Lamar Smith Keeps Getting Dumber

Greater flooding in Miami is because of climate change. That’s a fact. So of course, congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX) denies it.


Man-made climate change has caused sea level rise, which has now reached such heights that Miami can flood (as can Boston, and Charleston, and many many other coastal regions) just from high tide — even without storms or wind or rain. It’s another scientific fact that Lamar Smith doesn’t like. There are a lot of those.

A recent press release on the website of Texas congressman Lamar Smith, objects to president Obama saying what’s true: that the increase in Miami flooding is linked to climate change. Lamar Smith had this to say:


The president’s statement that Miami flooding is linked to climate change is entirely false and in fact disputed by meteorologists at the National Weather Service. The experts have reported that the lunar cycle and wind patterns are to blame for unusually high floods in Miami, not climate change. The fact is there is little evidence that climate change causes extreme weather events. The president is ignoring the facts and misleading the American people in order to advance his extreme climate change agenda.

Of course the lunar cycle (and solar as well) drives the tides. It always has. But all by itself that didn’t cause flooding, until now. It does now, because the sea itself has risen.

I’ve looked at this issue in detail, for the city of Boston. It’s happening there too. I’ve also seen it in the data for cities all up and down the east coast of the U.S. So have Spanger-Siegfried et al. (2014, Encroaching Tides: How Sea Level Rise and Tidal Flooding Threaten U.S. East and Gulf Coast Communities over the Next 30 Years, Cambridge, MA: Union of Concerned Scientists), Sweet et al. (2014, Sea Level Rise and Nuisance Flood Frequency Changes around the United States, NOAA Technical Report NOS CO-OPS 073), Sweet and Marra (2015, 2014 State of Nuisance Tidal Flooding, NOAA/NCEI, http://www1.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/cmb/special-reports/sweet-marra-nuisance-flooding-2015.pdf). We’ve all come to the same conclusion: because of sea level rise (which is because of climate change), you can now get flooding just from high tides.

No storm required, no wind required, no rain required. High tide alone is enough to cause flooding, because high tide now is higher than it used to be. Because of climate change.

I guess Lamar Smith doesn’t get that. A lot of people don’t, but most of them don’t run off at the mouth about it, because they’re smart enough not to pontificate about subjects on which they are astoundingly ignorant. Lamar Smith isn’t smart enough; he’s dumb enough to spout his ignorance for all to hear. Even on his own congressional website.

Way to go, Lamar!

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37 responses to “Lamar Smith Keeps Getting Dumber

  1. He’s scraping the bottom of the stupid barrel, an activity that ratchets him up the Koch/Exxon friend’s list and ensures his next round of campaign contributions.

  2. Congressman Smith, a Christian Scientist, will continue doing what he is doing until he is defeated in an election. Our campaign has the best chance in thirty years of doing this but we can’t do it alone. Please help us by donating to our campaign: wakely2016.com

    • Tom, are you allowed to accept donations from foreigners? I’m guessing that might be constitutionally touchy. A shame, since going the tonk with Lamar Smith would be doing the whole planet a favour and we should all chip in.

      • Yes, he is. Free speech is not limited to citizens in the good old USA, and, as we all know, money is now speech.

        (Though if enough furriners (like me) give money, someone may rake that fact up and rant about it.)

  3. Given that his assigned task may be to delay and distract and keep a Republican power cemented against the better interests of the world – then he has succeeded. Unfortunately he proves that our form of government is ill suited to addressing this kind of problem. And both will be getting much worse in the future.

  4. Tom, I wish you the best of luck and will send some $$ your way.

  5. It’s a long-shot given this Smith is a prize idiot, but there have been exceptional spring tides this year in my neck of the woods (English Channel) and likely they would also have occurred elsewhere. The 19-year metonic cycle defines most of the tidal variation but there are other variables at work like the precession and angle of the lunar orbit. These two can add a bit more in some years, one of which is 2015. The local press round here were calling the 2015 equinoxal tides ‘super tides,’ all rather melodramatic given the resulting increase from a tidal surge coinciding with a big spring tide could be dozens of times bigger. I mention this as perhaps Smith’s denial could have been aided by hearing talk about such events occurring State-side this year.

    [Response: Variation of tidal height is overwhelmingly due to sea level rise. See this for more detail.]

    • And here in Perth, Western Australia, the tides have been astonishingly low for the last few months. This may well be related to changes in wind or air pressure patterns, maybe associated with El Nino. What is surprising is that our resident global warming denialist takes no interest in this – when you’d think he’d jump at the opportunity to point out just how low levels are in the tidal areas of the Swan River.

  6. I’m going to defend Lamar Smith here. He isn’t getting dumber. He was always this dumb, it’s just that he’s opening his mouth and showing us just how dumb he is.

  7. The LUNAR cycle? There’s nothing new in the Lunar cycle, unless he wants to count the Moon’s very slow recession from the Earth. I’m pretty sure tidal forces didn’t suddenly ramp up in 1980 or so.

    • The moon is getting heavier. We need to urgently fund another cheese-munching expedition by Wallace & Grommit to redress this situation. Maybe they can bring some back for Mr Smith’s committee luncheon?

    • The minor lunar standstill earlier this fall added a minor bit to tides. Noticed the effect as we were sadly working to take our boats out of the water for the winter here on Newfoundland :-( . It did give some much needed centimeters at high tide though. Important as the marina basin is just barely deep enough by the crane for some of the bigger boats and only then at high tide.

