Attribution of extreme events

by Judith Curry

Climate scientists have made public statements attributing extreme events to global warming.  The first such attribution that I recall was made by Kevin Trenberth, to the effect that 7% of Hurricane Katrina’s intensity and rainfalls could be attributed to global warming.  Trenberth has subsequently made public statements about the attribution to global warming of the Russian heatwave, Pakistan floods, and Queensland floods. Others have made similar public statements, most recently Richard Somerville.

NOAA is serious about including attribution of extreme events as part of its proposed National Climate Service.  Their rationale is described in this Workshop summary:

There was strong consensus among attendees that unusual or extreme climate events attract public attention through their impacts, and therefore, demand explanation. A conclusion of the workshop was that an effective attribution service must be timely if it is to be relevant to decision making, and to fill the void that could be easily filled by speculations. There was also concurrence that an attribution service activity must be scientifically sound and authoritative if the public and decision makers are to correctly understand the causes of extreme climate events, draw the proper inference from such events, and appreciate the context of their occurrence in a changing climate.

The requirements of such an attribution service were described to be:

The diversity of expertise yielded a rich perspective on the requirements for the development of a scientifically robust and relevant attribution service. It was agreed that the foundations of an authoritative explanation of extreme events must begin with a real-time monitoring and climate analysis capability, and availability of historical data sets, such that current events can be placed into a reliable and physically consistent historical context. Model simulations and experimentation were likewise seen as core elements which provide an essential tool in “connecting the dots” so as to establish plausible cause-effect relationships. The workshop attendees also emphasized that society, and decision makers also need to be provided with a clear statement of the meaning and implications of the scientific findings.

Some warnings are given with regards to premature attempts at attribution:

Nature itself provided no shortage of illustrations regarding the question of who cares about the causes for climate conditions and extreme events. Newsprint and media were suddenly deluged with discussions regarding the Russian heat wave, Pakistan floods, and China floods and of the concerns about the implications such events held for the immediate future, for example, on food supplies and commodity prices. The events impressed upon the attendees of this workshop the need for rapid, yet accurate, attribution information. The “teaching opportunity” that such extremes offer via a receptive window to educate the public about future climate change was appreciated by all, though the danger of premature attribution and misattribution were also recognized.

This Workshop was also discussed over at Climate Central and by New Scientist.  Dennis Dimick provides a useful set of links.

When I served as a member of the NOAA Climate Working Group, this idea of an attribution service was pushed hard by NOAA and discussed extensively by the Working Group.  I was strongly and vocally critical.    The assumption that extreme weather events “demand explanation” is strange in and of itself; most people assume that weather “happens” and are mainly concerned about having a good forecast with advanced warning.  Those wondering about the climate connections might be interested in whether or not this was an El Nino year, or of course we expect more Atlantic hurricanes since it the active (warm) phase of the AMO, it was the “pineapple express,” there was a big blocking pattern that brought in warm air from Africa, etc.

Since Hurricane Katrina, the issue of whether global warming is contributing to specific extreme events has been discussed in the media by scientists.  Exactly what would someone do with the information (if they could assume it accurate) that 5% less rainfall would have fell in Pakistan without global warming   (95% of the rain would still cause massive flooding)?  Would this help people adapt better to extreme events (there is already a large adaptation deficit in most places)?  Would it provide fodder for litigation or the “blame game” to motivate more international humanitarian assistance?  Would it help build political will to support CO2 mitigation policies?  Can you think of other things people might do with such information?  Do any of these reasons seem valid/useful and potentially worth U.S. taxpayer dollars to provide such attribution service?

Apart from the value of such attribution assessments, how valid are they? In his recent congressional testimony, Ben Santer provides an overview of the strategy for using climate models for attribution of extreme events:

Assessing Risks of Changes in Extreme Events. We are now capable of making informed scientific statements regarding the influence of human activities on the likelihood of extreme events (75, 76, 77).

As noted previously, computer models can be used to perform the control experiment (no human effects on climate) that we cannot perform in the real world. Using the “unforced” climate variability from a multi-century control run, it is possible to determine how many times an extreme event of a given magnitude should have been observed in the absence of human interference. The probability of obtaining the same extreme event is then calculated in a perturbed climate – for example, in a model experiment with historical or future increases in greenhouse gases, or under some specified change in mean climate (78). Comparison of the frequencies of extremes in the control and perturbed experiments allows climate scientists to make probabilistic statements about how human-induced climate change may have altered the likelihood of the extreme event (53, 78, 79). This is sometimes referred to as an assessment of “fractional attributable risk” (78).

Recently, a “fractional attributable risk” study of the 2003 European summer heat wave concluded that “there is a greater than 90% chance that over half the risk of European summer temperatures exceeding a threshold of 1.6 K is attributable to human influence on climate” (78).

This study (and related work) illustrates that the “D&A” community has moved beyond analysis of changes in the mean state of the climate. We now apply rigorous statistical methods to the problem of estimating how human activities may alter the probability of occurrence extreme events. The demonstration of human culpability in changing these risks is likely to have significant implications for the debate on policy responses to climate change.

So assuming that there is some valid point to the attribution of extreme event, what might be useful here?  Well, the IMO the main thing that would be useful is a better understanding of the statistical envelope of extreme events as influenced by the main climate regimes and teleconnection indices (e.g. AMO, PDO, ENSO) on a regional basis.  The engineering tables with the 50 year flood, etc. are based on a relatively recent 50 year period in the historical record.  Assuming that a climate shift has occurred, the climate is currently dominated by the warm AMO and cool PDO, which was last seen in the 1950′s.   The 1950′s is probably a better analogue for recent and forthcoming weather than the period 1960-2010.

But what about global warming? It is ~0.5C warmer now than in the 1950′s.  Well I suspect that the large-scale circulation changes associated with the AMO and PDO have a much greater influence on the overall planetary dynamics and extreme events, but almost certainly there is at least some influence of global warming on extreme events.  The idea behind the model-based attribution analysis described in Santer’s testimony is to look at the statistics of extreme events for the 20th century climate simulations, with and without the additional anthropogenic forcing.   We have already discussed on the previous detection and attribution threads the difficulties and uncertainties in doing the attribution for global surface temperature, which is something that is much more straightforward than attempting to do a statistical attribution for extreme events.

By definition, extreme events are on the tail of the distribution.  In forecasting heat waves, we define heat waves as a period of at least 5 days with temperatures exceeding 1.5 standard deviations from the monthly mean.  Even with weather forecasts (which have higher resolution and are more accurate for such things), for a given location we have to adjust the individual ensemble simulations not only for the model bias, but also for distributional errors, otherwise we have no chance of catching what’s out there on the tail.  Have the attribution scientists been attempting such adjustments?  Not as far as I know.  And how to make the adjustments for two different climate states isn’t straightforward; there is no reason to think that the distributional errors will be the same for the two different climate states.  Presumably, they assume implicitly that the changes in distribution of extreme events is meaningful, even if there are absolute distributional errors; but this presupposes there is no change in the distributional errors.

A further issue is that future extreme events that are even more extreme than anything we’ve seen in the 20th century have to be classified as emergent phenomena from the model:  well outside the range for which the model has been validated.  While I made the statement of “overconfidence in IPCC’s 20th century attribution,”  I have to say that I find no basis for confidence in the model-based attribution of extreme events.  Yes, there is the issue of more water vapor in the air with warmer sea surface temperatures, but exactly how this gets translated into individual weather events is not at all straightforward (this will be the topic of a future post).

Summary: Not sure what the motive is for the attribution of extreme events, other than to build political will for climate change policies.  More comprehensive analysis of regional extreme events (including those in the paleo records, of which we need more of) in the context of known modes of natural climate variability is probably the single most useful thing that could be done in this regard.  In terms of attribution services and the broader issues of a National Climate Service, well don’t get me started (more on this in a future thread.)

456 responses to “Attribution of extreme events

  1. Clearly science is becoming more market oriented.
    NOAA sees a need for a hook to highlight its Climate Service. Extreme weather events are tailor made for this purpose. Funding is made available and “science” follows.
    Rather sad, imo.

  2. One of the ongoing activities of the IPCC is also the preparation of a Special Report on “Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation”. The first draft has already been reviewed and the report is expected to be ready by the end of this year.

    http://www.ipcc-wg2.gov/AR5/extremes-sr/provisional_schedule.html

  3. another reason to attribute extreme events to climate change lies in the sheer pleasure of voyeurism

    Anyway, it would be easy to classify the people currently salivating about Australian floods and Brazilian mud avalanches as carrion eaters, as they feed themselves and their policy prescriptions with any tragedy they can put their blog upon. But it’s not carrion they’re eating, it’s human bodies. It’s the dawn of the Climate Cannibal.

    Because in the real world climate doesn’t kill, poor construction siting, negligence and poverty do. As in the 2003 heatwave.

  4. Whatever the problems with the science in attribution of extreme events, I think the motivation for looking into it has nothing to do with pushing political agendas. This sounds great on the AM radio, but not an adult discussion about the tremendous loss associated with extreme weather. It’s about saving lives, property, disease, etc. Let’s deal in reality here.

    • Second that.

      It’s yet another absurd sweeping generalisation.

      If (yes, a big if) we were able to attribute, it would help with establishing the likely frequency of such events.

      Judith you’ve talked before about the how useful it would be to improve regional forecasting, so the ‘Summary’ assuming bad faith is most unhelpful and uncalled for.

    • Exactly how does the summary assume bad faith? I give a clear prescription for how we could provide more useful regional information about extreme events. Improving regional climate forecasting is beyond us until we sort out the natural variability issue.

    • “the motive is….. to build political will for climate change policies”

      A bunch of scientists are only puhing this as a political ploy.

      Classic bad faith argument – I ‘ll assume the worst of motivations in regard to others.

      And yet you’re all over Trenberth for saying “deniers”. This makes him look like a saint. One moment you’re up on your high-horse about elevating the discourse, next you’re down in the gutter going below the belt.

    • What is the motive for such almost immediate attribution if not to “build political will for climate change policies?” And how is “building political will for climate change policies” an example of “in the gutter going below the belt” anyway?

      Whatever their politics, it seems fairly certain that the scientists who are involved in raising the alarm regarding climate change genuinely believe that reducing CO2 in the immediate future is imperative. They also show an understanding that in democracies,
      nothing is done without “building political will.” I genuinely do not get the outrage at the statement.

      Does anyone really deny that Hansen, Trenberth, the IPCC, NOAA, the Met Office et al. are not interested in building political will for climate change policies?

    • Well, whatever the motive is, it’s not scientific.

      There’s no scientific basis for attributing any extreme weather event, or even the frequency of such events, to a small increase in global average temperature.

      “I wasn’t speeding, officer”
      “Sir, you must have been speeding – your average speed was 0.2mph higher than it was ten years ago.”

    • The bad faith was the attempt at attributing political motivation for attributing extreme weather. Does that mean, “scientists only do it to make policy makers decarbonize”? The comments that followed mine seem to suggest that this is how it was viewed. If you meant something else, perhaps you can clear that up.

    • I am putting this out there for discussion. Why do scientists see the need to jump right out there and make statements like this without even looking at the basics of the regional climatology? Trenberth and Somerville are activists on the topic of AGW
      http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/01/09/the-road-from-climate-science-to-climate-advocacy/

      I am open to other/better interpretations of this situation, but I am personally not seeing any. The better question is why does NOAA find attribution services to be important, and why was there a consensus at the Workshop on its importance? Exactly how is someone supposed to make use of this information?

    • The information would be used to know what adaption strategies are needed. If we know that the attribution of extreme events is due to warmth caused by CO2 and we can use our knowledge of how much CO2 is released and how that corresponds, then we know what infrastructure needs to look like in order to combat the issue. If we attribute warming to natural causes then we can adjust the strategy toward how much warming we expect from there. But as the scientists say, in the future, there is a high probability that it will be both.

    • The point is also that extreme events don’t have all that much to with warming per se. They have to do with atmospheric circulation patterns which are dominated on decadal time scales by the AMOC, AMO, PDO etc and on interannual and seasonal time scales by ENSO, AO, etc. If we can adapt to the range of events in a given location over the historical record (say back to 1840 or whatever), we will be in really good shape to face what we might see in the next century. Could the events of the next century be worse than anything than we’ve seen during 1840-2010? Sure. But given the large adaptation deficit to extreme event possibilities relative to the last 170 years, worrying about possibly slightly worse in the coming century seems, well, second-order.

    • Count me in as a first order person. I’m probably not smart enough to be anything else. Thank goodness.

    • I understand that presently, the natural atmospheric circulation will dominate when extreme events happen, but do you disagree with the notion that warmer air increases the hydrological cycle and therefore makes flooding and drought more extreme, and will do so in the future if CO2 is responsible for the warming trajectory? Do you disagree that extra energy in the atmosphere will make storms more extreme? I’m not sure how better to prepare for these events other than to understand what climate drivers are doing to strengthen events. This just seems like a logical and reasonable way to proceed into the unknown future we are creating.

    • the issues you raise are active topics of research. This will be discussed in a forthcoming technical post.

    • I’d be extremely surprised if simplistic statements such as “” and “” will pass any serious review. The point about the hydrological cycle is alas no longer backed up by pan evaporation studies (if any of those are still being done). If I put my car’s engine into an oven, it won’t get any more efficient. And there are enough examples in the Solar System to show that additional “energy” doesn’t necessarily mean “more extreme storms” (compare Jupiter with Saturn, or Venus with Earth). There are other effects that need to be taken into consideration, and any attempt at simplifying the climate is bound to fail.

    • oops…such as “warmer air increases the hydrological cycle and therefore makes flooding and drought more extreme” and “extra energy in the atmosphere will make storms more extreme”

    • Does spending $billions per year to study this make sense?

      Given that CO2 levels are certainly not be going down for many decades after human emissions peak, (and that human emissions will not peak for many decades) planning and building appropriate infrastructure is the sensible policy.

    • After 30(?) years, the attempt to relate CO2 directly to temperature has still not succeeded to any reaasonable degree. Now you assume that we have or will have in the near future, the ability to know what infrastructure needs to look like in order to combat the issue based on corelations that are based on unsuccessful prior corelations.

      Oh, yeah – I forgot, you’re the guy who likes to stack probabilities additively.

    • Gryp, when a jet goes down, do any government agencies start their investigation, by saying what they think caused the accident? No.They reassemble the plane if possible, try to find the black boxes, interview any survivors, etc.It may take years before they release their conclusions.

      So why, in an atmosphere that is quite chaotic, is it OK for scientists to attribute the latest deluge, or heatwave, etc. within, or even sometimes during such an event, to the rise of CO2 until ALL facets of the event have been studiied?

      And as Dr. Curry points out, these “extraordinary” events have been occuring since before, we as a species desceneded from the trees.

      So to tease out that a flood in australia, that in actuallity is maybe the 7th strongest in recorded history of the area is a direct cause of CO2 loading in our atmosphere is IMO gross negligence on the part of the scientist, reporter, whomever that utters such statements.

    • In order to talk like this ‘hydrological cycle ->more extreme drought and floods’, one ought to not a scientific bone in the body.

      Temperatures have not significantly risen in the past 10 years. Where did the heat or the ‘extra energy’ come from to ‘increase’ the accelerated cycle?

      There are no penalties for irresponsible and loose thinking inside consensus modes of science?

    • If we can adapt to the range of events in a given location over the historical record (say back to 1840 or whatever), we will be in really good shape to face what we might see in the next century.

      Exactly. I live in a tropical city in Australia’s cyclone belt — it is the cyclone season here right now — and the issue of a slight increase in the frequency or intensity of these events is meaningless in practical terms. The reality is that there is a significant chance of a cyclone every year and we have to be prepared for such an event.

    • What Judith wrote was “Not sure what the motive is for the attribution of extreme events, other than to build political will for climate change policies.” Which all but invites alternative interpretations. Instead of reacting in the good ol’ warmie way and yapping like a pensioner’s terrier, why not try supplying one?

    • Dr. Curry,
      I think perhaps the issue of useful regional mid-term weather forecasting should be dealt with by meteorologists, not climate scientists.
      Perhaps part of these recent weather events having such negative impacts is the over reliance on the wrong professionals.
      Actuaries vs. clinicians is a comparison that comes to mind.

    • The NOAA says as much in the Worskshp Summary Dr Curry quoted:

      There was also concurrence that an attribution service activity must be scientifically sound and authoritative if the public and decision makers are to correctly understand the causes of extreme climate events, draw the proper inference from such events, and appreciate the context of their occurrence in a changing climate.

      Blow past the “scientifcally sound” gingerbread and get right to the point: “[so the public and decision makers] are to correctly understand the causes of extreme climate events, draw the proper inference from such events, and appreciate the context of their occurrence in a changing climate.”

      This is PR for climate change.

    • There’s surely a distinction to be drawn between improving regional forecasting – something where success or failure is very easy to test, year in and year out – and being able to attribute extreme events to global warming. Let alone to anthrogenic global warming, let alone to that part of AGW caused by CO2 emissions (for example).

      The latter seems to me to be chasing the rainbow. But improved regional forecasting would have massive human benefits, as Judith has said elsewhere. So:

      It’s yet another absurd sweeping generalisation.

      And that’s directed at:

      Not sure what the motive is for the attribution of extreme events, other than to build political will for climate change policies.

      Why is that absurd? Generalisation it has to be – but absurd? It can’t be because improving regional forecasting is something we all agree is valuable because that is completely separable. So why?

    • If (yes, a big if) we were able to attribute, it would help with establishing the likely frequency of such events.

      If you’d bothered to read the available information, you’d know that the Australian flooding was predicted and the prediction was ignored because of the fears induced by overhyped Global Warming propaganda –

      http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/opinion/damned-if-they-do-damned-if-they-dont/story-e6frg6zo-1225988018615

      Given the historical record, the weather that produced this mess wasn’t unpredictable – nor was this an unprecedented event – nor was it even the worst flooding in history. Only the uninformed (ignorant?) would think so –

      http://www.bom.gov.au/hydro/flood/qld/fld_history/brisbane_history.shtml

      The other “disasters” that Trenberth mentions in his diatribe have similar histories and explanations that are conveniently overlooked since they don’t fit the story line that he (and apparently, you) desires.

    • Interesting links.
      Clear link seems established between flood peaks and La Nina (cool ENSO) phases. But it also looks like most of the extreme flood peaks occurred during cool PDO phases (1890′s and 1960/70′s).

    • Yep, my new simple climate/weather model says that warmth makes more moisture enter the atmosphere, and cooling makes it fall out onto the ground causing floods.

    • Yes, let’s deal in reality.
      Let’s put some resources into protecting people and property from the ravages of natural disasters – whatever their cause. Because, like death and taxes, they’re certainly going to happen.
      Instead of spending untold trillions in order to reduce the probability of extreme events.
      As an analogy, if I buy two lottery tickets a week instead of one, I double my probability of becoming rich. But I don’t bank on that happening, I still go out to work every day, and I try to be sensible with my spending.

    • Bull. The motivation is entirely political. The only reason for attribution is to assign blame and support the case for political action. If they were concerned about “saving lives, property, disease, etc.” the effort would be going into prediction and mitigation.

    • “…nothing to do with political agendas?”

      The summary quoted in the above post includes these: “A conclusion of the workshop was that an effective attribution service must be timely if it is to be relevant to decision making….” and “… decision makers also need to be provided with a clear statement of the meaning and implications of the scientific findings.” One of the express purposes of the whole exercise is to impact “decision making” and “decision makers.” How precisely can that not be political when those decisions themselves are at their core political?

      Alarmism has become an important part of politics, perhaps more than ever before, because in an age of mass, instant communication, alarmism often works. Tell someone that the globe is warming, slowly, and in 100 years we may have a problem, and people will be more concerned with raising their children, keeping their jobs, just putting food on the table.

      Tell someone that people are dying now, in large numbers, because of X, Y or Z, and you get a different response. Rahm Emanuel did not say “never let a crisis go to waste” because he is an evil Rasputin. He was simply verbalizing a modern political truism.

      Some commenters have said that alarmists like Hansen, Trenberth, and Michael Tobis are hurting their cause because of their extremism (and I am one of them). But that is only recently the case. They had the upper hand politically for a long time. Frankly, without the economic melt down, I am not sure the politics of climate would not look much different today. Fear of economic implosion made the arguments against massive economic changes to address climate change much more relevant to the voters.

      Alarmism has worked just fine in the past. Think DDT, CFCs, Y2K, and until recently CO2. Attribution of extreme weather events to human causes is simply a continuation of the theme. With the alarmists’ previous success, and the politic resolution still in doubt, I wouldn’t expect a change in tactics any time soon.

    • How does attribution help save lives and property? We will still have floods and droughts, whether or not we stop burning fossil fuels. We have a big adaptation deficit with regards to floods, droughts, and hurricanes, relative to the events of the last two decades. If climate scientists were pushing strategies to adapt to extreme events through better land use policies, infrastructure, and better forecasts, then I would be more impressed. Instead, these attribution statements get tied up with statements about reducing CO2 (e.g. Trenberth’s statement, Santer’s statement, Somerville’s statement, etc.) Thinking that floods and droughts and hurricanes will go away if we stop burning CO2 is beyond a joke. Looking back at the 1890′s, we saw a horrendous rash of extreme weather events that had nothing to do with global warming.

    • You win my undying support by saying this Ms. Curry – but then you had that already. Where’s the true humanitarian voice amongst all this claptrap? Oh yes, there it is – and it’s from a woman. Quelle surprise.

    • We all know that scientists have no qualms with any of the ideas you are mentioning here. Of course they want to do those adaption strategies. The attribution of extreme weather events will better prepare us for such future events. How this gets finagled into “political motivations” that don’t account for adaption strategies and only attribute motivation for decarbonizing is for you to answer, not me.

    • No qualms? About measures that would directly save lives – thousands if not millions of them? What an extraordinary way to put it. Just this word reveals so much. Thank you.

    • It was in response to Judith’s inference (a completely baseless one) that they somehow might not support such things.

      Though to be fair to Judith, it is worded very oddly, and perhaps she meant something else –
      “If climate scientists were pushing strategies to adapt to extreme events through better land use policies, infrastructure, and better forecasts, then I would be more impressed”

      G.’s point is that there is no evidence that any climate scientist is against any of this.

      The other odd thing, is that Judith has constantly said that climate scientists should stay out of the politics of solutions (unless I’ve completely misunderstood).

      Yet here in a single paragraph she says it’s OK for them to advocate for solutions such as infrastructure, but not CO2 reduction.

      Is there some logical and reasonable explanation for this?

    • Of course there is –
      Advocating for better land use policies is common sense that should be obvious to everybody. It does not imply an agenda.

      Advocating for CO2 reduction is, by definition, an agenda. Scientists who are seen as pushing an agenda, are rightfully seen as biased, and their science is then possible or even “probably” biased.

    • Yes, they would have no qualms, or would not feel uneasy about, adaption strategies that save people’s lives. I’m unsure what your point is.

    • The point is that you included ALL</b? scientists in a questionable statement.

      I don't think so.

    • Attribution is after-the-fact fingerpointing. The Blame Game. It does nothing to better prepare us for such future events.

      Being better prepared involves better prediction, better engineering (ala New Orleans/Katrina), better political decisions (like not maintaining the maximum capacity of Wivenhoe Dam when greater than average rainfall is predicted), and not putting people at risk by allowing building in known flood plains (ala Brisbane and New Orleans). Among other things.

      Heh! –
      We all know that scientists have no qualms with any of the ideas you are mentioning here.

      Which scientists? Certainly NOT all of them.

    • My thoughts exactly – it’s just that you articulate them far better than I could have done.

    • If we can in any way accurately attribute, then we may be able to identify a ‘fatter tail’ on the probability of extreme weather events, and we might know something very important about the magnitude and the frequency of such events. Very helpful for those responsible for infrastructure planning and disaster response.

      I think your getting too tied up in what Trenberth or some other particular person says about it in relation to their views on CO2 mitigation.

      Just look at the recent flood in Brisbane (which is being factually massacred further down thread in the service of AGW-bashing). The Wihenhoe dam, a massive piece of public infrastructure, was built on certain assumtpions (in 1974) about the frequency and magnitude of flooding events. If this new work helps identify a higher risk of extreme rainfall, changes can be made, such as reinforcing dam walls or adopting a more aggressive water release policy at lower levels. This could be done regardless of what some particular scientist says about CO2 levels.

    • The real point is that the recent Brisbane flood is not particularly large by previous historical standards (including 1974 and huge floods circa 1840 and 1890).
      http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2011/01/brisbane-floods-in-historical-context.html

      So, add 5-10% or whatever AGW attribution you choose to the 2011 brisbane flood, and you still get something smaller than 6 of the floods seen in the region since 1840.

      So the point is stop worrying about AGW in the context of extreme events like this, and try to figure out what infrastructure and land use policies you need and how to provide better weather forecasts and use them more effectively in water resource management.

    • Trust Roger to get it wrong.

      This flood was huge, with some of the rainfall events being unprecedented. Sadly the network of AWS doesn’t give adequate resolution, but those that did recorded extreme rainfall rates and the quantities of water down stream suggests rainfall rates in some areas at far in excess of anything ever recorded before in those areas.

      This flood was not far under the 1974 flood,but with two exceptionional differences. One, the huge Wivenhoe Dam that was built after the 74 floods. Without that it hard to know exactly how high the water would have been, but it been suggested that the 74 levels would have been smashed.

      Two – 74 was the result of the most common high rainfall event in this part of the world- a deep tropical low from an ex-TC. This recent event was not precipitated by an ex-TC, and the flooding in some areas still dwarfed anything ever seen before.

      So no, it is completely false to say that this was not a particularly large flooding event.

    • Interesting that you say the statement was “wrong” although the data shows there have been three floods per century (on average) that were larger in the last 200 years. Isn’t the real point that damage due to the flood was predominately due to poor management by local officials?

    • The problem with trying to compare the floods is the quite different circumstances. The previous big floods of the 19thC occured at a time when there were very few dams and weirs in the catchment and no flood mitigation.

      In 74 there was much more infrastructure work on mitigation and loads more dams.

      After the big 74 flood , the massive flood mitigation dam (Wivenhoe) was built, despite which, we got another flood approaching the height of the 74 flood.

      Just looking at peaks on the graph ignores all of that.

      And the flood mitagation work done at the dam was excellent – it did exactly what it was supposed to do. The meme going around here (it was on another thread too) about “officials” is utterly baseless.

    • at what level of capacity was the dam prior to the storm? I read that was one of the major problems that they had minimal capacity for flood control. Was this wrong?

    • The dam was built primarily for flood mitigation, with a secondary job of water storage. It had been filling for the past month or so, with ongoing above average rains. And then this extreme event came on top of that.

      The logic behind the comments is that water should have been released sooner – which is fine in the 100% hindsight world. If you know that even more massive falls are coming very soon, then it would make sense. But no one has a crystal ball, and the Wivenhoe dam is a flood mitigation dam. They would have had to flood the river to discharge water quickly, which would have had some very angry people asking why they were being flooded when the dam was meant to stop flooding.

