Water: too little, too much

by Judith Curry

Next week, I will be in Boulder attending a workshop on the topic of understanding and predicting conditions associated with either too much or too little water.

The Workshop is sponsored by an Interagency Committees with representatives from NOAA, DOD, USGS, DOI, NASA (apologies to  non-US readers for this alphabet soup of government agencies.)

From the Workshop materials:

Workshop purpose

To discuss and develop recommendations to NOAA Leadership, including the NOAA Research Council, that will inform a subsequent “NOAA Science Conference” and the next NOAA 5-Year Research Plan on the topic of: “Understanding and predicting conditions associated with either too much or too little water”

To fulfill this purpose the Water Cycle Science Challenge Workshop will:

  • encompass the current state of understanding;
  • identify gaps that can be addressed over the next 5-years;
  • identify NOAA’s role in filling those gaps in concert with external partners and other institutions over the next 5-years; 
  • outline the expected benefits of filling the gaps.

The Workshop will also:

  • consider implications for relevant observing systems
  • characterize uncertainties associated with water cycle science information
  • discuss how best to communicate water cycle science information and associated uncertainties accurately and effectively to policy makers, the media, and the public at large.

Primary Technical Topics

1. What are the “forcings” needed for NOAA hydrologic prediction services of the future, and for external partners? “Forcings” here refers to those inputs needed to drive explicit stream flow prediction models typically forecasting out hours to days or weeks, e.g., precipitation, soil moisture, snow pack, evapotranspiration, base flow.

2. What methods and basis are best for estimating extreme meteorological and hydrological event possibilities, deterministically or probabilistically, in a changing climate?

3. How to jointly utilize the longer-term climate variability from observed records, paleoclimate, and projected climate information when portraying drought and surplus possibilities in planning?

4. What will NOAA’s future hydrologic models consist of and how to develop them under the Integrated Water Resources Science and Services (IWRSS) interagency framework?

5. What scientific inputs are needed on water cycle extremes, normals, predictability, climate trends and uncertainty information for policy makers dealing with major infrastructure planning, typically for decades into the future (e.g., water supply and flood control) and/or endangered species (e.g., salmon)?

6. How to make better use of existing and future weather & seasonal/annual climate predictions related to the water cycle?

Breakout Session topics:

  • Next generation hydrologic modeling
  • Hydrometeorological forcings for hydrologic models
  • Physical processes underlying the water cycle
  • Climate dimensions

Highlighted Crosscutting topics:

  • User needs
  • Extreme events (drought, flood)
  • Observations
  • Communication
  • Ecosystem health

In addition to the Interagency Committee, about 50 people were invited from the broad community of experts related to water cycle science.  I’ve been asked to make a 15 minute presentation re the Climate Dimensions topic.

JC’s presentation

My draft presentation is [noaa water climate], in ppt (downloads the file) with some explanatory comments  for slides that aren’t self explanatory.  I would appreciate any comments.  Some “heretical” perspectives, but I hope that they will stimulate discussion and thought.

Here is some of the text from my ppt with my main conclusions.  Note, I make a critical distinction between deterministic and probabilistic predictions on timescales of days to seasons, versus scenarios on long time scales.

Creative construction of future scenarios

CMIP century scale simulations are designed for assessing sensitivity to greenhouse gases using emissions scenarios

They are not fit for the purpose of inferring decadal scale or regional climate variability, or assessing variations associated with natural forcing and internal variability.  Downscaling does not help.

We need a much broader range of scenarios for regions (historical data, simple models, statistical models, paleoclimate analyses, etc).

Permit creatively constructed scenarios as long as they can’t be falsified as incompatible with background knowledge

Regional approach to scenario development

Climate dynamics analysis of historical black swan events

JC’s recommendations

•  Improved ocean obs for model initialization

•  Subseasonal and seasonal predictions:

– hybrid statistical/dynamical predictions

– improved treatment of Arctic sea ice (wintertime snowfall)

– regional climate dynamics/diagnostics

– ensemble interpretation to identify potential black swans

•  Decadal and century timescales:

– Broader range of CMIP scenarios to explore possible impacts of natural forcing changes (e.g. solar, volcanoes)

– Better understanding of historical/paleo regional climate dynamics and black swans

– Creative, regional approach to scenario development,  including population and land use changes

149 responses to “Water: too little, too much

  1. Distributing water to meet needs is indeed a human problem.

    But that problem has nothing to do with the AGW scare story.

    • It has nothing to do with AGW unless AGW affects the climate.

      Oh wait…

      • The water cycle is the biggest part of the AGW scare story — droughts and floods are worse than heat waves, not to mention that the “catastrophic” water vapor feedback is part of the water cycle, the part that causes the heat waves. CO2 is only the trigger in the supposed horror to come. But hey, they are looking for money. That is what “5 year Research Plan” means: what can we sell the Congress? Let’s hope not.

      • Yes the unprecedented rate of increase in CO2 levels, a gas known to have a significant radiative forcing, should just be assumed to have no impact on climate including precipitation patterns.

        It should just be all ignored by scientists. Some of those book things should be burned too.

      • Assumed? No, I think we have determined that it has no discernible impact.

      • That doesn’t quite jive with the “science is all uncertain” message does it?

      • Uncertainty is not my message, which is that AGW has been falsified. Climate forecasting is a separate issue. There is still climate to consider.

      • The only reasonable question now is how will AGW manifest, not whether it exists. It’s beyond doubt that the climate will react to our emissions of greenhouse gases. It would be thermodynamically impossible for it not to.

      • Thermodynamically impossible! Woo hoo. How silly of me not to see that.

      • Well it is a bit silly yes. If CO2 is doubled a 3.7wm-2 forcing is induced on the planet. If the climate didn’t change in response to that you’d have 3.7wm-2 building up indefinitely until the oceans boiled.

      • The forcing is a prediction that appears to be completely incorrect.

      • Bruce, next you are going to say Arrhenius was wrong, and your statement also puts you opposed to Lindzen and Spencer. Just so you know where you stand, which is ‘out there’.

      • David,

        “Thermodynamically impossible! Woo hoo. How silly of me not to see that.”
        lolwot with 10 years old mentality will not be able to understand it!

      • The climate system is complex, with numerous non-linear feedbacks, plus massive external forcings. In such a system one cannot take a simple small change and say some result has to happen, because it does not. AGW is a conjecture that has to be tested against observation, and it has failed.

      • What massive external forcings? I challenge you to come up with a non-CO2 forcing anywhere close to 3.7wm-2 that is even slightly likely to happen this century.

        Also it’s absurd to claim that the climate doesn’t have to adjust to a forcing that large. Do you know what a forcing is? Yes you must. How then do you expect anyone to believe that the planet can be 3.7wm-2 out of whack indefinitely?

      • To put it in perspective, the solar forcing for the LIA was about 0.5 W/m2, so pay attention to 3.7 W/m2 for CO2 doubling if you believe the LIA was forced. A typical solar 11 year cycle has a forcing of 0.2 W/m2, and some would say the effects are measurable for those too.

      • Jim D. .5W/m2 for the LIA? Is that per year or decade?


        Global Dimming and Brightening have seen way bigger changes than that over the last 40 years.

