Separating Science From Pseudoscience For Floods And Extreme Precipitation

Jim Steele

Video (and transcript) explores the pseudoscientific claims regards floods and extreme precipitation to separate the scientific facts from simple catastrophic narratives to determine what is natural and what is caused by humans.

A transcript is available at

Jim Steele is Director emeritus of San Francisco State University’s Sierra Nevada Field Campus, authored Landscapes and Cycles: An Environmentalist’s Journey to Climate Skepticism, and proud member of the CO2 Coalition.

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Tom Halla
March 14, 2022 2:07 pm

If anything like the California flood of 1862 occurred now, it would be blamed on global warming.

March 14, 2022 2:17 pm

Don’t build on flood plains!

Reply to  Cam_S
March 14, 2022 3:21 pm

They build levies to protect farmland, and the next thing you know they’re building homes and retail as fast as they can.

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  MartinM
March 14, 2022 5:03 pm

The flood plains are fertile because they flood. Fencing them off with dykes means the land eventually loses fertility.

Ancient Egyptians had it figured better

Reply to  Cam_S
March 15, 2022 3:26 am

Why not? A carefully designed building, e.g. on stilts so that it is above the maximum possible flood level with stairs/lift to ground level would be fine.

Reply to  Disputin
March 15, 2022 7:44 am

I have noticed houses on stilts, on the Florida, and Hawaii coasts. They have frequent storm surges. I always thought this was a good idea, and could never understand why houses elsewhere could not be built on stilts. Maybe it’s time to change some building codes. Live on a flood plain, raise your house?

Reply to  Disputin
March 15, 2022 8:03 am

That is one strategy that works where flooding is short-lived due to storm surge such as seen for many houses on coastal Hawaii. But on floodplains that turn into lakes for weeks and sometimes longer, getting access to and from their house on stilts would still be a problem. To solve that problem people would again revert to building levees and canals to drain the flood plains.

Reply to  Cam_S
March 15, 2022 5:25 am

In the UK the stuff that floods has sat there for one, two even three centuries without being flooded, only to be multiply inundated in the 21st century.

It isn’t building on flood plains which is the problem: it is the increase in rainfall, with that rain falling in more concentrated/extreme rain events.

Reply to  griff
March 15, 2022 6:43 am

But the scientific data shows Griff is a dishonest troll promoting more pseudo-science and his idiocy should be ignored.

Reply to  griff
March 15, 2022 7:18 am

Wrong. All over Britain you can find canals and ditches used for drainage . But to be effective they have to be maintained.  
The mere fact that there are so many canals and ditches shows that there has always been a flooding problem.

Reply to  Robertvd
March 15, 2022 8:22 am

Britain is exposed to several atmospheric rivers that cause extreme precipitation events just as we experience in California. The common occurrence of those ARs and other moisture-laden storm tracks is why Ireland, the Emerald Isle is so green .

Here is a screen shot from an hour ago showing a mild AR crossing the Atlantic from the warm pool in the Caribbean to Great Britain. (light blue colors represent high integrated water vapor, browns represent dryness and low water vapor. It is readily seen that rainfall cant be understood in terms of some global average temperature but dynamics that transport moisture from the tropics poleward.

Just like California I would expect the guiding pressure systems to align, such that Britain has experienced similar heavy periodic floods over the past centuries prompting the construction of many levees and canals to counter the flooding.

Anyone who cares about the truth, obviously not Griff the dishonest troll, would know “Flooding in London has been a problem since the city was first established in Roman times.”

atmospheric riveer screenshot 3-15-22.jpg
Last edited 1 year ago by Jim Steele
Dave Andrews
Reply to  griff
March 15, 2022 8:30 am

What a ridiculous comment. Where are these places that haven’t flooded for three centuries and are now flooding regularly? Have we had loads of new rivers springing up from nowhere?

Rud Istvan
March 14, 2022 2:37 pm

There are three easy factual points to be made about the claim ‘increasing flooding from increasing extreme weather per Trenberth’ that JS rebuts here:

  1. Neither is increasing, as both IPCC SREX and my essay ‘Credibility Condundrums’ concerning the 2014 US NCA in ebook Blowing Smoke showed.
  2. To the extent that localized flooding has increased in places, it is mostly attributable to urbanization and the loss of porous surface to absorb rain.
  3. Weather isn’t climate. Climate is the ‘envelope’ of expected weather over at least 30 years. And since it is very easy to prove that climate has changed naturally ‘forever’, it is VERY hard to ‘prove’ that it is all somehow anthropogenic since 1975—the climate model attribution problem in spades.

