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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Blockbuster: 178 years of Australian rain has nothing to do with CO2, worst extremes 1849, 1925, 1950

Remarkable! A new study by Ashcroft, Karoly and Dowdy pieces together an extraordinary 178 years of rainfall data from Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. This is a rare study that brings in much older data, looking at trends and extremes. This is pretty much the ultimate long term rainfall paper for South East Australia. Henceforth, there shalt be no more headlines about “unprecedented” rainfall or area’s drying out “due to climate change” unless an event rates against this data…

Australia – a land of floods and droughts: Rainfall goes up and down in long ongoing cycles or change, but no obvious trend that matches the sharp rise of CO2 in the last 30 years. It’s almost like CO2 has no detectable effect… The worst extremes were for the most part — long ago — particularly in the 1840s (assuming those records are reliable). Almost nothing in the last 30 years is unusual or unprecedented despite humans putting out 50% of all our CO2 since 1989. These charts show how misleading it is to use graphs that start in 1970 (or even in 1910) and declare that the recent changes are meaningful, or caused by CO2.

The researchers also use newspaper archives [...]

Deadliest droughts in India were before 1924

Next time someone tells you how extreme the climate is today remind them that five million people died in a drought in 1896 in India. That was the same year a brutally hot summer in Australia caused 400 deaths and people fled the inland heat on emergency trains. Somewhere between 1 and 5 million people died a few years later in the next drought — the same time as Australia’s “Federation drought”.

Spot the effect of CO2 in 150 years of rainfall of India:

Average rainfall anomalies in India from 1850 – 2016 from IMD (black) and GISS (red).  | Click to read the official caption.

Famine deaths have largely been eliminated in India, mostly thanks to better transport and organisation, higher yields (thanks to fertilizer and CO2) and irrigation. Droughts still happen but in a population that has grown from 250 million in 1880 to a billion in 2000 the extraordinary thing is that more people starved of famine when the population was only a quarter of the size and CO2 levels were “perfecto”.

Weakened people died of cholera and malaria, and bubonic plague too.  Death rates to these diseases often doubled or tripled.

Famine, India, 1896.

Thanks to [...]

Massive, unprecedented, 10 out of 10, life threatening storm hits, drops 2 inches on Melbourne

It was all yellow: A warning was in place for the whole of Victoria.

Massive flooding forecast across “whole state”:

The Bureau of Meteorology has warned an “unprecedented” amount of rain is expected to fall in Victoria over a three-day period.

Asked to rate the storms out of 10, senior forecaster Mr Williams said: “I’ll take the punt and say it’s a 10 for Victoria.”

He said the most recent rain in a short period of time in Melbourne was 100-200 millimetres (in 2005 and 2011) and on both occasions: ”it paralysed transport routes in the city.”

Get out your sandbags!

Events were cancelled, and the Premier of Victoria told people not to “have a big night on the town” in preparation.

The city was told to bunker down for an “absolutely massive” rainfall event over the weekend …

“Half the inhabitants of Melbourne have never ever seen anything like this,” the Bureau of Meteorology’s senior forecaster Scott Williams said on Thursday.

“It is an event that poses a threat to life.”

Not so much a flood of rain, but there was a flood of text messages:

About [...]

Five years after rain returns, climate modelers redo models and “predict” more, less, some, different or same rain

The same modelers were predicting drought and letting their friends nail their reputation to statements about how the dams would never fill, and Perth would be a ghost town. When Australia wasted billions on desal, they said nothing about the “extreme rain” coming. Then the endless drought broke, the rains returned, and now, years later, they’ve rejigged and tweaked their skillless models and put forward ambiguous, vague, yes-no-maybe, scare-scare-scary predictions that could have come from a tarot card reader.

Get ready for the full genius of expert modelling:

“There is no chance that rainfall in Australia will remain the same as the climate warms,” said an author of the paper UNSW Professor Steve Sherwood.

“The only way that this intensification of extreme rainfall falls at the lower end of the scale is if the continent becomes drier overall. The long and the short of it is that with 2°C of global warming Australia is stuck with either more aridity, much heavier extreme rains, or some combination of the two,” said Sherwood, from UNSW’s Climate Change Research Centre.

 – A hard rain to fall in Australia, Phys org.

Other, less astrological climate researchers have found [...]

Low solar activity means more Central European floods

Yet another paper showing the spooky non-relationship with the local thermonuclear reactor. Thanks to climate models we all know that jiggles in solar radiation mean nothing much to Earth, otherwise we might wonder if the pattern of lows in sunlight and highs in floods meant something…

The River Ammer is in Southern Germany, and Markus Czymzik and others dug through the sediments nearby and graphed the flood layers alongside the small changes in solar radiation (TSI). They noticed that a less active sun correlates with more floods. At the low point of every solar cycle there appears to be more rain. (Don’t buy a house on a floodplain in southern Germany in the next few years.)

