Waxman Malarkey 2: Impact Zone Australia

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

Having spent a reasonable amount of time there, I have the highest regard for Australia and Australians. In general they are good, level-headed folks.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the people who wrote the Waxman-Markey website page on Australia. I discussed the first of their “Impact Zones” here, please read it for an overview of the Waxman Markey site. This thread discusses why you need to be very careful with the Waxman Markey “facts” about Australia – they bite.

Figure 1. An Australian example of what we surfers call “the man in the gray suit”.

The website says:

Drought

Global warming is a major contributor to Australian drought. Record high temperatures are increasing evaporation, damaging vegetation and reducing water for irrigation in the continent’s agricultural basin. Sustained high temperatures are as hazardous for people as they are for plants. The average annual death toll from heat waves is over 1,100 people in Australia and that number only stands to increase.

In 2006, Australia experienced its worst drought in the last millennium. The Murray-Darling River System, which produces well over half of the country’s water supply, dropped 54 percent below its record low.

BZZZZT! Bad website, no cookies! Another factual error, and another big lie.

First, the factual error. The website links the claim of the “worst drought in the last millennium” to that noted scientific journal, the Guardian newspaper. It in turn says:

Australia suffers worst drought in 1,000 years

Australia’s blistering summer has only just begun but reservoir levels are dropping fast, crop forecasts have been slashed, and great swaths of the continent are entering what scientists yesterday called a “one in a thousand years drought”.

With many regions in their fifth year of drought, the government yesterday called an emergency water summit in Canberra. The meeting between the prime minister, John Howard, and the leaders of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Queensland was told that more than half of Australia’s farmland was experiencing drought.

David Dreverman, head of the Murray-Darling river basin commission, said: “This is more typical of a one in a 1,000-year drought, or possibly even drier, than it is of a one in 100-year event.”

What’s wrong with their statement? A number of things. First, “scientists” didn’t say anything about a one in a thousand year drought. That was said by David Dreverman, who is the head of the local Murray-Darling river commission.

Second, Mr. Dreverman did not base that statement on a thousand years of drought records preserved in tree rings, or on other proxies, or on any observations at all. It was simply a mathematical estimate of what is called a “return period” based on a probability distribution, not a scientific statement of historical fact. Here is a link (PDF) to how it was calculated.

Third, his statement was only peripherally connected to the drought. He was actually talking, not about the drought, but about the return period of the flow of the Murray River.

Fourth, he either didn’t notice or didn’t want to comment on the other reasons why the Murray River is so low.  Here (PDF) are some of the reasons:

So why is there less water?

The amount of water that ends up in the Murray river has changed because:

• More farm dams have reduced run-off by between 660 and 2,400 gigalitres (Gl) per year

• Groundwater pumping has reduced run-off by 327 gigalitres per year

• regrowth from the bushfires in early 2003, when over a million hectares of

native forest was burnt, could reduce run-off by 430 gigalitres by 2020

• new plantations could have further reduced inflows by 1,100-1,400 gigalitres per year

• farmers have increased the water holding capacity of their soil by adopting minimum tillage.

So that’s the factual error. The 2006 drought was serious, there’s no question about that. But there is no scientific evidence that it was the biggest drought in a thousand years. That’s just alarmist hype.

If that’s the factual error, where’s the big lie?

The big lie is that global warming is making Australia drier. Or as the website says:

Global warming is a major contributor to Australian drought. Record high temperatures are … reducing water for irrigation in the continent’s agricultural basin.

Why is that a big lie? Because Australia has has been getting wetter as the globe warmed over the last century.

How do I know that? Well, that’s what the Australian Bureau of Meteorology says. Here’s their information about Australian rainfall, from their website.

Figure 2. Changes in rainfall, Australia, 1900-2009

No sign of a problem there, rainfall is increasing. It has increased by about 80 mm (3″) over the last century. Note that (as has been true for millennia), the rainfall in Australia comes in fits and starts. It is not uncommon for a year to have twice the rain of an adjacent year.

Now I can hear you thinking “But what about the places that were hit by the drought? The Murray-Darling River basin (of “1,000 year drought” fame) and West Australia and South Australia were all hit very hard in 2006. They must be drying out.”

We are nothing if not a full service website:

Figure 3. Changes in rainfall, Murray Darling Basin

Figure 4. Changes in rainfall, South Australia.

Figure 5. Changes in rainfall, West Australia.

No reduction in rainfall there either. Yes, there was very little rainfall in 2006 in South Australia and the Murray Darling Basin and West Australia … but in all cases, there have been worse years in the historical record.

Finally, there must be some areas of Australia that are getting dryer, aren’t there? Of course. It’s a big place. Here’s an overview of the country, showing the changes since 1900:

The overwhelming majority of the country has gotten wetter. A few places have dried slightly.

SUMMARY: Their web page contains one misrepresentation of fact about droughts, and one big lie.

Misrepresentation of fact: the 2006 drought was not the biggest in a thousand years. Most places it was not even the biggest drought in the historical record.

THE BIG LIE: When you look at the full record for Australia, it is evident that as the globe warms, Australia is not drying out. It is getting wetter.

