Global warming causes deluges and flooding, just like the Midwest is seeing (again)

flooding.jpgThe British and the Chinese understand global warming has driven their record flooding. The United States? Not so much.

Although you wouldn’t know it from most U.S. media coverage (here or here or here), the record “once-in-a-hundred-year flooding” the Midwest now seems to be getting every decade or so is precisely what scientists have been expecting from the warming.

A 2004 analysis by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center found an increase during the 20th century of “precipitation, temperature, streamflow, heavy and very heavy precipitation and high streamflow in the East.” They found a 14 percent increase in “heavy rain events” of greater than 2 inches in one day, and a 20 percent increase in “very heavy rain events”-best described as deluges-greater than 4 inches in one day. These extreme downpours are precisely what is predicted by global warming scientists and models.

In fact, 2007 saw the second most extreme precipitation over the United States in the historical record, according to NCDC’s Climate Extremes Index (CEI). Here is a plot of the percentage of this country (times two) with much greater than normal proportion of precipitation derived from extreme 1-day precipitation events (where extreme equals the highest tenth percentile of deluges):

Didn’t know that our government kept a Climate Extremes Index? Why would you? The media never writes about it.

The U.S. Climate Extremes Index was explicitly created to take a complicated subject (“multivariate and multidimensional climate changes in the United States“) and make it more easily understood by American citizens and policy makers. As far back as 1995, analysis by the National Climatic Data Center showed that over the course of the 20th century, the United States had suffered a statistically significant increase in a variety of extreme weather events, the very ones you would expect from global warming, such as more — and more intense — precipitation. That analysis concluded the chances were only “5 to 10 percent” this increase was due to factors other than global warming, such as “natural climate variability.” And since 1995, the climate has gotten much more extreme.

I follow this subject of the connection between climate change and extreme weather very closely — and yet, until 2006, I had not seen a single mention of the Index in the media or even in a scientific paper since its original introduction more than a decade ago. Global warming may be a hot subject, and 2006 was the second most extreme year ever, but just try a Google News search of “Climate Extremes Index” (in quotation marks) — I get no matches at all.

Story after story after story after story after story after story after story appear in the mainstream media with no link whatsoever between extreme weather and global warming, uncoupled from the man-made trend that will ultimately transform all our lives. The media must do a better job.

35 Responses to Global warming causes deluges and flooding, just like the Midwest is seeing (again)

  1. civil behavior says:

    It is incomprehensible that night after night after night on the MSM evening news we see the results of climate change unfold on our tv screens and never once are two words mentioned. Not once.

    Unfortunately, most people do not understand that the action of water vapor is a feedback not a forcing.

    I regret to be one of the first to be so absolute but the genie is out of the bottle. Do not expect our climatologists to be this honest. They are still “hoping” they don’t know the exact time of when imminent destruction is going to occur. That’s ok too. I don’t need to have every single supporting number. I have read all the numbers I need to and then I observe and sense the rest.

    Our fate is sealed. Prepare your children.

  2. John Hollenberg says:

    > but just try a Google News search of “Climate Extremes Index” (in quotation marks) — I get no matches at all.

    I get 598 matches. You may want to correct this part of the otherwise excellent article.

    [JR: You did a Google search, not Google News.]

  3. Mauri Pelto says:

    I applaud your effort to increase the visibility of this index. The general issue has not slipped passed the media or the science community, just serch under climate change and extreme events. I see numerous reference to the expected increase in powerful storms, floods, droughts, heat waves etc. The specific US extremes climate index does slip under the radar you are correct. This springs tornadoes, floods, unusual heat in the east and southwest and cold in the Northwest certainly should raise our attention. The jet stream pattern and flood footprint in the midwest matches closely what happened in 2003. Hopefully the resultant flooding will impact few square kilometers.

  4. John Hollenberg says:

    > JR: You did a Google search, not Google News.

    Ah, you are correct. However, I would like to point out a broken link to Climatewire (under the links section). The web site has been shut down.

  5. Daniel Haran says:

    A google search does indeed get 598 matches, and none in Google News. There are a few news articles returned by the google search, the first one on the third page:

    Wild weather battered USA in January –

    Adding ‘’ to the search helps find a couple more, but these are meager results.

    (Google News only indexes articles in the last month)

  6. paulm says:

    The average global temp has leveled of some (but is still climbing).