There is a pretty neat correlation there in the last 90 years, and then in the second graph they take that correlation back to 3,500BC, back when the Funnelbeaker culture was making nice pots in the same area. This same odd coincidence of the sun and rainfall patterns was also found by  researchers in Chile, China and Australian and Indonesia.  Low solar activity tends to occur at the same time as the winter jet stream in the North Atlantic gets blocked. And solar activity [...]

500% more rain over a million square kilometers – Wettest September across Eastern Australia in 116 years

It is not surprising there are floods all over the East coast at the moment

September brought 500% of normal rain to 2 million square kilometers of Eastern and Northern Australia. There are floods across the South East.  There are flood alerts in South Australia, floods have been washing through NSW (and some of those floods were caused by a dam release). There are floods in Tasmania. Flood watches are active in Victoria. Spare a thought for farmers who are taking big losses from both frost and flood in Australia. (So much for endless droughts, and early springs. Hello, Tim Flannery.) Heavy snow  has also fallen — 25cm in Threadbo (it so late in the season, some ski lifts have stopped operating). Right now, thousands of people still don’t have power in South Australia, while others are being rescued from floods across SA and NSW. Floods have stranded 181 families for month on islands in the middle of NSW.

h/t to Warwick Hughes, and Lance Pidgeon

Source: Australian Bureau of Meteorology

A large part of the scary purple area got only 100-200mm of rain in a month (4-8 inches). It’s just very unusual in these dry areas.

To give [...]

Innovative work: Predicting rainfall with neural nets – Jennifer Marohasy

Predicting seasonal rainfall months ahead has surely got to be the Holy Grail of weather forecasting. Imagine the billions of dollars, the man-hours, and the anguish-prevented if we can do it. What if neural nets can be trained, validated, and used to help farmers, investors, and “Oi” — even Dam Managers?

Jennifer Marohasy and John Abbott were inspired to try a whole new approach to rainfall predictions after John’s car met a sad end in the infamous Brisbane flood. After five years work they’re keen to share the results, and their predictions. Check out those graphs below. The last one has a 3000 year range.

Read about how difficult it was for them to get useful data from the BOM, and how the BOM does not do proper benchmarking of their success rates. How serious are they? As usual, it’s those outside the stagnant pond of government approved science that are testing new ground. The government talks about innovation. Independent researchers do it.

***Jennifer Marohasy is speaking in Deniliquin NSW on Friday (tomorrow 6pm — details at the bottom)***.

 

She will be sharing the results of their research on using neural nets. How about this graph? That [...]

Megadroughts in past 2000 years worse, longer, than current droughts

What hockeystick eh?

A new atlas shows droughts of the past were worse than those today — and they cannot have been caused by man-made CO2. Despite the claims of “unprecedented” droughts, the worst droughts in Europe and the US were a thousand years ago. Cook et al 2015[1] put together an old world drought atlas from tree rings data as a proxy for summer wetness and dryness across Europe. They compare the severity and timing of European droughts with the North American Drought Atlas (NADA) released in 2004. Yes, it’s a tree ring study with all the caveats about how trees are responding to several factors at once etc etc. But at least the modern era is measured with the same proxy as used in the old eras.

Something else is causing droughts, something modern models don’t include:

“megadroughts reconstructed over north-central Europe in the 11th and mid-15th centuries reinforce other evidence from North America and Asia that droughts were more severe, extensive, and prolonged over Northern Hemisphere land areas before the 20th century, with an inadequate understanding of their causes.”

The worst megadrought in the California and Nevada regions was from 832 to 1074 CE (golly, [...]

Australian – Asian rainfall linked to solar activity for last 6000 years

A new study by Steinke shows that the sun could have been a driver (somehow) of some of the monsoonal rain changes over the last 6,000 years over Indonesia and Northern Australia. h/t to The Hockey Schtick

In the spirit of the Perfect ClimateTM that existed prior to Henry Ford, we also find that Indonesia had a dry spell that lasted for a while, like say, 3,000 years. It ended about 800BC whereupon things got wetter, and mostly stayed wetter. The authors (Steinke et al) think this might have something to do with solar minima which was very low 2800 years ago. (Though I note the Greek Dark Ages also finished then, and “city states” arose, right, so it could have been that too. Ahem?)

