extraction. If that was the case then I would not be surprised that flooding is getting worse.

  5. May 19, 2016 12:40 pm

    Note Seth’s source “climatologists say”
    You know what that means ?
    Well if someone doesn’t give you a source that you can check ..and just say “scientists say”, “experts say” that is equivalent to saying “My cat says” !

  6. Bitter& Twisted permalink
    May 19, 2016 1:36 pm

    When has truth had any influence with the likes of Alarmists, such as “Beers Honest Nit” or
    “Bitterness Hone”

    (Anagrams of our “Seth Borenstein”)

  7. May 19, 2016 2:37 pm

    The Houston metro area has grown tremendously in population the last 50 years, from 1.36 million in 1960 to 6.5 million in 2010 according to census figures and in 2015 was estimated to be near 6.7 million. Consequently many more people are affected when extreme weather events occur. In addition, the Houston metro area now covers over 10,000 square miles, which is larger than the state of New Jersey. The huge urban/suburban sprawl there means more localized extreme rainfall events hit populated areas just because the population is now spread over a much larger area, even though the frequency of extreme events at a given location in the area has not changed (as shown by the rainfall graphs). So population growth is the real cause of increased weather related problems, NOT climate change.

    The worst problem will be when the next major hurricane hits the area. Ike in 2008 caused a lot of damage but was not classified a major hurricane. Houston unfortunately is overdue. Miami is in a similar situation. The hints of a coming La Niña by late summer do not bode well for the southeastern US which is currently enjoying a long hurricane drought, the longest “ever” (since about 1880). This hurricane drought is likely to end soon and the alarmists will once again be claiming man-made climate change is the cause of more and stronger hurricanes, even though they say nothing about the unusual hurricane drought – as if only bad things can be caused by “man-made” climate change.

    People need to come to their senses and recognize that weather extremes are a part of climate and do not necessarily indicate climate change. We will need hundreds of years of data to determine if there is really much change in frequency and intensity of extreme weather events and the same is true for temperature as well.

  8. John F. Hultquist permalink
    May 19, 2016 2:51 pm

    Put this: Allen’s Landing Park

    . . . into Google Earth. This will take you to the center of Houston and the point of settlement “where the confluence of White Oak Bayou and Buffalo Bayou served as a natural turning basin.” [Wiki / History of Houston]

    The area is flat, waterlogged, and next to the Gulf of Mexico. A “bayou” is a sluggish stream that meanders through lowlands and marshes; otherwise known as a swamp.

    The difference between people kept in prison and people in Houston is that those in prison know they are being punished.
    {Old joke – don’t respond.}

  9. May 19, 2016 3:41 pm

    From 1837 onwards.

    Significant Houston Area Floods

  10. May 19, 2016 5:52 pm

    Here is an excerpt from “The faucet: Informal attribution of the May 2015 record-setting Texas rains“ by John W. Nielsen-Gammon (Texas state climatologist and professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M).

    It’s excellent work. He sees no trend in Texas annual precipitation — hence no climate change signal in the flooding. However, there is an increasing trend to heavy rainfall — perhaps a climate signal, albeit a minor one. Not the climate Armageddon we’ve been promised.

    Contrast his careful assessments — much like the others I mention — with the wildly confident “it’s all climate change” from activists (my favorite is RobertScribbler, the fantasy writer).

  11. May 19, 2016 5:56 pm

    Also noteworthy about the Texas rains. Roger Pielke Sr pointed me to Forrest Mims observations of atmospheric water vapor levels at his Geronimo Creek Observatory in Texas. The trend is flat as the Texas prairie.

    Somebody should tell the atmosphere to get with the global warming program: its water vapor amplification is a key part of the story!

  12. May 19, 2016 6:22 pm

    Too much rain? Climate change. Too little rain? Climate change. Um….when will these people notice that the word that always follows climate is “change”? Not stability. Not stasis. Not anything that even hints at UNchanging. It is the insinuation that these “changes” are somehow freakish anomalies that never occurred before 1880 that always alerts me to how “unscientific” or “uneducated in Earth science” a given speaker/writer is. The more they speak, the more idiotic they reveal themselves to be.

