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Texas models

There has been a bit of flooding in Texas and, with weary inevitability, the activist-inclined press are wondering about connections to climate change. The Conversation US has invited Texas state climatologist John Nielson-Gammon to explain and to be fair he makes a reasonable fist of it, but there is still the usual tendency to discuss climate model outputs in their current state of disarray as if they were meaningful. Take this for example:

Studies have shown the odds of very intense rainfall in this part of the country have gone up substantially over last century. The cause and effect with climate change and surface temperature is fairly direct. There’s definitely a connection there.

No there isn't. Climate models have little ability to predict rainfall, and none at all at local levels. Even the IPCC describes their abilities in this area as "modest". If there is "definitely" a connection, if the thermodynamics are so simple, why do climate models do so badly?

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Reader Comments (29)

Anyway wasn't the big Texas whinge all about drought until fairly recently? Shouldn't they be grateful for a drop of rain?

Jun 3, 2015 at 10:35 AM | Unregistered Commenterbill

I'm going to give them a little benefit of the doubt ... "Studies have shown the odds of very intense rainfall" ... these studies (which are unreferenced here) may have been done without use of climate models and instead looking at he statistical record. Traditionally this how it done in hydrology to forecast the "extreme" events, e.g. 100-year storm, for purposes of designing storm drainage, run-off models for flood routing, etc. using specialised probability distributions, e.g. Gumbell, to enable reasonable extrapolation. Doing this based on statistical record is suggested that the "odds ... have gone up". That being said, the "gone up" might be because simply having a longer data set rather than any climatic change.

Jun 3, 2015 at 10:52 AM | Unregistered Commenterrms

RealScience has had several blog posts on Texas recently. The latest one: Texas Is Vulnerable To Clueless Academics

Jun 3, 2015 at 10:58 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Ah. Well. Yes… You don’t understand, Bill: climate change is evil as it is entirely Mann-made, so, any change is not for the better. Take a country – any country, but let’s pick a small part of one, and call it, say, Texas (and not to be confused with anywhere that has a similar name) – that has a history of floods and droughts, and you will be able to see that that sort of climate has changed to one of droughts and floods. This is the wrong way round, and could only have been caused by human-produced CO2. Natural CO2 does not have the malice inherent within the human-produced molecule to create such mayhem, and, like a drop of cyanide can do damage to your body, so half-a-dozen human-produced CO2 molecules can wreak utter havoc on the entire climatic system of a hemisphere. Have you not been paying attention?

Jun 3, 2015 at 11:06 AM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

michael hart
I was just about to post the same link.

Jun 3, 2015 at 11:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

@ Bill: That's precisely what I thought! Probably the wrong kind of rain I suspect, they probably prefer the dry kind as opposed to the wet kind.

Jun 3, 2015 at 11:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

Isn't there a link between making dire predictions, and the amount of research funding that can be purloined?

It should be noted for no reason at all, that global temperature have not risen, since Tippex thinners was banned from offices. No Tippex = no warming? It has to be worth some government funding. Mistakes can be corrected again if it is wrong.

Jun 3, 2015 at 11:56 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

I believe Mexico has also suffered from the same heavy rainfall and consequent flooding. About twenty years ago, I saw something on the goggle-box about somebody's bright notion to prevent rockfalls on roads. As far as I recall, it involved, basically, glueing the rocks in place. The only place I have ever seen where this method has been applied is Mexico, in the mountains west of Oaxaca, which I went through in 2001. I don't know when the glue had been applied, but it was rather obvious that what was visible was but a forlorn remnant of what must have been splurged on in the first place. The rest had been washed away. The deep gullies in the mountain-sides also showed that, when it rains in that part of Mexico, it really does rain.

Incidentally, in pre-Hispanic times, the central Mexicans and the Maya in the Yucatan peninsula, Chiapas and Guatemala had very prominent rain-gods, Tlaloc and Chac, respectively. The thing about rain-gods is that they are always dual-purpose. You pray for the rain to come and then you pray for it to stop. I'm guessing heavy rain has been a regular feature of Mexican existence for quite a long time.