    Could this be due to the fact that some of the energy is now being dissipated as more extreme weather events…

  7. Ronald says:

    Climate extremes index. Okay. Just how accurate is it? Around 1910 I just can’t imagine the data being to accurate. Were people and measuring instruments in enough places to measure it?
    I’ll read up on it see how they got the numbers, but having 24/7 news, more people to get clobberd by weather and better instruments to measure these things, it would be hard to convince a denier or delayer with it.

  8. Andy says:

    The extreme rain events in the midwestern U.S. are associated with incursions of hot, very humid air coming from the Gulf of Mexico (current water temp this time of year is usually in the mid 80’s) and colliding with east moving fronts.

    I’ve always viewed that region of the U.S. normally subject to these incursions as the “South” and associate it with air conditioning required (hot and humid days, warm and saturated nights), spanish moss (needs warm winters and hot, humid summers), lots of bugs, frogs, snakes and such, as well as incredibly intense rainfall events. Rain like no one from the midwest or northeastern U.S. has ever seen.

    The “South” is moving north with global warming. This prediction is one that is very robust and relatively easily made. Unlike global warming and the fate of tropical cyclone formation for example.

    I don’t think most people appreciate the huge changes this will cause in rainfall intensity as well as elevated night temperatures. Most of the focus has been on the predictions of increases in heat related deaths for example.

    I too am amazed at the lack of coverage this robust conclusion (see NASA’s earth observatory 2007 story on this) has recieved. The weather the midwest and northeast have experienced this past week will become the norm. I don’t see too many if any climate scientists refuting this.

    Midwestern and Norteastern rivers and lakes are reacting badly to the imposition of the Southeast’s climate. Expect the abandonment of lots of farmland and low lying cities that developed as mill sites along rivers, etc.

  9. Cabby says:

    Do you Support or Oppose the position that man is significantly responsible for Global Warming or believe it is a natural planetary cycle? Toss your brick to your elected offical at

  10. JCH says:

    I agree, but…

    For several years in the 1990s NE South Dakota experienced flooding – unprecedented in my lifetime. Then poof, it went away. Since the recent La Nina developed into a stout one, North America has experienced all sorts of newsworthy weather events.

  11. Robert says:

    Cabby – great site you linked to! You can’t argue with someone who writes:

    “God gave man dominion over the earth and intelligents beyond all other species. Why shouldn’t we use these gifts to our fullest advantage?”

  12. Brute says:


    You wrote on another comment thread events such as this, (warm in the east, cool in the west, blizzards earlier this week in California, 4th coldest May since records have been kept) are “weather” events? You wrote: “its called weather, deal with it”……Are these “weather events” or is it “climate change”….. or does it depend upon your personal agenda?

  13. hapa says:

    la nina of the southern oscillation is driving the west coast weather. she is almost finished. she is a periodic weather force.

    general heat and wildness beyond her reach has climate implications, because there is no other apparent driver. it seems like.

  14. Mary says:

    Large floods are often given designations as a “one-hundred-year flood” but a 100-year flood does not mean that such a flood occurs once every 100 years; instead it means that there is a one in one-hundred (or 1%) chance of such a flood occurring in a given year.

    Two 100-year floods could occur a year apart or even a month apart — it all depends on how much rain is falling or how quickly the snow melts. A “20-year flood” has a one in twenty (or 5%) chance of occurring in a particular year so it would be a less destructive flood than a 100-year flood while a “500-year flood” has a one in 500 (0.2%) chance of occurring so it would be much more catastrophic than a 100-year flood.

  15. Joe says:


    I try to stick with statistically anomalous extreme weather over large areas, like the unprecedented increase in tornadoes and the repeated record-breaking flooding.


  16. John says:

    Odd that you claim warming caused this, when in fact we have cooled. It stopped warming 10 years ago. NASA and NOAA data show we have cooled below the 114 year average. The storms are consistent with COOLING.

    Want to really worry, time to worry about food yields with the cooling. USDA has data showing the crops are behind due to cooling, but they still project good yields (incorrectly).

  17. paulm says:

    John, the data actually indicates that warming is still taking place, but has moderated a bit. The trend is still up.

  18. Brute says:


    You wrote:

    I try to stick with statistically anomalous extreme weather over large areas, like the unprecedented increase in tornadoes and the repeated record-breaking flooding.

    I’m writing:

    Do the cold temperatures and soggy conditions this Spring over a vast area of the Western United States constitute “statistically anomalous extreme weather over a large area”?