        Try an increase of 20W/m2 over Europe in the summer. Those amounts dwarf theoretical future CO2 warming. And they are happening now,

        “Surface radiation data beyond the year 2000 are particularly interesting as they provide independent and complementary information to the ambitious satellite programs which became operational with the beginning of the new millennium. The surface records suggest a continuation of the surface solar brightening beyond 2000 at numerous stations in Europe and the United States, as well as parts of east Asia (Korea). Surface solar radiation variations in Europe after 2000 are dominated by a large positive anomaly in the year 2003 with its unprecedented summer heat wave, exceeding 10 Wm−2 on an annual and 20 Wm−2 on a summer mean basis in central Europe.”


        Previously, Global Dimming had dropped sunshine by 18W/m2.

        “solar radiation declined by 7 W/m2 on average between
        1961 and 1990 at land sites in many regions of the world
        [Liepert, 2002; Stanhill and Cohen, 2001; Gilgen et al.,
        1998]. For example, strong reductions in global solar
        radiation occurred in the United States with 18 W/m2 in
        thirty years, which was explained by increasing concentrations
        of anthropogenic aerosol particles and cloud
        changes [Liepert, 2002].”


      • Bruce, 0.5 W/m2 for the LIA is the continuous reduction around the Maunder Minimum. According to climate4you for example the TSI was 3 W/m2 less than now, translating to 0.5 W/m2 at the earth’s surface (after the 0.25 and 0.7 factors for the sphere and albedo). Some think this was an overestimate of the TSI change, if anything. Doubling CO2 is 3.7 W/m2 by comparison.
        Regarding global dimming, some estimates do put that at 1-2 W/m2 due to aerosols, but these are only a temporary shield that will go away when we have run out of sulphate-pollutants to burn.

      • Jim D, 199x-200x increases in sunshine have been measured at .5W/m-2 per year by the BSRN.

        They aren’t measuring TSI. They are measuring actual solar radiation making it to the earth.

        CO2’s contribution is hilariously small.

      • Boiling oceans seem unlikely. In fact wasn’t there a recent paper that showed lots of extra energy going off into space.

        I think by 2100 my prediction will be well proven. If there is another La Nina this year — 2012 should do it.

        And if there is a Maunder type minimum … we all freeze.

      • what’s your prediction for 2012 if there is a La Nina? dont hint at it – give it to us

      • It will very cold if there is another La Nina. On top of that, the west coast will have a really bad cold and snowy winter thanks to the cold PDO.

      • Assumed? No, I think we have determined that it has no discernible impact.

        Is that “we” as in philosophers? Or “we” as in right-wing extremists who boast of having written “hundreds of articles” attacking “the great green menace” [sic]?

        Do scientists get a vote?

      • AGW should be ignored because many of the predicted “Catastrophes” have not happened … and in fact the opposite has happened.

        Prediction: More Hurricanes.
        Reality: Fewer

        Prediction: No more snow
        Reality: Record snowfalls

        Prediction: Record Drought in Australia. Spend billions on desalination
        Reality: Floods.

        Prediction: Lake Powell will go dry
        Reality: Lake Powell at its highest level in 10 years

        Prediction: 1000mm of sea level rise.
        Reality; 6mm drop in 2010.

        AGW has no predictive capability. Those who make predictions based on AGW make the wrong predictions and squander trillions.

      • It’s wrong to ignore the risk of a doubling of CO2 just because effects cannot be accurately predicted. In fact that’s part of the threat. If we knew what would happen it would be a lot easier to deal with wouldn’t it?

        You list a few predictions, but that’s the tip of the iceberg. There are multitudes of systems affected by the climate that have not even been investigated in terms of how they will be affected by a higher level of CO2.

        You should also be more careful with your scorecard of predictions – some of your claims of predictions – such as the “no more snow” are bogus and were not made.

      • CO2 helps cooling of the atmosphere by gaining energies from N2 and O2 collisions and release the gained energy in picoseconds in the form of CO2 IR spectral lines to space.

        The more CO2 concentration in the air, the more energies from air is released to the space. This was evident in the last winter with more snow in England, Europe, China and a lot of other places in the world with higher CO2 concentration.

      • sorry you’ve accidentally replied to my post and not the post of some deluded fool who would believe any of your nonsense.

      • I am afraid that you haven’t got a hope in hell of getting funding to test this both interesting and plausible hypothesis.

      • Partially right, SamNC, the IR effect of CO2 cools the air, but also has the effect of less energy going out to space, and this blocking of outbound energy warms the surface, which then warms the atmosphere.

      • lolwot,
        Your spurious foolish reply did not make you know better or yourself better.

        I know there is no chance for any skeptic getting any funding for anything that does not comply with the believe of AGW.

        Jim D,
        What makes you think that CO2 does not radiate out to space and the CO2 love to keep the energy from the N2 and O2 and the in turn heat then up? It appears you know how these CO2 molecules think! LOL!

      • do you seriously believe that nonsense you wrote about CO2 cooling the atmosphere?

        no. you dont.

      • lolwot,
        You may like to try to learn from Jim D. Don’t be a fool here! You can get nowhere being a fool like a 10 years old.

      • SamNC, CO2 radiates to space from the upper atmosphere where it is cold. It radiates less than the atmosphere would without it because of its temperature.
        lolwot, I mean IR cools the atmosphere. It is opposed by convection that warms it, leading to the equilibrium between convection and radiation.

      • Jim D,

        “CO2 radiates to space from the upper atmosphere where it is cold.”
        Now, this is incorrect. CO2 radiate all directions. Where is upper atmosphere?

        “It radiates less than the atmosphere would without it because of its temperature” It?it?its? Only you know these ‘it’!

        “lolwot, I mean IR cools the atmosphere. It is opposed by convection that warms it, leading to the equilibrium between convection and radiation.”
        You got it right. CO2 IR cools the atmosphere since N2 and O2 are very ineffective in IR radiation!

      • SamNC, from the point of view of space the atmosphere appears colder when you add CO2, meaning it is losing less to space. It responds by getting warmer to get back to the original effective temperature. This is not complicated.

      • Jim D,
        “SamNC, from the point of view of space the atmosphere appears colder when you add CO2, meaning it is losing less to space.” You have strange logic here. It (the atmosphere) appears to space colder only it (CO2) has already radiated its (CO2) IR (after gaining energy from O2 and N2 by collisions) to space.

        “It responds by getting warmer to get back to the original effective temperature. This is not complicated.” It? CO2? CO2 does not respond! It (CO2) should never get back to its original temperature as it has already IR energy radiated to space unless the Earth supply more heat to the atmosphere by convection and the by collisions, CO2 restored back to its original temperature. Or CO2 restored back to its original temperature by absorbing IR radiation from the Earth. In this case CO2 cools the Earth. More CO2 cools the Earth. If the Earth does not replenish IR energy to CO2, CO2 will continuous radiate its energy to space and cools down air by collisions.

      • Jim D,

        I re-read your “the IR effect of CO2 cools the air, but also has the effect of less energy going out to space,” Yes, correct.

        ” and this blocking of outbound energy warms the surface, which then warms the atmosphere.”
        Absolutely wrong. Your concept about energy needs a bit deeper thinking if not additional learning. Less energy available means the atmosphere has less energy store (after collisions with CO2 which then IR energy radiated out to space) and is now readily accept more energy from the Earth surface. A cooler atmosphere increase heat transfer from the Earth surface, hence cools the Earth. Not warms the Earth! Lots of AGWers just could not figure it out causing so much conceptual confusions about energy.