To get straight to the action in Figure 6 the top squiggly line is AISM Rainfall (that’s the Australian-Indonesian summer monsoon). It shows how things were wetter in the last 2800 years ago and drier before that (annoyingly, the present time is on the left). The second part of the graph in red shows sunspot numbers. That gets flipped upside down and superimposed on the rainfall graph in the third part, and we can see [...]

Sun controls half of the groundwater recharge rate in China for last 700 years

Could this be why climate models do rainfall with all the competence of tea-leaf-reading? Tiwari et al report that as much as 47% of the recharge rates of ground water in China are controlled by the sun. Apparently climate models miss the minor factor of the major cycles.

Try this radical idea on: imagine a world where climate models worked. Not only could the BoM warn people that there would be a drought coming, they could name the region, and the years.

Tiwari et al:

Here for the purpose of comparison of long term ground water recharge rates with long term solar activity, we used the 10-year average sunspot time series, for the period 1300 to 1905 AD, published by Solanki et al., [2004]. Also the additional average annual sunspot number time series (1700 to 2000 AD) is used from data source Solar Influences Data Analysis Centre. In addition to decadal data annual sunspot number data from 1700 to 2000 AD downloaded from Solar Influences Data Analysis Centre is used in the present study. The cross-correlation coefficient (+0.63) between the groundwater recharge rate time series and decadal sunspot number [Solanki et al., 2004] shows that there is statistically significant solar [...]

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 [...]

Solar effects seem to shift wind and rainfall patterns over last 3000 years in Chile

A team of researchers looked at the solar influence on Southern Hemisphere Westerly Winds (SWW). These winds influence rainfall patterns and ocean currents in the Southern Hemisphere. Varma et al infer rainfall patterns by looking at iron deposits in marine sediments near Chile, which are apparently higher during drier conditions and lower during wetter times. They compared these to both Beryllium (10Be) and Carbon-14 (14C) which they use to estimate solar activity.

The end result is they find that the westerly winds shift northwards towards the equator during lower solar activity, and conversely move southwards towards the poles during higher solar activity. The shifting wind patterns move the rainfall. An effect is apparent in records for the last 3,000 years.

In graph a below, 10Be (solar activity) and Fe (rainfall) have a decent correlation coefficient (r) of 0.45, while the 14C  (solar activity) and Fe (rainfall) correlation in b has a lower correlation (r) of 0.21. Varma et al say:

“the large correlation coefficient for 10Be would suggest that ca. 20% (i.e., r2) of late Holocene rainfall and hence SWW variability could be attributable to solar forcing.”

They conclude that the current models don’t give the sun a large [...]

Do forests drive wind and bring rain? Is there a major man-made climate driver the models miss?

Clouds over Amazon forest (Rio Negro). Image NASA Earth Observatory.

What if winds were mainly driven by changes in water vapor, and those changes occurred commonly in air over forests? Forests would be the pumps that draw in moist air from over the oceans. Rather than assuming that forests grow where the rain falls, it would be more a case of rain falling where forests grow. When water vapor condenses it reduces the air pressure, which pulls in more dense air from over the ocean.

A new paper is causing a major stir. The paper is so controversial that many reviewers and editors said it should not be published.  After two years of deliberations,  Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics decided it was too important not to discuss.

The physics is apparently quite convincing, the question is not whether it happens, but how strong the effect is. Climate models assume it is a small or non-existent factor. Graham Lloyd has done a good job describing both the paper and the reaction to it in The Australian.

Sheil says the key finding is that atmospheric pressure changes from moisture condensation are orders of magnitude greater than previously recognised. The paper concludes “condensation [...]

Climate Models: 100% right except for rain, drought, storms, humidity and everything else

Yet more observations from the planet show that modelers misunderstand the water based part of the climate – on our water based planet.

Modelers thought that dry ground would decrease afternoon storms and rainfall over those frazzled parched lands (though I don’t remember many headlines predicting “More Drought means Fewer Storms” ). But observations show that storms are more likely to rain over dry soil. Why? Probably the dry soil heats up faster than moist areas thanks to the cooling effect of evaporation, and that in turn creates stronger thermals over dry land. Modelers assumed that wetter soils means more evaporation and thus more rain, but the moisture laden air is evidently coming from further away.

It’s another example of a point where climate modelers assume a positive feedback, yet the evidence suggests the feedback is negative. Once again water appears to be the dominant force with feedbacks (it does cover 70% of the surface). In a natural stable system the net feedbacks are likely to be negative. Positive feedbacks make the system less stable (and more scary and harder to predict.)

Climate change models misjudge drought: “A four-nation team led by Chris Taylor from Britain’s Centre for Ecology and [...]