      Of course those extra centimeters due to various causes is precisely what tamino is talking about. They don’t disprove global warming effects, they presage the ever more common occurrences of these effects to come.

      http://earthsky.org/earth/high-tides-supermoon-flooding-september-2015

  8. “Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.” Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), unpublished manuscript

    That said, selecting the caucus idiot to head the Science Committee is sinking to new depths.

  9. @-“…disputed by meteorologists at the National Weather Service. The experts have reported that the lunar cycle and wind patterns are to blame for unusually high floods in Miami, not climate change.”

    Is there any source for this claim ?
    The NWS only reports weather related events, not any climatic causes, it seems unlikely they would have any definitive statement on the cause of an event beyond the local and topical factors.

    Is it possible that because the NWS only warns of flooding when there is a high tide or wind pattern that Lamar Smith thinks that ‘therefore’ they deny the impact of rising sea level!

  10. Dumb as a box of rocks, and that’s doing a disservice to rocks.

  11. Maybe Bill O’Reilly could explain the tide thing to him.

  12. Your ’14-frequency Fourier fit’ a feat of alliteration.

  13. John Pattinson

    How do these idiots get elected? I cannot understand just how this happens. There is democracy, so this cannot happen. Educated people use their collective sense to stop this kind of nonsense – do they not?

    Only lemmings jump into the sea, don’t they? Alternatively, we can have (are encouraged to have) heavy weapons in the kitchen and sandbags at the door. After all things are just going to get better if we keep listening to our leaders.

    Personally I would go with the cheese expedition as the best solution; better idea than life on Mars. Or just maybe something useful might emerge from Paris.

    Time to wake up and get to work.

    • John, it’s very simple. People elect people who promise to put more money in their pockets. Quite often, and unsurprisingly, that goes against the common good.

    • Philippe Chantreau

      How do people like Smith get elected? People vote for them. We get the government we deserve. It’s funny because people also tend to complain about the government….

      • skeptictmac57

        Well, to be more accurate, the people who VOTE for idiots get the government THEY deserve. The rest of us are collateral damage.
        And in the case of Bush v Gore, even the plurality got screwed due to our unique electoral college system.
        As a resident of Texas I am acutely and frustratingly aware of how idiots come to be office holders.

    • Lemmings have far more sense (Disney made it all up). It is only us that are currently pursuing a course of mass suicidal extinction. Unfortunately for the lemmings, we are likely to take them with us.

  14. I think it’s worth pointing out that people like Lamar Smith aren’t in the least bit dumb, and they understand the science perfectly well. They are deniers because they deny, in public, what they know to be true in private, and they do it for money. It’s really that simple. They are lying to the public for money. Unfortunately they get elected because the lies are what people want to hear. The lies allow people to absolve themselves of any responsibility for doing anything about it.

    • icarus62,

      That is certainly one explanation for his actions but when he says in his Op-Ed:

      “Satellites measure something extremely important — the deep atmosphere. The temperature readings collected by satellites often differ from ground monitoring stations and have consistently shown much smaller rates of warming”.

      and then criticizes NOAA for focusing on surface temperature sensors and refusing to incorporate satellite data their monthly projections (and he has to mean monthly surface temperatures) doesn’t he destroy any credibility he may have desired to show that he has on this subject?

      I don’t know maybe I’m missing something.

      • Pete Dunkelberg

        PJKar, yes you are missing something. Smith does not lose credibility where he needs it. He sounds deep to people who vote for him (never mind people who definitely would not) and he sounds effective major backers.

      • Well, last time I looked, we didn’t live in the ‘deep atmosphere’ (what is this anyway). We live on the surface..

  15. There’s a response to Smith’s Washington Times OpEd at Eli Rabett’s place:
    http://rabett.blogspot.com/2015/12/uah-tlt-series-not-trustworthy.html

    • Interesting. All that said, UAH *still* shows 0.08C/decade warming from ’98-present:

      http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/uah/from:1998/trend/plot/uah/from:1998/mean:13

      No ‘pause’ there, though ‘slowdown’ could be argued for, I suppose. Not that impressive a one, though.

      • WfT uses UAH version 5.5. Spencer says UAH version 6.0 is closer to RSS.

      • Ah, they didn’t update. I’ve noticed that can take some time there. V. 6 is stil ‘beta’ isn’t it?

      • I’ve read that in blog comment several times, for whatever that is worth. Have never seen anybody challenge the description.

        Steven Mosher keeps saying they won’t give him the UAH code.

      • I’ve said this many times before in other contexts, but I would be much more confident if Mosher and his fellow auditors tried to replicate the UAH data from scratch. Very little is accomplished by simply going through another researcher’s code. If you cannot replicate it independently or infer the existence of a bug independently, they you probably don’t have the background to assess their work in any case.

        What is more, when you replicate results independently, there is no danger that their choices will influence you–you are unlikely to make the same mistakes and in some cases you may improve significantly on the past results.

        This is why “auditing” is not part of the scientific method.

  16. Richard Simons

    Something that puzzles me in all this: suppose something is found that could be interpreted as a sign of a conspiracy, does that mean that the optical properties of CO2 will change, that ice will return to the Arctic, glaciers will grow, drought will end in California and animal species will return to their former ranges? Does he really think that ski hill operators, gardeners, botanists, etc are all in on the conspiracy even if he has not noticed any changes himself?