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Question: When Is a Record Flood Not a Record Flood?
Sheffer, N.A., Enzel, Y., Waldmann, N., Grodek, T. and Benito, G.  2003.  Claim of largest flood on record proves false.  EOS: Transactions, American Geophysical Union 84: 109.

From 8 to 9 September 2002, extreme flooding of the Gardon River in southern France -- which occurred as a result of half a year's rainfall being received in approximately twenty hours -- claimed the lives of a number of people and caused much damage to towns and villages situated adjacent to its channel.  The event elicited much coverage in the press; and, in the words of Sheffer et al., "this flood is now considered by the media and professionals to be 'the largest flood on record'," which record extends all the way back to 1890.

What was done
Coincidently, Sheffer et al. were in the midst of a study of prior paleofloods of the Gardon River when the recent "big one" hit.  Hence, they had data spanning a much longer time period against which to compare its magnitude.

What was learned
The authors report that evidence of the five greatest flood events they have identified to date is to be found in a cave that is located more than 17 meters above the level of the river's normal base flow, whereas "the September 2002 flood reached a stage of only 14 m above the normal base flow at this site."  Hence, they say "the extraordinary flood of September 2002 was not the largest by any means; similar, and even larger floods have occurred several times in the recent past."

How "recent" you ask?  Three of the five greatest floods the authors have so far identified occurred over the period AD 1400-1800 during the Little Ice Age.

What it means
Although climate alarmists love to point to recent extreme meteorological phenomena and say they are the result of global warming (as they did time and again during the severe flooding experienced in Europe and elsewhere this past year), this paper clearly demonstrates that that claim is simply not true.  In the words of Sheffer et al., "using a longer time scale than human collective memory, paleoflood studies can put in perspective the occurrences of the extreme floods that hit Europe and other parts of the world during the summer of 2002."  And that perspective shows us that even greater floods occurred repeatedly during the Little Ice Age, which was the coldest period of the current interglacial.

Reviewed 9 April 2003