Heidi Cullen at Senate EPW: ‘73% increase in heavy downpours’ not supported by data


While watching her handwaving argument on the webcast with Senator Vitter, I was easily able to find data contradictory to her statement in Dr. Roger Roger Pielke Jr. submitted testimony.

What the data says:

5. Floods have not increased in the US in frequency or intensity since at least 1950.


Figure 5. One measure of flood frequency from the USGS, percent of US streamguages above “bankfull streamflow.” The USGS explains: “The bankfull streamflow is defined as the highest daily mean streamflow value expected to occur, on average, once in every 2.3 years.”

Xiaodong Jian, David M. Wolock, Harry F. Lins, and Steve Brady, Streamflow of 2012—Water Year Summary, U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, Virginia, May 2013.

Live video here:  Live Webcast – Flash


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If anything it would look like the overall amount has dropped the last 20 years


@Forrest: congratulations, you have discovered a new signature of global warming!


What did she mean by a “heavy downpour?” My understanding of a heavy downpour is that the amount of rain in a few minutes, or even perhaps an hour or day, is large. Perhaps 520 mm in 24 hours as we had a few years ago, I would class as a heavy downpour, or 100 mm in two hours, or 10 mm in 2 minutes. The first created a minor flood, but certainly did not notably raise the river level above its banks, as it took far longer for the water to get to the river/sea from the drain. The others would not create a flood, unless the topography was particularly suitable for this.
One could define a “heavy downpour” as one that forces motorists to stop as they can’t see where they are going, even with windscreen wipers going full tilt. Visibility reduced to 20 yards or less.
If she means floods – as you have interpreted it – why didn’t she say “Floods”?


There has been an ever increasing increase in infrastructure that diverted water to streams that typically would have been absorbed into the local landscape. Urban growth covers the landscape, water is diverted to whatever streams are left and other storm drainage is built.


The steamgage chart above is tracking the Multivariate ENSO index.

Tom Elliott

funny that the 70’s seem to be higher as those were drought years in much of the U.S.


It’s definitely dropped since 1997.


Try that again, but start at plotting ay 2000 and leave off the current year. Then what does it look like!

Mike Reese

Drought!!! Dooooom!


Here we go again. A microdatum is cited. There is no meteorological or statistical definition of a ‘down pour’. Does she mean ‘heavy rain” or “violent rain”? How does she know there is an increase? There are no recurring statistics kept, merely precipitation records and in some very few places river depth gauges..
So it is virtually impossible to refute her claim without exact preparation. This is a pattern with The Climateers, and points to politics instead of science.


Seems to me the true believers have been listening to too much Naughty Boy lyrics:
Hush, don’t speak
When you spit your venom, keep it shut I hate it
When you hiss and preach
About your new messiah ’cause your theories catch fire
I can’t find those silver linings
I don’t mean to judge
But when you read your speech it’s tiring ,
Enough is enough
I’m covering my ears like a kid
When your words mean nothing, I go la la la
I’m turning off the volume when you speak
Cause if my heart can’t stop it, I find a way to block it I go
La la, la la la…
I find a way to block it I go
La la, la la la…


73 percent of what?
In what time period?


73 % of all statistics are made up on the spot.

Clearly, Mann needs to get in there and start cherry-picking streamgauges.

KevinM says:
July 18, 2013 at 9:31 am
Why should we do that?

Bernie McCune

See the pdf of her presentation here:
If you look carefully at the data she shows in most of the figures, the actual data seems to prove many of her statements wrong. The data she used for increase in heavy downpour shown in her Fig 7 is obscure (Kenneth Kunkel) and about 20 years of it precedes any possibility of satellite data collection. I am not sure what her point of catastrophic rainfall is when here in the desert SW of New Mexico we are in a severe drought with CO2 at “record” levels of 400 ppm.
Some of her points that show trends use data that begins in 1970. Since PDO and AMO cycles tend to be 60 year cycles, I would rather see data promoting these trends that are perhaps 80 years or more in length. Present sea level height increase data does not support her speculative “projections” in Figure 10. Definitely a lot of hand waving here.