    Seriously, a little balance?

    By the way, what causes thunderstorms? Cold air Masses in conflict with warm air masses?

  19. David B. Benson says:

    John — Here is the 10 year average global temperature since 1850 CE, from HadCRUTv3:

  20. Joe says:

    Brute —
    Your knowledge of weather is a bit … soft. Ever notice that we don’t get many thunderstorms in the winter. But we seem to get a lot in the summer….

  21. Brute says:

    Also….Happy Flag Day.

  22. Brute says:


    You wrote:

    These extreme downpours are precisely what is predicted by global warming scientists and models.

    I’m writing:

    You’re wrong. Scientists predicted droughts and higher temperatures. Just the opposite of what is occurring. Precipitation levels are rising globally, temperatures are dropping globally.

    [JR: Enough of your blatant disinformation — scientists predicted higher overall precipitation, with dry areas getting drier and most other areas getting much wetter. This decade will be warmer than last decade, and await your acceptance of a bet that next decade will be warmer than this decade.]

  23. Brute says:

    Unprecedented…………What were the CO2 Levels in 1913?

    Beginning on Easter Sunday, March 23, 1913, torrential rains across the Midwest dropped a record three months of rainfall in four days. Floodwaters funneled down Ohio’s Miami Valley into the heart of the vibrant industrial city of Dayton. Levees burst, houses were swept away, and downtown was gutted by fires blazing from broken gas mains. At the end of Easter week, nearly 100 Daytonians had perished, and tens of thousands more were left homeless and destitute–a tragedy that made banner headlines in newspapers nationwide. Out of Dayton’s ashes and mud rose fierce public resolve never again to suffer such destruction. The Great Dayton Flood of 1913 reproduces some 200 astounding photographs from the collections of the Dayton Metro Library and the Miami Conservancy District and the archives of the National Cash Register Company at Dayton History. They portray the terrifying flood, monumental destruction, heroic rescues, and compassionate leadership that occurred during the disaster and its immediate aftermath, as well as the pioneering flood-control engineering that has kept Dayton safe ever since.

  24. Brute says:

    Another example of midwest flooding that has never happened……….

    The 1965 Flood of the South Platte River

    On the evening of June 16, 1965, a wall of water described by some as fifteen feet high came roaring down the South Platte River, the result of extremely severe thunderstorms many miles south of Littleton. By midnight, the torrent crested at twenty-five feet above normal and was carrying forty times the normal flow. In its wake, the course of the South Platte River from Littleton to the Colorado-Nebraska border was a mud-encased, wreckage-strewn landscape of desolation. The great South Platte River flood of 1965 was not Littleton’s first flood, nor only disaster — it was simply the biggest and costliest, by far.
    In 1864, just two years after the homesteading of Richard Little and his neighbors, two weeks of constant, heavy rainfall sent the river out of its banks around Littleton and nearly destroyed Denver downstream. Another flood in 1914 lasted for six weeks, following record snowfalls the previous winter which at one time measured four feet deep on Main Street and even prevented trains from moving. Yet another flood occurred in 1900 when the Goose Creek Dam up Platte Canyon broke. In 1946, the snow again fell — for seventy-one straight hours; in 1932 there was a severe drought; and in 1865, pioneer Mollie Sanford wrote of yet another plague: “In three days time an army of grasshoppers had destroyed the work of weeks.” Life hasn’t always been easy in Littleton.
    There had been talk for some time about construction of a dam on the South Platte River above Littleton, but it inspired little interest. In the valley, Cherry Creek seemed to be the real nemesis, and that had been dammed in the 1930s. The wide, shallow, slow moving South Platte, even with the few examples above, didn’t seem to warrant the same precaution. What the South Platte had become, instead, was a waste dump. All along its length through the Denver area it was an eyesore littered by abandoned cars, refrigerators, construction debris and everything else that people looked to discard. In 1965, there was an accounting for that lack of respect for the South Platte River.
    Residents of Littleton and metropolitan Denver had little reason to anticipate a flood on Monday afternoon, June 16. Although a rare tornado and severe thunderstorms had hit Loveland a couple of days before, the forecast was for scattered thundershowers typical for a summer afternoon. In fact, it was not even local precipitation which fueled the flood, but a violent cloudburst many miles south near Castle Rock. The ground was saturated from previous days’ rains, so the normally dry east and west branches of Plum Creek became raging torrents heading north to meet the South Platte, which was swollen itself by rains to the southwest.
    Police were able to give people in Littleton several hours warning, so they could be evacuated. The first local casualty was the Columbine Country Club southwest of town, whose golf course and luxury homes were devastated. Overland Park golf course north of town suffered a similar fate. In between, Centennial Race Track, which was within days of opening its racing season, had most of its track and stable areas inundated. A massive rescue operation by owners, trainers and jockeys saved some 140 horses. The City’s water supply, which consisted mainly of a series of wells along the river, was nearly destroyed. A network of fire hoses run from the nearest Denver outlets provided emergency water for months.
    As the flood continued north, it was more than just water bashing the countryside — it now included all the old cars and refrigerators and both old and new debris. This battering ram carried away or destroyed 26 bridges, including every one from Littleton north to the Colfax viaduct. Both Public Service Company power plants along the river were shut down, and emergency circuits became waterlogged and shorted out. As the flood continued north, other tributaries added their weight, Sand Creek and Clear Creek, and further north the Bijou and Little Beaver and the Poudre River. The communities of Sterling, Fort Morgan and Brush became isolated as the waters spread out over a quarter-million acres of farmland.
    All told, it was estimated that the damage came to some $540 million, plus 28 persons lost their lives. The state could count itself fortunate that so few citizens were killed in one of Colorado’s worst natural disasters because it began in broad daylight and few people were caught without some notice. On the positive side, much of the eastern plains received relief from a three-year drought and farmers made the most of the situation. Plans were quickly finalized and construction began on the Chatfield Dam, being completed in 1972. And with a massive cleanup required all along the South Platte, municipalities began to turn the valley into a beautiful greenbelt which today belies its garbage dump past. The river finally got its respect.