      • SamNC, ‘more energy from earth’, yes, that is convection. It makes the atmosphere warmer than it was without so much CO2. If the atmosphere did not warm, the IR budget at the top would remain unbalanced and heat would accumulate mostly at the surface unless convection puts it into the atmosphere.

      • Jim D,
        “If the atmosphere did not warm, the IR budget at the top would remain unbalanced”
        The atmosphere is warming up by the Sun, the radiation, the convection and the conduction of the Earth surface at a higher temperature. The space receives direct IR radiations from the Earth surface, the air IR radiations. There is no energy balance at any length of time since billions of years of radiation energy from the Sun + cosmic rays = billions of years of stored energy on the Earth + billions of years of IR radiation (including changing forms of energies) from the Earth surfaces. There is no such thing ‘balance’ at the TOA as Sun radiation is not constant and cosmic ray is not constant, IR radiation is never constant.

        “and heat would accumulate mostly at the surface”
        No, heat is stored as energy on the Earth until released in the form of natural (volcano eruption, decomposition of flora and fauma, winds including tornadoes, hurricanes, natural forest fires etc) and human consumptions of foods, burning of fossil fuels etc.

        ” unless convection puts it into the atmosphere.”
        Convection is one form of heat transfer to the atmosphere, conduction and radiation also play a respective part of putting energy into the atmosphere.

        CO2 coolss

      • Earthquakes and many other I left out should also be mentioned/accounted for.

      • I think Sam NC, Nasif Nahle, Claes Johnson, Joe Postma and a few other commenters on this blog are in a very stiff, neck-in-neck competition as to who can post the most ignorant comments. While I like a good competition as much as the next guy, in this case can’t we just declare them all winners and move on?

        The nature of the internet reminds me about Tom Lehrer’s old quip about the Army:

        The Army has carried the American ideal to its logical conclusion. Not only do they prohibit discrimination on the grounds of race, creed and color, but also on ability.

      • What Sam NC means by CO2 cooling the atmosphere is literally that more CO2 makes the atmosphere colder, which is BS and the BS is not anymore nuanced than that.

        I prefer to just say it’s nonsense. I am pretty sure Sam NC understands why it’s nonsense he is just being a dck.

      • sorry you’ve accidentally replied to my post and not the post of some deluded fool who would believe any of your nonsense.

        Well said.

      • Sam NC, I am trying to keep it simple for you. There is a balance between incoming solar radiation and outgoing IR radiation at the top of the atmosphere. Maybe you understand why that has to be true. Even if this balance was off by 1% in the atmosphere, it could warm by 10 degrees per year. When you add CO2, you reduce outgoing IR. What happens next? It is better if you figure it out for yourself, but it helps to know what is needed to increase outgoing IR, which is some kind of warming somewhere.

      • I agree with Chief Hydrologist – these numbnuts took control of this blog.

        I meant – lolwot, Joel Shore, Robert (not CH).

      • Jim D,

        ” When you add CO2, you reduce outgoing IR. ” This contradicts to CO2 is a better effective IR radiation gas. Have you ever wonder why you are contradicted?

      • Sam NC, you agreed with it a few posts ago, now you are contradicting yourself. From space, the CO2 is seen from the top. The top is colder, so for more CO2 you see only the higher colder average temperature emission, which is less IR. It behaves like adding cold high clouds that emit well, but are cold, so the block the view of the warmer emission from below.

      • Jim D,

        I have not contradicted, just you have not realised that the measurement at TOA (Top of Atmosphere) is actually the result of inversely proportional to the R^2. Thats why you measure at the ground level is always higher then at the TOA.

      • Sam NC, the 1/r^2 argument is nonsense. I hope I don’t have to explain why when the atmosphere is so thin compared to the radius of the earth.

      • Jim D,

        Now you are taliking nonsense. The source of emission is at the surface, not the Ceter of the Earth. Your nonsense reply just exposed how little you know about radiation.

      • Seems I do have to explain if you are using the center of the earth as a reference. r changes very little (less than a percent) between the top and bottom of the atmosphere. Let me know if this confuses you.

      • Sam NC | August 28, 2011 at 2:43 pm |

        I agree with Chief Hydrologist – these numbnuts took control of this blog.

        I meant – lolwot, Joel Shore, Robert (not CH).

        I’ve taken control of this blog? Sweet! Dance, puppets, dance!

        Amazing the low tolerance “skeptics” have of people who are skeptical of them. ;)

      • Jim D,

        No. Read my previous messages. Just surface as the IR heat radiation source is the surafce not the center of the Earth.

      • Sam NC, do the math. How much bigger is the area of the surface of a sphere at the top of the atmosphere when its radius is 1% bigger than a sphere at the surface?
        This also has nothing to do with adding CO2, because we are only looking at how it reduces IR at the top which is a fact.

      • Told you many times, the radiation at the surface, nothing to do with the radius of the Earth. Radiation does not come from the center of the Earth, full stop.

      • SamNC, well done again. You understood what I was saying.

      • You are on a good course but you are just half right. Never, next time.

      • lolwot: “just because effects cannot be accurately predicted”.

        “The term cargo cult science refers to an analogy between certain fields of research in the sciences, and cargo cults—i.e. the religious practice that has appeared in many traditional tribal societies in the wake of interaction with technologically advanced cultures. The cults focus on obtaining the material wealth (the “cargo”) of the advanced culture through magic and religious rituals and practices.”


        AGW cult members also engage in ritualistic practices like attending conferences in Copenhagen and Rio De Janeiro and predicting doom and gloom in the hope of further attracting the delivery of grants and subsidies and feed-in tariffs.

        But just like cargo cults, none of their predictions come true.

      • The cargo cultists are the “skeptics”. Think of the Heartland Institute conference and the “journals” skeptics publish to – it’s all dressed up to somewhat resemble science. But it aint science.

      • No. The cargo cultist are the ones doing rituals with the promise of doom and gloom to arrive soon … any time now … almost … give it to 2100 before anyone notices.

        The skeptics just say … hey, weather comes and goes. There are cycles like ENSO and PDO and ones undiscovered.

      • Are you really advancing the idea that people think they can cause disasters by predicting them?

      • No, I’m advancing the theory that they can get grant money by predicting disasters, and even when the disasters do not occur, they keep predicting more disaters instead of scientifically and objectively stepping back and going “Whoa … looks like we screwed up”.

      • I don’t think you do get grant money by predicting disasters. In fact most papers published don’t predict anything.

      • This paper predicted aliens. http://arxiv.org/abs/1104.4462

        This one predicts sea level rise up to 1900mm.


        Took me 2 minutes to find.

      • Too bad it’s totally irrelevant, Bruce.

        If you want to formerly break with science, and devote yourself full time to prediction by reading entrails, or whatever method your fantasy superheroes from space tell you to use, that’s fine.

        But as lolwot points out, your effort to use “cargo cult science” to attack real science — and your insecure projection of your fakery onto real scientists — achieves nothing.

      • The mistake you are making is thinking the conclusions of those papers were decided ahead of time so that the grant was based on the conclusion. You also assume the latter one was even funded. I don’t think it was.

        You also ignore the fact that many papers are published each month that don’t predict disasters. How does that fit your claim that you need to predict disasters to get a grant?

        How do Lindzen and Roy Spencer get funding? Do they predict disasters.

        As for the sea level paper. Note the graph of rate of sea level rise over time. It’s not a straight line showing that your argument that predictions of 1m sea level rise by 2100 expect sea level to be rising 10mm/year today it completely wrong.