    • Who needs a crystal ball? They built the dam to stop flooding that had already happened several times in the past. The primary purpose was flood control and someone decided that it was better to leave the dam filled for drinking water rather than lower the level for flood control purposes.

      When a flood actually came, the dam was busy doing its other job (being a reservoir) and was not able to stop the flood it was built to stop. Crystal ball my foot.

      If the primary concern of a flood control dam is not making sure it has the capacity to stop a flood, it is no longer a flood control dam.

    • What a load of speculative nonsense!

      If the flood control dam had not been filling up for the entire month, it could have perfectly fulfilled its role of flood control with the latest ‘extreme’ rain event.

      The flood control dam was filling up because the consensus projection was that of increased drought – meaning less rain was being expected. A world expecting and preparing for droughts would obviously be worst prepared for floods. The IPCC-driven nonsense directly led to this very blind alley.

      If there was no dam to begin with, the month-long rains preceding the latest heavy downpour would have long flowed into the sea, allowing the severity of flows from the last record rains to be mitigated.

      The full dam in Queensland significantly reduced the carrying capacity of the underlying terrain thereby worsening the present flood. Earlier floods recorded higher levels even without this aggravating factor. Which one is worse?

      Cause-effect corruption in thinking cannot be tackled so lazily.

    • Here’s some speculation: the dam mangers are going to be completely exonerated.

      They would have been lynched if they had released below the water-storage component. The politicians, concerned with the next drought, were demanding they allow the dam to fill above the water-storage component.

    • JCH “the dam managers are going to be completely exonerated.” Possibly, and possibly for the reasons you state. However, let’s remember that people have died, which presumably means if the managers are exonerated it may be at an inquest, at which the coroner’s rules of evidence will apply. Counsel representing the bereaved are likely to ask these sorts of questions, under oath, of the dam managers, and anyone else the coroner thinks can shed light on the management of the levels. If they manage, in these implacably forensic circumstances, to shift the blame to the executive, the coroner will have to follow it there, and so on.

      And there’s a real chance of a Royal Commission – again, sworn evidence – contrast with the various Climategate enquiries!

    • Shrub,

      You’ve got the facts completely wrong.

      The dam started filling late last year, and contolled releases began to ensure that flood mitigation capacity was available.

      The irony of criticisms such as yours now, is that at the time of the releases late last year, dam management was criticised for releasing water that may be needed in the event of further drought.

    • I just looked up the levels they were keeping the dam at prior to the recent storms. They had the reservoir at over 100% of capacity pre storm. Seems like bad management.

      http://www.seqwater.com.au/public/dam-levels

    • Yes, these were quite different circumstances. This time there was a dam, in 74 there was no dam.
      This time the rivers crested significantly lower than in 74.
      This time the disaster was not the rain or the river level as much as the development that had been allowed in a known flood plain (New Orleans/Katrina all over again.)
      This time the rain, the flooding and the river level were aided and abetted by the dam operators releasing water and increasing the flow.

      Why?

      Because the dam was at 100% capacity prior to the start of the rain. It wasn’t designed for 100% capacity AND rainfall runoff as well. So the operators were forced to release water in order to keep the dam intact. Which, in turn increased the flow and the extent of destruction.

      So – Why was the dam full when it should have been at 40%? That, my friend, was the work of those “officials” you defend. Not so baseless.

    • The dam can hold up to 240% capacity for short periods for flood mitigation – as it did, as it is designed to. But this rainfall event was so extreme that it easily filled a dam made for 1 in 50 year events.

      Take off your anti-AGW conspiracy blinkers for just a moment.

    • Michael- surely you understand that 100% of capacity means that you should not be at this level as a regular occurrence. I did not know anything about this issue until looking up the data. They were at over 100% of stated capacity throughout 2010 and more so in Dec.

      Engineers do have design margin, but those margins are not meant to be ignored for general operation. If local officials did not think they had enough fresh water storage capacity, they should have built more, not keep the reservoir continually at 100% of stated capacity, that was inviting disaster.

      This disaster was poor management

    • October 6, 2010:

      ‘The Queensland government says it’s releasing water from a major dam in the state’s southeast for flood mitigation purposes.

      Controlled water releases from Wivenhoe Dam started this week after it reached 100 per cent capacity.

      But opposition natural resources spokesman Jeff Seeney accused the government of failing to plan for the next drought, while claiming the dam was not full.

      “Isn’t this release of water from Wivenhoe Dam, when it is holding only 40 per cent of its available storage capacity, a clear indication that the government has learned nothing from the water crisis and is still failing to plan for the next inevitable drought?” he told parliament on Wednesday. …”

      100% of which capacity? That politician wants them to store more water for the next drought.

    • No Rob, it is designed to be able to hold up to 240% capacity for short times. That’s why it is a flood mitigation dam.

      100% is the maximum long term load bearing capacity.

    • October 6, 2010:

      ‘Controlled water releases from Wivenhoe Dam started this week after it reached 100 per cent capacity.

      But opposition natural resources spokesman Jeff Seeney accused the government of failing to plan for the next drought, while claiming the dam was not full.

      “Isn’t this release of water from Wivenhoe Dam, when it is holding only 40 per cent of its available storage capacity, a clear indication that the government has learned nothing from the water crisis and is still failing to plan for the next inevitable drought?” he told parliament on Wednesday. …’

      100% of which capacity? That politician wants them to store more water for the next drought.

    • No, Michael. 100% is the MAXIMUM capacity. The water storage capacity ws 40% of that. From the Australian:
      It is important to understand that the dam’s total storage capacity is 2.6 million megalitres, of which 1.15 million megalitres is used for water storage. During a flood situation, the dam is designed to hold back a further 1.45 million megalitres. One of the questions for a public inquiry will be whether maintaining 100 per cent of the capacity for water storage was prudent given the warnings from September 2010.

      http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/opinion/damned-if-they-do-damned-if-they-dont/story-e6frg6zo-1225988018615

    • Jim,

      Sorry, but you’ve got it all wrong.

      The official 100% capacity level refers to the drinking supply level ,which is 40% of the dams maximum capacity, the remaining capacity being for flood mitigation purposes, which is the dams primary function.

    • I did not design the dam, but I did post their website that posts how full they are relative to capacity. If you describle a 240% that would probably be something closely to the ultimate load…or when it might burst……really do not want to be there. What I wrote previously was correct.

      This was purely bad management

    • Michael-

      The graph that I showed originates with the BoM, it is not “wrong.”

      On the influence of Wivenhoe, and its management that analysis remains to be done. There are presently competing explanations from professional hydrologists, some say that Wivenhoe took a few meters off the peak and others say that it added a few meters. See, e.g.,

      http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/water-releases-before-deluge-too-low-dam-expert/story-fn59niix-1225989066171

      Judy’s point stands in either case. There will certainly be lessons here for management of the dam, and in due course we’ll hear them from authoritative sources.

      But please do not confuse streamflow records with precipitation records with flood damage, going from one to the other is full of challenges, see:

      http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/admin/publication_files/resource-83-1999.06.pdf

      One point seems clear enough, this was a massive flood, but not historically unprecedented, and not unexpected.

    • Before the event you can find a lots of articles that cite politicians who were demanding the dam be filled beyond its water storage component.

      This article gives some of the numbers:

      http://www.qt.com.au/story/2010/12/30/gates-open-at-dam-wivenhoe-brisbane-river/

      Interesting photographs of the dam here:

      http://jasechong.wordpress.com/2011/01/13/queensland-floods-wivenhoe-dam-1-5-months-ago-and-now/

    • Of course the graph is not wrong Roger, just your interpretation of what it means – which is totally wrong.

      And yes Roger, historically unprecedented. One river flooded at twice it’s previous maximum flood height, the Bremer Rv exceeded the previous record flood height by 25%, the Brisbane Rv came close to the previous 74 flood despite the massive flood mitigation dam built to prevent a repeat of the 74 floods. And when the BoM finishes it analayses I suspect we’ll be seeing some record precipitation rates in some areas.

    • Exactly. I think the dam’s managers will be found to be pretty damn good dam managers.

      They probably should consider raising the Wisenhoe dam as that would increase its flood-mitigation capacity.

      When I was in college I was working summer job nearby a town that was below an old earthen dam. Came a “once in whatever” deluge and the water flowed over the top of the dam. It gave way, and the results were not a pretty sight. When the Wisenhoe was in jeopardy of having that happen, they had no choice other than releasing a large amount of water. Yes, some people may possibly have died as a result of that forced decision, but not in the numbers where I was, and that dam was micro puny when compared to the Wisenhoe.

    • Michael– it is absurd to claim the loss of life and property damage was due to climate change. Any reasonable analysis demonstrates it was bad management.

    • Please Rob, point out where I said loss of life was due to climate change.

      And add in some evidence of “bad management”. I do mean evidence, not your opinion.

    • Michael-

      The graph shows the Brisbane River stage at “City Gauge”. It does not show anything for other rivers, nor does it tell you anything about precipitation.

      I agree that there are likely to be record precip levels in some locations, and perhaps some streamflow records in some locations. So what?

      All that said, the flood stage at City Gauge was not historically unprecedented, not by a long shot. There will be a government inquiry into the role of Wivenhoe management on the flood peak, so such questions will be answered for us in August.

      Meantime, here is another perspective:
      http://www.theaustralian.com.au/in-depth/queensland-floods/water-storage-levels-made-damage-worse/story-fn7iwx3v-1225989906403

      Here also is a lengthy reply to another Michael on this topic:
      http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2011/01/brisbane-floods-in-historical-context.html?showComment=1295211460918#c3001434873385756239

      Thanks

    • Yes, Roger I kmowperfectly well what the guage in Brisbane said.

      But it’s obviously incorrect to draw a paralell between the flood height last week and 74 when the 74 event occurred with out the assitance of the massive flood mitigation dams.

      “So what” about record flood heights?? You’re kidding, right?

      The Bremer river that beat the previous flood record by 25% , flows directly into the Brisbanve river, below the Wivenhoe dam, ditto for the Lockyer rv (which doubled it’s record), other creeks in Toowoomba and at the bottom of the range reached flood heights that were multiple’s of max. levels previouly recorded.

      Without the Wihenhow holding back massive amounts of flood water from different part of the catchment, it’s likely the flood levels in Brisbane would have easily surpassed 74.

      So we have hisctorically unprecendented rainfall events and flood levels (not surpassing previous records by 2 or 5%, but by 100% and greater) to which Roger says – “so what”.

      This is verging off into ‘not even wrong’ territory.

    • Michael, I take it then, that this guy has it wrong?
      http://www.theaustralian.com.au/in-depth/queensland-floods/water-storage-levels-made-damage-worse/story-fn7iwx3v-1225989906403

      Perhaps you should write to the Oz and tell him?

      Anyway, let’s hope that Goodwin and his like are dragged before the coroner to testify, so the folly of their views can be exposed in a properly forensic manner.

    • What, the guy who ‘looked’ at the spillway and thought it didn’t look like a lot of water? That’s a pretty feeble hook to hang the story on.

      All the critcims are based on hindsight – ie. it rained even more a fw days later so they should have released more water on this day.

      Wivenhow is a flood mitigation dam. It is designed to captare flood waters not pass them straight through, which is essentially what some people are now arguing – with the benefit of hindsight of course!

      What many peopel are forgetting is that the dam operators were juggling several problems. A good part of the flooding was coming from the Bremer and Lockyer rivers which were in record flood. As much as possible dam operators were trying to avoid large releases from Wivenhoe that would coincide with peaks in those two rivers, ie to mitigate flood levels in the Brisbane river.

      So yes, they have it wrong – highly simplistic and retrospective opinion based on 20/20 hindsight.

    • Michael-

      I put up a post on this here:

      http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2011/01/large-balls.html

      You are invited to continue this conversation there if you’d like, or we can pick it up in August when the commission reports. Based on the media reports that I have read, I hypothesize that the management of the dam will be found to have played a role in the magnitude of the floods. If the managers truly ignored the state of ENSO, then this is a correctable error to some degree.

      On the Bremer River:
      “The flooding Bremer River, which cuts through Ipswich and meets the Brisbane River to the west of the state’s capital, was not nearly enough on its own to cause the devastating flooding of thousands of homes in Brisbane.”
      http://www.theaustralian.com.au/in-depth/queensland-floods/queensland-announces-commission-of-inquiry-into-devastating-floods/story-fn7iwx3v-1225989885254

      The smaller the catchment, the greater the chance of breaking historical records, but the less important from the standpoint of large-sale flooding.

      I won’t be further following this deep thread, but am happy to continue over at my blog should you wish. Thanks for the exchange.

    • Roger,

      Thanks for cutting and pasting from The Australian, while adding a few banal comments (which are mostly, not surprisingly, wrong or misleading) of your own.

      Those with AGW-phobia will continue to bend over backwards to try to find something, anything, to blame as long as it doesn’t involve any consideration of extreme rainfall events that are in line with predictions on the impact of AGW.

    • Michael, do they call every La Nina rainfall in Toowoomba a “tsunami”, or do they save that term until they actually have one that looked like a tsunami?

    • Roger and TomFP,if you keep posting links to News Ltd media outlets for your case,it’s no surprise that you that you are confused. Please do not confuse their innumerate,premature and deliberately provocative speculations with useful information.

    • Dr Curry –
      Thank you.

    • Judith, you don’t seem to be hearing me, or others here:

      “How does attribution help save lives and property?”

      The post-1974 climatologists had very clear attribution information, all of which I am sure is familiar to you. They used it with skill. They predicted another flood in about 35 years, and we got one in 36.5. But their attribution wasn’t based on, and conflicted with, the new Big Thing, CAGW and the demonisation of carbon. So they were, after a brief period of post-recovery adaptation, ignored. Had they not been, “lives and property” would have been saved.

      Just to be clear – on present evidence, computer-modelled attributions of extreme events, made by Believers in CAGW are a hindrance to correct and useful attribution, and hence to prediction, of extreme weather events. They are therefore hazardous to life and property, and should be studiously ignored. Attributions with proven skill exist, however and have clear life- and property-saving potential. They just need to be heeded.

    • IMO the NOAA “attribution service” is simply a thinly disguised bit of (taxpayer-funded) “AGW activism” to gain support for “mitigation” through fear mongering.

      Max

    • There is nothing there at all about forecasting extreme events. That is what will save lives, property, etc.

      Attributiion is about fixing blame. And I think we all know how that blame will be apportioned even before any studies are done. On top of which all, current studies show that there is no statistically significant increase in extreme events. So if the models say there are, then the models should be checked for validity not used to attribute anything.

    • gryposaurus,
      Yeah, no politics is why Trenberth is so moderate and carefully measured in his haranguing of meteorologists.

  5. Dr. Curry: Excellent post! Thanks for tackling this subject, which I find odd as well.

    Not sure what the motive is for the attribution of extreme events, other than to build political will for climate change policies.

    It sure comes across as grasping at straws to further the cause. For me it is yet another reason not to trust climate scientists. It wouldn’t surprise me if other people have a similar reaction. I’d be interested in seeing some polling.

    An English friend tells me that global warming has been openly ridiculed on top radio and TV shows for the past few years.

    • ..”For me it is yet another reason not to trust climate scientists.”..

      Yes, but…
      I feel the greater blame for this “attribution” matter rests squarely on the heads of the political appointees (aka Hacks) that every administration nominates to fill the high level posts at NOAA and everywhere else in the government. These are the “bright boys and girls” that dream up these proposals, throw them to study groups for “a little appropriate discussion” and implement them regardless of the recommendations of the study group. There’s less blood on the hands of academic and professional ‘climate scientists’ than there is on the hands of political hacks. Remember, politics is all about doing something, anything, about the “problems” (real or not) and “supporting” the party line with all trumpets blareing “CHARGE!!!” There’s just no other way to earn Brownie Points.

  6. Concerned Citizen

    This is the type of discussion that truly concerns me. Let’s build “plausible” support for the idea that we know more than we truly do. Over time, most folks won’t recall the fact that there was no well-founded basis for such attribution. Impressionable people will assume that such stated numbers after the fact have the same validity as posts of temperature and barometric pressure. Nothing remotely scientific (or ethical) in taking this direction.

    • 100% agree – I found the contradictions here quite shocking.

      On the one hand, we have “correctly understand the causes of extreme climate events”, followed shortly afterwards by “establish plausible cause-effect relationships”.

      So which is it – real science where the word “plausible” has no place whatsoever, or an attempted con-trick?

    • Here’s a dictionary definition of “plausible”. It doesn’t mean much. The real problem starts when plausible explanations are passed off as facts.

      1.
      having an appearance of truth or reason; seemingly worthy of approval or acceptance; credible; believable: a plausible excuse; a plausible plot.
      2.
      well-spoken and apparently, but often deceptively, worthy of confidence or trust: a plausible commentator.

    • Each Big Whopper followed by yet a Bigger Weather Whopper. Where will it all end?

  7. The problem is basically this:

    Policy makers want their policy to be based on legal truths:

    ["The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth"]

    Honest science is a process of “Truthing”. Acknowledging that tomorrow’s observation may reveal new information.

    Never claiming to have “the whole truth.”

    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel

  8. Very interesting post.

    I find it cuirous how Santer can claim to be able to model the ‘control’ climate (i.e. no human influence) when this is clearly impossible given current levels of knowledge. He is clearly either deluded or lying- and i can defend this statement if required.

    From the thrust of the topic i would agree with your assessment, that the only real reason for these kind of assessments is to foster political will. Unfortunatley this shows bias of forethought from the outset and calls to doubt all the ‘findings’. Very curious.

    Now, if someone could ACTUALLY model the ‘control’ climate- THAT would be some impressive science right there.

  9. Climate science continues it’s way to being pure laughable doublespeak and pseudoscience. This statement from NOAA:

    “There was also concurrence that an attribution service activity must be scientifically sound and authoritative if the public and decision makers are to correctly understand the causes of extreme climate events, draw the proper inference from such events, and appreciate the context of their occurrence in a changing climate.”

    is completely at odds with the whole notion of “attribution.” We don’t know enough! I can’t imagine the politcally charged NOAA coming out and saying that some “tradegy” is NOT due to “man-caused climate change,” and if EVERYTHING is blamed on attributed to “man-caused climate change,” then there is no falsifiable hypothesis and hence, no science! It is simply surreal!

  10. One problem with extreme events, as Lindzen has often said, is that they potentially have so many causes. And those causes may now include human decisions influenced by AGW theory – to the detriment of a region.

    Thus a Bishop Hill today on the Queensland floods discusses whether earlier political decisions not to reduce pressure on the Wivenhoe dam might have been crucial to the deluge in Brisbane this week. The person responsible for what turned out to be the wrong choices happens to be convinced by the dangerous AGW meme – and until recently AGW was held to be responsible for more drought in Oz. It may just be coincidence and bad lack.

    But that illustrates the problem with attribution it seems to me. Too many factors involved – including human factors. But I sure respect those like Pielke Jnr who grapple with the problem at a statistical level.

    • Richard what is the basis for this – “The person responsible for what turned out to be the wrong choices happens to be convinced by the dangerous AGW meme ”

      Other than your own personal prejudices?

    • Sorry, but where do my personal prejudices come in to this? The person concerned is the State Governor, Anna Bligh. So far I’m completely dependent on one contributor to Bishop Hill so I’d be grateful if you or others could help me with the following questions:

      1. Is is fair to say that Ms. Bligh is “convinced by the dangerous AGW meme”?

      2. Is it fair to say “the release of the stored waters at the Wivenhoe and two other major dams in the area was delayed by the State Governor” even though “the Wivenhoe was considerably over it’s planned “normal” capacity pre-flood”, as one contributor puts it on that thread?

      I’m quite happy to be corrected on either of these. Even if they both turn out to be true I’ve already said that it “may just be coincidence and bad lack.” My prejudices don’t come in to it. But good decision making is certainly important in such situations.

    • I have no idea what Anna Bligh believes, but she does not make any decisions about water release at Wivenhoe dam. This is a complete misunderstading of the situation. There is an established protocol for water release which the dam managers follow and are responsible for carrying out.

      More confirmation bias from Richard. Given the slightest possibility that AGW could be kicked, you went for it on the strength of pretty much nothing at all. (that you got the completely wrong idea from Bishop Hill, surprises me not one little bit).

      A nice example of the kind of scepticism that the AGW skeptics use, ie. absolutely none in its conventional sense.

    • I wasn’t kicking AGW. I’m not the first to notice that until recently AGW was meant to produce drought in Australia and now, according to experts like Trenberth, who I assume you agree with, it has gone and produced floods.

      But the precise procedure as far as release of water from Wivenhoe dam – that I completely agree was beyond my ken. You say that the State Governor has no say at all in this. That strikes me as unlikely, given the possible impacts either way. You give no source for your assertion. But I’m a very open-minded person, as you will discover when such evidence is put to me.

      As for the quip about Bishop Hill, mistakes have been known to have been made there – and also corrected. I recommend the place.

    • Wrong. Confirmation bias strikes again. You must be ground zero for CB Richard.

      The AGW predictions for Oz are quite clear, and I’ve seen some poor long-suffering person here at Climate Etc post them several times on several different threads (most recently just yesterday I think) for the edification of the denizens – to little effect.

      The summary – more frequent drought, especially in the south and reduced rainfall in the SW during winter, and…..wait for it….increased incidence of high rainfall events.
      And what has Brisbane just had – a very long drought followed by the biggest flooding, probably since 1893 (possibly longer).

      Just to forestall any confusion – there is no conflict between increased drought and more extreme rainfall events. This is addressed in more detail too, but I can’t rememeber precisely. I think it might be that reduced mean totals may be experienced, but the increased extreme rain events may result in means rainfalls being not affected in some areas.
      In the north, the picture is less clear.

      There is plenty of info at CSIRO – just google.

    • A couple of details you omit:
      1. The date the ‘AGW predictions’ you refer to were made.
      2. A URL showing this to be true.

      I’m sure that won’t be a problem, giving the importance of proving my confirmation bias, to say nothing of moving on the debate here. Thanks in advance.

    • 1. Prediction about extreme rainfall events for Australia made in 2004.

      “For example, the intensity of the 1-in-20 year daily rainfall event is likely to increase ….by up to 30% by 2040 in south-east Queensland (Abbs, 2004)”

      That’s part of the IPCC summary for Australia.

      2. Link
      http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg2/en/ch11s11-3.html#11-3-1

      Now what would a real sceptic do when faced with new information? Generally, being real sceptics, they incorporate the new information, which may lead to revising or jettisoning their previous position.

      I’m sure that won’t be a problem for you, seeing how interested you are in moving the debate forward, as opposed to mindless nay-saying.

      Thanks in advance.

    • “For example, the intensity of the 1-in-20 year daily rainfall event is likely to increase ….by up to 30% by 2040 in south-east Queensland (Abbs, 2004)”

      Wow! They were only 29 years out.

      What sort of prediction did they give for Dec. 2010 in Britain then?

      In other words, if you want the debate to move forward then kindly stop cherry-picking.

    • Yes, if I was trying to work out whether to relieve a dam of excess water in January 2011, a forecast for 2040 would I’m sure seem just the ticket. Funny they didn’t see the light, isn’t it?

      Nevertheless, I’m grateful, Michael for the reference. It’s just that it’s a mile away from the impression given by your earlier correction: “The AGW predictions for Oz are quite clear” and everything that followed. Not for 2011 they weren’t clear. The emphasis picked by those like ianl8888 on the spot has been “longer and more severe drought than previously experienced” (see the comment below). This is what stuck in the mind of the Queensland voters, no doubt, and made it hard for anyone working for the Premier to be seen to waste water. And thus the wrong decision was made.

      I think we’re back where we started. But I repeat, thank you for the AR4 reference.

    • Richard, “by” is the operative word. “by 2040″.

      That such little things can trip one up is quite something isn’t it.

      The real sceptic might even ponder that recent events could suggest that the predictions were somewhat conservative.

      But keep your ‘skeptics’ hat firmly on, should stop all that nasty new information from entering your brain and disrupting settled positions.

    • Nice to know we have somebody in our midst that can assign “real sceptic” licences. Where should I apply, Michael?

      As for the IPCC being on the conservative side, if anybody really knows that the intensity of the 1-in-20 year daily rainfall event has increased (or hasn’t), please do tell.

      Back in the days, skepticism was not based on single events. One wouldn’t believe in astrology just because somebody somewhere had once truly experienced exactly what the astrologist had said. And one wouldn’t convert to homeopathy just because a neighbor had reported being cured by it.

      Perhaps things have changed.

    • Yes, we did notice the ‘by’

      But they predicted something to happen by a date 36 years in the future, and it actually happened 6 years in the future.

      That’s the kind of accurate prediction you’d expect from Mystic Meg.

    • A prediction published in 2007 that mentions something that is ‘likely’ to happen ‘by 2040′ – the something being a combination of two other numbers that is really quite hard to grasp, one a frequency, the other a probability – and you’re arguing that it’s reasonable to think it could have influenced better decisions in January 2011?

      My point throughout has been the possible impact on well-understood AGW theory on the decisions made in Queensland this month. I think it’s totally unrealistic to expect anyone to have picked up how big the rainfall was likely to be from the sentence in AR4 you’ve dug out.

      What I come back to is what the Australian public had heard until these floods: that AGW was causing drought. That led to political pressure not to be seen to waste water and the wrong decisions in Queensland this month. That’s the whole of my argument here. I’m not stating it as a certainty but as a distinct possibility. I think it makes a fascinating test case.

      But I think that’s it. I learned something from our exchange, which is great. Over and out.

    • The real sceptic might even ponder that recent events could suggest that the predictions were somewhat conservative.

      No, the real sceptic would only think that if the times were out by a few years.
      But that was out by a factor of six! Even the ‘by’ couldn’t save that.

    • Richard, your inability to absorb even the small details if concerning. It was published in 2004.

      And I don’t believe I’ve said anywhere that this paper’s predictions should have altered decisions made last week.

      Could you do me the favour of only arguing with what I’ve actually writtten?

      And I’m quite interestd to know how you have determined what the Australian public has heard. You appear to be tranferring your own understanding (likely a result of a particularly stubborn confirmation bias) to some other vaguely and massively defined group.

      Peter, I’m sorry that the probability/prediction thing has you stumped. You appear to think that a foercast of an increase of 30% for a defined event by 2040 means that it will remain at its current level till 2039 and then suddenly jump up in 2040. This is a misunderstanding.

    • Michael, stop trying to squirm out of it by transferring your ignorance onto others.
      The prediction of, “by 2040″ was made on the basis of the expected long-term average temperature change by that date.
      There has been no such change in long-term average temperature from when that prediction was made which might explain this event in terms of AGW.
      So this was an anomalous event which cannot be tied to AGW, but which you attempted to tie in with an IPCC ‘prediction’.
      You were wrong. Put your hand up and get over it.

    • So Peter you really believe that the probability of such events sits at the 2000 level and then suddenly jumps up 30% on Jan 1, 2040???