Just seen this on MSN. EEEEkkkkk. This is what global warming/climate change/weather wierding looks like.. It is real and happening now…. everywhere. Except this video reminds me of a summer storm in Northern Ontario in the mid 70’s. We were at the beach when it rolled in. We were in the car and in our driveway in minutes and by that time it was at full fury. We were stuck in the car,the deep ditches were quickly filled and the roof of our school blew off. I remember thinking why such an awesome event as the roof blowing off couldn’t have happened at a more convenient time. Like the day before school started. Have not seen a downpour like that since. Maybe if I had a little more of that green Kool-Aid like this woman Heidi is drinking I could forget all that and be a stupid zombie like her. Nah!

G P Hanner

And in the real world, it hasn’t rained in eastern Nebraska for over two weeks now. The corn crop is starting to show stress. The WOWT ENSO meter is again leaning back toward indications of hot and dry for the Great Plains.
Oh, yeah. We did have a big flood in the Missouri Valley a couple of years ago.
Still. Nothing beyond the range of the record books.

Agreed. The plot of stream gauges doesn’t mean much without knowledge of the work that has been done to improve stream and drainage flows, flood control, and improvements in storm drainage and flood retention.
The chart is interesting. But it can also be read as, “the Corp of Engineers” are only managing to just stay ahead of increased rainfall and urbanization.
Here is the other problem I have with the chart: 55% of ALL Stream Gauges were out of bank in 2011 and 2012??? How many are we talking about and where are they? What does it take to be overbank on each of them?
There are an awful lot of stream gauges on this map of Houston.
On this site, you can see the historical stream gauges, one by one, chart by chart.
For instance, here is D100 Brays Bayou @ Rice Avenue. The heaviest rainfall was Late April 2013 and at this gauge it was 22 ft above base of channel and about 1 ft below top. The next highest was 9 feet lower.

stan stendera

Anthony, shame on you. I come here because it’s fun and entertaining, but you persist in bringing up fools like Heidi Cullen. I have high blood pressure,. I don’t need this. You keep tempting me to make comments that will get me banned. Well, here goes. Heidi Cullen is a self snip, self snip, self snip, and a self snip. There, I feel better. Of course, what I really want to do is meet Heidi in person and tell he face to face what I think of her.


Why is it always extreme weather tomorrow? Why not now? I’m sick and tired of waiting for our promised calamity.


Isn’t lying to a Senate committee frowned upon?


flash back….Cullen says droughts and heat waves to get worse

Slight correction to 10:22 am above:
D100 Brays Bayou @ Rice Avenue (in houston) is page 440.
You can also get rainfall, but the time resolution is dependent upon the time window:
2 day window is rainfall by hour
7 day window is rainfall by 1/2 day
Month window is by day
Year window is by month.
Finally, these gauges can be in error. Consider D100 at July 2011: There are three spikes 35 feet above Top of Channel — which isn’t possible. It is simply instrument error.

The clear blue sky’s and sunshine that we’re having today must be man-made too /sarc


AND due to the jet stream. The UK has been basking under a blocking high (30C) for quite a while now.
Our lawns are starting to go crispy at the edges so when we get a typical English rain, it will cause surface flooding.

It rained very hard for 30 or so minutes in Richmond Tuesday evening. One of those thunderstorm things that happen in the evening of a very hot day. Saved me from having to water the lawn. Maybe that’s what she is talking about.

Ian W

H.R. says:
July 18, 2013 at 10:40 am
Isn’t lying to a Senate committee frowned upon?

I was going to suggest that this committee should be taking evidence under oath. That should reduce the level of ‘certainty’ claimed by those giving evidence.