    Seth makes me smile and chuckle in the same way that Yosemite Sam the cartoon does when he has a “fit”. Hopping up and down with panic and concern while he curses human selfishness with the quaint little epithets of his culture, stomping on his own hat and shooting himself in the foot. He’s my favorite comic strip…that Seth is. 🙂

    • May 19, 2016 6:36 pm


      Some activists transcend their genre by forecasting opposite kinds of change at once. As in this by Andrea Thompson at Climate Central, 5 June 2015.

      “The seemingly endless and often torrential rains that deluged Texas and Oklahoma in May are in some ways a harbinger of what the South Central states can expect to see as the world warms. But the region also could be in store for just the opposite – more long bouts of hot, dry days that could cause the Southern Plains to be even more susceptible to drought than they already are.”

    • Broadlands permalink
      May 19, 2016 6:46 pm

      “Too much rain? Climate change. Too little rain? Climate change.” Isn’t that what one expects from the ENSO… El-Nino followed by La-Nina? Natural conditions and beyond human control.

  13. BBould permalink
    May 19, 2016 6:36 pm

    You have some type of virus in one of your ads. It wants you to download a virus infected version of flashplayer.exe

    • May 20, 2016 10:05 am


      Unfortunately the ads are under the control of WordPress

  14. May 19, 2016 7:50 pm

    Curiously, yesterday I visited CAG site – and while this is not representative of some short term cycle of “more extreme rain” events – it is interesting that as the Earth was experiencing it’s cycle of slight global cooling (1940’s – 1970’s period) – there was a very strong [huge] increasing trend in annual precipitation for Houston, TX. Following that there is a decreasing trend over the past 4 decades – a period of global warming followed by a period of staying warm (the pause).


    • Broadlands permalink
      May 19, 2016 8:10 pm

      Gary… And did you notice that the linear trend in Houston since Nino 1997 was down at about 5 inches per decade?

  15. May 19, 2016 10:35 pm

    Extended droughts and then excessive rains that relieve the droughts are standard events in Texas and Oklahoma. That’s the normal climate. It happens all the time.

  16. Andy DC permalink
    May 20, 2016 12:50 am

    Natural climate change produced gigantic glaciers down to Chicago and NYC, only about 12,000 years ago, which is a blink of the eye in terms of geological time. Obviously to build and melt such gigantic glaciers resulted from climate change way outside what we consider to be the normal range of today’s climate. All without any human input whatsoever.

    • May 20, 2016 2:38 pm

      Those massive glaciers have come and gone cyclically many times over the last million years. During the last half million years the cold periods have lasted about 5 times longer than the relatively brief warm interglacials like the one at present that has allowed the rise of civilization. There is little reason to believe these cycles are going to end any time soon, and thus our current interglacial could end at any time and the next glacial period will be a major disaster for humanity.

      All this hype about a tiny bit of possible “man-made” global warming and associated climate change is like worrying about a cockroach running around on the floor when there is a huge tiger in the shadows waiting to pounce. It anything, we should be looking for ways to keep the planet warm rather than trying to cool it. What an ironic situation.

  17. May 20, 2016 8:07 am

    Who needs facts when you’ve got confirmation bias on your side?

  18. May 20, 2016 12:25 pm

    Huston TX is at the same N latitude as Sahara/Sahel Africa Where is the water coming from? The gulf? How does that work in the context of CAGW?

  19. Broadlands permalink
    May 20, 2016 1:04 pm

    In the US, back in the warm 1930s, the Chief Climatologist for the US Weather Bureau, J.B. Kincer, was asked about the conditions, and the newspapers reported:

    “The Weather Bureau has no explanation for the persistency of dry weather in the southwestern plains or its occurrence in the Northeast, where droughts are uncommon.

    “Droughts” said Mr. Kincer “are weather incidents that just happen.”

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