  25. Brute says:

    “and await your acceptance of a bet that next decade will be warmer than this decade.”


    What am I supposed to do, meet you at the Washington Monument with a carnation in my lapel so that you can recognize me? (Being that DC is built on a swamp it should be underwater if your doomsday pedictions come true).

  26. hapa says:

    paypal works.

  27. Anonymous says:
  28. Brute says:

    Precipitate Modeling
    Filed under: Precipitation —

  29. Peter Foley says:

    I’m confused, Carbon forced AGW is causing both flooding and water shortages at the same time? What next Dogs and Cats fornicating? Is there any event not causally effected by the Ex Dues Machina?

    Has there been any attempt to correct for increased weather station coverage? Joe R. sounds like Mark Twain’s Yankee in king Aurthur’s Court when the solar eclipse saved his plot bacon.
    How’s this years flood compare to the 1927 flood?

  30. Craig says:

    It doesn’t help that it is nigh on impossible to find plots or maps at the NOAA Climactic extremes and weather events websitethat show the historical trends.

    They could learn a thing or two about presentation from the Australian Bureau of meteorology. In particular check out their climate extremes maps and charts.

    Why is NOAA unable/unwilling to provide it’s data in such a clear, concise and easily searchable manner?

    By the way, Australia is currently experiencing the predicted “doomsday scenario”. Just google ‘murray river collapse’ or ‘coorong colapse’ to see what I mean. We’re toast. (Unless of course the US would kindly send us a cadre of climate change denialists to disabuse us of our misinterpretations of what we are seeing across our increasingly tinder dry landscapes. We have plent of our own, but they’ve been rather ineffective so far at solving the problem.)

  31. Jason says:

    Any scientific theory that cannot be proven false is unscientific and uninformative. To run around attributing any sort of natural occurrence, or increase in specific natural occurrences over a decade, to such an uninformative theory is ludicrous. How could global warming be proven false when every single event in weather which is unexplained is attributed to it?

    We do not know enough about weather to track the way the winds will blow a month from now, but some people honestly believe that the winds are being driven by man’s presence on Earth. Believing that we are having harsher weather now than before is reasonable, believing that the melting ice caps are a sign that the Earth is warming is not wholly disagreeable, the leap of faith required to jump to the conclusion that man’s presence on Earth has driven the climate change is what separates science from radical propaganda.

    [JR: Actually, the reverse is true. Science says humans are the primary cause of recent warming. Denying that is, well, denial.]

  32. ginovieto says:

    I just do not understand that even with all these scientific facts people are still skeptical about this matter being a hoax! Your article is great, plenty of facts and clear cut. I wish everyone would take the time to actually read these things and do something about it!