    • Michael, where in: “the intensity of the 1-in-20 year daily rainfall event is likely to increase ….by up to 30% by 2040″, does it say, or imply anything about the probability of the event?

      You’re squirming, and it isn’t pretty. Give it up.
      I’m not going to answer any more such nonsense on this thread.

    • Not only are there 1in 20, but 1 in 50 and 1 in 100 year intensities. So if you increase the intensity, you move (for instance) a bunch of events from the 1 in 20 year event category to the 1 in 5o year category.

      Or, in other words, the probability of the more extreme event has been increased.

      As I said, it’s not that difficult to grasp.

    • I wasn’t going to answer this one, but…
      Not even by your own convoluted reasoning does that work. Moving a bunch of events from the 1 in 20 year event category to the 1 in 5o year category would, by your logic, make the one in 20 year event happen once in 50 years, ie less often.
      But that detracts from the point that (severity != frequency), and trying to argue that increasing the severity of an event somehow increases its frequency, serves only to make you look foolish.

    • Peter,

      I thought you wanted to talk intensities and not probabilities. Hence the way I explained it, with increased intensities, 1:20 year events become the intensity equivalent of what 1:50 events were.

      In terms of probabilities, 1:50 events become, 1:20 events. Same thing.

      And let’s not forget the take home message after all of Peter’s pointless bickering – the scientific research finds that extreme rainfall events are going to significantly increase in Qld.

      The research was even more specific in fact, in that it predicted the increase in high rainfall events to be primarily in mountain regions north of Brisbane. How’s that for a prediction, or was it just a coincidence.?

    • Michael,

      I give up. Have it your way.

    • Not my way Peter, the way of scientific enquiry.

      It is a way that does tend to come into conflict with political / economic / ideological interests, but in a mostly rational world, in the long run, science tends to relegate the petty squabbling of the self-interested to the footnotes of history.

    • “For example, the intensity of the 1-in-20 year daily rainfall event is likely to increase ….by up to 30% by 2040 in south-east Queensland (Abbs, 2004)”

      Unfortunately, none of the Abbs references appear to be available online so more detailed information is unavailable. Also, the cite source is a conference paper which has not been peer reviewed. Nonetheless, this does explain how a decrease in mean rainfall can be associated with an increase in extreme events.

    • Well I googled CSIRO and found that climate change due to global warming was not deemed to a factor in the drought in the first place.

      http://www.csiro.au/news/SEQ-Drought.html

      “Since 1980, the IPO has been in a phase similar to El Niño – limiting the rainfall that La Niña brings to SEQ as a major rain-generating mechanism,” Dr Cai said.
      “This is largely responsible for the recent drought.”
      “As of 2010, the IPO appears to be moving to a phase similar to La Niña.
      Taking the average of results from a set of climate models is the most effective way of ‘distilling’ a climate change signal. The science team assessed the role of climate change by using the same 24 models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”

      Their results show that the recent drought in SEQ is not consistent with climate change projected by the models.”

      “At this stage, renewal of a rain-generating process with La Niña bringing higher rainfall to SEQ might be expected to last for 10 to 20 years.”
      Dr Wenju Cai

      Clearly they can only do a good forecast by ignoring model predictions!

    • And just to rub it in, yes clearly it is possible for an ensemble of climate models to be utterly wrong. Robustly wrong one might say!

    • And therein lies the inexactitude so typical of the AGW rhetoric:

      >The summary – more frequent drought, especially in the south and reduced rainfall in the SW during winter, and…..wait for it….increased incidence of high rainfall events.<

      More frequent than WHEN, please ?
      Increased incidence from WHEN, please ?

      1) Bligh is the Q'ld State Premier, not Governor. Aus does have State Governors, but these are apolitical positions with no power at all at detail level

      2) The Wivenhoe Dam was built to stabilise Brisbane's water supply during drought periods. Flood mitigation was a minor secondary issue. As a consequence, releasing impounded water during heavy flooding is a fraught proposition, since during possible later drought such release can be categorised as "wasting water". Such an accusation can be politically devestating.

      As the AGW predictions from the CSIRO have been heavily promoted (accurately or not) as "longer and more severe drought than previously experienced" (note that the time slice is fudged), only courageous politicians in the Humphrey Appleby sense would tamper with the regulations concerning impounded water in the Wivenhoe

    • Ian, thanks for the correcting me on Anna Bligh’s position. I of course agree (wearily) about the inexactitude. And the story you tell on Wivenhoe and the floods rings true. It would be good to see chapter and verse on it at a future date – though I assume full deniability is also built in to Premier’s role?

    • Richard, she’s the premier, not the governor. But that aside, yes, the question of why the protocols to which Michael refers seem to have been breached, despite pleas over recent weeks from old-time climatologists to vent, is no doubt one that will exercise the coroners charged with investigating the deaths that have occurred. Proper rules of evidence, will apply, too – none of warmism’s post-normal twaddle.

    • I must admit, you’ve got chutzpah, Tom. I’ve not seen many people handed their backsides so often who continue to hold to their attitude…

    • Hi Tom, sorry I didn’t see this until now, thanks for the correction and for the reminder about the interest the coroners are bound to take in this.

    • Agreed.

      Perhaps an example of good decision making would be construction of a larger capacity water storage capability. This would allow for water reserves in the event of prolonged dry periods as well as for flood protection.

      Given the FACT that CO2 levels will certainly not be going down for many decades after human emissions peak, (and that human emissions will not peak for many decades) planning and building appropriate infrastructure is the sensible government policy.

    • Grumpy Old Man

      Dear Rob. A fuller account of the history of flooding in eastern Australia is given in various Australian newspapers. According to reports, The Wivenhoe dam was originally built in line with your good decision making parameters. It’s planned level was at 40% of capacity, to act as water storage in “normal” circumstances with plenty to spare for flood mitigation. In about 2000, the decision was made to use the dam almost wholly for storage as politicians decided, on scientific advice, that CO2-induced climate change meant that past flooding would not be repeated. Even when advised that massive seasonal rain was imminent, the decision to open the dam was delayed because, “water was a vital and scarce natural resourse”. This is a generally true statement in Australia – just not at this place at this time. Land use planning decisions made on the ,”no more rain” meme are considered to have added to the death and damage toll of the flooding.

  11. A large part of the need to attribute the severity of climatatic events is to justify the claims being made. If the powers that be can attribute 7% of the rain in Katrina, ( and I would like to see some kind of justification for that number ) theye can then defend their claims that people are the root cause of climate change.
    I expect eventually they will be quoting statistics similar to the political poling companies, ” This pol is 95% accurate 17 out of 18 times. ” This way they are never wrong, if something goes south in one of the projections they just say its the 18th time..

  12. Dear Mr Manuel
    “policy makers want their policies to be based on legal truths”. May I remind you that it has recently been established in a US court that CO2 is classed as a poison? In the EU, carrots are classed as a fruit because one nation makes a traditional jam out of carrots, and by the law, only fruit may be made into a jam. Moreover, by definition, a banana cannot be a banana unless it is curved.
    I resspectfully submit that the phrase, “legal truth”, is one of the great oxymorons of our common tongue, which is why policy makers the World over are so keen on them.

    • “… recently been established in a US court that CO2 is classed as a poison?…” A widely-held view, usually expressed as “pollution”.

      But it is not so. The Congress of The United States witlessly defined CO2 as a pollutant by passing a “Clean Air Act” that qualified anything “physical, chemical, . . . substance[s] or matter which [are] emitted into or otherwise ente[r] the ambient air,” The Court’s ruling variously characterized the Clean Air Act as “Broad”, “Sweeping”, and “Capacious”. As I noted before, Justice Scalia observed “It follows that everything airborne, from Frisbees to flatulence, qualifies as an “air pollutant.”

      The Supreme Court did not declare CO2 a poison. It did not even call it a pollutant. It did say that CO2 fell within Congress’s definition of a pollutant.
      Justice Stevens. 2007. MASSACHUSETTS ET AL. v. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY ET AL. April 2. http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/06pdf/05-1120.pdf

    • Grumpy Old Man

      Dear P-D. Thank you for filling in my ignorance in this matter. After swiftly glancing through the pdf you so kindly referenced, it seems that the problem is even worse than I thought.

  13. Having read Trenberth’s and other rushed out ‘explanations’ I find myself thinking of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” and the concept of Dr Goebels. Tell a lie often enough and it becomes the perceived “truth” in the minds of the receivers.

    The climate is changing, it has been doing so for millenia now. What is at issue is the “human contribution” and the role of CO2 in this. Since no one has actually been able to demonstrate in a laboratory experiment that is repeatable, that the levels of CO2 Hansen et al claim will trigger run away warming – the “Bell jar” experiments I have witnessed and seen written up require levels of CO2 well above 10% by volume to show the sort of heating they claim will happen at levels below 1% – one can only assume that this rush to publish is about trying to sustain a fiction.

    The most intelligent comment I have yet seen on the issue of the flooding in Brazil and Australia, coupled with the floods in Pakistan, was on the BBC yesterday. A well respected scientist – not one of the usual CRU suspects – answered the rather breathless and hysterical questions of the young interviewer calmly and factually. He said, among toher things, that one reason for the high death toll in Brazil was the lack of regulation of town planning and building construction, leading to people building inappropriate structures on inappropriate ground and in the path of flood run-off. The same, he said, could be said of the tragedy in Pakistan, while the Australian ‘event’ and property damage could also be attributed in part to population spread and building in flood plains and along water courses.

    The La Nina event is also partly to blame, though the Southern Oceans are roughly 0.6 degrees C warmer, resulting in higher evaporation and greater precipitation in areas subject to monsoon events – such as the Indus valley, North Eastern Australia and oarts of Western Australia. Is this “proof” of Anthropomorphic Global Warming driven climate change? No, these are events that occur on a regular cycle anyway and magnified by slight variations in ocean temperatures – not necessarily by CO2.

    The rush to publish by Hansen, Trenberth etc., is all about maintaining their lucrative tax funding creamed off by politicians whose sole understanding of the science and the questions is what they are fed by lobbyists from Greenstrife, Fiends of the Earth and others. Scientific it is not.

    • I’m also sceptical that global warming since the last positive AMO/negative PDO event in the 1950s has had any discernable effect on extreme weather events.
      Global temperature is necessarily a smoothed version of a highly volatile series of localised temperature fluctuations. It seems far more likely to me that local temperature variations would overwhelm any global warming signal as a cause of extreme weather, at least over the last 50 years.

  14. As noted previously, computer models can be used to perform the control experiment …
    A computer model does not perform an experiment; it generates a hypothesis which is then tested in a physical experiment.

    • Apart from in Climatology – where the step ‘tested in a physical experiment’ is omitted. ‘Just have Faith – We Are the Experts’ is their answer to everything.

      Not what I call science…but that’s true of most of climatology

    • AnyColourYouLike

      I think the problem here is Kevin’s unusual extra-sensory perception, which scientists don’t like to talk about, and which I know he’s a little shy about sharing. But it is possible to read between the lines and see we have a true “mental” phenomenon in our midst. Able to predict extreme weather events, at least minus -1 week in advance! What that’s not enough!? Why, for my next cliche!: attribution of said events to cAGW! Why, thank you ladies and gentlemen!

      In conclusion I blame the whole Australian flood attribution controversery on Kevin’s ESP Leadership Legitimising Yogic Science….or, in short, blame it on the KELLYS. I think our Oz cousins might know an old song about this kind of attribution, called…er..Blame it on the Kellys! :)

  15. …though the danger of premature attribution and misattribution were also recognized.

    Somehow I doubt this danger is fully recognized. There is interest on the public’s part in the “why” behind newsworthy events (whether those events are weather, financial, or criminal). Likewise, politicians are rather notorious for wanting “straight” answers rather than nuance. However, giving people what they want is not always in your best interests, if you can’t deliver the certainty asked for. Justly or not, the person who pressures you for a “straight” answer will turn on you for “lying” when your over-simplified answer comes up short.

    • there is also the issue of boy who cried wolf. And further, by bemoaning that these extreme weather events are caused by global warming, people may be less inclined to take adaptive measures that might actually reduce their vulnerability to future events.

    • Also not forgetting that Nero fiddled while Rome burned.

      Is there any evidence that people would be “less inclined” to act?? At first glance it seems to be a bizarre contention;
      A: Hey, there is a cyclone coming!
      B: Is it natural or man made?
      A: Huh?

      And there is no “bemoaning that these extreme weather events are caused by global warming” coming from scientists that I have seen. Most are at pains to say that they can’t state if AGW caused event X, but that AGW would predict in the future…..etc etc.

      If there are examples of bemoaning causation, I’ve managed to miss them.

    • s there any evidence that people would be “less inclined” to act?? At first glance it seems to be a bizarre contention;
      A: Hey, there is a cyclone coming!
      B: Is it natural or man made?
      A: Huh?

      False logic – what you’re talking there is prediction not attribution.

      “Prediction” is knowing the cyclone is coming (before the fact). Natural or man-made is “attribution” (AFTER the fact).

    • No Jim, I ‘m just responding to Judith very odd suggestion that;
      “by bemoaning that these extreme weather events are caused by global warming, people may be less inclined to take adaptive measures”.

      I’ve have no idea what your “false logic” statement refers to. I’m just trying to understand how Judith came up with this.

      Since you only found fault with my question, maybe you can explain the logic behind the assertion about people’s possible behaviour?

    • Ok here is a concrete example. This spring I attended the planning meeting for the Atlanta Regional Commission, which deals with planning the cities infrastructure and energy/water resources for the next several decades, and climate change was to be a big part of their planning process. They were holding their breath, wondering what the IPCC AR5 climate model simulations were going to say and hoping that GT or UGA scientists would do the downscaling of the climate model results to provide information for their planning process particularly for water resources, weather hazards, and the need for mass transportation systems to reduce the cities energy footprint in light of presumed to be forthcoming carbon emission regulations.

      I told them that the climate models (current and AR5) would not provide any information that would be useful for Atlanta’s planning. I suggested that they deal with the problems they had now: doubling population in the next 20 years, tri-state water wars with Alabama and Florida, inadequate sewers, and massive traffic jams. I argued that biofuels was not a solution (Georgia had been banking on cellulosic ethanol from its massive forests in the southern part of the state.) My main point was to take care of your current problems (mainly population growth and the water wars) and they will be in a better position with regards to climate change. Look at all the extreme weather in Atlanta’s historical record, and figure out if the city is capable of handling what has been seen in the past in terms of floods and droughts.

      The point of this is that AGW was distracting them from dealing with the real issues. This same thing is happening all over the place, in local, national and international decision making bodies

    • Fantastically helpful. And no longer just to Atlanta.

    • I doubt Atlanta is failing to act on traffic jams because of concerns over AGW. Large municipalities are always, at any moment, juggling a thousand different things. Wanting to know if there is better information coming down the pipeline that will help with planning seems eminently sensible.

      Conversely, if the Brisbane City Council knew that the recent rainfall event was more likely to be a 1 in 20 yr event in the future than a 1 in 50-100, they might find that very helpful in planning medium term flood migitation infrastructure.

      So it cuts both ways.

      The way you phrased it originally (“people may be less inclined to take adaptive measure”), had me thinking of individuals. Thanks for the clarification.

    • Very, very intelligent advice.

      The issues and changes they have to deal with are well-characterized by looking at the historical record and making the obvious extrapolations. Any impact on those from climate change will be well-encompassed by the know range of variability; further, the adaptation measures undertaken will be of the same kind and general magnitude that climate change would require and inspire.

    • Aghh. “the known range …”

    • there is also the issue of boy who cried wolf. And further, by bemoaning that these extreme weather events are caused by global warming, people may be less inclined to take adaptive measures that might actually reduce their vulnerability to future events.

      This is always true. The folks in Galveston ignored the advice of experts and decided to not build a seawall. Why? I’ve never found a reason. Perhaps “it, an extreme weather event, will never happen here” ruled the day. It often does.

      Modern-day Galveston is again at a decision point. Ike flooded the city and devastated its economy. Should they enhance the existing seawall and build additional seawall? To what future sea level are they actually going to be vulnerable? The CAGW one? The cAGW one? The AGW one? The “AGW is a hoax” one?

    • Re Galveston, sea level rise is a minor issue compared to another Ike (or 1900 galveston hurricane), which is inevitable. With a storm surge of 15 ft at Galveston, a sea level rise of 1-2 feet is at the 10% level. Recall that Ike was only a Cat 2 at landfall (albeit with a very large horizontal extent). A cat 5 landfall would swamp a cat 2 with sea level rise. So the issue is hurricane size and intensity, not so much sea level rise.

      Apparently TX doesn’t have any building codes at all re hurricanes (so I’ve been told by a meteorologist resident in Houston), unlike Florida and most of the other Gulf states. This is a much bigger problem than a 2-3 ft sea level rise by 2100.

    • I believe both sea level rise and tropical cyclone intensity are important. For example, sea level rise over the past century has been about 0.2 – 0.3 m. If we consider a possible tropical cyclone impacting a shallow sloping 50 km coastal area to a point 1 km inland, my calculations (please check my decimal points) indicate that the extra water from a storm surge built on a 0.2 m elevation would equal about 10 billion tons. This appears formidable enough to significantly threaten lives and property whether added to a lesser or greater intensity storm.

    • Fred- since you have studied the situation, I believe you know that sea levels have not risen universally by the .2 to .3 meters that you state. In Los Angeles as an example, the rise has been about half that amount (.15 M) over the last 100 years, in much of Alaska sea level has fallen over the period.

      The real point being, the issue is still infrastructure preparation in specific locations. In your example, (using more or less the worst case) if a locality was in an area where sea level were rising (or the land mass was falling) and they were in an area subject to storm surges (hurricanes), the sea level would not be rising the 12 inches at once, but over 100 years. If a locality ignores their infrastructure for 100 years, then they are inviting disaster. They most certainly would have time to make prudent decisions regarding a sea level change over that time period.

    • “If a locality ignores their infrastructure for 100 years, then they are inviting disaster. They most certainly would have time to make prudent decisions regarding a sea level change over that time period.”

      Rob – I don’t disagree, but a point I tried to make in a comment way below is that ignoring infrastructure and failing to make prudent decisions are the norm rather than the exception. The worse the extreme event that transpires, the worse are the consequences for those failures.

    • Fred- I agree that society has seemed to divert tax receipt revenues from things like infrastructure construction and maintenance to things like other priorities (employee pensions and health care.) I wish this was not the case.

      I get more frustrated when people request additional taxes or costs in the name of AGW, when what they propose are illogical from any reasonable analysis. I truly do not even understand the debate or discussion it just seems obvious.

    • As a former Gulf Coast resident (I was riding my buddy’s jet ski in the back bay in Biloxi the weekend Katrina hit), I agree wholeheartedly with this. The real public health and security threats are obscured by worrying about gradual sea level changes taking place over centuries when it is the acute onset of storm surge that kills people. Compare the improved storm tracks / predictions / communication for Camille (1969) and Katrina (2005); that’s scientific progress that saves lives.

    • Dr. Curry,
      Great perspective on the Galveston problem.
      Your local contact saying there is no windstorm construction standards should read this:
      http://www.ci.dickinson.tx.us/community_development_rita_insurance.htm
      There are windstorm standards in place, and they are enforced strongly.
      Most of the heavy losses were of older properties built prior to good standards.

    • In the case of Galveston, and several coastal towns and the Houston ship channel, the major cause of damage was flooding caused by Ike’s storm surge, which before landfall was being reported as likely to be in excess of 20 feet:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ike_Dike

  16. If extreme events are defined by a certain number of standard deviations from the mean, this raises an obvious question in a changing climate where the mean itself is gradually shifting. Do we maintain the same baseline period (e.g. the mid-20th century) to define the mean climate, in which case the climate change makes extreme events more common, or do we continually update the baseline to, for example, the last thirty years, in which case extreme events don’t become more common. Policy makers would surely be more interested in the former measure having built their dams, levees, power consumption models, on a fairly fixed baseline. What does a 50-year flood even mean in a changing climate?

    • Jim, a 50 year flood doesn’t mean anything even in the relatively stable climate prior to say 1970, since the statistics depend on where you were at in the PDO/AMO cycle, which dominates much of the severe event statistics and the statistics change once you change regimes.

    • Nevertheless, engineers use these concepts that would need to be revised in a changing climate, and, I would argue, become meaningless.

    • Why? Would a dam built to mitigate the effects of a flood occurring once every 50 years be ineffective against a flood occurring once every 20 years?

    • From an engineering POV, ALL infrastructire should be built to withstand 100-year events. From a political POV, a 20-30 year lifetime should be “good enough” (gets the politician his/her) pension). Funding is rarely available for the “engineering” approach even though that approach may be the best case Public Administration approach as well. Different viewpoints for different reasons/agandas.

    • To be fair, it rather depends on the “expected life” of the facility being built. As an example, many commerical buildings are constructed assuming they will be torn down and replaced in the 30 to 40 years timescale.

      If someone is thinking about a dam (a large complex one), I would think that you would want to design something to last more than 100 years and design it to protect againest extreme conditions over a timescale more than triple that scale.

    • Yes –
      I believe I talked about “100-year events” and then confused the issue with “20-30 year lifetime” construction. My bad.

    • A 100-year event is one which happens once every 100 years, on average. But that doesn’t mean it only happens every 100 years. It might happen twice in the next 10 years, or it might not happen for the next 300 years.
      So it’s folly to disregard the 100-year event simply because we’re building something to last only 20 or 30 years.

    • Yup –
      Tell that to those politicians/bureaucrats who fail to understand it. Those who built the Hoover Dam DID understand it.

    • Kinda makes you think about a crash course on nuclear, crash course on upgrading the grid and crash course on protecting our coastlines, waterways, dams…

      Crap, i sound like FDR.

    • Well, he started in the middle of a Depression, too. But I don’t think our guy today is up to that. He can’t seem to get the energy thing right in order to keep us from double dipping. But still —-maybe?

    • It really is a cost benefit analysis.

      It depends largely upon the costs associated with a potential failure of the particular piece of infrastructure being planned. In simple terms….if the failure of the infrastructure would have vast societal impact, you would want it to be able to withstand much more extreme events that if it failing did not hurt society.

    • Agreed.

      OTOH, one of the problems in today’s world is that there are times when the infrastructure itself will have “vast societal impact”. For example, floods in Bangladesh and Pakistan “might” be mitigated by dams. Maybe.

      But both the people and the governments are resistant to those dams. Outside of those countries, I’ve seen a lot of bemoaning the destructon and loss of life, but I ‘ve yet to see many people asking “Why don’t they want the dams?” And the answer to that is both cultural and practical. And not at all a Western liberal concept.

    • If neither the country in question nor its people want dams, then let them suffer and deal with the consequences alone. We (anyone but them) shouldn’t have to suffer a loss due to a conscious choice by them to be stupid. There is little doubt that properly designed dams would mitigate flooding. It works everywhere else, there is not reason it won’t work in Pakistan.

    • Which is why on a planet governed by a bunch of different nations vs., a one world government, it is important for individual nations to primarily worry about their own citizens 1st. It is why I do not feel particularly concerned about the issues in India, Pakistan, etc. I live in the US and do not vote or pay taxes in those countries. I do in the US and want those funds spent efficiently.

    • I don’t know what thinking goes into deciding how high a dam should be, but I imagine it to be a cost-benefit analysis, which, if done wrong leads to greater costs down the road.

    • as a design engineer I can say you are not correct. The design concepts are the same.

    • Don’t think so. How many cities plan for 16 lane highways when they put in their freeways? Even when they know the population, and therefore the traffic will increase.

      That’s how Northern Virginia got into the fix they’re in right now. Nearly ALL major cities have the same problem.

      Best dam design I’ve seen was in California – the sheer size wa laughable – until this year when the 100-year design was justified. Except for the homes built behind the dam – poor local land use policy.

    • Subtle difference – the engineers design the roads, but they do not decide how many lanes should be built – this they are told by the town planners and politicians.

    • Correct-

    • Jim- the overall point I keep trying to make is: it is planning for infrastructure that is the only real solution to any climate change issue. Yes, people (policy makers) commonly make short sighted financial decisions in this area (as is common in many financial decisions), but that is the skill set that needs to be improved and demanded by stakeholders (governments).

      Regardless of whether you think the models are right or not, the situation (higher GHG’s) are not going to change for many, many decades. That period is longer than most of the infrastructure we are designing today will even last.

    • I’m not arguing that, Rob.

      I “would” argue that, as in the Brisbane event, the infrastructure is not always used correctly based on other and incorrect considerations. Like the fear of future drought when faced with immediate massive rainfall. I would also argue that many, many bad decisions are made wrt land use policies – again related to Brisbane.

      And that there’s a high probability that all of this has squat to do with GHG’s.

    • October 6, 2010:

      ‘But opposition natural resources spokesman Jeff Seeney accused the government of failing to plan for the next drought, while claiming the dam was not full.

      “Isn’t this release of water from Wivenhoe Dam, when it is holding only 40 per cent of its available storage capacity, a clear indication that the government has learned nothing from the water crisis and is still failing to plan for the next inevitable drought?” he told parliament on Wednesday. …’

    • Dr. Curry,
      What ‘relatively stable climate prior to 1970′?

  17. Maybe climate history should be on the curriculum. History sure has a way of repeating itself.

    • Voted best idea seen on a blog in ages.

      This would also define ‘climate’ for a new generation of students in a way that would be immensely constructive, compared to the horribly warped picture many are now imbibing. There are certainly big scares in history – the 1755 Lisbon earthquake having a dramatic impact not just on the weather but on human history as a whole. But with (rational) fear comes the story of how adaptable and resourceful humanity has proved to be. I’m in.

  18. “for a given location we have to adjust the individual ensemble simulations not only for the model bias, but also for distributional errors, otherwise we have no chance of catching what’s out there on the tail. Have the attribution scientists been attempting such adjustments? Not as far as I know”

    The dreaded, NAFAIK.

    Judith, does this mean that you made a serious attempt to ascetain whether or not this is the case, or that you just have no idea? Or somewhere in between maybe?

  19. Judy – This is an excellent much needed post! I suggest your readers also look at our EOS article

    Pielke Sr., R., K. Beven, G. Brasseur, J. Calvert, M. Chahine, R. Dickerson, D. Entekhabi, E. Foufoula-Georgiou, H. Gupta, V. Gupta, W. Krajewski, E. Philip Krider, W. K.M. Lau, J. McDonnell, W. Rossow, J. Schaake, J. Smith, S. Sorooshian, and E. Wood, 2009: Climate change: The need to consider human forcings besides greenhouse gases. Eos, Vol. 90, No. 45, 10 November 2009, 413. Copyright (2009) American Geophysical Union.
    http://pielkeclimatesci.wordpress.com/files/2009/12/r-354.pdf

    and my post

    A Way Forward In Climate Science Based On A Bottom-Up Resourse-Based Perspective
    http://pielkeclimatesci.wordpress.com/2010/08/03/a-way-forward-in-climate-science-based-on-a-bottom-up-resourse-based-perspective/

    In my view, the NSF, NOAA and other federal agencies are wasting a lot of money on funding multi-decadal regional climate predictions of changes in weather statistics for which no skill has been shown. Funding of the bottom-up, resource-based perspective to assess and reduce vulnerabilities to water, food, energy, human health and ecosystem function would be a much more societally beneficial approach.