R. de Haan

So Heidi Cullen is lying her pants off in front of the Senate. Now tell me, how is this possible?
What drives a person to tell lies that would undermine our entire civilization and get away with it?
How is it possible that she can tell lies in front of the US Senate without risking jail.
End of career, period.
There are thousands more where she came from.
All nicely protected, rewarded, prized, like Obama who received a Noble Peace Price even before he have achieved anything.
Obama today is according to several sources a war criminal.
Both Cullen and Obama are protected by an almost invisible hand of those mastering the Agenda, rigging the science, rigging our civilization, rigging our communities, our social structures, our way of life.
It’s all staged, from financial crises to climate crises and despite all the evidence we have collected we will never be able to win this struggle if we keep focused watching the puppets instead of the puppet masters.
The puppet Masters are those who have been infected.
They are sick and crazy people.
We’re fighting a disease that we can only overcome if we eliminate the host.
The virus that infected the host is fascism and they, the puppet masters, the fascists, are in control.
The time has come to really wake up and act.
J.B. Morgan for example is just a bank and those in control form an absolute minority of our population.
J.B. Morgan however has been one of the driving forces behind our human history over the past century including the dark periods.
The time has come to end their rule and the rule of their muppet friends.
Let’s pull the plug on our current Government and the Banks. We can do that. They are her for us and not the other way around.
All we need to do is to restore the Glass Steagall Act to break Wall Street, the FED and the banks and… kick Obama out of Office. We can do that.
We have absolutely noting to loose and if we don’t act the next step will be a horrible collapse of our economies or even a nuclear war. Obama is driving the USA into the ground.
He not only creates havoc targeting the people of the US but he also invades countries without declaring war, this despite serious warnings from the Chinese and the Russians.
Obama has become a serious problem, but remember he was hand picked to perform his job.
It’s not us but them who have declared war on our civilization.
The moment the Anthropogenic Climate Change doctrine took off, we were designated to become the cancer of the planet and they started taking our money and rigging our civilization.
Now pick up your phone and call your representative to get the Glass Steagall Act reinstalled.
If this succeeds, Obama is dead meat in terms of his presidency because Glass Steagall is the last thing they want.
Hard time are ahead but….


A must read:
“When Iowa State University sociologists polled nearly 5,000 Corn Belt farmers on climate change, 66 percent believed climate change is occurring, but only 41 percent believed humans bore any part of the blame for global warming.”
“National Farm Bureau’s spokesman Mace Thornton puts it: “We’re not convinced that the climate change we’re seeing is anthropogenic in origin. We don’t think the science is there to show that in a convincing way.” (Given the basic physics of CO2 capturing heat that have been known for more than a century and the ever-larger amounts of CO2 put into the atmosphere by human activity, it’s not clear what “science” he’s holding out for.)”

Frank K.

Heidi Cullen again? Oh, brother [sigh]…


Well then the headline needs to read “…..not supported in government’s own taxpayer-funded data.”

Gary Pearse

highflight56433 says:
July 18, 2013 at 9:21 am
“There has been an ever increasing increase in infrastructure that diverted water to streams that typically would have been absorbed into the local landscape. Urban growth covers the landscape, water is diverted to whatever streams are left and other storm drainage is built.”
And farmers have put in tile drainage to cultivate lowlands, get an early jump on planting and dealing with excess rain. The water doesn’t get to stick around long in country or city.