      • I think 1900mm by 2100 is unlikely when tide gauge sea level rise is decelerating (the data was available to the authors) and when even the exaggerated satellite sea level shows less than 2mm per year rise over the last 10 years.

        1900mm = 19mm per year. Never been close. Never will be.

    • It’s a real problem vs. a fake political power grab that’s true. Many of false narratves that are found in other bogus inventions like “over population”, “peak oil” and ‘soil errosion” from the other part of the eco-left domination of academics are found in water issues.

      Start with basics; there is at least 10000 times personal fresh water capacity per daily human use. So it’s all about distribution and poor management. Leading problem? Central planning and top heavy government controls.

      Just another topic governments should be banned from controlling.

      The U.S. should set a good example and privatize all water municipals. Make them for or non-profit NGO’s. There should be a reasonable amount of regulations but it’s another area of dead-from-the-neck-up social engineering. In my community for example we live on the largest lake in New England, ample rains, wells, aquifers. What has government done? You can’t drink the water from the Town source (It’s a very wealthy town), we have water restrictions even when we are averaging over 18 inches of rain and 80 inches of snow. Water is constantly used as a political tool to shake-down every one who constructs anything. Population? 1/40th of Boston or NYC per capita. 99% government problem creations and manipulations. Water is also very expensive even when it must be filtered to use as ice cubes or bathing.

      Of course, it’s worse in the Sudan. If you study the situation there (I’ve worked on projects for the Rotary) it’s all rooted in governments and authority there as well. It’s just that people die all the time over water. There is an education and low quality of judgement issue as well. So it’s never about “too little” water in a macro sense of the issue. So NOAA on the public dime is helping people die while thinking they are “do gooders” with false narratives that are rooted in other desires. Very much like AGW that way. Same disaster results for the weak and the poor. There are real reasons that markets break down and force stavation and thirst. NOAA is more part of the problem by speculating on AGW rather than address real world tools to help at risk people help themselves. It’s just more important to convert these people into the eco-left model with AGW blame and twaddle then build drinking wells etc.

      • good examples. my point is that on decadal time scales, population increase and land use changes are bigger drivers than climate change. I should emphasize that the solution is better policies, not trying to change the climate

      • When people talk of water shortages in California, I try to point out that the population has exploded (2.5x since 1960) but the number of dams built recently is very very low.


        36 in the 1960s
        16 in the 1970s
        4 in the 1980s
        4 in the 1990s
        1 in the 2000s

        and 60% predate the 1960s

        Dams let you save water when it is plentiful, and use it when it is dry. If you don’t build the dams, you shouldn’t increase your population.

        (And the numbers are 10x worse if you look at volume per decade).

      • It seems to me that the “solution” is both, or at least the beginnings of a solution. CO2 mitigation will have little impact over a single decade, but the benefits will grow with time. However, efforts to modify other forms of anthropogenic forcing – particularly black carbon but also other aerosols – will have earlier effects, not all in the same direction, but all exerting some impact on the hydrologic cycle.. There is some commonality with CO2 emissions in that fossil fuel combustion is an important contributor to black carbon aerosols.

        Over multiple decades, the impact of global warming will be associated with at least some degree of regional predictability as the Hadley Cell widens, the ITCZ moves northward, and some currently fertile regions on the edge become more vulnerable to prolonged drought, probably including the Southwest U.S.

      • Why would I take your predictions about drought seriously?

        The Sahel is now greening and has been for the last decade or so. This was an unfertile region on the edge of the sahara that is now becoming fertile.

        “Over the past decades the Sahel has often been portrayed as a region undergoing desertification; thus as a region plagued by recurring droughts and widespread land degradation, with severe famine as the outcome.

        Recent analysis of satellite data suggests, however, that this view of the Sahel may not be accurate. In contrast, and to the surprise of many scientists and policy-makers, these studies reveal that large areas of the Sahel have in fact become increasingly green over the past 20 years”


      • The above link doesn’t really address the expectation of increasing drought vulnerability on the dry side of the descending limb of the Hadley cell – in the future of the American Southwest for example. In fact, the Sahel is not always on the dry side. However, Sahel precipitation is immensely complex, and in addition, precipitation (which declined significantly during the late 20th century) is only one factor affecting agricultural fertility as the link indicates, with improved farming practices and conservation also playing important roles.

        For more details on some of the climatology of Sahel precipitation, see Sahel Drought,

      • How about record snow pack in the US western states? We went through this crap in Australia where the Tim Flannery’s predicted so much drought they built billion dollar desalination plants … and the cyclical rains returned as they always have.

        Drought in Texas this years was mega-pimped … but it pales in comparison to 1956 and looks like a wet day compared to 1934.

        AGW predicts doom and gloom and as long as the natural cycle goes their way, they look sometimes look like they have predictive powers.

        And then the cycle changes … and they look like bigger idiots than usual. But the compliant press covers up for them so they still get their grant money for the next fake prediction.

        Your prediction is worthless.

      • The question is whether you expected the doom and gloom to have already started. A lot of skeptics seem to have expected that, and didn’t realize IPCC was predicting for mid-century and beyond.

      • Jim,

        So you’re now saying that things like Arctic ice loss, WAIS breakup, Katrina, Australian drought, Australian wildfires, Australian floods, Moscow heatwave, 2003 European heatwave, Amazon drought, Pakistani floods, etc etc etc, all things which have been blamed on global warming, were not in fact because of global warming – the effects of which are only going to be felt long after most of us are already dead and gone?

      • J N-G at Climate Abyss, on JC’s blogroll, does not seem to agree with Bruce on the 2011 Texas drought, which ain’t done. With a La Nina now on the table within the next 6 months, the drought outlook for for Texas in 2012 is not good.

        Elsewhere I talked about about the situations in the Dakotas and the Texas, which are current examples of too wet and too dry. At no point did I attribute any of that to AGW. The 2050 prediction for the Dakotas appears to be for a drier climate during the growing season. Right now, it’s a swamp.

      • The IPCC have not attributed specific events, except maybe sea-ice loss, to global warming. Some scientists have used current events as illustrations of something that could be more probable in the future, but it is all just the probabilities changing. Sea-ice loss is a special case because it integrates the effects of a large area over a long time, which is more like a climate change.

      • Jim D: “The question is whether you expected the doom and gloom to have already started. A lot of skeptics seem to have expected that, and didn’t realize IPCC was predicting for mid-century and beyond.”

        Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. I nominate you for stupidest statement of the year.

        No really. AGW hasn’t actually started yet? And won’t until 2050?

        Ha ha ha LOL … LOL.


      • Bruce, I assume from your answer that you think it has started to produce disasters already, which is not typical of skeptic views. What we see now is only the beginnings of the expected warming.

      • JCH, the drought index has been much, much worse in the USA.

        Try 1934/36 or 1956


        “Despite the severely dry conditions, this drought is not as bad as the worst in history – the 10-year drought of the 1940-50s.”


      • Jim D, the warming hasn’t started yet? When will it start?

        I thought it started around 1950. Are you sure not one thing has happened in 60 years of warming?

        Wow. CO2 warming is kind of wussy.

        All kidding aside, you are pathetic. Now that nothing is happening, and in fact the opposite is happening, you are trying to claim nobody predicted anything was going to happen until 2050??????????