    • Roger, thanks for your post, your bottom up resource based perspective is right on target

    • That would be assuming things such as assessing vulnerability and responding to a range of threats, is not curently occurring. Which it is.

    • So, doing things like leaving a dam at max capacity even after heavy rain had been predicted is your definition of, “responding to a wide range of threats”, is it?

    • No, I was thinking of things like building a monster dam for flood mitigation then having an extreme rainfall event almost over-topping it, highlighting the very real need to account for any AGW related increase in extreme events.

      The other option is to stick one’s head in the sand and eschew the quest for scientific understanding.

    • How about building a dam for flood control and then keeping it filled to 100% of it’s stated capacity for all of 2010 and thereby not having the sufficient capacity available to manage the rainfall???

    • Rob it wasn’t at 100% for all of 2010. It did spike over 100% a few times, and each time water was released to drop it back below 100%.

      Note: 100% capacity is 1 million ML, the dam has a further capacity of 1.4 million ML for flood mitigation.

      How about putting the facts before your opinion?

    • Michael–did you look at the link I sent you. The data from the dam’s own site showed it was at =/- 5% of 100 percent throughout 2010. Then in late December they let it climb over the 100% level. That is poor management

    • That is the level of the dams secondary function – water storage. The full flood mitigation capacity of 1.4 million ML was available at all times except those very short periods between rain eventss and increased discharge to take it back below 100%.

      Once again to clarify this point – the 100% full level does not indicate the dam is physically full, but that the drinking water storage capacity (1 million ML) has been reached. Is this now clear to you??

      I suspect that one possible outcome of this is that the management of the dam will change and the water storage capacity may be reduced from 1 mill MLs to increase the flood mitigation capacity . However this would be a very ontroversial move as the dam fell to 16% capacity in 2008 and Brisbane was facing the possibility of it’s dams running dry.

  20. This morning NPR reminded of a poem that all us young Australians had to learn in elementary school by Dorothra MacKellar called “I Love a Sunburnt Country” (1904). This is a second verse.

    I love a sunburnt country,
    A land of sweeping plains,
    Of ragged mountain ranges,
    Of drought and flooding rains,
    I love her far horizons,
    I love her jewel sea,
    Her beauty and her terror -
    The wide brown land for me

    The entire poem can be found at:
    http://users.sa.chariot.net.au/~kday/australiansongs.html#I%20Love%20A%20Sunburnt%20Country The poem was written as a young woman (19) while she was on a prolonged visit to England and was evidently quite homesick. Read the whole thing.
    MacKellar speaks of the contrasts in Australian geography and climate. But the point is that there have many floods and many droughts in Australia. In fact in the very early days following Federation the Australian government was very worried about that Australia’s climate variability may dissuade settlers: Here is a newspaper article suggesting that Australian droughts are a characteristic of Australian climate:

    Australia denies the image as being drought-prone.

    Politicians and bureaucrats were eager to deny the image of Australia as drought-prone, lest this deter immigrants.
H. S. Gullett, the Commonwealth Superintendent of Immigration, was quoted as saying:
“Many thousands of Australians go abroad every year on business or pleasure.
The Commonwealth Immigration Office appeals to every one of them to embark with the resolve that he will on all possible occasions speak well of Australia.
Let none of them speak evil. Such words as ‘drought’ should be thrown overboard as the vessels put out to sea.”

    (Sydney Morning Herald, 6 June 1921.
    At http://home.iprimus.com.au/foo7/droughthistory.html

    The most recent major Australian flooding 1974 and 2010 have occurred with strong La Ninas (anomalous cooling of the east Pacific). But the impacts of El Nino and La Nina (collectively ENSO) are capricious in their impact on weather and climate around the world. Some ENSO events are associated with regional drought and others flood. For example, in India, the impact of the largest El Nino (1998) was minimal. In 2002, a relatively weak El Nino but more centered in the mid-Pacific (instead of the eastern Pacific) occurred at the same time as a major drought in India. This central Pacific warming turns out to be a class of ENSO events called “modiki” which in Japanese means “similar but different”. Modiki El Nino has been shown to be correlated with more hurricanes in the North Atlantic instead of a lowering of the number as occurs with a “normal” El Nino. In India, I think that the best one can say is that drought rarely accompanies La Nina.

    The point of all this is that even with the largest climate signal that occurring regularly in nature, it is difficult to know what the impacts will be. That is, if you know there will be an El Nino you may be able to say that there is a higher probability of (say) high rainfall in California for example and substantially lower rainfall during a La Nina. Note though that this year has been quite wet in the southwest US in spite of the La Nina, which normally brings drought to the region.. Over a few decades one may be able to say with some increased confidence that rainfall will be lower during La Ninas. But pointing at one season and attributing even periods of weather to something as well known as ENSO is a dangerous low probability business. That we cannot understand the impacts of the highest amplitude natural variation of climate (ENSO), second only to the annual cycle, is a “travesty” as Trenberth might say.

    So what has all of this to dowith attributing particular extreme weather events to global warming? The magnitude of global warming during to the last 40 years (even by the most optimistic reading of the data) is far smaller than the amplitude of sea surface temperature changes associated with either an El Nino or a La Nino occurring every 3- 5 years or so. Attribution of specific weather events (e.g., the Pakistan floods, the Russian heat wave, the decade long drought in Australia (2000-2009) to the relatively small global warming signal is speculative at best.

    When one tries to attribute extreme event to global warming it becomes even more difficult when one bothers to look at the data. Using Australia as an example, there have been 8 major droughts of equivalent to the 2000-2009 drought since 1895 ranging of duration longer than 5 years or so. http://home.iprimus.com.au/foo7/droughthistory.html
    Major floods are equally common: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Floods_in_Australia. If you go to:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:1893_Brisbane_flood_Queen_St.jpg you will a picture of a Brisbane flood that looks very similar to that which is occurring now.
    Thus, a more prudent climatologist would not talk about linking each and every weather event with global warming but with the changing probability of changes in the frequency of extreme events. Looking at the two records I mention above, this may be prove to be a very difficult statistical job. A less prudent scientist pointing at a particular event and attributing it to global warming is moral bound to explain away all of the other floods and droughts of similar nature, duration and amplitude that occurred prior to the 1970s as not being associated with global warming. In fact doing so is in line with Trenberth’s new null hypothesis. But that means looking at the data…..

  21. During the past 10,000 years, earth has had a stable Temperature. Every time it got warmer, it then got cooler. During the Medieval Warm period, it got much warmer and then it got much cooler during the Little Ice Age. The temperature now is well inside the extremes of the past 10,000 years. This data has the properties of a stable system. The consensus climate theory and models are based on data from the past 130 years and this is being extrapolated outside of the boundaries of the past 10,000 years. It ain’t gonna happen. This CO2 issue is all about politics and money and nothing to do with solid science and physics.

  22. There are huge caveat in attribution of AGW to extreme weather.

    For example: Roger Pielke jr put the australian flood in its historical context here:

    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_0ZFCv_xbfPo/TS5Gvma-wqI/AAAAAAAAAxA/YmhocWgRm3o/s1600/brisbane.floods.2011.jpg

    http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2011/01/brisbane-floods-in-historical-context.html

    If flood were more severe and frequent in the 1800s, then how can anyone seriously claim that this particular flood was exacerbated by AGW. or couldn’t one made the contrary claim that AGW helped reduce the risk.

    No body can tell if any particular event is better or worst because of climate change. Any local flood, drought, wind event, all have more extreme event in the past. Not counting that there is no trend in disaster loss when population growth and economic factor are taken into account.

  23. The trouble with assuming that global warming causes a percentage increase in natural events is the concomitant conclusion that global cooling would lessen the chances of such events. In reality some events must be more likely with more warming and some must be less likely. Of course that just doesn’t sell the product.

    However, if they actually managed to predict something with their models then it might even be worthwhile. Yet invariably they get it totally wrong, like predicting extra dry weather, then when the wet weather comes they claim that too was consistent somehow.

    And that is where this pretence of nobility comes unstuck. If you are told to expect a warmer winter than usual you are less prepared for cold. Same if you are told to expect continued drought and you get floods. And at that point, far from saving lives, as Michael and others would prefer to believe, it would more likely cost lives.

  24. The question of attribution comes down to for what purpose will the attribution be used.

    To fix the problem or fix the blame.

  25. There is a strong drive to find somebody (a person, a company/organisation, a country or a civilisation) guilty when any catastrophic event (in the sense that it cost a lot, in money or lives) happen. Western people mostly, but it extend worldwide, do not accept fatality or randomness in bad luck it seems. Sometimes, rightly, but imho, lately, it has reached grotesque proportion. The attribution of AGW is just one aspect of this general tendency, and I think it has originated in the US with the lawsuit culture. People get sued, for fault they have commited more and more indirectly. The benefit is that some old impunities are challenged. The darwback is that it makes individual liberties vanish progressivelly, it is now easy to prohibit anything that can be shown to cause even a minute risk augmentation. The road regulations and lawsuit in Europe are a perfect example of this: the evolution is positively incredible in 40 years, short enough for some individula drivers having experienced first hand the evolution.

    I think that, at least in western world, a large part of the population now live in a delusional world regarding security and personal risks assesment. Nobody will tell of course, not even to himself, but it is like many think they will live forever if they are carefull enough and live an healthy live. With this frame of mind, it is only natural to attribute bad weather to human action, as it is natural to hide really old people and death from public sight…

  26. Incidentally, since Trenberth implicitly asserts that a 2 to 4% increase in water vapour must affect ENSO and jetstream trajectory; ie the real causes of those extreme events, then what effect does the current solar minimum have? If you float the idea that a tiny increase in a single parameter can be hugely influential then you also bring back the solar influence argument from it’s current exile. Moreso because a lot of scientists see solar activity as being the more likely culprit, and they even have actual theories of the mechanism rather than just empty rhetoric.

    • I believe those that currently support AWG theory would state that when the solar cycle returns to more normal levels, then the effects (currently being minimized) will become more pronounced.

  27. I would like to bring up the rather fundamental question of whether there has actually been any increase in the number of extreme weather events over the period of observational record. I have been unable to find any evidence whatever to support the claim that the frequency of hurricanes, typhoons, tropical storms, tornadoes, heatwaves, floods, droughts etc. is increasing. The data show that these events are no more prevalent now than they were fifty or a hundred years ago.

    It seems to me that the only grounds we have for assuming that global warming will cause more extreme weather events is that climate models say it will.

    • Climate models don’t actually have that capability, as i’m sure Michael should attest to. Quite often some people say they do, but that is selecting the model runs you like and rejecting those you don’t. For example, in Pakistan you got some predicting drought and some predicting flood for the same period, and all points in between. None of them however predicted jet stream blocking as the cause of a flood, because they just can’t. An honest man would say the models are inadequate for the task of even regional climate prediction, never mind odd weather events.

      The point is, it is entirely the judgement of eg, Trenberth to decide which results best reflect the future and which don’t. Great if you do that ahead of time and are proven correct. But to look at what happened and pretend that models predicted it is just not an honourable or honest assassment to give to a journalist. One day the journalists might realise this.

  28. Looking at the workshop summary, it’s obviously about advocacy not science, as I understand the latter. The “proper inference ” is to be drawn, not the “correct” one. “plausible cause-effect relationships” are to be established, not the most “likely” or “reasonable”. Whatever happened to that old phrase, “We don’t know” …

    The problem with being an authoritive voice like Trenberth et al is that while they have a passing knowledge of politics, they’re really innocents. Being an authoritive voice on anything depends on two things; are you credible and is anyone listening anyway.

    On the former, he’s cried wolf too often. On the latter, climate hysteria has died down a lot in the last year. The public have more immediate concerns and the politicans have repositioned themselves accordingly, witness the complete absence of any major politician at Cancun.

    Pointman

    ps I’d simply love to see the math behind “7% of Hurricane Katrina’s intensity”.

  29. The current extreme events are well inside the boundary of extreme events over the past 10,000 years. We get a little warmer and then a little cooler and this does likely have an influence on the extreme events. The great flood that is in the Bible is in the past 10.000 years. Many great floods have occurred in the past 10,000 years. Multiple warmer periods and colder periods.

  30. Why attribution of extreme events? Publicity. Getting the message out. There is the old saw about the newspaper business: “If it bleeds, it leads.” Even NOAA agrees, as cited in Dr. Curry’s post above. There are a number of advocy guides to market “Climate Change” to the population at large. Two of them are found in the ClimateGate files. They are clever, but somewhat cynical and manipulative.

    • Tomorrow’s Climate – Today’s Challenge (Communicating Climate Change)
      http://junkscience.com/FOIA/documents/communicating_cc.pdf

    • The second reference is RulesOfTheGame.pdf. I simple can not get this site to post it!

    • “The game is communicating climate change; the rules will help us win it.
      1. Challenging habits of climate change communication
      1.a Don’t create fear without agency
      1.b Fear can create apathy if individuals have no ‘agency’ to act upon the threat. Use fear with great caution.
      3. There is no ‘rational man’
      13. Make climate change a ‘home’ not ‘away’ issue
      17. Use emotions and visuals
      19. The communications must be sustained over time”

    • Rules of The Game
      “The game is communicating climate change; the rules will help us win it.
      1. Challenging habits of climate change communication
      1.a Don’t create fear without agency
      1.b Fear can create apathy if individuals have no ‘agency’ to act upon the threat. Use fear with great caution.
      3. There is no “rational man”
      13. Make climate change a “home” not “away” issue
      17. Use emotions and visuals
      19. The communications must be sustained over time”
      http://www.climate-gate.org/cru/documents/RulesOfTheGame.pdf

    • no idea why all your stuff landed in spam, sorry about that

    • No need for regrets :-) ! I suspect that the original post had too many links for the spam filter to accept. That is not uncommon for blogs. I thought it was bad html syntax; I broke the post apart.
      Cheers! Great blog posts. I hope some of mine prove useful.

    • Suggestion: strip the http:// bit off the front of the links. The software then doesn’t treat them as live links.
      Like so: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110114155336.htm

    • Oops; this setup replaces the http! Hm, lets go one step further:
      sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110114155336.htm

    • Thanks again. I use a citation generator from a bibliographic data base application that I am populating. I already drop the period from the end of links, so it will be easy to strip “http://www” as well. :-)

    • your comments are very definitely useful!

    • Another part of this same document includes “principles” – one of which is quite telling (and seems to have been taken to heart by the activist/advocates):

      Forget the climate change detractors

      Those who deny climate change science are irritating, but unimportant. The argument is not about if we should deal with climate change, but how we should deal with climate change

    • Which is certainly true. We should account for potential weather concerns when building infrastructure. Build the right infrastructure, manage it correctly….problem solved!

    • Sadly, there is no sign that any of the self-appointed Archenemies of Deniers has any interest in opening any debate on “how we should deal with climate change”. Their one obsession is to show the world how bad the Deniers are, and tomorrow to repeat the same message, and again and again.

  31. It might be naked advocacy, or it might be a bunch of Principal Investigators sitting in a room saying ‘yes’ to a new source of free money:
    It was agreed that the foundations of an authoritative explanation of extreme events must begin with a real-time monitoring and climate analysis capability,
    I can see the little dollar signs in their eyes…

    It’s obvious to me that most researchers I know would agree to the (dumb, pointless, meaningless) ‘attribution’ service if it got them the money and goodies they wanted for the work they were actually interested in. perhaps I’m unduly cynical, but if so, it’s my years in academia that have made me this way.

    • Re: Ceri Reid | January 15, 2011. … “or it might be a bunch of Principal Investigators sitting in a room saying ‘yes’ to a new source of free money:”

      Wouldn’t that be UnPrincipaled Investigators?

    • No way! No “a”!
      UnPrincipled Investigators.

  32. Looks like a lunge at controlling the future by controlling the present with model assumptions that “control” the past. An old theme: Who controls the past now controls the future; who controls the present now controls the past. i.e. Victors rewrite history to leverage their grip on future power. Model spit will always be a function of built-in assumptions, including the untenable ones.

    Corbyn is looking more unethical every day for not publishing; it is patently naive to think there won’t be a lag measured in years (perhaps decades) before enough key players understand his work sufficiently to actually impact bureaucratic inertia (e.g. of the variety we see in this article), even if he publishes instantly.

    If this attribution system goes through, it will add yet another red herring (on top of climategate etc.) distracting discussions from focus on exploration of natural climate variations data to get towards true understanding – i.e. yet another distraction/deflection from what really matters.

    I would not oppose an attribution system based on tenable assumptions (that would be useful & interesting), but based on ongoing first-hand climate data exploration, I absolutely do not trust mainstream institutions to implement one. For example, I see no (visible) awareness in the field of climate science of the spatiotemporal version of Simpson’s Paradox.

  33. This is probably a duplicate of an earlier posting on another thread. I think it fits this thread also, under “if it bleeds, it leads”.
    Sunstein, Cass R. 2005. Laws of Fear: Beyond the Precautionary Principle. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

    “This is a book about the complex relationship between fear, danger, and the law. Cass Sunstein looks afresh at the precautionary principle, and at the idea that regulators should take steps to protect against potential harms, even if causal chains are uncertain and even if we do not know that harms are likely to come to fruition. However Professor Sunstein argues that in its strongest forms the precautionary principle is both incoherent and potentially paralysing, as risks exist on all sides of social situations, and he demonstrates that in practice such a principle can only operate because different cultures focus on different risks, and that there is no ‘general’ precautionary principle as such. This is a very important insight for the contemporary world, and Laws of Fear represents a major statement from one of the most influential political and legal theorists writing today.”

    #1: Availability Heuristic: “making some risks seem especially likely to come to fruition whether or not they actually are;”
    #2: Probability Neglect: “…leading people to focus on the worst case, even if it is highly improbable:”
    #3: Loss Aversion “… making people dislike losses from the status quo;”
    #4: Benevolence of Nature: “a belief in the benevolence of nature, making man-made decisions and processes seem especially suspect;”
    #5: System Neglect:”… understood as a inability to see that risks are part of systems, and that interventions into those systems can create risks of their own.”

  34. Curiouser and curiouser. The GCMs are patently inadequate for the task of regional climate prediction at the present time. The work by Koutsoyannis 2007 to 2009 showed poor and often negative correlation between observations and model results in temperature and precipitation in the existing suite of HISTORY-MATCHED models. They have zero skill in prediction.
    One can of course apply statistical methods to assess risks of severe weather events, and that seems like a good idea to me. It has evidently seemed like a good idea to a large number of METEOROLOGISTS for a long time. I picked up 2.7 million Google hits on statistical meteorology, and 169000 references to application of PCA and neural network analysis to assess confounding factors in weather risk assessment. Google Scolar has tens of thousands of references to relevant papers on the subject.
    This then begs the question: why does climate science want to “own” attribution of extreme weather events? Given the predictive skill demonstrated so far, it seems rather like a losing racing tipster who gives you five losers every week offering to double his productivity and give you ten losers every week. Climate science needs to resolve its own scientific challenges on detection and attribution before having the temerity to drag its muddy boots across the floor of a rather more successful scientific discipline. I can only conclude that this is a nakedly political move to control the message. Modern shamanism.

  35. I’m inclined to favor the inclusion of extreme events in planned attribution studies by NOAA, at least at a modest level.

    Valid arguments delay are stated or implied by comments from Judith Curry, Roger Pielke, Peter Webster, and others, based on a very legitimate point – neither carbon mitigation (which will take a long time to realize benefits) nor regional/local adaptation (which can work sooner) are up to the task of addressing even current weather extremes. Since we already have ample incentive for adaptation/mitigation, why waste time and resources demonstrating the possibility of even worse extremes?

    My concern with the above relates to the observation that having “ample incentive” and taking action are not synonymous. We may not be doing enough now, but history tells us that an awareness of greater future dangers can nevertheless provide the extra impetus needed to motivate action. Often, awareness comes in the form of a specific disaster – for example, last year’s Gulf oil spill has motivated remedial actions that were known to be necessary long before the event. Climate change is unlikely to provide examples where such specific attribution is provable, but a rigorously performed study by qualified individuals may resonate with policy makers if the potential for greater adversity appears to be documented with reasonable probability. As mentioned upthread, rising sea levels will increase the damage from storm surges regardless of the factors contributing to the formation and intensity of individual storms, and increased water shortages in the Southwest U.S. will likely be aggravated by higher temperatures and reduced snow melt regardless of all the factors affecting regional water supplies.

    On a related note, the motives for studying weather extremes have been questioned. Two groups with genuine interest in quantifying the probability and magnitude of extreme events are the insurance industry and the military. In fact, the Pentagon and CIA have already established subgroups charged with evaluating future threats to U.S. security from climate change, including the potential for destabilization of national regimes in vulnerable areas and the threats posed by mass population disruption and migration – Climate Change and National Security

    • Fred, you seem to be implying that attribution of current weather events will somehow help or improve the prediction of future more extreme events or make it more credible. Have I understood you correctly? If so, it’s unclear to me how this would be the case.

    • Dagfinn – I think I failed to make my point as clearly as I intended. Understanding the role of climate change to date in current extreme weather-related phenomena will have implications for how mitigation/adaptation efforts will affect the incidence or intensity of similar events in the future. For example, how much water conservation will be needed to ensure adequate supplies if future warming further increases surface evaporation and reduces snow melt? On the other hand, I agree with comments to the effect that we probably lack the capacity currently for attribution at a desirable level of precision.

    • issues like population increase end up totally dominating water resource availability in most locations, often factors of two, when climate change is at the ~10% level in terms of water resources.

    • Fred, the main problem that i have been working on as of late is the security threats from climate change, i am visiting a DOD lab next week. I will be doing a post on this probably this week. As far as i can tell, DOD doesn’t give a toot about the after the fact attribution of future severe events.

    • …doesn’t give a toot about the after the fact attribution of future severe events. I’m probably missing something obvious but after the fact attribution of future events isn’t logical.

      Weather is and has always been significant in military planning. The ability to accurately project and utilize events , but the time frame is typically short term unless it relates to development of hardware or systems. Triggers and contingencies is another way to look at long term climate issues.

      Since there isn’t any evidence of the accuracy of long term climate predictions, the DOD is unlikely to be very interested.

    • the subject of the thread is attribution of extreme events. Fred raised the issue of security interests. I said they are interested in future projections, not attribution of future events. I’m going to put up a thread on this tomorrow, i’m working on it now

    • Thanks for the reply — makes perfect sense, they would be interested in the projections and what the projections were based on but not interested in proposed implications beyond the forecasts.

    • I have the sense that the DOD is interested in both short term projections based on current climate change, and longer term projections based on anticipated future changes. From the article I linked to:

      “Recent war games and intelligence studies conclude that over the next 20 to 30 years, vulnerable regions, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and South and Southeast Asia, will face the prospect of food shortages, water crises and catastrophic flooding driven by climate change that could demand an American humanitarian relief or military response.”

      The article also discusses the geopolitical consequences implied by a further decline of Arctic sea ice:

      “The shrinking of the ice cap, which is proceeding faster than anticipated only a few years ago, opens a shipping channel that must be defended and undersea resources that are already the focus of international competition.”

      I interpret this to mean that it will be the consequences of ice melting based on future warming rather than the current state of Arctic summer ice that is more worrying. I’m not sure how easy it is to separate the roles of current vs future climates in predicting future scenarios of concern to the DOD.

    • Fred- don’t read to much into the report of a DoD having a study or plan on something, The DoD has contingency studies on the table for more things than you believe (invasion from outer space aliens, asteroid strike, etc).

    • working on a security post now

    • Fred,

      I’ll second what Rob says when it comes to DoD “scenarios”.

      Scenarios are constructed not to be “representative” of the future the DoD thinks it will face but rather as drivers of the force structure and the weapon system design. You could think of them as extreme conditions pre supposed to DRIVE the design of a system. For example, You build a two theater war scenario ( say Korea and the middle east) and that drives your force structure to be able to respond to that.

      One could take a similar approach with the climate and say
      “assume a 100 year flood becomes twice a likely or twice as damaging.” use that to drive your design. I dont necessarily have an issue with that if we are talking adaptation/mitigation plans. Simply, I think its probably more economically sensible to invest 400B in infrastructure to handle more 100 floods than it is to spend 400B on limiting emissions. hmm thats a interesting question

    • Steve, your remarks about the military set me thinking – military planners have to contemplate, and are expected to prepare for what are axiomatically “extreme events”. All else is “training”. They are perhaps the one institution where the Precautionary Principle, or a sort of military derivative of it, may be applied with general taxpayer approval. And they have been doing it for some time. So the results of their endeavours might have something to tell us about the PP’s record as a guiding philosophical force. Do you know if anyone has attempted a structural analysis of strategic military planning, with reference to the PP? Just as an example, Mussolini was ahead of the British in seeing that the future of the the fighter lay with the single-seat monoplane, and equipped his Reggia Aeronautica accordingly. Britain dragged its feet, but eventually embraced the concept just in time to have the Spitfire and Hurricane when war broke out. Mussolini’s first-generation equipment was abundant but outclassed when it mattered.

    • randomengineer

      Read The Strategy of Technoloy from Possony and Pournelle. You can download it. It will answer your questions.

    • Better: “The Strategy of Technology from Possony and Pournelle”.

    • randomengineer

      Yeah. What he spells.

    • The military, due to their mission, get a ton of money. We can’t fund the entire government that way so it can use the PP. The PP is for extraordinary situations only, defense against other countries being a historically proven need. Defense against “climate change,” not so much.

    • I recall efforts recently to make “climate change” a major military priority, and threat to security. The Warmistas want to control the DoD, too. Just as they’re trying the same ploy with Homeland Security.

      Their ambition literally knows no bounds.

  36. Judith, I agree with you that the motivation has to be to “build political will for climate change policies”. And I believe it’s considered critical because of the perceived need to support the idea that we have a climate crisis. If AGW is already causing catastrophic damage, then “crisis” may be a reasonable description of the situation.

    The alternative is to claim that even if it’s not already happening, we have to act now to prevent the catastrophe, or it will soon be too late. But given the nature and magnitude of the uncertainties, there is no way to pinpoint the time when it becomes “too late”.

    • And there are then a near-infinite number of “its” to precautionarily prepare for. Nice work if you can get it. (And the AGWers have nearly pulled it off; but the gravy choo-choo may be about to run out of track.)

  37. Meteorologists currently provide attribution services for extreme weather events. Weather, extreme or not, is weather and as such may be forecasted with an acceptable degree of accuracy days in advance. We have a good idea of what is to come and why it is coming.

    “The “teaching opportunity” that such extremes offer via a receptive window to educate the public about future climate change was appreciated by all, though the danger of premature attribution and misattribution were also recognized.”

