Understanding “Unprecedented”

When the press uses the word “unprecedented” – what they mean is that they haven’t done any research and basically they are lying.

ScreenHunter_1968 May. 26 09.19 Houston Intercontinental Airport smashed its all-time record for most rainfall in one day on Monday — its 4.34 inches almost doubling the previous milestone set in 1946.

Houston, Texas, Hit by Unprecedented Flooding; Seven States At Risk – NBC News.com

Tropical Storm Allison dropped 26 inches of rain in one day in 2001, six times as much as yesterday’s total.

ScreenHunter_1974 May. 26 13.45

3 Die and Thousands Leave Homes in Flooded Houston – NYTimes.com

Tropical Storm Allison-690

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32 Responses to Understanding “Unprecedented”

  1. lance says:

    They do love the word though don’t they….every news cast comes out with it, every dept. store has an unprecedented sale….it has been badly over used…

  2. A media classic of actively “editing history”, right before our eyes.

    Simply mind-blowing with the audacity of these folks!

  3. Stephen Fisher says:

    Truly we have entered an era of the unprecedented use of unprecedented…

  4. I’m not sure they are lying, I think all three folks on the byline are dumbasses! From 7:00 PM till Midnight on June 6 2001 Houston Intercontinental [Now George Bush] received 8.13 inches of rain. It continued through the night with June 9 2001 adding 2.92 inches more.
    BUT, in plain english on NOAA’s site for the airport it is stated on June 26 1989 the airport got 10.34 inches, the record for a calendar day. That’s the media accuracy we’re putting up with on a daily basis in this country.

    • I remember a day in Houston in January 1992 when we got seven inches of rain.

      • Ted says:

        I remember a night in Santa Barbara in January 1995 when we got 8 inches of rain. In 6 hours. That’s half our annual average.

      • R. Shearer says:

        I remember that storm and my neighborhood in West Houston recorded 12″ in 2 hours. One of my cars was totaled from water getting into the electronics as my wife was out shopping. Most of my neighbors got new carpet and many got new drywall. The water stopped at just the lip of my garage door in the front of the house.

      • sandyS says:

        That’s the problem; all news reports are written by 15 year old kids. If they can’t remember warmer/colder/drier/wetter/windier conditions then in must be unprecedented because you old guys know nothing and your memories are completely wrong, they learnt about Climate Change last week in school.

  5. robbcab says:

    They keep using that word. I do not think it means what they think it means.

    A 2004 paper by researchers at Texas A&M University’s Atmospheric Sciences Department opens with: “Extreme rainfall, with storm total precipitation exceeding 500mm (19.66in) occurs several times per decade in Texas.”

    Click to access NGrainpp.pdf

  6. Steve Case says:

    Worse than previously thought is the other common bullshitism

  7. Llanero says:

    And unexpectedly, as in the economy unexpectedly still sucks.

  8. Hugh says:

    Houston here, we’ve had a problem.

    I assume the flood is caused by the same climate change that causes the megadrought /sarc

  9. omanuel says:

    Were unprecedented events in Oct 1945 and Sept 2001 connected?

  10. ACR says:

    Unprecedented must mean “less often than in the past”.

    Houston has had single day rainfall totals exceeding 4 inches in over half of the years since 1989. Eight of the ten years from 2001 to 2010 had days with more than 4 inches of rain. But until today, Houston hasn’t been as wet as it has in the past. It’s been nearly five years since the last 4 inch rainfall event… July 2, 2010 is the last day I saw with at least 4 inches of rain.

  11. Jack says:

    They are referring to the record for the date, as in the record for all May 25ths in history. Not the all time record for any day of the year. Idiots for not doing their homework.

  12. Dave N says:

    NYT doesn’t appear to be calling it “unprecedented”; they probably have better memory and/or research skills than NBC does.

  13. Svend Ferdinandsen says:

    Wonder if journalists reporting weather/climate and most climatologists suffer from alzheimer?

  14. Jason Calley says:

    Unprecedented is an adjective meaning “as far as I can remember off the top of my head.” Combine that definition with the fact that drug usage tends to destroy memory and you have a pretty believable explanation for modern journalistic usage.

  15. JeffK says:

    Of course alarmists don’t point out how Houston and other modern cities are built in river deltas and then suburbs were paved over with concrete and asphalt. Nope that would portend the UHI effect, we can’t go there…

  16. Andy DC says:

    Now beating a daily record is “unprecedented”! Not a monthly record or all time record, but a daily record. Those are a dime a dozen and hardly a day goes by without multiple daily records being set somewhere in the US. These people are beyond pathological.

    • oarubio says:

      True! and Common Core is not designed to halt “misstatements” and Democratic revisionist history like these comments about “unprecedented.”

  17. Bob Tisdale says:

    Thanks for the reminder, Tony.

    Allison was a remarkable storm. I was in Houston at the time. Imagine the downpour from a thunderstorm lasting for hours and hours.

  18. The rain in Houston was unequivocal.

  19. They are being internally inconsistent because we let them get away with it.

    But they’re not the only ones in this battle who are being internally inconsistent ….


    This lack is an inconsistency in our messaging . Consistency demands that if we come into a situation with high expectations of those we are critiquing , that we be prepared to follow through with some kind of action if those expectations are not met . For if we were never prepared to do that , what was the point of analyzing and critiquing in the first place ? Surely it wasn’t in the hope of convincing the hoaxers to voluntarily give up their jobs and their ill-gotten gains . Nor was it in the hope that conservative (or conservative-leaning) elected officials will voluntarily take it upon themselves to make these things happen on their own .

    No , for the sake of consistency , it could never have been that !

  20. menicholas says:

    It may be that what is unusual for places like Houston is for rainfall to be anywhere near the long term average in a particular year, and even more unusual to have s string of average years. There are very dry years, and very wet years.
    I think such a high degree of variability is the norm for certain climatic regions, and it would be useful for this parameter to be incorporated into the statistics and into the description of what is “normal ” for such a region.

  21. roger says:

    way back in April 1979 the Rice/Med Center area was flooded by a T-storm that dumped 13″ inches of rain on the area in less than 4 hours. We had free beer, drowned cars, and kayakers on campus that evening.

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