Doug Proctor

The willingness to BS when you have a “noble cause” has exploded.
When there is no accountability, i.e. when the non-existence and non-assurance of WMDs doesn’t mean squat, even though you took two major nations to war on their existence, there is no reason to hold back on saying anything that furthers your cause.
Until the powers above hold accountable those below them for the things they say and do, there will be this sort of outrage going on.
There is a reason that Congress and the Senate refuse to move on eco-green items to the level of White House rhetoric and eco-green shouting: the facts are not the same as the promotional claims. It is not politics or money, it is the disconnect between scenarios and observation that hold up action. The non-increase in floods is what stops additional flood response, in this case – or action to prevent floods through CO2 reduction. You have to first show the damage you are about to avoid to justify spending the money when money is scarce.
In a limited financial environment, funding always goes to the priorities. As return goes down, as uncertainty of outcome goes up, the item slides further down the list. Not off the list, but further down while the top priorities are taken care of. If the return doesn’t go up and the uncertainty, down, the item never rises into the “act” portion of the list. Again, it is not politics or ideology. It is the normal and proper response to a limited capacity for funding and activity.
BS as Cullen expresses, puts the uncertainty level higher when it comes to actual project evaluation. The return can’t be quantified if, on examination, the claims turn out to be speculative; the resultant risk factor on benefit kills the project. Although Cullen may speak nationally instead of globally, so her claim is American-specific, individual projects rely on individual statistics: Texas, for example, if being asked to spend X to accomplish Y, looks to what benefit Texas will get. If the data doesn’t support signficiant increases in rain deluges in Texas, Texas will say they are getting not enough for the Texan’s dollar. If each State looks at things this way, and the data is bogus – as this is – then nobody finds the cost personally beneficial. Nobody may say the data is bogus, but everyone might say it must refer to someone else’s backyard, and those are the people who should pay for it.
Of course the eco-green – and Obama – spin this differently. But this is how things actually work. As long as Climate Change remains a statistician’s reality, not a blue-collar reality, nobody should nor will consider it really worth the effort.
In Alberta, we just had a 100-year flood. Major damage, especially to homes and businesses located on the developed floodplain (which is called a “floodplain” for some reason the developers don’t discuss). Of course the call is about Climate Change. The response will be, however, to raise berms (dikes) to protect certain areas better, and (perhaps) finally declare some areas non-developable – as has in a practical way New Orleans dealt with Ward 9 after the Katriana flooding (put major impediments to redeveloping and return of residents). The berms will be built because it makes personal economic sense to do so, regardless of the impact of CO2 on weather patterns. This is the sort of spending and activity we will do, not the type based on possible negative weather in our grandchildren’s lifetimes.
The use of non-legislative regulatory powers to induce activity on non-politically, non-taxpayer supported items is a failure of democratic process as well as principles. This is what we are seeing. It is a failure of competence also, for the technical reviews that would be required to justify actions to the electorate or the political leaders is not done. Regulatory changes don’t need much more than authorization from the mandarins; technical backup is more windowdressing and ass-covering, and we all know how such things – when they really don’t count in the decision-making – can be spun however you wish.
We think globally but act locally. That is how it should be. Totalitarian thinking is global AS IF global and local were the same. Which is why centralized planning imposes so much pain on the public body: global is not local.
Cullen, with here increase in extreme rain events, should – and probably does – understand this. But the Noble Cause in which she has clearly invested heavily, allows her to say whatever is useful. But I’ll bet very locally – her household – she doesn’t actually follow through: I’ll bet she doesn’t follow a “low-carbon” lifestyle or make low-carbon choices about transportation, consumerism etc. any more than the rest of us.

Craig Moore

Isn’t the animated description of ‘heavy downpour’ which is contrary to the data, a display of rhetorical ‘spigotry’ against inconvenient facts?