    I detect the stench of AGW politics. Teachable moments? To teach what? Meteorology? I think not.

  38. Climate of the Earth is very complicated. There are many factors that have an influence. Temperature control of the Earth is very simple. If it gets too hot, it snows. If it gets too cold, it stops snowing. If you pay attention, you will come to believe this. This has been true during the whole time that we have ice core data to tell us what has happened. For 800,000 years, this has been true and there is data on NOAA’s website to show it is true.

  39. Dr. Curry…and excellent post. I especially noted this statement:

    “Well I suspect that the large-scale circulation changes associated with the AMO and PDO have a much greater influence on the overall planetary dynamics and extreme events, but almost certainly there is at least some influence of global warming on extreme events.”

    _____
    Some questions arise:

    1) If we accept that some warming has occurred, is it not reasonable to investigate whether or not that warming could cause a change in the character/nature/intensity etc. of natural cycles such as ENSO, the PDO, etc?
    2) If we accept that a general change (i.e. an acceleration) to the hydrological cycle is brought about through the 40% increase in CO2 since the 1700′s, is it not reasonable to attribute a general increase in the frequency of extreme hydrological events to that increase, such that no single event may be attributed, but that collectively, one can say that areas prone to flooding will see an increase in the frequency and serverity of flooding during periods that are naturally high flood risks? For example, the know that the La Nina and cool phase of the PDO have combined to make the flooding in Australia severe this year, (right after a year (2010)which was the wettest globally), so might it be reasonable to say as the hydrologcial cycle accelerates in tandem with increased CO2 levels there is an increased chance of severe flooding in Australia during these natural cyles of ENSO and the PDO?

  40. The CO2 hypothesis has largely drowned out the observational evidence from Hydrology that rain/drought occurs in relatively predictable cycles. An observation that has not escaped the locust and the timing of their life cycle.

  41. We’re now in the business of using climate models to forecast an increase in extreme weather events.

    Does anyone know of an instance where a climate model has been able to hindcast extreme weather events?

    • Latimer Alder

      ‘Does anyone know of an instance where a climate model has been able to hindcast extreme weather events?’

      Or to accurately forecast anything at all? Even Dr. Lacis couldn’t come up with any examples when given the opportunity on this blog.

    • How can that be? Even Nostradamus is regularly shown able to accurately hindcast anything and everything

  42. http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn16137-some-locust-plagues-dont-like-it-hot.html

    “They found that the Oriental migratory locust (Locusta migratoria manilensis), which has been named as one of the most damaging agricultural pests in Chinese history, operates on a climate-driven cycle. Every 160 to 170 years, the swarms get bigger then subside again. Counterintuitively, the timing of the largest swarms coincides with cooler periods.”

    Co-incidentally, the orbital period of Neptune is 165 years, which suggests the possibility of a climate driven by orbital resonance.

    • and how would the orbit of Neptune effect earth’s climate…..in theory???

    • “and how would the orbit of Neptune effect earth’s climate…..in theory???”

      Many of the observed climate cycles are co-incidental with the resonance of the planets. The mechanism by which this occurs is currently a matter of debate with gravity, angular momentum, solar wind, electromagnetism and cosmic rays all having their proponents.

      However, the observed synchronization of climate with orbital mechanics does provide a mechanism for prediction, which has eluded the current climate models. Newton and Einstein both developed very good theories to predict future events without an understanding of how Gravity actually works.

      Indeed, much of the value of science comes from its ability to predict, not from the description of the process. As our understanding increases, the description of the underlying process is most likely to change. While a theory that provides good predictive ability today will likely still work well 100 years from now.

  43. Dr. Curry,
    Related to Trenberth, this cartoon by Josh and the related blog by Willis is a must.

    Cartoon’s by Josh
    From DJ Meredith’s comment on WUWT a cartoon on Kevin Trenberth, who seems determined to explode any credibilty Climate Science has left. http://Www.cartoonsbyjosh.com/

    Related comment and blog:
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/01/15/unequivocal-equivocation/#comment-574808

  44. Dr C
    I would say we have stumbled across one instance of a telling admission, which indirectly addresses the question:

    Not sure what the motive is for the attribution of extreme events, other than to build political will for climate change policies.

    It is recorded here: http://nigguraths.wordpress.com/2011/01/14/hsbc-climate/

  45. Too bad. Climate Science is on the verge of an intellectual death spiral. The dominant paradigm has become the “teaching opportunity.” Me teacher, you pupil; yet another example of “appeal to authority.” The fallibility of authorities is manisfest when the attribution is contrasted to original source data; like, the floods in Brisbane: http://www.bom.gov.au/hydro/flood/qld/fld_history/brisbane_history.shtml. As climatologists are wedded to their climate models, this virtual world has and will let them down. Stritdent proclamations will not persuade a growing enlightened populace, especially when that populace includes gray-beards who not only have seen this behavior before, but, in their collective knowledge and wisdom know that what is being said regarding attribution is unscientific and made by increasing desperate self-nominated messiahs.

  46. Judith, in the case of the present floods here in Australia, and as I have pointed out earlier, we in fact already have a remarkably good predictive model. It was invoked by old-school, fuddy-duddy climatologists in the wake of the 1974 event, and it predicted a repeat in about three and a half decades. It was accurate, certainly to the extent of providing grounds for adaptation. It’s just that it had nothing to do with CO2 and made little use of computers, so where the two collided, as they did every time a rash planning decision was made, warmist dogma trumped observationally-derived skill.

    Had the lessons of the last flood been learned, and the warmists told to get back in their box where they belonged, this event would still have been severe, but nowhere near as severe and lethal as it had been. If you want to consider the usefulness of climate predictions, you should distinguish between those that emanate from the Team and its retinue, who have spent the last twenty years UNlearning how to predict weather, and that valuable store of pre-CAGW climatology that has proven skill.

    I would be surprised if the science behind those 1974 predictions isn’t familiar to you. Can you give any good reason why it shouldn’t just be dusted off and used to replace the CAGW-inspired “neo-climatology” that has proved so lethally unsuccessful?

  47. Judith: Edit note:
    “5% less rainfall would have fell in Pakistan” — would have fallen in Pakistan

  48. Just spotted this at Richard Tol’s:
    http://ipccar5wg2ch10.blogspot.com/2011/01/government-review.html
    where politics of expertise meets extreme events:

    “Government review
    I was invited to act as an expert reviewer of the IPCC Special Report on Extreme Events on behalf of the Netherlands government. In the letter of invitation, the Government reserved the right to censor my comments, in case my comments would disagree with another referee’s comments or in case my comments would meet resistance from unidentified people.
    I declined the invitation.”

    Don’t they ever learn?

    • I would liked to have scene a copy of the actual invitation with the stated language. As written it seems reprehensiable

    • It is possible the referenced language is a “canned disclaimer statement” on all official government invitations and not specific to this event

    • I was reviewing the other current special report on renewable energy a couple of months ago. I sent some comments directly as an individual reviewer, but I wrote also some text to be included in the comments of the Finnish government. For the latter comments somebody else had the final say on, which comments were finally submitted.

      For me it is obvious that the government will not send contradictory comments on its behalf, when experts disagree, but reserves the right to decide on the final text. It is after all a comment of the government.

    • No, politicians are slow learners, . . . until the people rebel.

      The Tea Party did it here.

      Tunisia has had its day.

      Where will it end?

      Oliver

    • Nothing will stop the audit. Not even the end of Time.

      A Neverending Audit.

    • Do you think only “skeptics”, or Tol, get censured by governments, Judith? Have you read Steve’s book? If anything, the IPCC reports get watered down and made less “extreme” by the vested interests of such nations as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, et.al.

  49. Tom Yulsman has a good post on the brisbane floods:
    http://www.cejournal.net/?p=4852#more-4852

  50. Australian Green Party leader Bob Brown has attributed the Queensland flooding to coal miners and suggests they should pay for the clean up.

    http://news.ninemsn.com.au/national/floods/8197512/coal-miners-to-blame-for-floods-brown

    With attribution comes blame, right? Is this an example of what NOAA expects to be the outcome of their “attribution” work? How will these types of pronouncement help advance meterological science and assure the Australian government agencies invest in better flood control and mitigation infrastructure?

    For those unfamiliar with the Australian political landscape, the Greens have effective control of the Australian Senate and near veto power in the lower house.

    • What I hear on the news is that the last great floods in Oz took place about 35 years ago. Also, I seem to recall another another report of unusually heavy rain that last happened four decades ago (can’t give a reference right now; sorry). The time lines correspond to a decade where the panic was a return to an ice age.

      “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” — Santayana. Rain and snow can occur when a cold air mass collides with a warm moist air mass. I am concerned that we are in for a repetition of the past without the energy to adapt to it.

  51. Attribution is valuable in setting the price level of carbon taxes.

    In establishing the role of states in the welfare of other states.

    In assisting insurers to mitigate their losses.

    Sure, if you’re one of the ones who benefits by not having your share in the cause of a clamity laid at your feet, where it should be, then by all means you will see no value in attribution, and gain a great deal of entertainment watching the practice of attribution belittled and attacked.

    I know, it’s out of fashion for boomers to accept responsibility, and if the boomers don’t accept their share of the attributable onus their actions cause, why should generations since?

    • Latimer Alder

      OK. Lets see how this works in practice.

      The football macth I paid to see yesterday was partially ruined by heavy rain.
      I estimate that I got only £10 value from my £18 ticket.

      I attribute 7% of that rain to car-based commuters in US, of which you are one. So how much do you owe me? And where’s my cheque?

    • Latimer Alder

      I believe it would be in the carbon emission rebate from the toll charged for burning carbon in your.. Oh, yes.

      Your region of the planet doesn’t have that.

      I guess the check is in the pockets of the coal companies and BP.

      I’m sure they’ll spend it wisely for you.

    • Latimer Alder

      Nope. I attribute 7% of that rain was caused by car-based commuters in the US burning gas.

      You guys burnt the oil, not Chevron or Exxon Mobil or BP. You chose to drive – if you didn’t do so, the oil companies wouldn’t have any reason to pump the oil.

      And in so doing you increased the global CO2 concentration by a small amount.sufficient to raise the overall temperature of the atmosphere enough to cause extra rain which spoilt the game.

      You owe me money for my spoilt Saturday.

      It is not sufficient to avoid your responsibilities by diverting attention with ‘burning carbon in my region. This is a global phenomenon. Your conscious choices directly and adversely affect all of my weather. Or so you wish us to believe.

      Send the cheque.

    • US about 3.45 tons coal per capita. (http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/ene_coa_con-energy-coal-consumption)

      UK about 1.1 ton coal per capita.

      Similar story for oil. (http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/ene_oil_con_percap-energy-oil-consumption-per-capita)

      Looks like you have a cause for complaint, Latimer.

      If only there were some sort of world system for setting a cap on emissions, and trading so the people who exploit the resource most pay their fair share.

      Of course, the Virgin Islands may feel a bit of a pinch when that day comes to pass.

    • Latimer Alder

      It doesn’t need a worldwide system for you to compensate me for my spoiled football match.

      It is your personal responsibility. You chose to drive.

      Send the cheque.

    • Hrm.

      7%, of which you must accept on behalf of your own nation’s drivers and coal burners about 2/7ths, the ratio of US consumption to UK per capita?

      So, 5% of £8? £0.40?

      And the population of the US, about 307 million?

      £0.40/307,000,000?

      Given the administrative burden of the exchange, I recommend you appeal to your government for equitable relief in the form of a practical Cap and Trade arrangement with the USA.

      And I won’t bring up the US role in saving the UK’s bacon in WW II.

    • Latimer Alder

      Whatever arrangements I maybe making with others does not affect your own responsibility towards me. Your argument is no better than ‘we’re all doing it, so I’m innocent’.

      And raising the topic of WW2 merely shows how lacking in any other argument you are.

      Send the cheque

    • Latimer Alder

      While I am glad that you may have a case, you have no sort of case against me; you know nothing of my particulars, and what you do guess you guess badly wrong.

      I generate far less CO2 than the average Brit, and further am absolved of any external responsibility for your CO2 by virtue of paying for my CO2 emissions.

      Your arguments betray your neediness, your sloppy habit of seeking to blame others for the ills you face, no initiative to solve your own problems, and a blatant lack of skepticism.

      You must be a baby boomer.

      So, no, there’ll be no check.

      Your generation has taken enough, really, already.

    • Hey, BR, I see you haven’t gotten the word. I’m the world’s only Gaia-certified “Carbon Pope” and the only one authorized by the great Lady, Herself, to issue indulgences for carbon sins.

      So if you’ve wasted your money and obtained fraudulent indulgences from some rip-off, carbon anti-pope, then that’s your tough-titty, you’re still on the hook.

      I’m in a forgiving mood, but it’ll cost you (I’m a boomer and our grasping needs are never satisfied). Ignore Latimer, just send me all the dough.

    • Latimer Alder

      It is simple:

      You drove the car. You generated the CO2 that spoiled my football match. I suffered a tortious injury because of your actions.

      All the rest of your discussion is completely irrelevant. Whatever arrangements you may have made with other injured parties are of no interest to your tort to me.

      And was it not you who asserted (with approbation) that

      ‘courts worldwide, insurance companies, negotiators and traders from antiquity have dealt in such forms of attribution and work out settlements on this basis countless times for other similar torts, accidents, trespasses and inadvertencies’

      So, as a reasonable man, I’m quite prepared to agree a BAU settlement with you without involving the courts and all the legal fees you would incur when yo undoubetedly lose – if these cases are indeed ‘normal practice’ – as you would ask us to believe.

      Send the cheque.

    • Latimer

      Your evidence falls far short.

      What proof have I you were ever at a football match, other than your word?

      Who were you backing in the match, anyway?

      I mean, let’s face it, if it’s not Brazilian, not Netherlands, not Portugal and it’s not Spanish, it’s pretty much all amateur anyway, so paying the ridiculous sum you claim your ticket cost pretty much contains all the buyer beware one needs.

      If we’re to go through the pantomime of imitating age-old and respected processes of negotiating attribution, at least have the dignity of putting up a good show on your end.

      Although, I have by happy coincidence a solution befitting the legitimacy and comportment of your claim. Recently a Nigerian Prince wrote to me, asking for a small sum to help him settle an estate, from which he will pay me half. If you send him that sum in my stead (as you are a great deal closer to Nigeria than I and thus will save the CO2 emission of the transaction across the Atlantic), then I will direct him to pay you what you are owed out of that estate, plus a tidy stipend for you. He’ll need your complete banking information, for security purposes. I think he’s friends with mike, as he too called himself Gaia-certified, so you know he’s good for it.

    • Hmmmm,
      Weather or climate change, who do we tax for these?
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_deadliest_floods

  52. I think I get it now. Attribution of extreme events means redefining the word climate. If you choose to accept this ideology, it means that it’s no longer true that weather is not climate. Instead of climate being a statistical abstraction based on the weather over time, it becomes a hypothetical (or mythical) entity that dwells inside each weather event (the extreme ones, anyway). And so the weather is by definition part climate.

  53. Blurring the line between weather and climate, blurring the line between hypothesis and fact, blurring the line between abstract and concrete. It’s a conceptual revolution. Can they pull it off?

    • Dagfinn

      Should some miscreant shake your egg carton and break your eggs, how ludicrous for him to then claim — “but it’s a _carton_ not an egg!”

      Bluring of climate frame, natural climate, and weather happen all the time in common discourse. It’d be difficult to imagine weather existing outside of climate entirely, or climate devoid of weather, in a meaningful way.

      What exactly are you trying to say? That because no single event of weather can be by itself considered proof of climate change or disproof, therefore all climatologists are barred from using the word weather or draing conclusions about it?

      Sounds like magical reasoning to me.

  54. Claiming a weather event that is not historically unusual as proof of a global climate disruption is oxymoronic on its face.
    As the list of failed claims by global warming promoters about this event or that grows, and we see Trenberth’s non-falisfiable null theory used as defense, it only becomes more and more clear that attribution is just another way for promoters to push an increasingly cynical and desperate agenda.

    • hunter

      And yet courts worldwide, insurance companies, negotiators and traders from antiquity have dealt in such forms of attribution and work out settlements on this basis countless times for other similar torts, accidents, trespasses and inadvertencies.

      Are you proclaiming an absolute discharge of liability on all emissions into the wider world, or just into air, or just of CO2?

      An awfully specific exemption to practice with no basis in logic or law.

      One may even call it irrational on its face.

    • Latimer Alder

      ‘have dealt in such forms of attribution and work out settlements on this basis countless times for other similar torts, accidents, trespasses and inadvertencies’

      Love the words ‘similar’ and ‘worldwide’.

      Please give lots and lots of examples of ‘similar’ cases. Preferably ‘worldwide’.

      Outside the US we generally view your country as a lawyers paradise, litigious at the drop of a hat and with some very odd verdicts in civil cases. So I’ll be very interested to see your long list of
      ‘similar’ settlements from the 97% of the rest of the world. Thanks.

    • Latimer

      Start here, if you want a lawyer’s paradise:

      http://www.lloyds.com/

      I’ll leave the details to you to work out, as you so love detective work, and are so apt at dedu..

      Oh.

      Heh. We’ve been down that road, and it seems no matter how plainly or simply presented, you get hopelessly lost and twisted around.

      Best we not bother with it, as it’s bound to be unproductive.

      I mean, if you’re actually sincere, and not simply being tranparently disingenuous.

      If you’re really unfamiliar at this stage in your life with how Lloyds settles claims, or the scope and diversity of their business, then I’m not going to take on the chore.

    • Latimer Alder

      Thanks. I’ll read it with interest.

      As in a previous part of my life I made part of my living providing IT equipment, services and consultancy to the London Insurance Market – of which Lloyds is a part – I am tolerably familiar with their practices.

      I’ll read your reference with interest. Looking especially for examples of any settlements ‘similar’ to problems similar in attribution and scope to AGW.

      But since you are familiar with all of these already, would you care to pick out just a few that you think are relevant….with a summary of them for those just reading this blog?

    • Latimer Alder

      Update update.

      Your reference is to the Lloyds Home Page, which is no more than a sexy advertisement for the syndicates that make up the Lloyds Market. It does not discuss the individual cases that you claim are relevant.

      Please provide specific references to actual settled claims, relevant to your point.

    • Latimer

      So, it’s disingenuous, then.

      Thanks for clearing that up.

    • As far as I can tell your last comment is meaningless.

      ‘It’s disingenuous’ does not appear to have a subject.

      What is disingenuous?

      And you still haven’t provided any information to illustrate your earlier assertions. This is becoming a very bad habit for you.

      Ding! Perhaps you are a Climatologist!!! Bold assertions based on nothing at all!!!

      Just hold on there for a few more years. Psychiatric science is advancing by leaps and bounds, and the top practitioners tell me that a permanent cure to the specific syndrome of Climatology is in sight in less than a generation. So there’s still hope for you on that one.

      As to the cognitive dissonance, that is probably no better than controllable. As a start you need to get out more and meet more real people. Taking up bicycling (bamboo or otherwise) would be a great idea.

    • “specific syndrome of Climatology”

      …itself a sub-disorder of the larger syndrome, “Scichosis”, whose sufferers use perverse extension of uncontroversial science to frighten themselves and others witless.

      I wouldn’t be too hopeful of an imminent breakthrough, though – a certain section of each generation seems to suffer from it. The possibility that scichosis is a genetic disorder seems worthy of study. The chance, however small, that a dominant, and not a recessive gene is at work here, implying that over time entire populations will become scichotic, is to horrible to for decent human beings to contemplate, and must surely invoke the Precautionary Principle.

      Now, Alder, can you take care of experimental design? Perhaps Courtney would care to assist. Me? No disrespect guys, but I prefer to look after the important bit – the grant application – myself.

    • TomFP

      You do me too much honor, and too much credit.

      Also, wouldn’t instead of your ‘Scichosis’ using ‘Sciphobia’ be more apt, as it deals with fear?

      Perhaps, if you were looking for specific subterms with physiological manifestations of sweating, itching and rash, Climidia or Therpes?

      I mean, if you’re trying to be witty, at least make the effort to get halfway there.

    • AnyColourYouLike

      Never, since messrs G.B Shaw and O. Wilde agreed finally to settle a quibble over the correct ingredients for a rum punch, by arm-wrestling at the behest of the Duke of York (having exhausted the rhetorical resources of the English language with increasingly withering and abstruse vituperation), have we witnessed such a keen and evenly contested battle of wits!

      Like the audience at that legendary London Royal engagement, the denizens of Climate etc wait in awed expectation for the next pithy and ingenious counterthrust from Latimer or Bart.

      Who will draw first blood? Who will break finally and start shouting wildly “Oh, f**k off you f*****g f**k.” ? Keep watching sports fans! :)

    • Latimer

      To quote me, I mean, if you’re actually sincere, and not simply being tranparently disingenuous.

      As a pet, you would be perfect for a shut in with plenty of time; high maintenance, and in constant need of attention.

      As a correspondent, you’ve had your answers, all the raw materials are there, you simply appear to lack the toolset to use them.

      Are you sure your degree was not in Philosophy?

    • Latimer Alder

      Yet another of your wide ranging assertions for which you can produce no evidence when challenged.

      As a reminder you claimed that in relation to AGW

      ‘courts worldwide, insurance companies, negotiators and traders from antiquity have dealt in such forms of attribution and work out settlements on this basis countless times for other similar torts, accidents, trespasses and inadvertencies’

      I aksed you to provide evidence of this remarkable calim, and you replied with the electronic equivalent of a superficial glossy brochure about Lloyds of London. A topic about which I happen , by circumstance of having worked in the City of London for a considerable part of my career, to know a bit about.

      However you seem to think it sufficient to prove your case. As I don’t believe it has very much relevance at all, perhaps you would care to explain in more detail.

      I note that so far this is just one more assertion that you haven’t been able to back up. We also have your ideas about CO2 suffocating plants, that bamboo bicycles are the answer to all the third world problems and your motorised commuting habits to contend with.

      Not a record of untarnished success, I would opine.

    • Latimer

      You’ll have to be more specific in your questions, more concise, and more thoughtful.

      The superhuman task of anticipating which arcane and inobvious misinterpretation of my statements you are going to ramblingly conjecture about and then seek of me support for your wildly inaccurate conclusions loosely based on what you read is too prior to your tediously unoriginal and unimaginative a priori rejection of any answer in an attempt to link back to your own prejudiced and narrow world view is much to ask, otherwise.

      Plus, you’re repeating yourself, as if by dint of repetition you believe you’ll come off as cleverer or lucid.

      In a world with Google, if you can’t furnish for yourself answers to these petty inquisitions, you likely just aren’t ready for the blogosphere at all.

      One recommends a form of communication more in tune with your latent speed.

      Shall we take this up by quill pen and paper through snailmail?

    • Latimer Alder

      Very simple for you to provide a few examples of cases where:

      ‘courts worldwide, insurance companies, negotiators and traders from antiquity have dealt in such forms of attribution and work out settlements on this basis countless times for other similar torts, accidents, trespasses and inadvertencies’

      The hard parts are to provide ones that are ‘similar’ to AGW, and to show that settlements to such have been arranged and fulfilled in practice.

      But your normal style when challenged to demonstrate something fro which you have no evidence whatsoever, apart from your own wishful thinking, is to ramble on about some supposed deficiency on the part of your challenger. It si you have made the assertion – it is for you to demonstrate that the assertion is correct.

      It may make you feel better by avoiding the dreadful moment when you need to admit that your remarks are completely baseless (or worse), but to most others it merely shows up the shallowness of your unfounded opinions.

      Absent any forthcoming evidence, I shall file your latest ramblings about AGW settlements in the bulging BS folder that you contribute to so generously.

    • Latimer Alder

      ‘Plus, you’re repeating yourself, as if by dint of repetition you believe you’ll come off as cleverer or lucid’

      Nope. I repeat myself so that you and any other readers can remind themselves of whichever of your wild assertions you are unable to justify at any particular point. And just in case, by some miracle, you suddenly come up with some evidence of one of them.

      This simple technique…you assert something daft, I challenge, you distract and obfuscate, I challenge once more, you obfuscate an distract once again until your store of credibility is exhausted (and each time we do this your starting store is less)..is so basic a tool of rhetoric that I’m surprised you haven’t learnt to counter it yet.

      The simplest way is to stop making the daft assertions in the first place.

    • Latimer

      You will run out of challenge long before the internet runs out of daft.

      I’m flattered that you’ve picked me to obsess on, but really, your challenges will have to at least develop focus, attention span, the ability to remember what has gone before, and some degree of self-evaluation of your own limitations in the areas of reasoning and logic, before you hope to have challenge enough to merit even my modest daft.

    • The superhuman task of anticipating which arcane and inobvious misinterpretation of my statements you are going to ramblingly conjecture about and then seek of me support for your wildly inaccurate conclusions loosely based on what you read is too prior to your tediously unoriginal and unimaginative a priori rejection of any answer in an attempt to link back to your own prejudiced and narrow world view is much to ask, otherwise.

      Sounds like Blackadder (II). Is the use of that kind of words allowed, in a climate blog’s comments?

    • Latimer Alder

      So after all your huffing and puffing and attempts to obfuscate and distract, you still can provide absolutely no evidence of your assertion that:

      ‘courts worldwide, insurance companies, negotiators and traders from antiquity have dealt in such forms of attribution and work out settlements on this basis countless times for other similar torts, accidents, trespasses and inadvertencies’

      Enough said. You have now proved three times in short order on three different topics that you serially make claims for which you have no backup or evidence.

      I’ll leave others to make their assessments of how much credibility they should give to your next flight of fantasy.

    • Latimer

      Tch.

      You fail to provide cites, or summaries, or authoritative commentaries and footnotes, to your three alleged topics.

      You’re slipping.

      What a low opinion you must have of blog readers, to make demands you can’t yourself live up to, and expect them to overlook this fault and your many others on your say-so alone.

      Also, you seem to think I value my own credibility more than I disdain my own credulity.

      I refuse to credit claims absent evidence either furnished by the original claimant or by myself after reasonable efforts to find support.

      You refuse to consider anything that doesn’t support your preconconceived notions.

      See how that works?

      I’m a skeptic who doesn’t particularly care if he’s believed by non-skeptics. I don’t need external affirmations of my skepticism.

      You’re a non-skeptic who wants everything to agree with what he Believes. You seem to need an audience, their adulation, and their approval.

      You aren’t by chance an only child?

    • Latimer Alder

      Anybody sad enough to really want to follow this any more will easily find your three failures within the Climate Etc blog as

      Plants suffocated by CO2 at night
      The *most* benefit to the 3rd World from bamboo bicycles and mosquito nets
      This thread…attribution of climate change and torts by courts etc.

      There may well be others.

    • Latimer

      There may well be others?

      Of course there are others, many many-fold others. (Or is it manifold others?)

      But as you merely handwave at them, one suspects you’ve come to the point where you run out of challenge no doubt due to your long habit of demanding to be spoonfed rather than doing your own research, and my modest and limited daft remains strong and uncompromised through my consistent efforts to intelligently question claims that appear on their face meritricious, if not at the least unsubstantiable or at the very least poorly supported.