      • The warming of 0.5 C in the last 30 years is as expected. We just had the warmest decade on record. The next will be warmer, and so on, just like the last three decades were warmer than the previous ones.

      • Jim,

        I could double my chances of winning the lottery by buying two tickets a week instead of one. But I would still not expect to ever become rich.
        Saying something could become more probable in the future is plain scaremongering.
        As for sea ice loss, how long is that long period? 100 years? 500? 50? And what of the large area? Does that include the Antarctic?
        What was the minimum Arctic sea ice extent in 1940, say?

      • Here we go. IPCC predicts droughts in Salel

        “Damages due to droughts and floods: changes in some socio-economic systems had been related to persistent low rainfall in the Sahelian region of Africa”


        The Sahel is greening.

      • Jim D:

        The warming of 0.5 C in the last 30 years is as expected.

        Then it had to be have been ‘expected’ prior to 1982.
        Considering that was at the end of two cooling decades, what exactly was ‘expected’? That the cooling trend was about to change to a warming trend? That it was going to last for at least 3 decades? That it was going to warm by 0.5C? Or that it was simply going to be warmer? In which case, it wasn’t much of an expectation, was it?

      • JCH, you might want to read up on previous droughts.


        “During the 1950s, the Great Plains and the southwestern U.S. withstood a five-year drought, and in three of these years, drought conditions stretched coast to coast. The drought was first felt in the southwestern U.S. in 1950 and spread to Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska by 1953. By 1954, the drought encompassed a ten-state area reaching from the mid-west to the Great Plains, and southward into New Mexico. The area from the Texas panhandle to central and eastern Colorado, western Kansas and central Nebraska experienced severe drought conditions. The drought maintained a stronghold in the Great Plains, reaching a peak in 1956. The drought subsided in most areas with the spring rains of 1957.

        The 1950s drought was characterized by both low rainfall amounts and excessively high temperatures. Texas rainfall dropped by 40% between 1949-1951 and by 1953, 75% of Texas recorded below normal rainfall amounts. Excessive temperatures heated up cities like Dallas where temperatures exceeded 100°F on 52 days in the summer of 1953. Kansas experienced severe drought conditions during much of the five-year period, and recorded a negative Palmer Drought Severity Index from 1952 until March 1957, reaching a record low in September of 1956.

        A drought of this magnitude creates severe social and economic repercussions and this was definitely the case in the southern Great Plains region. The drought devastated the region’s agriculture. Crop yields in some areas dropped as much as 50%. Excessive temperatures and low rainfall scorched grasslands typically used for grazing. With grass scarce, hay prices became too costly, forcing some ranchers to feed their cattle a mixture of prickly pear cactus and molasses. By the time the drought subsided in 1957, many counties across the region were declared federal drought disaster areas, including 244 of the 254 counties in Texas.”


      • Peter317, there was a 1981 Science paper by Hansen that predicted this rate. It stands up really well, considering back then he couldn’t afford much of a computer model, and did most of his justification in a one-dimensional model.

      • Some scientists have used current events as illustrations of something that could be more probable in the future, but it is all just the probabilities changing.

        True enough, but anything influencing anything is “just a matter of the probabilities changing.” Smoke and you change the probability you will die of lung cancer. Driving drunk changes the probability you will crash, and so on. Rarely or never is causation defined as one thing always following from another with no other influences and no chance variation.

        AGW predicts doom and gloom . . .

        No, climate science predicts certain changes in the physical world which are objective and measurable. You relate to these things emotionally, so you hear an emotional message. You’re ignoring the content and listening for the tone, like a dog listening to a human voice. You could achieve a greater understanding of AGW and climate science generally if you paid a little attention to the explicit, concrete meaning of the worlds, and not the emotional reaction it provokes in you after you’ve put it through your ideological filter.

      • Judith:
        You are on point. Take Georgia, we have an on going battle with Florida and Alabama concerning water usage, but our rivers and multiuse reservoirs are being fought over not only by the states but also within the states. Flood control, power generation, recreation, water supply, and navigation (the big 5) are not mutually supporting objectives, thus the numerous conflicts. Trick question, is the Chattachoocie there to drink or use as a sewer? Answer” both, one after the other, after the other. Dreadful thought isn’t it.

        A few points for you to consider:
        1. Georgia, Florida, and Albama average about 50 inches of rain a year as a region. You would think that sufficient to live on.
        2. North Georgia is slowly being deforested and paved. That is changing the drainage characteristics of the region. Engineers design new projects with waters retention facilities to “flatten” the runoff hydrographs, but whether or not they do any good is a matter of debate.
        3. New reserviors are fought by every environmental group from Atlanta to Timbuktu. So in central and south Georgia, fresh water is sucked from either the Floridan or Piedmont Aquifers, two of the best fresh water supplies in the country, drawing down both. We should be able to do better.
        5. Our rainfall design curves change over the years as we gather data and experience. We are finding that nature has more “Black Swan” events in her arsenal than we previously believed. Engineers use 25, 50, 100, and 500 year design periods for storms depending on the crticality of the structure. In Georgia, we have seen two 100 year events in the last twenty years. Makes you wonder how robust our data really is.

        AGW is not a consideration in this mix. In the southeast, we don’t have a shortage of water, we have water managment issues, and those that think govenment is the solution haven’t been paying attention. Govenment has been in charge all along.

      • Bill, thanks for bringing up Georgia. Two years ago I attended a workshop of the Atlanta Regional Commission, their main planning meeting, and climate change was the main topic, and how that should influence their planning. They were very anxious to find out what the next IPCC model results would show, thinking that this might change their planning. I told them that atlanta was facing a climatic rainfall change of +/- 20%. I made the point that this number is in the noise, if population doubles as projected over the next few decades. And the big problem is the tri state water wars, which is political. Add to that, until 2007 drought no one in the state of Georgia seemed to have heard of low flush toilets, etc. And in metro atlanta, tons of water is lost to leaky pipes. so any climatic change in rainfall is trivial relative to policy and engineering issues.

      • Low flush toilets: another really stupid idea. Sewers get starved of water flow, and stagnate and clog, requiring massive direct infusions of fresh (‘unused’) water to clear them.

        Not to mention aggravating the hell out of people who need 3 flushes to make the lumps go down.

      • I told the Corps hydrologists 40 years ago that you cannot determine the 100 year flood from 150 years of data, much less the 500 year flood.

      • “my point is that on decadal time scales, population increase and land use changes are bigger drivers than climate change”

        That’s not unlikely, but not especially relevant. The biggest driver of your altitude at a given moment is where you live — in Colorado, for example, or at sea level. However, living in Colorado will not save you from falling off a cliff.

        Changes in population distribution and land use are readily reversible where they produce hardship, and they create local stresses which can be mitigated by assistance from elsewhere. Climate stresses are not readily reversible, and may be widespread. You refer to decadal scales, but absent collective political action, warming will persist for centuries.

    • Dear Oliver:
      Based on Mathematics and observations, global warming is definitely caused by humans, and water problem has to do with humans. AGW has been exaggerated by government climatologists for their science is wrong and they assumed out-of-this-world worst-case scenarios. They are scary scenarios, and we have to defeat the false science and the unrealistic and costly scenarios.