As the ‘battle’ is no longer about the science, but rather the politics, fact sound bites and ridicule (best when combined) go a long way.

Peter W
Reply to  Rud Istvan
March 14, 2022 2:50 pm

I fully agree with you. Having studied this business since 2006, my observation is that any effect humans have on the likes of flooding, etc., is very strictly local and has to do with land management, not weather or climate. The IPCC is a bunch of fear-mongering fools and idiots.

Dave Fair
Reply to  Peter W
March 14, 2022 5:31 pm

No, the UN IPCC CliSciFi bureaucracy is playing the politics to the hilt. Money talks. The only way to stop it is applying the racketeering laws to individuals and organizations.

Reply to  Peter W
March 15, 2022 7:24 am

Maintaining canals and ditches also does wonders.

Reply to  Rud Istvan
March 14, 2022 3:03 pm

In #2., the loss of porous surface to absorb rain is a very important factor.

Reply to  Graham Lyons
March 14, 2022 3:12 pm

It would be nice to recharge aquifers in many places.

Reply to  Scissor
March 14, 2022 3:36 pm

Maybe Kamala can get on that 🤔

Curious George
Reply to  Rud Istvan
March 14, 2022 3:54 pm

I suspect there may be another factor: a modification of soil properties – probably by fertilizers. In 1970s I noticed for the first time puddles of water in fields after a rain.

Rud Istvan
Reply to  Curious George
March 14, 2022 4:02 pm

CG, as a near 40 year SW Wisconsin dairy farm owner, I don’t think so. Now, our calcareous soil may be different from yours. We went to 2/3 no till (tilling only on the 2/3 contour crop rotation shift) and we have less erosion (my farm is hilly, about 2/3 too hilly to farm now at all). So at least in our sandy/gravelly low organics soils, don’t see your fertilizer puddles.

Joao Martins
Reply to  Rud Istvan
March 15, 2022 3:43 am

I concur. It is also my experience: no (or limited) tillage actually improves the water economy of soils. Where there are puddles is a sign of bad (or non-existent) agronomy: puddles increase irregularity, “patchiness”, in crops, becaus too much water around the roots reduces their efficiency. Good soil amendments with the right choice of chemicals that will improve water circulation is good practice, better that let the agricultural soils being governed by “mother nature”. Tillage is in general deleterious to the structure (not texture!) of soils, it reduces it. The structure can be improved with the right chemical applications (including the formulas, the season, the amounts and the periodicity).

Reply to  Curious George
March 14, 2022 4:26 pm

In lighter soils tillage can reduce the Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) of the soil. This causes non-wetting soils which became difficult to farm due to its water repelling nature. It’s a common condition in western and south Australia’s ancient soils. Spreading clay over the sand, although expensive, ameliorates the condition.
In heavier soils the clay characteristics can be affected by tillage and other ag practices, particularly where sodium excess can cause the clays to slump and become more impervious and/or more mobile (dispersive)with water. Addressing the issue is, again, expensive. It’s not so much the fertilisers , per se, rather farm practice reducing soil structure. (E.g. stubble burning, excessive tillage and the like)

Geoff Sherrington
Reply to  RobK
March 14, 2022 5:34 pm

Yes, Rob,
There is a current trendy game to blame chemicals for many evils, which, as a chemist, I find most disrespectful and usually ignorant. I did 10 years of research on plant nutrition, so my ignorance might be less. Note that there are several chemicals that affect soil wettability, plus other measures to remove the buildup of waxy repellants.
Water repellent soils – CSIRO

Geoff S

Peta of Newark
Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
March 14, 2022 10:02 pm

Quote:”Water repellent soils – CSIRO

One word: Eucalyptus
Two reasons: The oil it produces and the antimicrobial effect of that oil.

An experienced gardener will know the effect, also seen especially with Leylandii hedges in the UK although it applies to most conifers and is that other plants hate growing next to, close to or under those plants.
For exactly that reason -the oils/waxes they produce and the antimicrobial effect.

Its lovely to see the non-connection of CSIRO, yourself (the chemist) and Rud with his calcareous soils.
Because CSIRO say that adding lime to their water repellant soil improves its absorption/retention properties but no-one seems to know why.

It’s the very basic chemistry of soap-making – if me you anybody mixes A Fat, any fat, with an alkali and you get soap = water soluble fat.
On top of that is the neutralizing effect of the lime – it cancels out the effect of Carbonic Acid (rain) constantly falling on the land.
(Primarily increases the availability of phosphorus = something that’s been known about for centuries if not millennia)
But also, the soil bacteria, when they’re healthy, numerous, alive and working produce ‘bacterial poo’ – AKA: Humic Acid. In small doses an epic fertiliser.