george e smith

Well I for one, was mightily impressed with how Dr Roy, conducted his presentation. Hey he also is better looking than I had thought from photographs.
Listening to that last woman witness trying to argue that the models are credible and actually are based on the Physics, yet none of the very large number of them come anywhere near the reality; what a farce.
And as for Sen. Whitehouse basing his entire conclusion on the fact that NASA landed a robot on Mars, so they must know what they are doing.
Hey Senator ! many of us (well me at least) generally agree that the planet has recently (in climate size chunks of time) come through a period of warming possibly since the IGY in 1957/58 up until around 1995, and has (statistically) plateaued since then, with a possible down turn, and good indications of a near future cooling trend.
In mathematics; that phenomenon, is what we call a “maximum”. Just like a freeway overpass; the road goes up, then flattens out, and goes down on the other side. Try making a puddle of water (Sen Whitehouse) on the top of that overpass. Dang ! the water keeps running down the sides. That’s why we call it a maximum; the highest road elevations all occur around the top of the overpass. A cluster of higher Temperature records, can always be found bunched around a maximum.
It’s just WAG, but I would opine, that we might also find a cluster of low Temperature records, bunched around a local minimum, such as we had in the Little Ice Age, for example.
So Senator Whitehouse, from a State of a size that will fit in about 18 different non-overlapping places in The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; a public park in the State of Alaska, wants to make National policy on the fact that Rhode Island fishermen; having depleted the inshore fish stocks in their waters, by overfishing, must now burn more gas to go further offshore to rape the fish stocks out there too.
Hint to Sen Whitehouse; outlaw the selling of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fish oil pills; which are known to cause prostate cancer; and your RI fisheries will rebound naturally, once they stop pillaging all the bait fishes.
I was pleased that Dr Roy, and Dr Pielke Jr seemed to get shunted to last place; but that let them get out the take home message; “Climate Change- It Ain’t Happening !” (well any more than it always does.).
I don’t exactly understand how the Satellite Tropospheric Temperature sensing works;; I know Dr Roy has explained it many times; some Oxygen microwave thing; but I don’t hear any clamor that it is not robust; so I believe he and Prof John Christy know what they are doing, and Spencer’s note that it obviates the anomalous surface readings due to Urban Heat Islands, which are known to bias the surface sensing, was something of note.
And we have Anthony to thank, for showing how SNAFUed the surface sensing is (along with his volunteer army).
Senator Sessions seemed on a par with Whitehouse. I was sorry to not see Sen. Imhofe; but Sessions did ok.
Thanks Dr Roy; we owe you one.


Is this a sign that the recent global warming was not enough to create a trend in rising water vapour in the atmospere? If yes, then doesn’t this put a spanner in the works? Just askin.
Here are 3 papers from 2011 on the extreme meme – worldwide.

Conclusion – 2011
Long-term properties of annual maximum daily river discharge worldwide
Analysis of trends and of aggregated time series on climatic (30-year) scale does not indicate consistent trends worldwide. Despite common perception, in general, the detected trends are more negative (less intense floods in most recent years) than positive. Similarly, Svensson et al. (2005) and Di Baldassarre et al. (2010) did not find systematical change neither in flood increasing or decreasing numbers nor change in flood magnitudes in their analysis.
Abstract – 2011
Fluctuations in some climate parameters
There is argument as to the extent to which there has been an increase over the past few decades in the frequency of the extremes of climatic parameters, such as temperature, storminess, precipitation, etc, an obvious point being that Global Warming might be responsible. Here we report results on those parameters of which we have had experience during the last few years: Global surface temperature, Cloud Cover and the MODIS Liquid Cloud Fraction. In no case we have found indications that fluctuations of these parameters have increased with time.
Abstract – 2011
The Twentieth Century Reanalysis Project
It is anticipated that the 20CR dataset will be a valuable resource to the climate research community for both model validations and diagnostic studies. Some surprising results are already evident. For instance, the long-term trends of indices representing the North Atlantic Oscillation, the tropical Pacific Walker Circulation, and the Pacific–North American pattern are weak or non-existent over the full period of record. The long-term trends of zonally averaged precipitation minus evaporation also differ in character from those in climate model simulations of the twentieth century.


Heidi Cullen’s “73% increase in heavy downpours” must have missed the streamgauges.

