JoNova

A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


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Australian Environment Conference Oct 20 2012


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Australia has lowest number of tropical cyclones in 1500 years?

A new paper suggests there is an “unprecedentedly” low number of tropical cyclones around Australia at the moment. (How much should we spend to avoid this dreadful outcome I wonder?)

I am a little skeptical of how we can be so sure of the cyclone activity in, say, the year 900 AD. But nonetheless, the study is worth a look. Haig et al took stalagmites from two places in Australia (Chillagoe, Qld, and Cape Range, WA) and got very nice long year-by-year records of 18O and 16O data. They calibrated these against observational instrumental records — though I note these are but a tiny 20 years of data (1990 – 2010), and that during a period described by mainstream climate science (cough) as “unprecedented”.

Assuming that it is possible to pick apart normal rain and cyclonic rain, and that cyclone activity did not just shift to be more than 400 km away (where these stalagmites won’t record the cyclones) then it does appear that there are usually more cyclones in Australia than now. Note the top graphs are the WA site which go back to 500AD, and the lower pair are the QLD graphs “only” going back to 1300AD. Both [...]

Bushfire predictions in 2070 are nonsense on stilts. Models can’t predict rainfall

Showing that academics can cost the country more than they return, ANU’s Geoff Cary posits that there is an 80% consensus (an unmeasured, meaningless statistic) that there will be more fires in Australia 60 years from now.

This is an opinion about opinions of experts who use models that we know can’t predict temperatures. Not only is this “fact” already piled three layers of nonsense deep, the most abjectly stupid point is the fourth layer, the pretense that these models might, in their wildest dreams, be able to predict rainfall — which is an order of magnitude harder than just predicting global temperature. Predicting bushfires is dependent on knowing not just total rainfall in one region, but how that rainfall is spread throughout the year. Not to mention that bushfires depend on wind speed, wind direction, land-use (fuel load), and humidity.

Everyone knows that different climate models predict both higher and lower rainfall in the same areas at the same time, and the type of phrases used to describe the ability of climate models are: “low confidence”  (National Centre for Atmospheric Research),  “irrelevant with reality” (Koutsoyiannis ), or an “absence” of skill (Kiktev). Compare the different projections of climate models [...]

Land clearing caused drop in rainfall in South West of Australia

Rain rain go away, let’s chop a forest down today?

Mark Andrich and Jorg Imberger compare the rainfall patterns in different regions of southwest Western Australia. The areas where the most land was cleared show the greatest decline. They estimate that as much as 50 – 80% of the observed decline in rainfall is the result of land clearing, which doesn’t leave much to blame on CO2.  The paper came out in 2012.

This fits with other researchers working on the Amazon who estimated chopping down the forests could reduce rain by as much as 90%. Once again: it’s not so much that trees grow where the rain falls, but that the rain falls where the trees grow, and the taller the trees, the better.

So the good news for Greenies is that we ought to plant more trees (and I’m all for that). But driving a Prius, building windmills, and using solar panels won’t do much for our rainfall. (It’s so strange anyone thought it would. The witchdoctors have them completely bamboozled.) The Abbott government’s plan to plant trees to sequester carbon may work, but by accident, not because of anything to do with CO2.

Oh the [...]

Most Useless Flagrant Flop of Government (MUFFOG 2012): Finalist — Victorian Desal

In a competitive field it’s going to hard to beat this.

In 2007 the Victorian Government thought it was a good idea to spend $24 billion to build a humungously big desalination plant. There was a drought on at the time, and a specialist in small dead mammals said the drought would never end.  But now Victorian households will pay up to $310 extra in water bills next year, and something like that every year for the next 28 years until it’s paid off.

Even the people running the plant say it’s too big,

Herald Sun EXCLUSIVE: THE French boss of the troubled Wonthaggi desalination plant has admitted for the first time that the plant is too big for Melbourne’s water needs.

Suez Environment chief executive Jean-Louis Chaussade told the Herald Sun the size of the plant was based on unrealistic rainfall expectations.

“The design was done to provide water to the full city of Melbourne in case of no rain during one year – which was not realistic … The details why it was 150GL per year, I don’t know,” he said.

Which bright spark believed the government paid advertising that said there will be endless droughts? Who [...]

The sunburnt country is awash

Record-breaking rain means huge Australian arid-land lakes are visible from space.

Australia has one of the most unpredictable rainfall patterns in the world, and this is one of those unpredictable years. For the past few months, the repeated downfalls have left large pools of water lying in arid lands in Western Queensland. It’s great news for farmers. The water will, over the next year, flow south through the Darling River system, restoring parched watercourses, swamps, and dams. The Darling River system flows from Queensland through New South Wales and into South Australia.

Earlier this month, the Bureau of Meteorology announced that the rains were “exceptional”:

The most remarkable aspect of this event was the area covered by the heavy rainfall and the total volume of rainfall that fell. Daily totals exceeded 100 mm over 1.7% of Australia on 1 March and 1.9% on 2 March. The latter is the largest area of 100 mm-plus daily totals on a single day in the Australian meteorological record, breaking the previous record of 1.7% set on 22  December 1956. 28 February was the wettest day on record for the Northern Territory with an NT-wide average of 29.23 mm, while 2 March set [...]

The BOM & CSIRO report: It’s what they don’t say that matters

Ken Stewart has scanned the trend maps at BOM (Bureau of Meteorology), and his point is spot on. As soon as I saw the neat joint six page advertising pamphlet for the climate-theory-backed-by-bankers, I wondered what happened to the first 60 years of last century, and Ken found it. Did the BOM forget they have hundreds of data points from back then? Did they forget to use their own Website, where you can pick-a-trend, any-trend, and choose the one with err…more convenient results? Or is it the case that their collective mission is not necessarily to provide Australians with the most complete and appropriate information available, but with what the bureaucracy needs them to know? And what they need them to know, apparently, is the carefully censored version of the truth that will keep government ministers happy (Let us tax them more!), keep department heads smiling (Let the climate cash cow continue!), and last, but not least, help staff feel good (We’re sure we’re helping the environment!).

Why censor half their own data?

The trend map page works exquisitely well (I am happy to praise the BOM Web site team). Compare these two trend maps:

Australian Rainfall Trends 1960-2009

The [...]