  2. Floods and droughts are often two sides of the same coin. The jet stream gets stuck in one spot and weather fronts don’t get distributed uniformly across terrain. Like record snow pack this year in the mountain states and drought in Texas. Or heat waves in Moscow in 2010 while Pakistan flooded and then back in ’93 when the midwest had a 500 year flood and the southest was very dry. What leads to statis in the jet stream like this or these types of blocking patterns. Some of the seasonal weather forecasters are pretty good at predicting these things months in advance by using analogy years of the way the ocean temperatures are distrubuted. It seems that if you understood what led to blocking patterns for the jet stream would go a long way to understanding weather extremes.

  3. Willis Eschenbach

    Judith, the study of Koutsoyannis (and his subsequent follow-up paper) showed that the models do no better than chance regarding rainfall … so I’m curious where that fits in your presentation. I didn’t see any mention of that fact in what you are discussing, that you might as well cast the bones as use a climate model for rainfall forecasting, but I might have missed it …


  4. My nephew is involved in water rights and allocation analysis in Colorado (on the Western side of the divide – which supplies water for the Eastern side) – which involves the work on the “observing systems” on the ground.

    Talk about a political landmine! Lots of stakeholders, big and small, are very interested in that topic in that locality. ‘Very complex, with a lot of legacy issues coming into play. I suppose the focus of your conference will be fairly different and not oriented to any one locality in particular – but it would be interesting to see if there is any overlap. You might just encounter a bit of “tribalism.”

  5. “Understanding and predicting conditions associated with either too much or too little water”

    Too much water = flooding/water-logging

    Too little water = drought.

    Job done, off to the bar, or am I missing something here?

    • predicting the WEATHER/CLIMATE conditions associated with either too much or too little water

      • I suspect the success rate for making predictions would be higher if you took into account what AGW orthodoxy predicts and then predict the opposite.

  6. Dr, Curry, as I understand your slides and conclusions, the only approach that is realistic on the decade to century scale is scenario development. As a once upon a time water resources engineer my question is what good are all these widely varying scenarios? I see no use for them. They are just possibilities. Am I missing something?

    • Exactly, they are possibilities. On decadal time scales, you can bound the possibilities and assign some likelihoods, but on century time scales i’m arguing our ignorance is too large to even do that except for some broad bounds. So if on decadal time scales we are talking about +/- 20% in streamflow and rainfall, but population is projected to increase, your range of climate scenarios isn’t in the driver seat for much here. Then if you look at your range of policy options and how they would influence water availability and distribution, that also puts the climate uncertainty into a useful perspective. And for regions where climate variability does seem to be the main driver, then looking at your range of policy options and selecting those that are robust across a range of possible scenarios is the way to go. So my point is that these kind of possibility or likelihood scenarios are suited to the level of uncertainty that exists, and in many regions the climate scenario may not be in the driver seat given population increase and policy issues. That to me seems to be the rational way to approach this. The black swan thing (on timescales of weeks to months) is where the effort in forecasting (hybrid model/statistical) should go. in terms of decadal and century scale scenarios, it is alot cheaper and probably more effective just to make up the scenarios based upon regional and historical data (spiced a bit for climate change possibilities) and take climate models out of the loop. The climate models don’t seem useful to me for this kind of application (apart from general uncertainties, they don’t do well with precip).

      • You keep bringing up population increase. Talk to some demographers; it’s not a US issue or problem.

        Globally, the only model with a good track record is the lower bound of the low band UN Population Survey projections. It’s been right for decades. It indicates a peak <8bn by 2030 or so, and slow to moderate decline thereafter.

        Enargy wealth is the solution. Population is a dependent variable.

      • typo: Energy wealth

  7. I grew up dry-land farming in the Dakotas. We were always hoping for rain. That was our default setting. In the late 1980s lakes began forming in fields, and many did not go away. Farmers eventually began placing perpetually flooded land into conservation easements. Most took the cash and purchased land that was not perpetually flooded. The state and county road departments had to elevate a great deal of roadway. This year the groundwater is higher than ever. When I was there earlier this month we sat around the table and laughed about the irrigation war of our youth that was fought over irrigating the Eastern half of South Dakota with water from the Missouri dams. Now the problem is getting the excess water to go into the Missouri River. In August I saw water running fast in ditches. In August? I do not think as a kid I ever saw water running in a Dakota ditch. I ran into countless closed roads due to high water. Wooded areas where I hunted deer as a kid are now almost completely devoid of trees: killed by a high water table. The state is drenched. My parents have four sumps in their basement, and they run constantly. The drain field is saturated. Oak trees are not common there. On their property they have four that are all over 100 years old. For the Dakotas, they’re huge. They’re dying. The city forester says they’re water logged. They live on the tallest hill in the city.

    I saw cornfields with ample areas of bare dirt. High water in the spring floated the seed, and the herbicides prevented anything else from growing. In some areas there was no planting at all. The corn that is there looks good, but the wheat has been damaged by fungus, too wet, and downgraded. Thank gawd they had plenty of CO2.

    Back to Texas, my 70-year old Southern Magnolia is drought stressed and has lost ~80% of its leaves. They’re no fun to pick up. I think I can save it. In the 40 years I have owned that tree, I never gave a thought to watering it. If we slide back into La Nina this winter, my cactus garden is going from 20% of my yard to 70%. I picked a great year to start a cactus garden. It could be curtains for the Magnolia and the English garden.

    • “Oak trees are not common there. On their property they have four that are all over 100 years old. For the Dakotas, they’re huge. They’re dying. The city forester says they’re water logged. They live on the tallest hill in the city.”

      The oak trees wherever I have lived, seem to do fine at lake edges, creek banks, etc. I used to swing on a rope that hung from an oak that had grown up at the edge of a lake with half of its roots extending into the water, and out over the lake and enjoy dropping into the cool water in August. I guess the oaks where I have lived are just a little heartier! ;)

      Lots of anecdotal evidence for climate change in your missive there JCH, not much on scientific facts, which you alarmists are always deriding skeptics for doing. One can easily check weather records for rainfall and such for quite a ways back. And of course you also happen to now live in a place which is very much in the news about the drought and all. Reminds me of all the coverage that the Moscow heat last year got, when it was locked into a blocking high for a couple of weeks or so. No mention from you guys about South America having record cold over a much larger area for a much longer time. but then that is par for the course for you. No integrity.

      I pretty much call BS to what you said.

      Oh yeah, almost forgot. The Sahel is blossoming! But I guess that is bad, isn’t it? We need to instigate massive spending and research projects to turn back time so that it returns to desert like it was.

      • You can check South Dakota precipitation here.


        I picked Precipitation, Annual, 1970 to 2011.

        The trend is up .98 inches per decade. Which is 4 more inches per year after 40 years.

        It really does seem that starting in 1977 there were a lot of 25″ years even thought the long term average was 18.5 inches.

      • Didn’t AGW predict drought?

      • AGW per se does not make regional predictions of rainfall. Different models make different, often opposite, predictions. The first National Assessment used two models. As I recall, one predicted a 160% increase for the Dakotas, the other a 60% decrease. Swamp or desert?

      • Isn’t it nice … they can claim anything that happens matches predictions.

        Searching for climate change drought south dakota gets a lot of drought predictions.

      • I think the 2050 prediction is for a drier climate during the growing season.

      • Dear Bruce:
        Based on the link, precipitation trend of +0.02 mm/year is equal to no trend in Dokota.
        You will find if you research countries like Spain, Italy, Mexico, Siberia, Australia, and many South American countries that precipitation has been decreasing by 0.5 mm/year for the last 50 years. Based on Math and observations, this reduction and loss of glaciers is definitely caused by AGW. The good news is that it will cease on its own without human intervention.