Without something to balance their poo output, they will drown/suffocate/die within that acidic soup and hence why adding lime, OR by farming calcareous soil, you don’t get the problem of acidification.
Acidification which will also permit the build up of lipids coming from expired plants.

Most notably being the build up of soil acidity from applying Nitrogen fertiliser = a drop in soil pH of one whole pH point per 25 years. And why early nitrogen ferts (WW2 onwards) were supplied as Calcium Nitrate.
In turn because the fertiliser primarily feeds the soil bacteria (Nitrogen is their Liebig Limiter) and when they eat, they poo. and that poo is acid.

Now: Rising atmospheric CO2 and Rud’s assertion that everything on his farm is a bed-of-roses, even tho he admits it isn’t.
Because on Limestone based calcareous soils, the acididty from the bacteria poo is instantly neutralised by all the Calcium (carbonate) that’s in the soil. Producing, as all good chemists know, CO2.
Isn’t *that* a wonder? Are we all *really* sure about ’emissions’ causing the observed rise of CO2?

Thus Rud isn’t seeing the acidification or the build up of waxes, neither are vast numbers of farmers (certainly) in England as vast areas of English farmland is limestone based. (Otherwise high-nutrient clay)

Bingo. = why the UK, England especially, has got to be The Most Invaded Country on the entire planet.
Those sorts of high fertility soils combined with regular glacial (ice-age) ploughing that scours away the old eroded soil/rock and exposes nice new fertile rock. and grinds it up somewhat also.
England grows food. Reliably, consistently and lots of it.
Why our elected leaders want to cover vast swathes of it with sunshine panels is pure unadulterated insanity – in turn caused by eating low nutrient food grown on acidic water-repellant and eroded soils.
Soils that cover with puddles when it rains, soils that cause floods.

But why does Rud protest his innocence so strongly by raving about no-till low till?
He *knows* his old method was doing damage but it’s entirely obvious that he’s bought the Snake Oil because he *never* says why no till low till works as it does.
Does he even know?

It’s very simple – the soil bacteria are not constantly being dug/ploughed up and exposed to sunlight – which kills them instantly. There-after they are shattered by UV and are oxidised to make: CO2
(in principle why forests with continuous intact canopies don’t catch fire. Cutting and burning holes in forests is akin to ploughing and tillage)

So Rud (nothing personal, just using you as an example) poisons them with Roundup and in practice, because he bought Monsanto’s story about Roundup ‘breaking down in the soil‘, he poisons everyone who eats his farm produce.
We know that – that’s why they get dementia, why they need intravenous Vitamin B12, why they get autism, psoriasis and not least, suffer covid
Roundup is a potent chelating agent – it locks up and sucks metals out the plants, bacteria and us. Metallic trace elements we all need, like copper, iron, zinc, selenium, manganese, magnesium, etc etc etc

It’s quite a big story but once you latch onto the very basic, inevitable and natural process of soil erosion – it all makes perfect sense.
Our only real significant problem is that we have vastly accelerated that natural process – with tillage and nitrogen fert.
Trouble is, when large numbers of plants reach their Liebig Limits and die, deserts are created.
OK. -we satisfy their need for Nitrogen but there are 51 other elements on the Periodic Table that will limiters. Most of them = metals and all metals dissolve in acid.

(Apart from all the nitrogen he supplied, Mr Putin also satisfied 40% of their need for Potassium – but Bonehead Brandon has put an end to that. Thank you Brandon, thank you soooo very much)
Fires and flooding (and flood alleviation such as dams and levees) help speed the erosion (nutrient removal) process.
Crazy as it seems, deserts are cold places and why the ice moves in – to remain in residence for typically 90 to 100 thousand years.

We are not warming the climate, we are cooling it. Once heat energy is ‘in the atmosphere’, it is gone forever. It can not come back and warm the surface, the soil, water, plants or us. The Cooling Universe tells us that loud and clear.

Wrap up warm and start stockpiling food – enough to last 100,000 years.

Last edited 1 year ago by Peta of Newark
Joao Martins
Reply to  RobK
March 15, 2022 3:44 am

I concur. Completely.

Reply to  Curious George
March 14, 2022 9:33 pm

Caused by removing trees up-slope which raises the water table bringing sodium with it. This destroys the crumb structure (chemical bond) of clays (they fall apart – become sodic) and reduce water percolation into the soil. It gets worse and worse over time.

Reply to  Rud Istvan
March 14, 2022 4:47 pm

WRT #3
Alarmists confidently argue that CO2 is the main control knob for the increase in GLOBAL Temperature.