      You simplify my arguments into strawmen so you may have the pleasure of manufacturing a victory your narrow-shouldered arguments could never obtain on their own lacking merit.

      Why?

      So you can attack the practice of skepticism, it seems.

      Why do you so fear the skeptical inquirer, Latimer Alder?

      What have you to fear of the McIntyre’s and Bart R’s of the world?

    • Latimer Alder

      Whatever

    • Latimer Alder

      I’ll be very interested to see your long list of ‘similar’ settlements from the 97% of the rest of the world.

      It does strike me, however reluctant I am to indulge your needy appeal for obvious facts to be spelled out for your entertainment and to help you construct strawmen, that you have impugned the honor of nations by this charge related to what may be an outdated and intemperate view of justiciability, or simple contrarianism.

      So, to start by showing competency of courts and international bodies in the subject of AGW, using of course as model the USA, which you rabidly and baselessly insult at its highest levels of justice (http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/06pdf/05-1120.pdf), let’s look for comparison from 97% of the less democratically advanced nations still resorting to socialism, monarchy and tribalism:

      1. I’m tempted to count as five, for its imaginary geopolitical fiefdoms of Scotland, Ireland, Cornwall, Wales and whatnot your own UK, but it’s just not important enough to count as more than one, for the trifecta: Her Majesty’s Courts Service, Mr. Justice Burton says on AGW attribution in the case of Al Gore’s little Oscar-winning film (both the film and the case I am sure you are familiar with, as well as the widely-misreported settlement in the case, which as I know you love misreports and mistakes you’ll want to pursue, though I urge you to stick to the point):

      “That climate change is mainly attributable to man-made emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide (‘greenhouse gases’).”

      2. Foot-dragging Canada: http://www.lawyersweekly.ca/index.php?section=article&articleid=1014 gets lambasted for its procrastinatory backwardness by its own legal experts, and since the point of this section is to support competence to hear AGW cases, enough said;

      3. To cut to the chase, 187 other nations — even without double counting — the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has settled a 10 year stalemate on AGW in civil aviation with a binding agreement: http://www2.icao.int/en/Assembly37newsroom-public/Documents/ICAO%20Member%20States%20Agree%20To%20Historic%20Agreement%20On%20Aviation%20And%20Climate%20Change.pdf

      So, is 189 other countries ‘lots and lots’ enough for you?

    • “And yet courts worldwide, insurance companies, negotiators and traders from antiquity have dealt in such forms of attribution and work out settlements on this basis countless times for other similar torts, accidents, trespasses and inadvertencies.”

      Your example for “similar torts, accidents, trespasses and inadvertencies” in the U.S. is a cite to Mass. v. EPA. That case had nothing to do with ” insurance companies, negotiators and traders” dealing with attribution, or any other tort, trespass or other private damages claims of any kind.

      The issues in Mass. v. EPA were primarily technical jurisdictional ones. Jurisdiction was found to exist based on the State of Massachusetts’ participation, not any of the individual or corporate petitioners. The only environmental issue was whether CO2 should be determined to be a “pollutant” by the EPA for regulatory purposes. (The court found that it should.) So the case decided neither private rights, not attribution.

      The closest you could probably come would be nuisance and “toxic fog” type cases. But I know of no precedent in environmental law involving claims analogous to the scope of AGW. I seem to recall some attempts to seek damages related to acid rain, but they were primarily intergovernmental claims. They didn’t go very far because of the problem of proving causation in a tort case.

      I doubt that private litigation (ie. claims for damages or injunctions brought by private parties) will have any influence on the CAGW debate.

    • GaryM

      Forest. Trees.

      (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhopal_disaster — some toxic fog, for an out of court settlement.)

      Time to recap, since people apparently are credulously falling for Latimer’s derailments:

      1. hunter claims attribution is just another way for promoters to push an increasingly cynical and desperate agenda. He (hunter) does so without links to authoritative materials, specific quotes of sources, or reference to authoritative definitions or cases.

      2. Bart R claims there’s some merit to attribution, citing three generic, obvious and commonly accepted points of comparison, not incongruent to the formulator’s (hunter’s) original claim. Bart R (myself), then asks Are you proclaiming an absolute discharge of liability on all emissions into the wider world, or just into air, or just of CO2?

      3. Latimer Alder (aided and abetted by a couple of others) then begins his derailment by mounting increasingly unrealistic demands as what he self-flatteringly calls ‘challenges’, on a sliding scale out of proportion with those first remarks of Bart R (myself) into what ACYL has so apt identified as mere sport.

      4. GaryM is still taking this cherrypickingly seriously, bless him and the strawman he rode in on.

      Attribution remains useful to people as a tool of fundamental justice.

      People will continue to seek the help of courts and government and intergovernment bodies in the attribution of matters they feel injured by, as has happened since before the time of Moses.

      AGW has been taken to court. That finger is out of the dyke. That cat is out of the bag. The precedent of some of the most influential courts in the world having accepted cases on the matter is set. The hands of the clock are not turning back.

      So, cutting out all the pettyfogging fellas, Are you proclaiming an absolute discharge of liability on all emissions into the wider world, or just into air, or just of CO2?

    • The Bhopal Uni0n Carbide case has no more to do with issues raised by CAGW than the Mass. v. EPA case did. In Bhopal, there was a single emitter (the Union Carbide plant), of undeniably poisonous gases. It was a traditional tort case.

      Again, the closest analog to the CAGW would be the acid rain suits of the 80s, which were overwhelmingly suits for regulatory enforcement. I don’t know of a single case in which an individual plaintiff obtained a money judgment or injunction against an individual defendant.

      The “toxic fog” cases I referred to were not related to the release of identifiable poisonous substances. There were attempts in the 80s to expand the concept of toxic torts in cases like refineries and other large polluters. The concept was that everyone who sold anything to the refinery (including in one case crayons) contributed to a toxic fog that was then blamed for any illness suffered by every employee. But even there, you had identifiable defendants in an identified, contained geographical area.

      The ICAO link you posted, had nothing to do with any litigation at all. The ICAO is just another UN bureaucracy.

      Private civil suits for damages or injunctions against other individuals/corporations are simply not a venue that can deal with an issue like CAGW. How do you prove that any individual’s (or group’s) emissions caused your damages? Everybody emits CO2. I guess we should all sue each other.

    • GaryM

      Sounds like an apt topic for a Moot Court?

      Also, you need to learn to read the difference between a list starting with “courts” and a list containing only “courts”.

      By including negotiators and traders as explicit separate entities involved in attribution, I was making clear to anyone who bothered to read past the first comma that my point wasn’t just about litigation.

      As for ‘your idea has already been tried by others and it failed miserably…’

      http://www.dilbert.com/2011-01-14/

    • Bart R,
      That is fascinating.
      Please show me a case where a specific weather event was attributed to anything other than an act of God.
      Not the failure of a wall or levee or storm gate, but the weather event itself.
      It sounds like you would have not a problem at all giving a specific citation.
      TIA,

    • PS,
      And despite your snark, not one of your list of citations shows any loss due to CO2 being assessed by a court.
      And to make it more clear, the USSC has often deserved a reputation of disrepute and criticism of its rulings.
      The CO2 ruling, 5-4, is certainly going to go down in history as one.
      And to begin to redeem itself, the USSC has declined to permit a suit based on CO2 causing Katrina damage proceed.
      So snark on, my good man.

    • I’d think the UK case was far more deservedly disreputable than the SCOTUS one.

      But then, High Courts are beyond the profundity of my humble opinions.

      If I really wanted to be taken seriously on my disputations of their rulings, I’d go and get myself some sort of qualifications.

      But that’s the great thing about opinions, isn’t it?

      However lofty the correspondent, everyone’s entitled to hear mine, however daft.

    • Latimer Alder

      ‘However lofty the correspondent, everyone’s entitled to hear mine, however daft.’

      You are entitled to express your opinions (daft or otherwise) as often as you like.

      But we are not obliged to accept them. Nor even to listen to them.

    • hunter

      You clearly missed, or misunderstood, the story of the egg carton and the eggs.

      Let me explain slowly and in sma…

      Oh.

      Oh.

      I get it, you’re being purposefully disingenuous in order to contrive some blatantly prevaricated argument.

      Silly of me to fall for that.

      Why is it so many people think it’s cunning or clever to put on this particular sham?

    • Bart R,
      As I thought. You have nothing.
      But you are more artisitic about it, and I give you points for style. It will help offset the deficit of substance.
      But you do raise, accidentally, another compelling reason to unwind this social mania ASAP:
      The further corruption of our legal system to ultimately enrich climate hysteria promoters.

    • hunter

      I get that in some quarters a guy gets a lot of street cred for saying, “That US Supreme Court, it means nothing.”

      However, aside from crack dens, Montana Freemen meetings and the Taliban, most of the world doesn’t really believe it.

      And sure, you can jump up and down about all the things in the world that haven’t happened yet, but their absence doesn’t roll back what has, any more than you’ll see a rollback of District of Columbia v. Heller, as much as I’m sure you long for that.

      Two of the most influential courts in the world have made broad and sweeping AGW statements. You can’t unmelt that snowflake.

      These are courts that in the full breadth and spectrum of their authority — which I get, Montana Freemen don’t much like, nor do the Taliban, nor denizens of crack houses — deal with attribution of costs, and have the power to rule. Walk into any court in America and suggest to the judge, “your honor, I know the Supreme Court said the evidence for AGW is solid, but you have to ignore them because I know a blogger who doubts it, and anyway, it’s not like what the Supreme Court says applies to everyone or has to be taken seriously about everything.”

      So while you, the Taliban, crack dealers, and the Montana Freemen may not like it, there is as it now stands all that would be required for a Latimer Alder to litigiously and garulously apply to sue an individual emitter for damages from CO2.

      This potential case, given the SCOTUS declaration, is on much more solid ground than the dated acid fog case references GaryM alludes to (but doesn’t cite, no doubt because they contain so much persuasive and influential matter that harms his argument).

      Is it going to happen?

      Sorry, I don’t have a computer model for predicting future litigation.

      Does it amount to “nothing?”

      Really?!

  55. My apologies if this comment is old territory but reading about all the outreach and PR training going on and media centered Climate Response Teams and then reading the author’s post I thought “what we have here is a turf battle between bureaucrats”. Not warmists vs CAGW deniers. It’s about which agency is better able to “communicate” the doom and gloom science – NASA or NOAA?

    I’ve always wondered why GISS adjusts past temps differently than GHCN. They make kiss-kiss sounds ‘we share with our team mates’. Take a step back, and think like a bureaucrat defending your turf. If they have media response team, we should have one too. We should have our own data set of value added data.

    If you think this doesn’t happen in Science, read the CRU emails again. Winning the debate and gaining prestige is far more important than being correct. Why would NASA keep Hansen’s GISS/unit around if he wasn’t useful to the bureaucrats? Or give a free pass to the potential conflicts of interest with RealClimate.

    Makes me wonder if the CRU email leaker was someone inside the machine who thought saving the world was what Climate Scientists were doing and then discovered they cared more about their standing among peers than what happens to mankind. They did there best to balance the science and politics in the IPCC might have caused the leaker to be disillusioned.

    Turf fighting is a reasonable explanation for what’s going on in Climate Science and a much simpler explanation, although hard to prove. Add in the UN IPCC process and career sweetener with a few activist scientists that are willing to push their narrative forward into the range of “there is a greater than 90% chance that over half the risk of European summer temperatures exceeding a threshold of 1.6 K is attributable to human influence on climate” (78).” I still can’t parse that. I doubt the congressional staffers can either.

  56. Since the “extreme cold caused by global warming” theory has been mentioned, it’s interesting to note that Trenberth is not buying it. At least not yet.

    http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/12/27/wintry-weather-and-global-warming/?scp=2&sq=trenberth&st=cse

    (You need to scroll down quite a bit to see Trenberth’s comments.)

  57. The following quote is extracted from a recent opinion column in the GWPF blog by WJR Alexander, Professor Emeritus, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Pretoria, South Africa.

    ‘Worldwide, hydro-meteorological data are recorded and published by the responsible authorities at a rate of millions of station days per year. Why is it that climate change scientists carried out extensive investigations on global temperatures derived from tree rings and ice cores instead of studies of rainfall and river flow that are of direct humanitarian and environmental concern?….Together with my colleagues, research assistants and students we are now able to demonstrate with a high degree of statistical assurance (95% in many cases) that the annual river flows, rainfall and other hydro-meteorological data exhibit predictable, concurrent, above and below average multi-year sequences. More importantly, we can demonstrate that these multi-year properties are directly related to variations in the receipt and poleward redistribution of solar energy via the global oceanic and atmospheric processes. We were unable to detect any trends or other anomalies in the data that could be ascribed to human activities.
    Now my question. Given this readily available information is it not obvious that the fundamental error in climate change science, including the ability to predict regional climatic variations years ahead, is the clear rejection by climate change scientists of the obvious solar energy related processes that drive global climate?’

    http://www.thegwpf.org/opinion-pros-a-cons/2218-will-alexander-predicting-climatic-extremes.html

  58. This Reuters news article about the flooding in Australia contains information provided to the reporter(s) by Kevin Trenberth.

    In the article, Trenberth is quoted as saying, ” “So it is easy to argue that 1 degree Celsius sea surface temperature anomalies gives 10 to 15 percent increase in rainfall,” he added. ”

    I think the statement is not correct on several basis as follows.

    (1) Is the statement based on the Clausius-Clapeyron equation? The Clausius-Clapeyron equation and its use in meteorological, atmospheric and climatic studies is discussed in many sources including textbooks, papers, and reports. A convenient source is the article in Wikipedia on Atmospheric Thermodynamics. In which is stated,

    The Clausius-Clapeyron equation governs the water-holding capacity of the atmosphere, which increases by about 8% per degree Celsius increase in temperature.

    In that article, the increase in the ‘water-holding capacity’ is given to be about 8% per degree Celsius. That number is in agreement with the various other sources mentioned above, in my experience. In my opinion, reliance on this simple theoretical metric as an indication of potential for increased precipitation is an extreme over-simplification of the inherently complex phenomena and processes that govern mass exchange at the ocean-atmosphere interface, transport of water vapor and its precipitation as rainfall. But those are additional, equally important issues, not mentioned by Trenberth.

    Those issues notwithstanding, Trenberth’s ’10 to 15 percent increase in rainfall’ seems to be off, if that estimate is based on the Clausius-Clapeyron equation.

    Trenberth did not give the basis for his estimate, and that’s part of the problem, in my opinion.

    (2) The Clausius-Clapeyron equation, relative to the water-holding capacity of the atmosphere refers to the atmosphere, not the ocean. The temperature that determines that capacity is the temperature of the atmosphere. While in the context of the present situation the ocean very likely provides the source for the water vapor, it is not clear how the equation can be evaluated with the sea surface temperature. The actual mass-exchange between the ocean and the atmosphere are determined by conditions at the ocean-atmosphere interface, at the locations and at the time that the water vapor that fell as rain was taken up by the atmosphere, in my opinion.

    (3) As I read the charts and plots here, the sea surface temperature anomaly during the latter part of 2010, especially in the South Pacific, was decreasing. In fact, as I read the plots, the anomaly was negative relative to its base period. And quite a bit negative. If that is the case, and this area of the Pacific Ocean provided the water that fell in Australia, and if the SST anomaly can be used as a surrogate for the temperature in the Clausius-Clapeyron equation, Trenberth’s estimate is even more out of line with the actual conditions. In fact, the water-holding capacity has been decreased relative to the base period.

    (4) Empirical data, if I correctly recall, are indicating that the water-holding capacity as estimated by use of Clausius-Clapeyron equation over-estimates what is actually happening. I recall that the measured value is about a 3 to 4% increase in water vapor in the atmosphere. Again a number that makes Trenberth’s estimate larger than can be supported.

    (5) While appeal to averages over large regions of space and long ranges of time might be of use in some situations, if a specific event is to be rigorously connected with specific spatial locations and time periods, the specific physical phenomena and processes associated with that event must be used in any theoretically sound analysis. To attempt to do otherwise is simple hand-waving that does not provide any real food for thought.

    I am not a climatologist and I’m not a meteorologist. It would be very helpful if an analysis of Trenberth’s estimate, and the actual climatic and meteorological conditions obtained during the flooding events, could be presented by qualified persons.

    Corrections for all incorrectos will be appreciated.

    • Dan – I hope you’ll forgive me if I don’t take the time at the moment to document with references the following response to your insightful questions. If you wish, I can come back later with more on the subject.

      The increase in atmospheric water vapor has been confirmed by measurements (e.g., the AIRS observations), and the data demonstrate a reasonably close aproximation to a preservation of relative humidity. In other words, we know that warming trends have been associated with more atmospheric water. On interannual levels, this corresponds to increases in sea surface temperature (SST), but with lags as well as ups and downs.

      The consequences in terms of precipitation are regional, depending on oceanic and atmospheric circulation patterns. From what I have encountered in recent analyses regarding Australia, which I haven’t studied in detail, the current La Nina pattern, although temporrily cooling the ocean surface, is increasing precipitation in Australia in accordance with expectations (the intensity is a different issue).

      It is therefore plausible to attribute some of the recent events to long term warming.

    • Plausible means, “Sounds OK if you say it fast.”

    • Fred, Trenberth has made a statement that contains both a causality aspect, increased sea surface temperature, and the magnitude of the effect, 10 to 15 percent. I think both need to be verified. My understanding of the situation is that neither has been verified. Yes, increased water temperature has a potential to increase the water content of the atmosphere, but it seems to me that the measured data doesn’t support the level that Trenberth states.

      I suspect a meteorological investigation, after the fact, will provide more light on the total big picture; location and timing of the water source, its transport to where it fell, and the rate of precipitation. I think you’re correct in that it’s the rate of precipitation that leads to flooding. The extent of the damage, on the other hand, is due solely to decision made over long periods of time by persons, not nature.

      It seems to me that many of the connections between extreme weather events and climate change are based solely on plausibility. That’s not science. There are a large number of potential sources to drive change in any systems that are not at equilibrium states. The internal variability, driven by dis-equilibrium both within a sub-system and between sub-systems, can provide driving potentials in the absence of external driving potentials.

      Until statements like that made by Trenberth are shown to be in agreement with all the important phenomena and processes, in both causality and magnitude, and locally for both spatial and temporal aspects, such pronouncements are merely speculation. The much more difficult task, in my opinion, will be in determining that the conditions obtained locally have in fact been set solely by phenomena and processes external to the important systems of interest. As far as I know, climate science is the only ‘hard science’ arena in which grand global averages of potentials are used to draw conclusions relative to local and time-specific applications.

      Back in October 2010, I made this summary relative to plausibility.

      As I mentioned above, I am not a climatologist and I’m not a meteorologist. It would be a very positive contribution if people knowledgeable in these areas would comment on Trenberth’s assessment. The lack of such an assessment is somewhat disconcerting.

    • Tomas Milanovic

      Dan

      It is always and all the time the same thing . With water cycle like with radiation.
      Always equilibrium is postulated.
      In this particular case you may not use Clausius Clapeyron because it is only valid in equilibrium.
      In the atmospheric processes not only you never have equilibrium but vapour mass is not conserved either.
      This is because, as you rightly mentioned, there is transport.
      And there is also spatial distribution whose EXACT values and location matter. Never their averages or “equilibrium values”.

      Let’s just follow a movie how things happen .
      1) There is an oceanic hot spot somewhere which evaporates much water. The vapour is not in equilibrium. The mass of vapor in the atmosphere increases, mass is not conserved.
      2) This blob of atmosphere with accumulated water moves . While moving it will take up more water or loose some depending of the EXACT spatial distribution of temperatures. Both are equally possible.
      3) Eventually this blob of airborne water arrives to some place where the temperature is low. It begins to condense. Again there is neither equilibrium nor mass conservation. More than the water accumulated in 1 may preciptate or perhaps less. It depends on the path and on the EXACT temperature distribution.

      None of the points 1)-3) can be predicted unless one exactly knows the values of the fields everywhere and their evolution with time . Not equilibriums and not averages. EXACT values and their coordinates.
      As the “movie” above shows, the cause of a large preciptation field may be very unclear.
      It doesn’t necessarily follow that there was somewhere and earlier an equally large evaporation. You might have a normal evaporation at departure but an unusually low temperature at arrival and it would generate floods as easily as a much larger evaporation but a higher temperature at arrival.

      Trenberth is just handwaving. If the “average” temperature increases, then there is no, absolutely NO way to tell by how much the average water content varies.

      F.ex imagine that the temperature increases only at the poles and in winter while it stays constant in the tropical ocean. The average temperature increases but the average water content doesn’t move or even decreases.

      Now decrease the temperature at the poles and increase it very slightly in tropical ocean. The average temperature decreases but the average water content increases . Using equilibrium hypothesis in the 2 examples even if it is not legal.

      Depending on the EXACT distribution of the fields , you are not even sure of the sign of variation of the averages!

    • Dan – You state, “Until statements like that made by Trenberth are shown to be in agreement with all the important phenomena and processes, in both causality and magnitude, and locally for both spatial and temporal aspects, such pronouncements are merely speculation. “

      Indeed, there is a speculative element to Trenberth’s estimates of the contribution AGW has made to recent Australian flooding, but that speculation is supported by observational data. His estimates may be in error, but it would be unlikely for some contribution to be absent.

      The increase in atmospheric humidity is well supported by data, and is correlated with the rise in surface temperatures. An example (with references) is the Gettelman et al paper in J. Climate based on 54 month of AIRS data.

      Over recent decades, sea surface temperature (SST) has been increasing, albeit with periodic ups and downs. The warm SST during the early, El Nino months of 2010 will have contributed to the increased humidity – SST .

      Later in 2010, La Nina conditions supervened, with overall reductions in SST, but the SST surrounding Australia exhibits effects in a direction opposite from the mean – Recent SST Anomalies .

      More importantly, La Nina’s, despite mean SST reductions, are known historically to be associated with increased rainfall in Eastern Australia – Queensland Floods .

      Trenberth’s analysis, therefore, while consistent with theory, is not based exclusively on theory but is reinforced by empirical evidence. Trenberth is given to overstatement, but in this case, his conclusions are based on solid (albeit very wet) ground.

    • Tomas Milanovic

      Fred

      The increase in atmospheric humidity is well supported by data, and is correlated with the rise in surface temperatures. An example (with references) is the Gettelman et al paper in J. Climate based on 54 month of AIRS data.

      I have read this paper but not only it doesn’t answer Dan’s question but it is a large stretch away of doing what you say it does.
      Actually I would say that it is an example of quasi garbage that gets published by tons about climate.

      What do they do in reality?
      They take time averages of humidity (what can a time average say about the dynamics ?) of a SPACE AVERAGE over a restricted region (+/- 30°) and eliminate cases when cloudiness was > 70% . They submit temperatures to similar tortures.
      Then they put all that on charts.
      Useless to add that the points are all over the place.

      I will only comment on the Figure 2 but a similar comment is in order for Figure 1 .
      They plot a space average (argh!) of the SST monthly anomaly (reargh!) over +/- 30° with 1 month lag (rereargh!) against the same kind of averages at 250 hPa. Of course here too filtered for cludiness > 70%.

      Those who already wonder what such maimed unnatural variables might possibly mean will not be surprised that the charts are just a wild mess of points.

      For instance for a ZERO monthly mean lagged space average of the SST anomaly (yes , one must say all that to define the thing) , the monthly mean etc of the 250 hPa temperature varies between – 0,6 K and + 0,6 K!
      So when the average etc SST is constant, the air temperature does whatever it wants. One is not even sure of the sign.
      Of course I am not surprised because as they destroyed the dynamics by averaging , they will just rediscover that dynamics as well as the spatial distribution of the fields matter , while averages don’t.

      Unfortunately they don’t seem to realize that and the summit is reached when they draw a straight line through this mess and suggest that it might mean something.
      Sorry but taking this “paper” and its equivalents seriously takes a really uncritical mind.

    • Fred, my concern is not the plausibility of Trenberth’s conclusions. My concern is the technical correctness of the statement contents. Everything beyond this point is EWAG / SWAG / WAG hand-waving, imo.

      As I mentioned previously above, I said; “Fred, Trenberth has made a statement that contains both a causality aspect, increased sea surface temperature, and the magnitude of the effect, 10 to 15 percent. I think both need to be verified. My understanding of the situation is that neither has been verified.”

      The water content potential of the atmosphere is not determined by the temperature of the sea surface. That potential is determined by the temperature of the atmosphere. The estimate of the change in water-content potential for the atmosphere is usually based on the Clausius-Clapeyron equation. That equation gives about 7 to 8 % increase for a 1 degree C increase in temperature. It does not give 10 to 15% as stated by Trenberth.

      Trenberth’s statement is not correct. Plausible extrapolations based on incorrect statements is not science. Plausible extrapolations based on correct statements is not science.

      Why good-hearted Climate Scientists have not stepped up to present an assessment of Trenberth’s statement, and its not-science plausible extrapolations, is beyond my understanding.

      One other option is that my understanding of Trenberth’s statement is not correct. No one has yet said that that is the case.

    • Dan – In regard to your comment and that of Tomas Milanovic above, my recommendation is that interested readers visit the links to view the data and draw their own conclusions. At this, point, increase in atmospheric humidity as a function of temperature is thoroughly documented by many studies, of which I cited only one (although with references). The preservation of relative humidity (RH) has also been confirmed in general, with some uncertaint still as to whether it is preserved or slightly reduced at high altitudes (although still with an increase in total humidity because of the higher temperature).

      Regarding Trenberth, if he specifically claimed that the Clausius-Clapeyron (CC) equation predicts a 10-15 percent increase in water vapor per degree C, then he is wrong. I will guess that he has not made that claim, but I will be interested in a relevant citation. Your statement about the relationship between temperature and water vapor is partially correct, but doesn’t capture the full measure of the phenomena. Over time, SST and atmospheric temperature are correlated, along with variations due to ENSO and other internal climate dynamics. Indeed, the capacity to hold water vapor depends on atmospheric temperature, as you state, but as long as the atmosphere is not saturated, increases in its water vapor content can be driven by increases in water temperature, and increased SST is a potent factor in this regard.

      Dan, I still haven’t seen exactly what Trenberth said, and so I can’t judge it in quantitative terms – he may be off quantitatively – but the main points he appears to have made are confirmed by both theory and observation.

    • Fred, search for Reuters on this page to see the link. Actually he was speculating 10-15% rainfall increase for 1 C in SST, invoking a dynamical feedback.

    • For further material on Trenberth’s analysis of precipitation and its relationship to changes in SST and other variables, a good source is Precipitation and Climate Change

      While this source does not directly document his recent statements about the percent increase in recent rainfall, it discusses the principles and evidence behind his reasoning, and is probably preferable than trying to guess what he had in mind, or whether he was confusing increases in rainfall with increases in the water vapor capacity of the atmosphere as a function of the CC relationship.