      • “I guess the oaks where I have lived are just a little heartier! ”
        That would be “hardier”.
        And you know nothing about soils. The problem is the lack of aeration. By a stream, there’s plenty of “space” in the soil on the banks. In flat waterlogged land, none.

  8. The use of models to forecast regional precipitation, whether or not tied to General Circulation Climate Models, has not proven to be informative. As far as I know, at this time last year, August 2010, no precipitation model indentified the winter snowfall in the Rocky Mountains, nor the addon spring rains that have led to Western Rockies catchment Lake Powell rising 50 feet this summer and Lake Mead rising 20 feet (so far) with the added benefit of sustained hydroelectic power. Operators of dams along the Missouri River (Eastern Rockies) are accused of not releasing enough water during the winter to hold back the “obvious” winter accumulations. In Dr. Curry’s neck of the woods, operators of the dam controling the water impoundment Lake Lanier, I believe three years ago, released “too much”water during the winter resulting in a water emergency declaration for the City of Atlanta. All of these estimates of what should be done were done by people of good intentions using, models. As for the conference, particularly the Primary Technological Topics, I believe #2, #3, &#5 are the weakest as GCM of climate are integral to the “understanding” of future precipitation and developing the next generation of hydrological models.

  9. My biggest take away is that the ensemble means tend to hide the information the better models can provide. Identifying which models work best with which conditions seems pretty important. At least with precipitation, typically dry regions have proxies with stronger responses to water than temperature.

  10. As a native of snowy Oregon, I was pleased to see your slides of PDO and AMO related to precipitation. Long time Oregon State Climatologist and OSU professor George Taylor was, allegedly, forced out of his jobs partly because he believed snowpack in the Pacific NW was cyclical, and not in decline because of global warming. Heavy snows have vindicated Taylor. I am confident your job is safe. :) Progress.

    The folks at Real Climate are not as smart as Taylor, or maybe they have an agenda.


    • Heavy snows have vindicated Taylor.

      Don, if as you say Taylor correctly predicted those particular heavy snows then he was doing his job as a weather man very well.

      But that’s not why he was forced out. The reason had nothing to do with whether he could predict the next season’s weather in your region correctly. He was claiming that he could predict the future temperature of the whole planet decades into the future.

      You can see him making such predictions in this YouTube video where he focuses on alleged reports that the Sun is about to cool down (minute 9:00). “Some scientists both within NASA and the Russian Academy of Sciences … are suggesting within the next 15 years or so … the onset of a cool period…. beginning in the 2020’s … The Sun may be taking us to an area we haven’t experienced in a long time.”

      Taylor also claims that the gradual increase in CO2 over the past century will be “benign” (his term). This too is a long term prediction.

      There is no evidence that Taylor is either qualified to make predictions about global temperature decades into the future nor has any particular skill in doing so.

      Yet he was claiming that skill. If you believe no one can do that, then you have been backing a charlatan.

      • I must have mistyped the link to the YouTube video of the Taylor interview, which should have been http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQEiiDTrXIM

      • My cryptic writing was imprecise. I should have said recent years of heavy snow have vindicated Taylor. He is not a weatherman.

        Everyone knows of the Missouri River flooding this La Nina year. Another example closer to my previous home is Oregon’s Mt. Bachelor ski area, where the average seasonal snowfall is 387″. From their website: “Mt. Bachelor recorded 665 inches of snow this La Nina season, besting the previous record of 606 inches set during the similar La Nina winter of 1998-1999.”


      • “There is no evidence that Taylor is either qualified to make predictions about global temperature decades into the future nor has any particular skill in doing so.”

        There is no one less qualified to predict the future than a climate scientist who believes in AGW.

        Everyone else is more qualified.

    • Snowpacks do cycle. Professor George Taylor is right.
      When the oceans are warm and there is Low Arctic Sea Ice Extent, it snows more and rebuilds the ice and glaciers in the Northern Latitudes in North America, Europe and Asia.
      When the oceans are cool and the Arctic is frozen, it snow less and ice and glaciers diminish.
      This powerful negative feedback is why the earths’ temperature has been regulated to withing plus or minus 2 degrees C for the past ten thousand years. Most of that time was withing plus or minus 1 degree C. Today, we are below the plus 1 degree and the snows have started and we will not get much or any warmer on this warm part of this cycle.

  11. Dr. Curry’s presentation begins by assaulting the viewer with images of weather extremes. It was hard to move past that without expecting an Algorian overabundance of presentation.

  12. “Dr. Curry’s presentation begins by assaulting the viewer with images of weather extremes.”

    Boy, there’s an angle no one has thought of. :P


  13. I hope at least one presenter had the guts to discuss the travesties in water management that are attributable to the Corps of Engineers and the misguided implementation of the Endangered Species Act.

    • Actually a number of people from the Corps will be in attendance.

    • I understand your frustration, but I would like to make a point.

      My first job an Engineer Officer was to straighten a creek and drain a swamp to prevent the annual flooding of Columbus, Mississippsi. It wasn’t my idea; I did it because the congress said to, and I was the low man on the pole. In those days, no one questioned the wisdom of building in a flood zone, it was the flood water that was the problem, not the location of the houses. I would be arrested for doing the same thing today. By the time I retired, I was constructing wetlands to offset the loss of other wetlands due to construction projects. The Clean Water Act changed the rules. The Corps didn’t write the law, most of the people in the Corps at the time didn’t agree with it, but it they were instructed to enforce it. The Act still has its problems, but it is generally accepted.

      Then came the Endangered Species Act and the Red Cockaded woodpecker. Training at Fort Benning, Fort Bragg and other southern forts almost came to a halt because of that bird. We could not understand how they could be endangered since they seemed to infest every old growth pine forest from Florida to Virginia. It was so onerous a situation that two officials at Fort Benning decided they would get around it and cut down the old pine trees for the sake of creating training areas. They went to jail for it. I too believe the Endangered Species Act is wrong headed, but it is the law.

      My point is that the government we elect writes the rules, and the Federal agencies we create are tasked with enforcing them. If you hate the Corps, then you are really saying you hate your congressman or senator.

      I believe both Acts need to be modified considerably to protect private property rights, but it won’t happen unless the congress does it.

      • Bill, please read Roger Pielke, Jr’s post I linked to above – he is sympathetic to the Corp’s plight in having conflicting directives.

      • In February I was reading a bunch of junk about the Wivenhoe Dam on this blog, and others, that I thought was false, so one day I called the office at one of the Missouri River dams and asked to speak with an engineer, and one of them was kind enough to spend about 30 minutes on the phone with me. We had a lot of fun as a kid named me watched his dam be built. While we talked he was glancing at internet articles about the Wivenhoe Dam and discussing claims being made.

      • It is rare that any one in Congress has the knowledge or experience to actually write technical laws such as the Endangered Species Act, Clean Waters Act, etc. The actual drafting is done by scientists, engineers and others with th necessary expertise. Many are federal agency employees, some of whom have political agendas that influence the wording an structure of these laws. Special interests and lobbyists also contribute.

        Some of the critical wording in the Endangered Species Act came from agency biologists and/or environmental groups who envisioned the law as a vehicle to control land uses. They succeed beyond their wildest dreams. For certain, many of the members of Congress were clueless about the inner workings of the law. It made them feel good.