They then use this confidence to erroneously claim that an increase in GLOBAL Temperature is the only thing that changes LOCAL rainfall.

Dave Fair
Reply to  Waza
March 14, 2022 5:42 pm

It worked for Mikey Mann: He used average North American temperatures for the controlling factor in Bristlecone Pine growth profiles in one location in the American Southwest. That gave him the 20th Century uptick in one proxy series which he over-weighted and used in his algorithm to imprint that series’ profile on the whole output: no Medieval Warming Period, a long declining stick and a 20th Century hockey blade.

Dave Fair
Reply to  Rud Istvan
March 14, 2022 5:29 pm

The lack of scrutiny of the U.S. National Climate Assessments (NCA) by the scientific academies is a travesty. Not only CliSciFi but all areas of science are now suspect. While I suspect COVID19 science skepticism is overblown, concern about mixing COVID19 science and politics is real and a huge problem for Americans.

Reply to  Rud Istvan
March 15, 2022 7:40 am


Classic example of land use and mistreatment is New Orleans and south Miami.

Both places paved over the natural soil and guess what? Being rather long in the tooth, growing up in New Orleans, I saw the changes in street flooding and other phenomena from the late 40’s.

Not only did the hydrostatic pressure decrease from diverting the flow of Big Muddy, but I saw the adoption of slab foundations for homes that used to be built on short piers – 3 or 4 feet max. Subsidence exposed many of the slabs of the homes built in the new fashion, say late 40’s and exposed slabs by late 70’s.

Then there was the lack of absorption of the rain water because we paved over a lotta land that used to absorb it. Duhhh. I lived on a street a half block from a major blvd and it was not paved until the early 50’s. Secondly, many parking lots for the stores were crushed oyster shells and such. Those got paved eventually.

So where was the water gonna go?

Gums sends…

Chris Hanley
March 14, 2022 4:22 pm

Recently parts of the east coast of Australia have experienced floods that recur historically in association with La Niña conditions in the tropical Pacific.
There is a federal election due in a few months and a left coalition of Labor and Greens are exploiting the floods to blame the current conservative prime minister, not for lack of mitigation measures or relief that are state responsibilities anyway, but for not doing enough to ‘fight climate change’.
If I had been told even thirty years ago that in future the weather itself could and would be weaponized in party politics (largely due to compliant media) I would not have believed it.
Looked at in context with traditional L – R political debates and contests it is astonishing.

Last edited 1 year ago by Chris Hanley
Reply to  Chris Hanley
March 14, 2022 4:35 pm

The 2 papers I discuss analyzing precipitation trends show Australia with absolutely no trend. La Ninas always make easter Australia more vulnerable to high precipitation and floods. And as I show in the last segment, the record for the Brisbane itself was 24.1 inches of rain in just 3 days, but that record doesnt even come close to Brisbane’s watershed record, set in 1893, in Brisbane’s nearby town of Crohamhurst with a record 35.7 inches of rain fell in just one day. 

nguyen signif trend.jpg
Reply to  Chris Hanley
March 14, 2022 11:06 pm

And from December 2019 the left were blaming the Prime Minister for bushfires that resulted from a long dry drought producing perfect conditions for bushfires.

And as for the land of droughts and flooding rains, Australia, the left carry on about natural climate and weather by declaring climate emergencies.

You are right about the left conveniently ignoring State areas of responsibility and powers while wrongly blaming the Federal Government.

March 14, 2022 4:25 pm

Modern Agricultural Practices have produced such dead soils that the average amount of rain the fields can RETAIN is under 1″ per hour…typically half that.

There are inexpensive Agricultural practices that improve soil health enough that water retention can be increased to over 10″ per hour.

Since >10 of rainfall per hour almost never happens, most flooding could be eliminated in Agricultural areas.

These techniques also eliminate expensive tillage (and the soil compaction tillage causes), and CAN eliminate the need for fertilizers and virtually eliminate the need for Pesticides and Herbicides.

This method of Agricultural practice is called Soil Regenerative Agriculture.

As a side effect, “Soil Regen” just happens to sequester around 10 tons of CO2 per acre per year…for 10 to15 years depending on soil structure. (Call it 100 tons per Acre total). The US has ~250 million acres of cropland. -> 25 Gigatons of CO2 Sequestered while saving our soils and making farming profitable and managing our water resources about 100 times better.

Well managed tree planting could sequester several times that 25 Gigatons while producing $250 Billion in resource wealth per decade.

BUT, the Climate Crisis Activists aren’t interested in actual solutions to the Climate Fraud Crisis thar they invented, so they will continue to push the building of windmills and driving energy prices to the extraordinarily high levels required to destroy the US Economy which is their only goal.