Jun 3, 2015 at 12:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterOwen Morgan

Having been a resident of South & Southeast Texas for >50 years, I believe the best and most accurate way to describe precipitation in these portions of Texas is 'Feast or Famine'.

Please add my endorsement to the previous recommendations to read the discussions regarding Texas rainfall at:

Jun 3, 2015 at 12:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterDrcrinum

The answer to your question is that one thing is to claim that "There’s definitely a connection there" and an entirely different one to actually describe such a connection in a coherent scientific manner.

Jun 3, 2015 at 12:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterBrute

WUWT had an article on this. It is claimed that the published pictures were of a previous flood some years earlier.

Climate Models do badly because they all include as part of the equation the GHE climate sensitivity of up to 5C. So they ALL run hot by that amount.

Jun 3, 2015 at 12:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Marshall

Bill, being able to write at length about "a drop of rain" or absence of a a single drop of rain, is what distinguishes Climate Scientists from us mere mortals. It is why it costs billions of pounds to train people to blame everything on CO2.

Sepp Blatter will be able to blame everything on CO2, and there ought to be a forensic review of supporting evidence behind Noah's boat building obsession.

Jun 3, 2015 at 12:18 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

It is telling that what passes for a reasonable, moderate voice in the grand social mania of climate obsession is someone like Dr. N-G with his percentages approach.
Sadly his insistence on ignoring the history of Texas climate- extreme droughts and flooding rains- in the end leaves us less well prepared for the weather extremes we will continue to experience no matter the ppm of CO2.

Jun 3, 2015 at 12:20 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Remember 2012? We had a dryish winter 11/12, & come April some wit at ther Wet Office claimed that the drought could last until December! It was just after that the heavens opened for one of the wettest years! This in turn lead to the DFCC summoning the Wet office to make a report as to why they got it so wrong, & in the end they made a catalogue of excuses as to why long-range weather forecasting is so difficult!

Jun 3, 2015 at 1:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

Why does a state need a climatologist?

Jun 3, 2015 at 1:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterGamecock

I've flown over Texas a couple of times in a small plane. Texas, especially West Texas has enormous flood plains, larger than any that I've seen anywhere else in North America including Alaska. Most of the Western part of the state is almost desert, like Arizona and New Mexico, but the width and length of the water carved flood basins is staggering, it must be a real spectacle to see when the water is flowing. There are also enormous cattle ranches out there, with the trails from the cattle visible for tens to hundreds of miles as they trek to and from the man made water holes.

Jun 3, 2015 at 1:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterRedbone

Gamecock, States need climatologists to tell them how much worse the weather is now, than it was evah before, and, this is the really important part, it is going to get worse but we can reduce the impact by spending lots and lots of tax payers money.

If forecasts of doom and gloom are not quite as accurate as originally thought probable, this can be blamed on unprecedented climate change disrupting even the most accurate computer models, and used as justification to buy even more expensive computer models, that won't work any better.

When all else fails, engage historians and psychologists to tell everybody that their memories are wrong, and it is all the fault of Big Oil. Such an approach has the full support of Global Warming Alarmists, as they get no support from science.

Jun 3, 2015 at 1:25 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Wow, I knew that CO2 made wet areas wetter and dry areas drier, but I didn't realise it could make dry areas wetter - in a bad way.

There really are no limits to the ability of CO2 to destroy anything and everything it comes into contact with. Thank goodness climate science has alerted us - hopefully in time.

Jun 3, 2015 at 1:40 PM | Unregistered Commenterjaffa

Jaffa, bad weather never happened before YouTube clips became available. All Global Warming Propaganda advisors know this. Including the BBC.

Jun 3, 2015 at 1:51 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

I dunno, where does it say in the IPCC climate pscience instructions, that, Texas cannot or, will never suffer extreme weather events?