Abstract – Published online: 24 Oct 2011
Statistical relationships between annual floods at 200 long-term (85–127 years of record) streamgauges in the coterminous United States and the global mean carbon dioxide concentration (GMCO2) record are explored. The streamgauge locations are limited to those with little or no regulation or urban development. The coterminous US is divided into four large regions and stationary bootstrapping is used to evaluate if the patterns of these statistical associations are significantly different from what would be expected under the null hypothesis that flood magnitudes are independent of GMCO2. In none of the four regions defined in this study is there strong statistical evidence for flood magnitudes increasing with increasing GMCO2. One region, the southwest, showed a statistically significant negative relationship between GMCO2 and flood magnitudes. The statistical methods applied compensate both for the inter-site correlation of flood magnitudes and the shorter-term (up to a few decades) serial correlation of floods.

J WIllis

Can anyone point me to a study(s) (peer reviewed preferred) that shows an increase in extreme weather events of any type in any area of the world? I haven’t been able to find one through an engine search tool which are the limits of my research expertise.

David Russell

I’ll bet more than 73% of Heidi’s statistics are made-up.


She didn’t say floods.


Does NOAA or anyone else for that matter, keep statistics on “heavy downpours”? First, a heavy downpour would have to be defined. Secondly, since heavy downpours are limited to small local areas, nothing other than a nation-wide rain collecting and measuring series of monitoring stations would be able to collect such data. I guess anecdotal evidence established the 73% ?


Ian W says:
July 18, 2013 at 10:57 am
@H.R. says:
July 18, 2013 at 10:40 am
Isn’t lying to a Senate committee frowned upon?
“I was going to suggest that this committee should be taking evidence under oath. That should reduce the level of ‘certainty’ claimed by those giving evidence.”
Yep, Ian. Under oath, you could drive the space shuttle crawler through the error bars ;o)


This looks like it would be governed by a Bernoulli Distribution. Streamgauges either above full bankflow (1) or not (0).
Mean = 0.45, variance = .45*(1-.45) = about 0.25. No significant trend.


If I recall correctly, one of Nietzsche’s aphorisms was, “When everyone can read, then no one will be able to think.” Obviously OTT, but I can’t shake off the sense that there’s something to it. Perhaps a more accurate statement would be, “As more and more people can read, there are proportionally fewer and fewer who can think.” i suspect it has to do with handling abstract ideas without losing your moorings in the world around you. People like Ms. Cullen are evidently not capable of this. And since there are more people like her every year, there is an ever-increasing volume of inane discourse.

Michael Jankowski

It’s hard to listen to someone like Heidi and not also recall that UNESCO has deliberately brought in the media to disseminate its desired message. The one that does not care of the globe is warming or not if the theory is successfully used to shift political, economic, and social systems. So when the UN wants to use education and the media “to decisively influence our psyche and character” we should see blatant misstatements of fact and science through that lens. When we are dealing with media personalities.
I explained the UNESCO pursuit of this in order by their own admission ti get to a new Marxist Humanism here. http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/decreeing-the-interdependence-of-environment-economy-society-and-cultural-diversity-in-the-21st/
Remember Princeton is where the World Order Models Project was hatched in the early 70s by Richard Falk. It’s also where Robert Tucker taught political science for many years. He may have written openly about his MH, small c hopes for the West in the early 60s but by the 80s he saw the Club of Rome and Sustainability as the method to get at the same result. Princeton is also where the noosphere, Global Consciousness Project, is located. A ready home for a Climate project seeking the same end results.

Chad Wozniak

Obviously, Ms. Cullen thinks hand-waving creates enough evidence to support her arguments What do you call that, argumentum per manibus volantibus?
What an illiterate nematode. How can anybody that just plain dumb and dense get a Ph.D.? Oh, but unfortunately I know the answer – just be a good lefty, nowadays, and to hell with any actual learning.

Chad Wozniak

@Robin –
Interesting that Princeton is also the home of that brave skeptic warrior, Dr. William Happer.
Too bad Dr. Happer wasn’t on the witness list – he would have made shrimp cocktail out of those alarmist numskulls,