Geoff Sherrington
Reply to  DocSiders
March 14, 2022 5:38 pm

DocSiders wrote “Modern Agricultural Practices have produced such dead soils … “
How does it happen, then, that the major food crops of the world are at record high yields year after year?
Is modern science and technology a leap ahead of superstition and unreferenced assertion?
Geoff S

Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
March 14, 2022 9:46 pm

How does it happen, then, that the major food crops of the world are at record high yields year after year?

With fertilizers. There is no doubt that constant soil tillage decreases organic matter by exposing that surrounded/”protected” by clay particles to microbes which break it down.
This reduces CEC and crop yield. Fertilizers must be added at greater rates.
Also, the higher the organic matter content, the higher the water holding capacity and the less likelihood of flooding.

Reply to  DocSiders
March 14, 2022 9:48 pm

Well managed tree planting could sequester several times that 25 Gigatons”

There is no evidence of the need for humans to sequester co2.

Reply to  DocSiders
March 14, 2022 9:58 pm

There are inexpensive Agricultural practices that improve soil health enough that water retention can be increased to over 10″ per hour.”

What are they?
Example – increasing organic matter in soils takes a lot of work and expense (unless you have unlimited supplies of organic matter)
It took 150 years of adding 35 tons of farmyard manure/ha/year to increase the soil organic matter content from 2% to 5% at a British cropping farm.

March 14, 2022 5:03 pm

Repeated tillage to a consistent depth quickly produces an impervious hard pan layer , preventing precipitation from soaking in deeper– more surface run-off & flooding.

Ironically, the ACof E has agressively dredged shallow waterways that naturally flooded seasonally, providing calm, shallow backwater habitat for the ecosystem in order to prevent local flooding in areas to be developed. In so doing, they create more flooding downstream.

Reply to  guidoLaMoto
March 14, 2022 10:01 pm

”Repeated tillage to a consistent depth quickly produces an impervious hard pan layer , preventing precipitation from soaking in deeper– more surface run-off & flooding.”

True. That is why deep ripping with narrow tines is needed.

Last edited 1 year ago by Mike
March 14, 2022 5:15 pm

Rainfall is not the same as flood.
In urban flood mitigation:-
Flooding occurs when the stormwater flow exceeds the capacity of the drainage network.

If more extreme rainfall occurs but better urban planning and infrastructure you get less flooding.

If rainfall stays the same but urbanisation occurs with poor planning and at a faster rate than the infrastructure is upgraded you get more flooding.

Changing the imperviousness of a catchment from farmland to residential can easily increase stormwater flow by100% for the same rain event.

March 14, 2022 5:39 pm

Jim has mentioned Trenberth’s attribution of flooding to the 7% WV per degree inherent in the Clausius Clapeyron equation. Of course Clausius is correct and confirmed by thousands of undergraduate Chem Eng lab assignment results. However, in the atmosphere the 100% RH near the sea surface (where Clausius applies) is locally and large scale diluted by dry upper tropospheric air that has fallen from great high and dry altitude, advected and swirled by coriolis force…so locally the 7% per degree is not going to apply. Statistically the 7% per degree is most likely to show up in the total water column.
However using say 1 C warming, thus 7% more average over a century…one would be very pressed to confirm this in the -70% to +170% variation in annual rainfalls, that are already known to vary with PDO, AMO, etc.
How are you going to identify 7%, about 35 mm, which might only be 1 day of rain in this:

March 14, 2022 6:13 pm

Jim Steele is a jewel.

March 14, 2022 9:44 pm

We have allowed tyrants and control freaks to take power ever since Al Gore was allowed to lie to the adults and kids for personal gain. Until we force scientific transparency and end the doom, these people have the excuse to control everything we do. Only takes one honest leader to make truth shine once more.

March 15, 2022 5:23 am

We’ve had 4 ‘year’s rainfall in days’ events causing catastrophic flooding within the last 12 months… 4 events described as ‘1 in 1,000 years’.

and still people here pretend there’s nothing going on?

Reply to  griff
March 15, 2022 6:29 am

It’s you pretending that something IS going on.

Reply to  griff
March 15, 2022 6:43 am

But the scientific data shows Griff is a dishonest troll promoting more pseudo-science and his idiocy should be ignored.

Dave Andrews
Reply to  griff
March 15, 2022 8:55 am

You’ve been told many times that just because you have a 1 in whatever event this year it does not mean you can’t have the same event the following year.
Go educate yourself.

Ulric Lyons
March 15, 2022 7:27 am

Good post. England has no long term trend in monthly rainfall since 1766, though wetter decades are usually during low solar periods.

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