As Redbone alludes to above, you can tell pretty much and more especially in 'arid' areas - when and where and of magnitude - rivers in spate, for they leave tell tale marks of past big events, any geomorphologist, hydrologist worth his salt can find them. Indeed, when I go camping in France or the Alps if a stream is nearby the camping area - it's always the first place I will look and if I cannot find a suitable space high enough and far away enough [to be safe], we don't stop.

Jun 3, 2015 at 2:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

Athelstan, everything from Texas has to be expensive, loud and exaggerated, including the models. Just ask Mick Jagger.

Jun 3, 2015 at 2:26 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

I've heard Michael Mann say that a result of global warming would be more drought in the Southwest. Because of La-Nina like effects in the tropics.

Jun 3, 2015 at 2:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikeN

As a temporary Texan I've seen some of the recent weather. It rained a lot. 6-8 inches in a couple of hours where I am. Which is well-drained, because there has been no flooding in the immediate vicinity. The lakes which were several feet down at the turn of the year are now all brimming and having to dump water. Much of the flooding in urban DFW is because of that.

I am assigning no significance to the fact that it started raining when I returned from the UK in April and it has just stopped as I am about to go back.

The local TV news is obsessed by the weather but I have not heard anything blaming global warming. They know it's just weather, they get quite excited about breaking new records. Wettest May ever and third-wettest month ever.

Fracking has restarted in Denton, just up the road from me. An obligatory protest began too.

Jun 3, 2015 at 3:13 PM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

If "the science is settled" then it is settled. Are you deaf? Don't go quoting the IPCC, what do they know.

Jun 3, 2015 at 3:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterCraig Loehle

Paging Peter Stott of the Met Office who found 'Conditions leading to droughts such as the one that occurred in Texas in 2011 are, at least in the case of temperature, distinctly more probable than they were 40-50 years ago'.

Not for the first time, the Met office predict more droughts prior to a flood event and then serious climatologists pretend that the flood is also more probable thanks to a temperature rise that has been MIA for nearly 20 years. They call this science? I have a few other names for it.

Jun 3, 2015 at 3:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

I was in Houston at the time of Georges. It turned part of the Katy Freeway (I-10) and Memorial Parkway into canals, and many roads were impassible for a few days. We had 6-12" of rain in little over 24 hours. It doesn't even rate on Wikipedia's listing here:

I also visited Galveston a few times. They still have plenty of landmarks of this:

Pre climate change, was it?

Golf Charlie: Jerry Hall is indeed a Texas model. Mick used to drop in to my then local pub which was almost next door to Down House - but always with someone other than her. Meanwhile, a friend of mine who was a local at the same pub has the distinction of being asked by Pete Townsend (who lives a little further up the street) to turn down his music.

Jun 3, 2015 at 4:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

This article gives a good treatment of the Texas flood issue:

Jun 3, 2015 at 5:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikeC

It is really is time that we consigned these "theories" and "models" to the rubbish bin and exposed them for what they are.

The reality is that extreme rainfall and floods are NOT INCREASING in Texas.

And anybody pretending that recent events are unprecedented is lying.

As Mike C points out, senior meteorologist James Spann is quite forceful about this.

We all blame the media for going loco on all these scare stories, yet somebody is feeding them these lies.

So I say it again - instead of getting into theoretical debates about what the IPCC says about the theory of extreme weather, we should keep challenging the fraudsters on the actual evidence, which keeps on failing to support their scare tactics.

Jun 3, 2015 at 11:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Homewood

Sorry I am a Johnny-come-lately, but I couldn't help adding this. First time I heard the news on these recent Texas Floods, it reminded me of one of my favorite albums, Texas Flood, by Stevie Ray Vaughn, released in 1983.
Well worth a listen to, if you enjoy a bit of Texas Blues.

"Well it's floodin' down in Texas
All of the telephone lines are down
Well it's floodin' down in Texas
All of the telephone lines are down
And I've been tryin' to call my baby
Lord and I can't get a single sound"

Jun 9, 2015 at 1:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn of Cloverdale, WOz

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