    • Additional data relevant to the details in Trenberth’s paper and Jim D’s comments are from NOAA, indicating that 2010 was the wettest year on record, and that regional rainfall excesses were correlated with the strong La Nina -

      NOAA 2010

      I would still have to agree that a precise quantitative estimate by Trenberth is speculative, but his estimate of rainfall excess is consistent with the observed measurements and the known behavior of La Nina.

    • The assessment is not necessarily lacking but publicising it is.

      Scroll down to the bottom of the article below to read remarks by Associate Professor Stewart Franks of Newcastle University.

      http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/karolys_global_warming_wetter_drier_worse_better_whatever

    • Fred Moolten,
      “The increase in atmospheric water vapor has been confirmed by measurements (e.g., the AIRS observations), and the data demonstrate a reasonably close aproximation to a preservation of relative humidity. In other words, we know that warming trends have been associated with more atmospheric water.”
      I don’t think we can say this, Fred.

      You are correct that AIRS showed a small increase in SH but this was in the period from its inception in 2002 through to 2008 WHEN THE TROPOSPHERE WAS COOLING. See the 2008 validation work by Joel Susskind (presentation) on the NOAA site. If anything, AIRS provides a falsification of your statement.

      For humidity discrepancies from (AIM) satellite data, you might try: Pierce et al 2006, Huang 2007, and Gettelman 2006. They all concluded lower feedback than that implied by a constant RH. You should also consider the 2009 paper by Garth Paltridge et al, which shows decreasing RH trends (and hence SH) across the mid to upper troposphere during the recent post-70s warming period, and significant variation between the tropical and extratropical regions in RH from the only long-term dataset we have – the NCEP Reanalysis data. Admittedly, this latter dataset is questionable, but none of this gives me a warm feeling about our knowledge base in this critical area.

    • the NCEP Reanalysis data. Admittedly, this latter dataset is questionable

      Paul – The NCEP reanalysis is pretty much discredited by all the other reanalyses, including the more recent ones utilizing satellite measurements rather than relying exclusively on radiosonde data. The probelm with the NCEP data appears probably to have resided in changes in their sensors over the relevant interval, such that each sensor improvement reduced the contamination of data at higher altitudes with water concentrations at lower ones.

      You’re right that the extent to which upper tropospheric RH is preserved is still uncertain, but the uncertainty involves the question of whether RH has remained the same or declined slightly (but still with a significant increase still in absolute humidity). The preservation of RH at lower altitudes is well documented.

    • Water in the air is not the problem.
      Keep this simplification in mind: warming increases water in the atmosphere; cooling makes it fall out as rain onto the ground, often causing flooding.

  59. Trenberth seems to want to take Climate Science down the road of Aztec Science.
    Signs of flooding and unusual cold or hot spells are punishment from the Gods.
    Who is to blame?
    The people are to blame for their extravagant lifestyles!
    What is to be done?
    The people must make sacrifices to appease the Gods!
    What sacrifices will please the Gods?
    The people must be forced to stop using Carbon compounds to power their industries, transport and heat their homes!
    What if the Gods are still angry?
    The people will have to sacrifice even more!

    Hopefully a large number of practitioners of Climate Science will not follow Trenberth down this irrational road.

    • Bryan,
      The road that climate scientists like Trenberth is following is well traveled by scientists in the past.
      That path was called ‘eugenics’. It ended rather badly for all concerned except the profiteers. Eugenics ‘scientifically’ supported putting into law, in the most progressive of countries and states, the most cruel and ineffectual and pseudo-scientifically based laws of things like forced sterilization of minorities, those considered ‘defective’, etc. It was supported widely by University Presidents, Nobel prize winners, intellectuals like Bertrand Russell and HG Wells, progressives around the world long before the 1930′s in Germany.
      The Eugenics promoters relied on the same arguments about how the science was settled (this long before the discovery of DNA) regarding heredity.
      There was overt talk of how to shape the message to properly sell it, of shutting down the minority of critics who opposed them, calling them ‘extreme individualists’. There were organizations that thrived off of the donations of the wealthy, and whose purpose was to sell eugenics to the public and lobby eugenic laws through Parliament or Congress or state governments.
      Sound like a familiar path?
      Does it seem Trenberth is alone or lacking enablement on it?

    • hunter

      Yes and isnt it strange that the usual “left” and “right” labels get mixed up.
      Trenberth probably consider himself on the left.
      He probably thinks he’s doing the “people” favour by short circuiting the climate science debate.
      After all he is certain he is correct and anyone who questions this is a”denier”.

      However the action he favours will impact most harshly on the poor people of the planet .
      This surely cannot be an intended consequence of someone on the left.

    • Eugenics was motivated in at leaset part by elites deciding that they were being outbred by ‘undesirables’ and ‘mongrels’.
      The support of the climate catastrophe movement is generally elites who live in highly urbanized settings with little or no direct contact with nature deciding that the ‘third world’ (undesirables) are going to mess up the elite’s perception of how nature is.
      CO2 obsession is the easiest for the elites to cling to because it is invisible, odorless and the claims about it are based on data so ambiguous and easy to trump up as being ‘dangerous’ or ‘catastrophic’.
      So there is almost no accountability for what AGW propagandists, like Tobis or Mooney, say, or what the scientific sales force like Hansen or Schmidt predict.
      This is a very lucrative position for promoters and profiteers alike.

    • It’s the “Final Solution” for poverty.

  60. The Bucket Model:

    I’ve heard climate/temperature described many times as a bucket with a hole in it, with water being poured in. Is this in any way an accurate description of climate?

    Isn’t the bucket model a damping model? Doesn’t it serve to hide extreme events and thus perhaps give a misleading view of climate?

    What if climate/temperature is more like a pendulum? What if it acts more like the ocean tides? Where small in-phase forcings over time lead to extreme events.

    Could this for example, explain the 100,000 year problem in the Milankovitch?

    The calculated change in forcings every 100k years due to orbital mechanics are not enough to explain the observed ice ages. However, if we consider that this happens every 100k years, this “in phase” forcing would over time cause more extreme swings of the pendulum, with an ice age the result of climate extremes.

    While long by human time scales, a 100k year oscillation is not a long time on planetary time scales.

  61. A rain-making method developed by Thai king Bhumipol Adulyadej is set to aid Queensland in battles with drought after an agreement between the state government and the Thai royal household.

    The Queensland government’s access to the rain-making technology, developed by King Bhumipol over the past 30 years, came a year after the state approached the royal household last year.

    As a result, Queensland is set to be the first major region outside Thailand where the rain-making technology will be put into full effect.

    ….

    Talks between the state government and the Thai royal household began in 2009 but an agreement was reached only in June.

    It allows for exchange of scientists to study the rain-making methods. The technique was recognised in 2005 and covered by patents in 30 European countries.

    Reports said Queensland Premier Anna Bligh had recently forwarded a letter to King Bhumipol, now 83, acknowledging the assistance for access to the techniques.

    Queensland initially made the request for assistance when the state was more than 35 per cent drought affected in 2009. But heavy rains across the region over the first half of this year has left less than two per cent of coverage still affected.

    http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-world/thai-rain-making-comes-to-qld-20100808-11q5f.html

  62. Easier to look at the website that created it:
    Things have moved on a bit:
    ‘Try New Rules;New Game’
    ‘Sell the Sizzle The New Climate Message’!
    http://www.futerra.co.uk/revolution/leading_thinking

    Futerra (since 2001) advicing UNEnvironment Program, Uk Government, Greenpeace,etc

    Many say that – biodiversity – is the latest scare..
    Take a look at Futerra’s ‘Branding Biodiversity’
    http://www.futerra.co.uk/downloads/Branding_Biodiversity.pdf

    With a choice quote: ‘Our audiences are emotional rather than rational”

    The co-founder is part of Sandbag, which campaigns for emmisisons trading. Rgoger PIleke jr wrote about Sandbag a while back. A co-founder of Sandbag, Bryony Worthington, was ‘instrumental in writing the UK Climate Change Act”

  63. Josh honours Kevin Trenberth, and the travesty is missing recognition

    http://www.bishop-hill.net/blog/2011/1/16/josh-67.html

  64. 1) Frozen jet stream links Pakistan floods, Russian fires
    New Scientist – 10 August 2010 by Michael Marshall

    Abstract :

    Raging wildfires in western Russia have reportedly doubled average daily death rates in Moscow. Diluvial rains over northern Pakistan are surging south – the UN reports that 6 million have been affected by the resulting floods.
    It now seems that these two apparently disconnected events have a common cause. They are linked to the heatwave that killed more than 60 in Japan, and the end of the warm spell in western Europe. The unusual weather in the US and Canada last month also has a similar cause.

    According to meteorologists monitoring the atmosphere above the northern hemisphere, unusual holding patterns in the jet stream are to blame. As a result, weather systems sat still. Temperatures rocketed and rainfall reached extremes.

    _______________________________________________
    2) Global Tropical Cyclone Activity
    by Dr. Ryan N. Maue — http://www.coaps.fsu.edu/~maue/tropical/

    Abstract :
    Global Tropical Cyclone ACE does not show an upward trend in communion with global temperatures.

    2010 is in the books: Global Tropical Cyclone Accumulated Cyclone Energy [ACE] remains lowest in at least three decades, and expected to decrease even further… For the calendar year 2010, a total of 46 tropical cyclones of tropical storm force developed in the Northern Hemisphere, the fewest since 1977. Of those 46, 26 attained hurricane strength (> 64 knots) and 13 became major hurricanes (> 96 knots). Even with the expected active 2010 North Atlantic hurricane season, which currently accounts on average for about 19% of global annual hurricane output, the rest of the global tropics has been historically quiet.

    _______________________________________________
    3) Climate control of the global tropical storm days (1965–2008)

    by Bin Wang,Yuxing Yang, Qing‐Hua Ding, Hiroyuki Murakami, and Fei Huang
    GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 37, L07704, 5 PP., 2010
    doi:10.1029/2010GL042487
    http://www.agu.org/journals/ABS/2010/2010GL042487.shtm

    Abstract :

    The tropical storm days have a consistent global record over the past 44 years (1965–2008), which provides an alternative metric for integrated information about genesis, track, and lifespan. Seasonal-reliant singular value decomposition is performed on the fields of the global storm days and sea surface temperature by using the “best track” data. The leading mode, which dominates the variability of the global total number of storm days, displays an east-west contrast between enhanced activity in the North Pacific and reduced activity in the North Atlantic and a north-south contrast in the Southern Hemisphere oceans between active tropics and inactive subtropics, which are coupled with the El Niño and a positive phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). The second mode reveals a compensating trend pattern coupled with global warming: upward trends over the North Atlantic and the Indo-Pacific warm pool (17.5°S–10°N, 70–140°E) and downward trends over the Pacific, especially the South Pacific. However, the global total number of storm days shows no trend and only an unexpected large amplitude fluctuation driven by El Niño-Southern Oscillation and PDO. The rising temperature of about 0.5°C in the tropics so far has not yet affected the global tropical storm days.

    _______________________________________________
    4) Trends in global tropical cyclone activity over the past twenty years (1986–2005)
    by Philip J. Klotzbach
    GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 33, L10805, doi:10.1029/2006GL025881, 2006
    http://tropical.atmos.colostate.edu/Includes/Documents/Publications/klotzbach2006.pdf

    Abstract :

    The recent destructive Atlantic hurricane seasons and
    several recent publications have sparked debate over whether warming tropical sea surface temperatures (SSTs) are causing more intense, longer-lived tropical cyclones. This paper investigates worldwide tropical cyclone
    frequency and intensity to determine trends in activity over the past twenty years during which there has been an approximate 0.2°–0.4°C warming of SSTs. The data indicate a large increasing trend in tropical cyclone
    intensity and longevity for the North Atlantic basin and a considerable decreasing trend for the Northeast Pacific. All other basins showed small trends, and there has been no significant change in global net tropical cyclone activity.
    There has been a small increase in global Category 4–5 hurricanes from the period 1986–1995 to the period 1996–2005. Most of this increase is likely due to improved observational technology. These findings indicate that other important factors govern intensity and frequency of tropical cyclones besides SSTs.

    _______________________________________________
    Conclusion:
    Correlation between Extreme Climatic Events and Global Warming is actually rather poor. Any attempt to link these extreme events to AGW is purely nonsense and looks more like just a “quest for (additional) money”
    Of course we have to improve our ability to predict these events. But the best answer remains adaptation, which shall mainly rely on:
    ▪ Risks’ analyses
    ▪ Preventive actions / protections when possible (dyke etc…)
    ▪ Regulations for houses and buildings
    ▪ Interdiction for settlement if needed
    ▪ Emergency procedures for efficient crises’ management.

    • I have done a thorough analysis of the hurricane-climate change connection here
      http://judithcurry.com/2010/09/13/hurricanes-and-global-warming-5-years-post-katrina/

    • Oh, that nasty, inconvenient flat ACE. Haven’t heard much about that, lately …

    • Brian H

      Flat?

      Howso flat?

      According to one of Dr. Curry’s colleagues, who rather publishes a lot onlin on ACE, it’s dropping: http://www.coaps.fsu.edu/~maue/tropical/

      When I look at the figures, I note very little comparison of like to like. El Nino and La Nina years are not notated, for example, and it would be interesting to me to see the trends, if any, and I’m sure as you are a skeptic you would want exacting details about methods and such.

      I’ve never heard of any complaints about the author’s willingness to share and provide explanations.

      Why not ask him, if you want more?

    • Bart, it might be where he says;

      “The added red lines are linear trends, which serve the useful purpose of delineating the respective time-series mean, since they are flat and parallel.”

      It does strike me when looking at the figures that warming per se doesn’t actually do much. It seems more likely from an admittedly quick look that what the various oscillations do is simply move the energy around.

      If we look at the Bom figures for Australia, the last 15 years have been rather low in the Cyclone count whereas the North Atlantic has seen more “above average” counts.

      As your own link shows, the Global trend is flat. It makes me wonder if, if we could assign values to the various major ocean currents (like we do with the ENSO Index) there is enough historic data to make good predictions as to which area will get increases and which areas decreases.

      This is Dr. Currys area of expertise, not mine. I have no idea if anyone has done a statistical comparison between storms and hurricanes and the state of the major oscillations on a global basis.

      It strikes me that we may be able to say “When the PDO does this, and the Indian does that, and the NAO does the other. Then we can expect above average activity in the NA, average in the NE Pacific and below average in the Indian Ocean.” Or something like that. :)

    • JohnB

      Good catch, there.

      I was going with the earlier section of the post, where there appeared to be discussion of a drop.

      Intriguing that ACE is so flat, globally.

      One can see why a person might find the field rewarding to pursue for its intellectual challenges.

      And why one might find it frustrating to be tasked with the ridiculously complex chore of attribution, when so little can be said with certainty.

    • Thanks but it was a fluke. I was using that page earlier for reference in a different debate. ;)

      And it is intriguing, isn’t it? I would have expected some sort of long term trend to show, but flat wasn’t really one of the options.

  65. A few points from Brisbane.

    Firstly full points to the people at Wivenhoe for their work. The flood would have been much worse but for the mitigation of the dam. While the rules covering the release of water should be without political interference, in Queensland, under the Labor gov this is not possible. The Greens are the tail that is wagging the dog.

    Secondly people forget that Wivenhoe wasn’t supposed to be the only dam. After 1974 a complete mitigation plan was formulated that included a number of new dams, but only Wivenhoe was completed. The others were cancelled under the Goss Labor gov after strong lobbying by Wayne Goss’ Chief of Staff, one Kevin Rudd.

    Thirdly, to remain in power, Labor has required the Green vote. A vote that has gone to the polls under the slogan “No New Dams”. Any Queenslander that doesn’t remember all those nice yellow triangular car stickers has a bloody short memory.

    Personally I don’t understand this mindset. To me you need dams to provide water in times of drought, you build them so that they fill up when it rains and the water tides you over until the next rain. You also need dams in times of good rain for flood mitigation. Rain or drought, you need dams.

    For those suggesting that the message being given out to the people wasn’t “drought and more drought from AGW”. Why do you think we spent sh*tloads on money on now mothballed desal plants? Entertainment? Why was all the planning for droughts and not floods? Because droughts and not floods were predicted.

    Towns have been destroyed and people have died as a result of lack of planning due to bad “advice”. Engineers understand the meaning of the words “Consequences” and “Responsibility”. I strongly suspect that come the inevitable Inquests and possible Royal Commission where testimony is under oath some of our scientific community will be given a harse and painful lesson about giving bad “advice”.

    On a more general note in keeping with the theme of this thread. Attribution of individual events is a pointless waste of time and money. Flood mitigation that would turn a Brisbane flood from a 4.8m event into a 2m event will work regardless of whether it happens once every 50 years or once every 10.

    The sensible thing is to mitigate the flood when it comes. Aloof argument about how often they might occur is irrelevent, likewise argument as to whether they are going to occur more often. The thing is to be able to deal with events when they occur, regardless of how often.

    The same holds true for other events. If a coastal city needs a seawall to hold back a 2m surge event, then that is what is needed. It doesn’t matter if you need it once every 50 years or every 10 years. You still need a 2.5m sea wall.

    I’ll add to this a prediction. The annual number of cyclones around Australia will increase (on average) over the next 30 years. I have no fancy model and no degree in science. But that was the situation last time the PDO was in a “Cool” phase, so I think it’s a pretty safe bet. El Nino dominated = less cyclones, La Nina dominated = more cyclones.

    • >Engineers understand the meaning of the words “Consequences” and “Responsibility”. I strongly suspect that come the inevitable Inquests and possible Royal Commission where testimony is under oath some of our scientific community will be given a harsh and painful lesson about giving bad “advice”.<

      1) I agree that "consequences" and "responsibility' are well understood in the scientific/engineering fields of actual infrastructural supply – many disasters have painfully accumulated this knowledge

      2) A Judicial Inquiry has been presaged, but as yet no terms of reference are public. Watch the pea under the thimble here … the Green vote will not be sacrificed for the sake of clarity, nor will the MSM report any such testimony accurately. This IS a prediction for which my evidence is the Brumby Victorian Govt Inquiry into the recent lethal bushfires, where the question of fuel reduction by burning was shuffled off the stage after a solemn and deliberately unfulfilled promise that this would not happen

    • Possibly. But the Bligh gov is well aware that people remember the debacle of the Patel Inquiries. We won’t stand (and I doubt our legal people will either) for a repeat.

      The last election was far too close to allow even the smell of a cover up. If that smell rises, even the Green vote won’t save her.

    • Well, one can hope, I suppose

      But I stand by my prediction: AGW will be soft-shuffled off stage and the MSM will not report this with any accuracy

    • The only reasonable answer is that the enviro-extremists, climate or not, killed a lot of people and destroyed a lot of property making bad predictions and selling them heavily to the Australian people.
      This failure was an example of listening to the same people telling us that CO2 is causing dangerous change in the climate.
      If you look at Trenberth’s pitiful null hypothesis, it is clear as to why.

    • Hunter, I agree with all you say, but caution against premature selection of targets. Even if it is established that warmist thinking led to misuse of the dam, I can see many levels at which that thinking could have intruded, and it’s not necessarily at the level of the dam management. Let’s face it, if you were a dam “manager” who personally objected to the decisions he was being told to execute, you’d have to be pretty Quixotic to make a fuss, in the pre-flood intellectual, er,climate. I for one would not condemn a man if he said he knew what he was being told to do was unwise, but he saw his and his dependents’ interests were best served by keeping his head down. Chances are, you’d think, that the now-due flood won’t hit this year, and all I’m doing is making myself look like BOTH a denier AND an alarmist – a hitherto unknown combination. And if it does, I’ve got a file of correspondence a mile long with my political masters that shows clearly that I was all but instructed to manage the dam as I did. Oh and a few people will get killed. Not very noble – but nobility is a high standard to the behaviour of others. Of course I could be wrong, and the dam management turn out to have been craven warmies, but at this stage we just don’t know where the master/servant divide lay in the Qld system.

      Interesting thought, though. Despite the huge insurance cover shortfall, there is still a huge insured loss, related to NATURAL events. If any evidence emerges that those losses were only partly natural, and were exacerbated by the decisions of state bodies such as the dam managers, I should have thought they might have a go at the State before stumping up the lot themselves. I would.

  66. Climate scientists could both save lives and make their case for AGW if they would start predicting extreme weather events far enough in advance and with enough specificity that the public can prepare. Otherwise, they are in the almost comical position of insisting modern economies should be fundamentally reorganized, based on their prediction of calamity, without ever having demonstrated an ability to predict calamity.
    These a posteriori claims of attribution are utter non-sense; are in fact the hallmark of charlatans.

    • Then the climate science consensus would be
      1- practicing meteorology, and few seem to have that training
      2- offering predictions that could reasonably be falsified, a major change
      3- making predictions before the event, not after, which is much harder than the status quo of making predictions only after an event.

      Think of asking actuaries to predict what type of flu and its virulence, 18 months in advance. And suppressing medical efforts to question it.

  67. The more extreme alarmist scientists are in their efforts to enlist extreme weather to their political cause, the more they degrade their credibility. Unfortunately, they degrade the credibility of science as well.

    Sensible scientists would be wise to distance themselves from this type foolishness and to do so forcefully and often.

  68. I think the fact that they are attributing these events to AGW (or whatever it is called these days) does them little justice. I was skeptical of the skeptics but am slowing coming around! In 1976 we had Cyclone Tracy – not a very strong cyclone but cyclonic standards but it annihilated Darwin. One weather event in 100′s that I could name in historical terms long before “man’s impact” on the environment…..which I am thinking more and more as negligible.

    PS – I have a year’s subscription to the Australian Greens that I am giving away if anyone’s interested?

    • Latimer Alder

      Pay me a tenner and I’ll take it off your hands, no questions asked. And I’ll not tell your mates you ever had it :-)

    • Tracey was in 74, and it was probably a Cat 5 (the strongest).

      The opinions of ‘skeptics’ and reality seem to cross paths mostly by coincidence.

    • Michael— You are funny. Aren’t you the one who blames the distruction in Australia to global warming when it is undisputably true that the disaster could have been avoided if the dams water level had been maintained at 70% of its stated capacity pre flood???

    • Where are you getting this? According to one press report, the Wivenhoe was at 40% capacity, 100% of its drinking water component and 0% of its flood-mitigation component, on December 1, 2010.

    • Michael,
      By comparison that would leave the AGW community not ever touching reality at all.
      People died in brush fires and floods in Australia due in no small part to enviro-extremist policies inspired by global warming.
      Deal with it.

    • “In 1976 we had Cyclone Tracy – not a very strong cyclone but cyclonic standards but it annihilated Darwin.”

      It was 1974 and Tracy is generally regarded as one of the strongest (recorded) cyclones to ever hit the Australian coast, if not the strongest. The “category” rating system was introduced after this but Tracy is also generally considered to have been Category 5, the most severe.

      My take on attribution is here: http://kamcgnt.blogspot.com/2011/01/uselessness-of-when-preparing-for.html

      Information on Australian cyclones is here: http://www.bom.gov.au/cyclone/history/index.shtml

  69. JCH– I looked up the dam’s own website which published where there were relative to capacity for all of 2010. http://www.seqwater.com.au/public/dam-levels

  70. @Michael, from above:

    The dam started filling late last year, and contolled releases began to ensure that flood mitigation capacity was available.

    Of course, the dam starting filling late last year. There is also enough anecdotal and official evidence that the Queensland authority and its premier were still following an ‘every drop is precious’ policy and the dam’s flood mitigation capacity was being used up by storage, as a hangover of the previous drought-regime practices. Residents were still being fined for “wasting water” by watering plants. These are real on-the-ground evidence of what policy was being actually translated to practice. This is even as sensible projections predicting a “wetter 20-40 years” were available for the La Nina dominated coming decades.

    It is not enough to write something about ‘skeptics’ in every post. The arguments have to match up with the facts as well.

    The Abbs paper you pointed out refers to modeling projections about one-time increased precipitation events. If dams are operated as intended, they would be able to mitigate even the highest horizon events projected by Abbs et al.

    But then of course, that would require governments to conserve water and have the nerve to hold dam levels reasonably low even in drought periods, in anticipation of future ‘extreme events’. That is a tall ask for administrations losing their brains in the global warming meltdown anyway.

    • I think you are very wrong. The dam is appears legally obligated to fill to 1.16 million megalitres: the drinking water component of the dam’s total storage capacity. Beyond that level, the dam appears legally obligated to release any excess water in 7 days, which is what they’ve done when possible. The only exception is when downstream conditions precluded a release: in other words: downstream flooding. The only time they can release into downstream flooding is when the dam is dangerously full, which it was on 1-12-2011. Possibly because of an extreme rain event.

      The conservative politician I’ve cited made several calls for the dam to begin storing water beyond 1.116 million megalitres, and the government and the dam authorities ignored him and released any excess, thereby insuring the total capacity for flood mitigation (1.45 million ML) remained available for the vast majority of 2010. Had they caved in to that foolish demand, Brisbane probably would have flooded far in excess of the 1974 crest.

    • JCH–If you looked at the link I posted, it shows that the dam was filled to/over 100% of its normal capacity for almost all last year. In Dec. it was over 100%. By any measure that is poor planning/management and the problems resulted as a direct result of those poor decisions.

    • Bob, I think you are reading into it something that is not there. The dam was not holding 2.61 million megalitres of water throughout most 2010; it was holding 1.16 million megalitres, or less, throughout the vast majority of 2010.

      Its flood mitigation component is 1.45 million megalitres, and it is fully available, a space behind the dam that is devoid of water, when they call the dam “100%” full.

    • JCH– Maybe I am incorrect, but from the dam’s website is the statement

      “This graphs shows the full supply level of Seqwater dams including drinking water supply and flood water storage”

      Thier graph shows they were at 120% of capacity on 12/30/2010. I absolutely admit that they had additional emergency capacity, but doesn’t it seem like poor management to you when they were at 120% prior to a major storm.

  71. “legally obligated to fill to 1.16 million megalitres?” Even in the face of a coming monsoon? A statute that prevents releasing water in anticipation of a coming deluge? There are of course lots of dumb legislators, but a cite to the statute would be interesting.

    • It holds 2.61 million ML. It fills to 1.16 and then has to release anything above that in 7 days. When it is at 1.16 million ML, it can hold an additional 1.45 million ML to provide flood mitigation. I would assume those numbers were deemed sufficient to preclude a 1974-level flood. The dam reached, depending on the press report, around 190% of the capacity – 60 cm from topping the spillway. At that point they aggressively released water. What they feared was a water intake faster than they could release in order to avoid have the water top the dam, which is earthen. As I said before, as a college student I was close by to where that happened, and it killed more people than have died in this disaster.

      What tilted the pinball machine is likely an extreme rain event in this dam’s intake network: one in excess of any seen in recorded history. That is my speculation and I think an inquiry will confirm it.

  72. The lawmaker was demanding they fill beyond that. There is all sorts of chatter on the internet about the lunacy of the Wivenhoe releasing water during 2010.