        The Rivers and Harbors Act language is not the problem. It is court decisions construing the meaning and scope of “navigable waters” and “wetlands” and agency rule making that have radicalized the law so that it can be applied to regulate farmers activities because his man made water storage ponds are wetlands subject to federal laws.

        The withholding of irrigation water for California’s central valley is not due to laws. It is the result of absurd rules and policies and abuse of discretion by federal and state agencies. The consequences are that much of highly productive farmlands are out of production and unemployment in the area is near 40%.

  14. had should be has

  15. ‘Long flood records for the Hawkesbury-Nepean River have been used to define alternating flood-(FDRs) and drought-dominated regimes (DDRs). In the former, flood magnitudes and frequencies are higher with mean
    annual flood discharges (Q2.33) from 2 to 4 times greater than for the latter.’ http://iahs.info/redbooks/a168/iahs_168_0327.pdf

    Wayne Erskine and Robin Warner noted in the 1980’s that the morphology of streams in eastern Australia changed after the 1970’s – from high energy braided forms to low energy meandering. These effects derive from decadal changes in the Pacific – 20 to 40 years periods of alternating La Nina or El Nino dominance since at least 1850 in the flood record. The changes are dramatic, abrupt and natural. There are mirror patterns in the Americas and influences in Asia, India and Africa.

    There are a number of other persistent but abruptly variable patterns in global hydrology – the Southern Annular Mode, the Northern Annular Mode, the Indian Ocean Dipole, the Pacific Decadal and El Nino Southern Oscillations amongst the most prominent.

    Determining water supply based on an average of supply in both FDR’s and DDR’s is likely to be misleading. Both water supply and agricultural activity needs to be planned on persistent dry periods. A change of 2 to 4 times mean annual flood discharge for 20 to 40 years is an immense change to total water resources between periods.

    The short term abrupt changes are difficult enough to deal with in terms of water supply, agriculture, storms, cyclones and flooding. The longer term changes are even more dramatic. Hundreds of years of super cyclones seen until about 1850 on the Australian east coast – the evidence is found in excavations of historic storm wrack. Mega droughts that resulted in the drying of the Sahel starting some 3000BC – or brought down the Minoan civilisation about 1450BC.

    There is little to suggest that global hydrological patterns are outside of the limits of the instrumental record – and there is little to suggest that the limits of the instrumental record are those of the range of possible natural variability. We will face challenges of too little or too much water – perhaps dramatically so. The best long term solution is to build a truly resilient global civilisation.

  16. It is unlikely that a systematic change
    has occurred in either the frequency or
    area coverage of severe drought over the
    contiguous United States from the mid-twentieth
    century to the present.


    • – It is very likely that short-term (monthlyto-seasonal) severe droughts that have impacted North America during the past half-century are mostly due to atmospheric variability, in some cases amplified by local soil moisture conditions.

      – It is likely that sea surface temperature variations have been important in forcing long-term (multi-year) severe droughts that have impacted North America during the past half-century.

      – It is likely that anthropogenic warming has increased drought impacts over
      North America in recent decades through increased water stresses associated with warmer conditions, but the magnitude of the effect is uncertain.

      I don’t know what it means either – but selectively quoting won’t work.

      • It means that they think water stresses increased drought but they can’t determine a magnitude. The problem is they have determined a magnitude. The magnitude is such that the frequency and area haven’t been effected. Now how important can the magnitude be when it doesn’t influence either of those?

      • So in my opinion I quoted the portion that mattered. The rest seems to be fairly worthless lacking in any measurable quantity or obsevational effect. I am quite prepared to admit I should have included it all if it can be shown that any of the rest was important.

  17. I saw a couple of references to ‘black swans’ in this thread, I know that this has become standard usage, due to a best-selling book, but it’s wrong-headed. A ‘black swan,’ literally, is not a rare event. Historically, the story is that black swans were unknown to Europeans. As a result, Europeans defined swans as large, white water birds with long necks. When Euros traveled overseas, they observed black swans for the first time, and had to change their definition of what it means to be a swan. That has nothing to do with rare events – it’s a definitional issue. Biologists used the term in this way for years before some guy wrote a book and mis-used the story for his own purposes and totally re-defined the term.

    Take-home message – if something happens rarely but repeatedly, it’s not a ‘black swan.’ Once people had seen black swans a single time, they learned their lesson. Seeing another one was not another ‘black swan’ event.

    • Observed on the Swan River in Western Australia – absolutely agree. It comes under the definition of things we don’t know we don’t know and I wish they would get it right.

      On the other hand – they could be ‘dragon-kings’. ‘We develop the concept of “dragon-kings” corresponding to meaningful outliers, which are found to coexist with power laws in the distributions of event sizes under a broad range of conditions in a large variety of systems. These dragon-kings reveal the existence of mechanisms of self-organization that are not apparent otherwise from the distribution of their smaller siblings. We present a generic phase diagram to explain the generation of dragon-kings and document their presence in six different examples (distribution of city sizes, distribution of acoustic emissions associated with material failure, distribution of velocity increments in hydrodynamic turbulence, distribution of financial drawdowns, distribution of the energies of epileptic seizures in humans and in model animals, distribution of the earthquake energies). We emphasize the importance of understanding dragon-kings as being often associated with a neighborhood of what can be called equivalently a phase transition, a bifurcation, a catastrophe (in the sense of Rene Thom), or a tipping point. The presence of a phase transition is crucial to learn how to diagnose in advance the symptoms associated with a coming dragon-king. Several examples of predictions using the derived log-periodic power law method are discussed, including material failure predictions and the forecasts of the end of financial bubbles.’ Sornette 2009.

  18. Regional approaches to land use affects on climate scenarios reminded me of a paper I had read once regarding local climate change and the Three Gorges Dam


  19. NAS/NRC has just issued a workshop report on this issue:
    “Global Change and Extreme Hydrology: Testing Conventional Wisdom”
    The report PDF is free: http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13211

    Of course it assumes CAGW. Here is the intro: “Climate theory dictates that core elements of the climate system, including precipitation, evapotranspiration, and reservoirs of atmospheric and soil moisture, should change as the climate warms, both in their means and extremes. A major challenge that faces the climate and hydrologic science communities is understanding the nature of these ongoing changes in climate and hydrology and the apparent anomalies that exist in reconciling their extreme manifestations.

    The National Research Council (NRC) Committee on Hydrologic Science (COHS) held a workshop on January 5-6, 2010, that examined how climate warming translates into hydrologic extremes like floods and droughts. The workshop brought together three groups of experts. The first two groups consisted of atmospheric scientists and hydrologists focused on the scientific underpinnings and empirical evidence linking climate variability to hydrologic extremes. The third group consisted of water managers and decision-makers charged with the design and operation of water systems that in the future must be made resilient in light of a changing climate and an environment of hydrologic extremes.

    Global Change and Extreme Hydrology summarizes the proceedings of this workshop. This report presents an overview of the current state of the science in terms of climate change and extreme hydrologic events. It examines the “conventional wisdom” that climate change will “accelerate” the hydrologic cycle, fuel more evaporation, and generate more precipitation, based on an increased capacity of a warmer atmosphere to hold more water vapor. The report also includes descriptions of the changes in frequency and severity of extremes, the ability (or inability) to model these changes, and the problem of communicating the best science to water resources practitioners in useful forums.”

  20. A sing-along from the land of Odds (Aus):
    What Shall We Do …