    It appears to be the opposite of what you folks are claiming.

    Where is there any pre-storm talk of draining the dam? I think anybody suggesting such a thing would have been a shrimp on the barbie before it ever started raining.

    • LOL look at the dam’s website and then you would not be guessing or making incorrect statements. The dam peaked at 189.7 % of capacity. It was at over 115% of it’s planned capacity BEFORE the storm

    • Somebody is claiming to have made “pre-storm talk of draining the dam.”

      “Mr Gingis said Seqwater had ‘no right prior to the start of the wet season, when the forecasts were all pointing strongly to exceptional rainfall, to keep so much water in the dam’. ‘I tried to warn them about the coming disaster and to urge them before it was too late that they had to release much more water to give themselves more storage room for a big one.’
      ‘There is no doubt in my professional opinion that most of the flooding in Brisbane should have been avoided.’”

      http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/expert_claims_wivenhoe_was_too_full_to_proect_brisbane

      The bigger issue is, should they have needed to be told? In a field where appeals to authority are legion, should experts be able to defend themselves by claiming that the non-experts didn’t tell them what to do? Hindsight is 20/20, but would it really take a PhD to determine that water should be released in the face of coming rains, in an area with a history of massive floods?

      In other words, did the acceptance of CAGW as an unassailable fact lead those responsible to conclude that the floods of the past were no longer a real danger, and thus affect their decision on releasing water from the dam?

    • Is this the same Mr. Gingis?

      http://tinyurl.com/63q8hr9

      I want to see a credible forecast that this La Nina justified nullifying the Wivenhoe Dam’s management protocol. It should state how much extra rain was expected and why?

      The climate scientists were saying this would happen.

    • So Mr Gingis was right, but for the wrong reasons, so he was wrong?

      Typical Believer reasoning.

  73. Its flood mitigation is capacity is empty when the dam is 100% “full”: 1.16 million ML.

    Its total capacity is supposed to be 225%. 2.25 X 1.16 = 2.61 million ML: the dam’s total capacity.

    It would be over capacity during the 7-day release period. It rained. That’s why they release water: to restore the 1.45 million megalitre flood-mitigation capacity.

    • Your comments got me to look at the data more closely. When I looked at their website it showed that they must have had storms in March, because it had been filled to about 60% of the stated capacity, and then it went up and down in March. From April on they kept the dam at 100% of the stated capacity.

      In Oct. 2010 they must have had more storms, because it reached 126% of capacity, and then was lowered back to 100% by the end of Oct. From the middle of Dec. 2010 the dam was always over the 100% level and hit 123% on Dec 29th.

      Had dam officials held at the 60% to 80% fill level that they had the dam at before March 2010, there would not have been a problem.

    • Rob, where would there be justification for doing that? The engineers and meteorologists apparently thought 1.45 million ML was sufficient flood mitigation for pre-AGW rainfall likelihoods.

      The only way out that would be to predict a rainfall event will exceed pre-AGW amounts, and I can see only one group of people making that sort of prediction.

    • JCH— please do not ever take a job in managing critical infrastructure if you continue to think as you do. If I manage a large flood control dam, I would not keep it filled to 100% of it’s stated capacity. To blame this on AGW is stupid

    • If they had wanted a dam solely dedicated to flood-mitigation, they would have built a 1.45 million ML dam and left it empty. That is flood-mitigation capacity they thought would do the job.

      They wanted a dam that would store drinking water, generate electricity, provide for flood mitigation, and to provide for recreation.

      And that’s what they built: 2.61 million ML dam.

      You have provided, other than Monday Morning QB’n’, no rationale whatsoever for why they should have lowered the dam’s level below the drinking water storage compnent, and I can find no link that anybody at all thought they should have done such a thing before the summer rainfall season.

      They had rainfall forecasts, and there does appear to be in them a reason for nullifying the dam’s engineering.

      Now, if you want to allow in the fact that climate scientists were claiming rainfall events could exceed anything previously seen, then, I’m all for that because that would have given dam management a reason to consider a drinking water component of less than 1.16 million megalitres.

    • JCH—perhaps you can explain why historically the dam was maintained at a level between 60% and 80% between 1994 and March 2010, and only then was it rose to 100% and kept there.

    • Rob. Because it was a bloody drought and that was all the water that was available.

      And even in drought some release is inevitable to prevent ecological disaster downstream due to lack of river flow.

    • John–so if they had allowed the dam to fill to 80% of capacity they would have had the capacity to prevent the flooding that occured. They did not maintain sufficient capacity for flood control IN A FLOOD CONTRO DAM

    • It’s not a flood-control dam; it’s a multi-purpose dam. If it had been intended solely to be a flood-mitigation dam, they would have built a 1.45 million ML dam and left it empty.

      Because that is exactly what they have now. A 1.45 million ML flood-mitigation dam roosting on top of a 1.16 million ML drinking water/power generating/recreational dam.

      Just reinforce their point, the engineers who designed the dam possibly made it impossible to monkey with the drinking water component. There is apparently no spillway for it. According to what I read last night (still not quite believing this,) the only way to get the 1.16 million ML, the drinking water, out of the Wivenhoe quickly would be to turn all the showers and lawn sprinklers in Brisbane on 24 and 7.

    • JCH–we can agree to disagree, and I will offer you a wager that ultimately the officials will be found to have mismanaged the dam. My reading shows the dam was build primarily for flood control.

      Overall the people like yourself who propose that they are concerned about CO2 emissions levels always seem to be lacking in rational thought when it comes to the key issue:

      What policies to you propose, what will they cost to implement, and what will those policies accomplish. It you were in charge of the United States for instance, what policies would you propose to be implemented.

      It seems to me, that there is nothing that the US can do but adapt through better infrastructure planning and maintenance. For the US to spend $1.5 trillion in order to potentially impact the climate by .008 C after a couple of decades just does not make sense. This seems especially true when you consider that, even if we took all the actions (that Hansen wants for instance) CO2 doesn’t fall for many decades, so we would still have to do all the infrastructure preparations.

    • Rob, if the dam has no spillway for the lower level, the 1.16 million ML, how can they be accused of mismanagement? If what I read is correct, and I have no way of knowing if it is, there is no viable way to stop the dam from filling to 100% of its drinking water capacity when there is heavy rain.

      If the source is correct, there’s no hole at the bottom of the tub large enough to drain the amount of water you want drained. It would essentially be land locked.

    • JCH– I do not believe what you were told could be possibly correct. (It would have been a really dumb design) If you look at their (the dams) website you will see how there had been rains in December and then they dropped the dam levels quickly back down to the 100% fill level through releases shortly thereafter. (I think they were up to 126% in Dec) The dam website has all the data on fill percentages and daily release information.

      Bigger picture—I am really more interested in my question to you at the bottom of my last post.
      JCH– I am an engineer, but obviously know almost knowing about this dam except what I read from their website. That said, I do not believe what you stated could be possibly correct. If you look at their website you will see how

    • Here is a quote from Queensland Premiere Anna Bligh

      “Well we were warned by the weather bureau in November last year and in October, November we took the unprecedented step of actually having the weather bureau come and formally present to the cabinet because we were expecting a very severe weather pattern throughout our wet season. The likes of which the weather bureau tells us we haven’t seen since the early 1970s.”

      http://www.cabinet.qld.gov.au/MMS/StatementDisplaySingle.aspx?id=73343

      Here is a newspaper article about an engineer who warned that Wivenhoe wouldn’t be upto the job

      http://www.theaustralian.com.au/in-depth/queensland-floods/engineer-warned-of-danger-from-wivenhoe-dam/story-fn7iwx3v-1225991369355

      So maybe there was some rationale to reduce the dams level. I guess the inquiry will reveal all.

      p.s. I personally do not lay blame on the dam operators, but that’s another story,

    • “I can see only one group of people making that sort of prediction.” But make it they did. They were ignored, because they weren’t part of the CO2 posse. But they were right, and the CO2 posse wrong. Perhaps you are saying they were right, but for the wrong reasons, so we should continue to ignore them? That would be classic CAGW logic. I hope the coroner takes a different view.

    • Dude, it was the CO2 posse.

      They, the cAGW/CAGW’urs, seem to be saying that single rain events in Queensland could deliver more water than previously seen because of anthropogenic global warming.

      Now, did Toowoomba and areas immediately down range experience in-range La Nina precipitation? If so, in Australia do they usually call in-range precipitation “tsunamis”?

    • JCH I have possibly misunderstood you – if so, apologies. But

      “Dude, it was the CO2 posse.” Only recently, JCH, but that’s because theory-saving demands it. Back in 1974+aftermath, the CO2 posse was yet to form. And those old diggers, who advised the building of many, not one dams, and some of whom were pleading for greater releases through December, haven’t gone away, they have just been sidelined.

    • I have search the internet high and low for any hint anybody during 2010 was demanding more releases based upon La Nina delivering more rain than the flood-mitigation protocol could handle, and I can’t find it. Please direct me to it.

    • Your observation is disengenuous, contrary to common sense and a mis-representation of what many, including government weather forecasters actually stated.

      Australia’s BOM has been warning of above average rainfall continuously for months for northern and eastern Australia as well as other La Nina caused weather patterns.

      It is not up to the BOM to tell dam operators what to do as a result of their forecasts, it is the hydrologists’ for the dams and waterways job to figure that out as part of their responsibility.

      What you are saying is equivalent to claiming that the forecasters said that a hail storm was coming, but they didn’t tell me the kids should get inside the house. It’s your responsibility to get the kids inside the house based upon the forecast just as it is the dam operators job to figure out what to do.

      http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/enso/archive/ensowrap_20101124.pdf

      Besides, are you so naive to think the dam operators at Wivenhoe post their discussions on the internet about dam management? The fact you can’t find it on the internet is not proof that such discussions never happened.

    • There is nothing in the BOM forecasts that indicates the management protocols for any of Australia’s dams should be altered.

      I am not the one who is claiming that Wivenhoe’s management, or that Queensland’s government, was being deluged with demands from meteorologists to drain the dams because of an extra powerful La Nina that was going to deliver rainfall in excess of the management protocol’s planning.

      Other people are doing that: with no apparent evidence.

    • JCH,
      Thank you for demonstrating what happens to critical thinking skills when one is obsessed with CO2.

    • Lol. You believe in the fairytale that a La Nina means Australia should drain the dams.

    • No, I believe the flood was manageable, and I also believe that you are looking very charming all painted into your corner. I look forward to reading more of your dissembling and dodging.

    • JCH I don’t see any evidence that Rob misunderstands the percentages. Nut it might be better for all if the form “x % of drinking”, or “x% of total”.

      We should all remember that there will be both an enquiry and an inquest, and much as I sympathise with hunter’s bald assertions that CAGW thinking led the dam managers astray, I prefer greater caution.

      So I think some of the questions that ought to be asked are:

      Was the dam management protocol suited to the task of mitigating the sort of flood that ought to have been expected, three and a half decades after the last occurrence of an event that appears to have a 3.5 decade cycle?

      If not, how and why? Specifically, IF the protocol forabade the managers from reducing the level of the dam below 100%drinking in the face of a gathering monsoon, was this a wise constraint?

      Upon what grounds was the decision to cancel much of the post-74 dam-building program made, and were they sound? If not, why were they accepted, in the face of persistent advice from the old hands that the problem they were to address had not gone away?

      etc.

    • should be
      “But it might be better for all if the form “x % of drinking”, or “x% of total”, or somesuch, were agreed.”

  74. JCH
    “legally obligated to fill to 1.16 million megalitres?” and “obliged to release it in 7 days”???

    This is illogical thrashing in the extreme, JCH!

    Is this how you interpret the flood mitigation functioning of a dam? In the face of increasing rains, the Wywenhoe dam could have been operated in much better mitigatory fashion had the underlying purpose behind the operation guidelines you cite, understood better!

    You also state the flooding of the floodplains prevented earlier opening of the dam gates. Wouldn’t that be the same time the catchment areas experiencing rains too, increasing the dam water levels?

    It is precisely at this juncture that any amount of extra capacity *at the dam* could have mitigated the flooding. What were they waiting for?

    Answers such as “I didn’t release water because I had about a week more time left to release it” will not cut.

    One hope the dam managers don’t give similar ‘technically correct’ ass-covering type of answers when questions arise. They are going to look impenitent and be in a world of trouble.

  75. The 7 days reflect the amount of time it safely takes to release a rainfall event of a certain size. They do not wait a week and release. They assess downstream conditions and begin releasing as soon as conditions safely allow it. Obviously, if downstream conditions do not allow a safe, 7-day release, it becomes a longer release period.

    Somebody did this engineering, and they did it with the advice of meteorologists.

    The dam is managed according to its engineering. That is why dam managers ignored the rather persistent political demand that they erase some of the flood-mitigation component by expanding the drinking-water component, which is exactly what the Monday Morning QBs were demanding before the “storm”.

    before the rainfall events of December and January, the political pressure form the opposition party was to decrease the flood-mitigation component.

    That’s why they’re called Monday Morning QBs. Before the outcome they’re going deep; after the outcome they’re running the ball.

    If this is the basis of the inquiry, the dam managers can break out the air mattresses and the cocktails and go recreate by the spillway.

    • In the actual event, the dam management was FORCED to release water (to prevent damage to the wall) at the very peak of the downstream flooding, irrespective of “downstream safety”

      No squiggling around this fact

    • Yes, there is squiggling around it. The engineers and the meteorologists established the management methodology. Apparently the event has in some way exceeded for what they planned. Somebody was telling them this was likely to happen and why, and this whole thread is about erasing those somebodies from the scene.

      So let’s have this inquiry. I like the way it is shaping up.

    • >Somebody was telling them this was likely to happen and why, and this whole thread is about erasing those somebodies from the scene<

      Utter bs: warnings from meteorologists about major La Nina rainfall were being issued 12 months ago and no-one is suggesting that the Nino-Nina cycle is driven by AGW

      Repeat – strictly observed management regulations dating from 2000 (based on the never-ending drought scarey bear) caused the dam management to hang back until they were FORCED to release water at the most inappropriate time

      No squiggling

    • You have a link to a meteorologist(s) advising the Wivenhoe’s management protocol should be nullified, and the drinking water component lowered – because of La Nina?

      I have links to a conservative politician repeatedly pushing for the exact opposite.

    • JCH,
      The original plan was to build more flood control.
      But with the end of the world by CO2 poisoning and no more rain expected, why bother to plan for events known to have happened in the past?
      CO2 toxicity at current concentrations is a strange poison that only effects those that believe in it, and only impacts their ability to solve problems, unless the answer is ‘CO2′.

    • You make wild assumptions and wild accusations. In the United States most opposition to large water projects like dams comes from the locals: not in our backyard. I doubt that Australia is different.

    • Sorry JCH, but the political situation is more complex down here. We have more than two partys.

      The one holding the balance of power and on whose backs the Labor Party maintains government is the Greens. Their motto is “No New Dams”.

      The opposition to dams is therefore from a quite strong political force and is not NIMBY.

    • JohnB,
      JCH cannot let pesky facts get in the way ofhisrationalization of why it was OK for enviros to in just a short time burn up the Bush (and its poor residents) and flood Brisbane (and its increasing body count) both based on extremism and climate obsession.

    • Steven Mosher

      Maybe it’s time for us AGWers to shift our focus and demand more hydro power, more nuclear, better water management and leave global control of C02 for a time when it’s poltically feasible

    • Human beings have varying opinions. I grew up in an area that has intensive hydro power, and have no opposition to it. The river they damed up looks different, but not that much different. It was not a great loss of natural beauty or habitat.

      Drawing a line in the sand, going to the mat to put this underwater was, in my opinion, box-of-rocks stupid:

      http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/2/28/Rock_island_bend.jpg

      If you want dams, you don’t do that.

    • JCH,
      It is aesthetic, but was it environmentally significant?
      I would have opposed it, but I oppose windmills on the same grounds, plus the bird whirlomatic problem.
      That is why I like nuke: clean air, defined small footprint per power output.

    • Good idea

    • This from the Economist following Australian flooding in April 2010.

      “For the moment, the floods have allowed the Darling’s farmers to fill their reservoirs. Cotton, fruit and other thirsty crops, planted in an arid region where sheep and cattle once ruled, should produce bumper harvests next season. But David Harriss of the NSW Office of Water, a state-government body, can see the outback’s boom-bust cycle returning after the rivers fall again. ‘Water is like gold now,’ he says. ‘We’re running out of the stuff.’”

      http://www.economist.com/node/15963979?story_id=15963979

      Yet somehow even laymen were aware of the dangers.

      “Record rainfall throughout Queensland and NSW has isolated many places for short period with local flooding. Lives have been lost …… drivers entering water covered roads…kids playing in flooded creeks.
      Predictions for a mini cyclone in Northern Queensland at Christmas look like they will come true. take note ….Plllllease Give the tropics in Australia a big miss during Dec-Jan-Feb- March. The pundits predict more record rains early 2011.”

      http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/tt/afe59/

      The government experts: yes, it’s been flooding, but “we’re running out of the stuff.” The poor uninformed riff raff: “stay away, it’s been flooding and will given the forecasts for more rain, it will flood again.”

  76. In the following, Sunstein and Kuran discuss the influence of the quantity of published papers and articles in swaying public opinion. This may help explain the volume of accounts of extreme events attributed to Global Warming / Climate Change. To their credit, they do not advocate using these insights in support of AGW theory. A glance at the table of contents supports this, in that it addresses both effects and risks. Unfortunately, an Availability Cascade works for questionable as well as beneficial policy .

    Sunstein, Cass, and Timur Kuran. 2007. Availability Cascades and Risk Regulation. Research. Social Science Research Network. October 7. For the entire article, see http://www.law.uchicago.edu/files/files/364.pdf

    An availability cascade is a self-reinforcing process of collective belief formation by which an expressed perception triggers a chain reaction that gives the perception of increasing plausibility through its rising availability in public discourse. The driving mechanism involves a combination of informational and reputational motives: Individuals endorse the perception partly by learning from the apparent beliefs of others and partly by distorting their public responses in the interest of maintaining social acceptance. Availability entrepreneurs – activists who manipulate the content of public discourse – strive to trigger availability cascades likely to advance their agendas. Their availability campaigns may yield social benefits, but sometimes they bring harm, which suggests a need for safeguards. Focusing on the role of mass pressures in the regulation of risks associated with production, consumption, and the environment, Professor Timur Kuran and Cass R. Sunstein analyze availability cascades and suggest reforms to alleviate their potential hazards. Their proposals include new governmental structures designed to give civil servants better insulation against mass demands for regulatory change and an easily accessible scientific database to reduce people’s dependence on popular (mis)perceptions.

    Page 685: The mechanisms presented below are mediated by the availability heuristic, a pervasive mental shortcut whereby the perceived likelihood of any given event is tied to the ease with which its occurrence can be brought to mind. Cognitive psychologists consider the availability heuristic to be a key determinant of individual judgment and perception. They have demonstrated that the probability assessments we make as individuals are frequently based on the ease with which we can think of relevant examples.’ Our principal claim here is that this heuristic interacts with identifiable social mechanisms to generate availability cascades-social cascades, or simply cascades, through which expressed perceptions trigger chains of individual responses that make these perceptions appear increasingly plausible through their rising availability in public discourse.

    Page 727: We have already touched on the origins of the social pressures that create incentives for tailoring one’s public expressions to social expectations. Where policies will create winners and losers, not everyone simply reacts to pressures. Ever alert to the mechanisms under consideration, some individuals take it upon themselves to shape the pressures in order to mold public discourse and control the policy selection process.

  77. “The diversity of expertise yielded a rich perspective on the requirements for the development of a scientifically robust and relevant attribution service.”

    Exactly, “on the requirements for the development”which are not, as yet, fully understood.

    Does anything more need to be said about Attribution to poorly understood weather events? Or, would someone like to step on IPCC projections that fail to attribute much of anything significant before 2060?

    Its just weather, move along there’s nothing to see here ; )

  78. To those arguing about the management practices of Wivenhoe. cut it.

    The ey did an exemplary job considering that 1 dam was doing the work of 3. If the other dams on the Bremer and Lochyer had been built, there would have been no problem with the release from Wivenhoe as the other river levels would have been far lower.

    The real question is not why did Wivenhoe do or not do something. The question is “Why weren’t the other dams built?”

    An inquiry with the powers of a Royal Commission is on the cards to find answers. For our american friends this is not like a Senate inquiry, but is a judicial inquiry. Testimony is under oath and perjury penalties apply. The Commissioner has the power to call anybody to testify that he or she deems appropriate, up to and including the Prime Minister. Failure to appear is “Contempt” and arrest warrants can be issued.

    Offhand I would say that dam management has nothing to worry about, but those who provided advice on the long term climate outlook do.

    • The Somerset and Wivenhoe Dams work in tandem for flood mitigation with output entering the Brisbane River downstream from Ipswich. During a large flood similar in magnitude to 1974, flood levels will be reduced downstream by approximately 2 metres.

      Your point is completely correct, “Why weren’t the other dams built?” and why did they build in a Brisbane flood plain?

      Somerset and Wivenhoe were never designed to eliminate floods. The real problem occurred upstream and down stream in relation to land management.

    • >Offhand I would say that dam management has nothing to worry about, but those who provided advice on the long term climate outlook do<

      Some of us (myself included) may wish this to be

      BUT I am predicting (and I stand by the prediction) that AGW advice will be soft-shuffled offstage and the MSM will not accurately report this pea & thimble

      As an example of such stage management, witness the recent Brumby Govt Inquiry into the lethal bushfires, where the green-vexed question of fuel reduction by controlled burning was airbrushed out from public examination after solemn and deliberately unfulfilled promises that this would not happen. Of course, in the event the Green vote did not save Brumby at the following election

  79. @gryposaurus | January 15, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    You wrote” I understand that presently, the natural atmospheric circulation will dominate when extreme events happen, but do you disagree with the notion that warmer air increases the hydrological cycle and therefore makes flooding and drought more extreme”
    Why would droughts be more extreme? Wouldn’t adding water vapour lead to less drought ? Were’nt glacial periods dry ?

  80. Another illuminating post, Dr. C; thanks.

    This “attribution” proposal is just lip-smacking good for promoters of climate hysteria. If we receive information from a thousand different places, then we’re almost guaranteed a 100-year weather disaster every month, complete with heartbreaking pictures.

    The current models currently get precipitation and humidity wrong, of course, but still with the right parameters they will produce a drought, flood, or hurricane in roughly the right place at roughly the right time at some point in, say, 100 runs. Based on the output of this run, they tell a journalist friend that their model says the disaster would have been 10% less severe without anthropogenic CO2 accumulation.

    The headline then becomes “Thousands Die Due to Global Warming!”

    Dandy. Dr. C, there’s little assurance that these famous models even have the sign of natural feedbacks correct, yet Trenberth claims that they enable him to “confidently” attribute 7% of Katrina’s severity to anthropogenic global warming. (What would Dr. Landsea say?)

    This is not even bad science; this is just making stuff up.

  81. “BRISBANE City Council’s top flood engineer recommended a decade ago that Wivenhoe Dam be operated differently to ensure a much larger buffer against flooding, documents obtained under Freedom of Information show.

    Engineer Ken Morris warned in an internal report, Brisbane River Flooding, that the existing and longstanding Queensland government policy of operating the dam at full supply level meant its capacity to mitigate floods was significantly compromised.”

    “They said the Brisbane flood was largely attributable to the dam’s operators releasing unprecedented and unnecessarily vast volumes of water on January 11 after they lost their flood buffer because the dam had not been drawn down significantly over the weekend before the huge rainfall dump.”

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/in-depth/queensland-floods/engineer-warned-of-danger-from-wivenhoe-dam/story-fn7iwx3v-1225991369355?from=public_rss1

    My favorite part:

    “The performance of the dam’s operators has been described as first-class by SEQWater Grid managers, who said Wivenhoe had done a remarkable job in mitigating the flood.”

    Heckuva job Brownie.

    • Ask the greens, next time they engage in arm waving about how none of this was their fault, if they would please wash the blood off before they wave their hands around and make such a mess.

  82. A new media report at http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503543_162-20029417-503543.html

    Part of which states:
    And while no single weather event can be linked definitively to global climate change, a growing number of scientists say these extreme events represent the face of a warming world.

    “Any one of these events is remarkable,” said Jay Gulledge, senior scientist for the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. “But all of this taken together could not happen without the extra heat that’s in the ocean. It defies common sense to overlook that link.”

  83. A while ago, in early-mid January to be precise, there were many learned individuals here in this thread, ready to exonerate the Wivenhoe dam management practices and the people behind them for the disastrous Queensland flooding early this year.

    Why? It is difficult to tell.

    Maybe that was one way of insisting that the disaster was due to a once-in-a-thousand year event, beyond any human control, caused by the global warming Trenberth-Romm effect.

    The ‘Trenberth-Romm effect’ of course, is this: anthropogenic *global* warming causes massive increases in atmospheric moisture and leads to ‘record’ rainfall and floods.

    Recently, Michael O’Brien, an engineer who has penned this report, submitted to the Queensland Flood Inquiry says as much as well:

    Since he first went on the record in mid-January with calculations showing that a significant cause of the flooding in Brisbane was directly due to the operation of the dam, he has watched with detached bemusement as outspoken bloggers, journalists, spin doctors and commentators, and even former hydrologists, none of whom had themselves done the calculations, tried to argue the opposite.

    and

    “A lot of the commentary was very lightweight,”

    The report titled Brisbane Flooding January 2011: An avoidable disaster, however speaks differently from the hurriedly peddled judgement that we saw above in this thread.

    In an article published a little over a week ago, the Australian makes several observations about the report:

    Even the dam operator, SEQWater, which insists it performed well, concedes as much in a carefully qualified part of its 1180-page report.

    and

    Hydrology experts not directly associated with SEQWater conclude that the official categorisation of the January disaster is “dam release flood”.

    and

    A panel of hydrologists and engineers from WorleyParsons, WRM Water and Environment and Water Matters International, in a newly released report for the Insurance Council of Australia, states: “Releases from Wivenhoe Dam caused a floodwave in the Brisbane River — dam release flooding.

    The panel concludes that the releases from Wivenhoe “dwarfed” the natural flooding in the lower Brisbane River, Bremer River and Lockyer Creek, significantly increasing the water levels.

    and

    O’Brien remains concerned that despite the abundance of evidence now available and the conclusions being made by the experts, a lack of rigour exposed in much of the media’s treatment of the disaster will lead to the dam’s performance being given the benefit of the doubt. His primary objective is that while the hard lessons from this disaster might damage reputations, the lessons must be learned.

    “They banked water in the dam for far too long during a flood event and then, at the worst possible time on the Tuesday [January 11], they panicked and released so much water that they not only flooded Brisbane but also backed up the Bremer River through Ipswich and the Lockyer Creek, which made the flooding in those areas worse and longer-lasting. They had multiple chances to ensure Brisbane would have had a minor flood instead of thousands of properties flooding.

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