The big lie is that “global warming” is reducing the rainfall in Australia. In fact, it is increasing the rainfall … go figure.

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89 thoughts on “Waxman Malarkey 2: Impact Zone Australia

  1. The rule is simple: if a country has low rainfall then Global Warming will make it worse with less rain; if a country has high rainfall then Global Warming will make it worse with mre rain. If you run the models enough times, you can pick whatever answer you want for each country.

  2. Another brilliant demolition job, Willis.

    But, as you well know, it isn’t really about facts or even (perish the thought!) science.

    It is all about giving the “robust” and “rational” information that is needed, so that all the turkeys will enthusiastically vote for Christmas.

  3. My first whiffs of skepticism were prompted by statements a few years ago about Australia like: “scientists today said the worst drought in more than 100 years was proof of man made global warming”.
    Thinks…..so 100 years ago there were worse droughts??
    In my Sydney schoolyard in 1951 or so we used to amuse ourselves popping the bubbles in the playground asphalt during heatwaves. I won’t mention the condition of the school milk bottles which sat outside for a couple of hours before recess…

  4. Ooh look, it’s politicians who lie! A rare species indeed.
    Seriously though these people will never be held accountable for their campaign of disinformation. Ever.

  5. Inland rainfall in Australia, for things like the Murray-Darlin river system, also depends on Cyclones crossing the great dividing range, if there is less cyclones, or smaller ones then less rain makes it’s way inland.

  6. We’re constantly bombarded in the Australian MSM with claims that climate change will affect Australia more so than any other country. Last summer was pretty cool, as Sydney summers go, very few flies. Same too with the summer before that (Black Saturday compared to almost no bushfires in NSW last summer). Last winter the snow season started eary, about 6 weeks as I recall, maybe 4. And this winter is shaping up to be a real chiller too as with another post about a record, 61 year, low for Sydney and lows in some places to -10c. I guess I have been relatively spoilt with warm winters, but I am feeing the cold this year.

    With the murray darling thing, IMO, it is mostly to do with the volume of farming along the basin. 54 years ago there weren’t 50,000+ large farms drawing water from it as there are today. Also, this flooding of the basin plus Lake Ayre from rains in northern NSW and Queensland is a once in 100 years event I believe. We haven’t seen much in the news about the waters return, I guess it’s not scary enough. “Stuff returning to normal, nothing to see here, move along” just dosen’t have enough punch.

    What is extremely dangerous is we now have a new PM, Ms Gillard (Labor), who has publically stated that she “believes in climate change” and will work hard to “establish a community concensus on climate change” (Whatever THAT is). Labor and The Greens are pushing for a price on carbon, AU$23 too start with, which will cripple everyone (Who’s not in bed with Govn’t that is), to be setup ASAP after the election. With Ms Gillards perfromance to date, her Building the Education Revolution project and other total failures, and the fact she was one in cabinet who killed off KRudd747′s (Awww…I can still say this becasue he will enjoy taxpayer funded air travel for himself and wife for the rest of their natural lives) CPRS as it stood before all the political rubbish statred, I don’t hold up much hope Labor will win this timearound. But we’ll all find out pretty soon.

  7. Following up on my first post in “Waxman Malarkey 1”. I would point out how the wild life has adapted to drought in Australia over millennia. There was recently an article in the local press about the quantity of fish in the outback rivers since the recent floods.

    It was pointed out in that article that the fish can survive for up to Thirty years buried in the dry river beds.

    Humans have to adapt to Australia like the wild life has, then, we have only been here 222 years, and still expecting the climate to be as it was in Europe.
    .

  8. Good summary Willis, the facts are that southern Australia has been drying out for at least 5,000 years, see Catalyst ABC video or transcript below.
    In the last 100 years Tasmania is the only state that has received less rainfall, but from a much higher base than other states.
    Sure the SW of WA has had less rainfall but the rest of the state has had increased rainfall.
    I hope Willis has the time to watch the video ( approx 10 mins) because it proves that the drying out of southern Australia could not have been caused by humans, because it started way before the Industrial Revolution.

    http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/s1848641.htm

  9. Townsville has just enjoyed 5 consecutive above average wet seasons, following on from 5 below average wets. So yes it is very ‘ up and down ‘. Also re the Murray-Darling, one wonders what the situation would be like had the Snowy Scheme not been built and nature allowed to take its course.

  10. Waxman-Markey

    http://globalwarming.house.gov/impactzones/australia


    The average annual death toll from heat waves is over 1,100 people in Australia and that number only stands to increase.

    Warmer and sicker? Global warming and human health

    http://www.science.org.au/nova/081/081print.htm

    This topic is sponsored by the Australian Greenhouse Office.

    Without measures to mitigate the effects of extreme heat, and with an increase in the proportion of older people in the population, we might therefore expect higher death tolls in Australia’s future heatwaves. It is estimated that there are currently about 1100 heat-related deaths per year.

    Wonderful language English… but translating from Australian English to American English can be difficult:

    heat-related deaths…………. => death toll from heat waves
    about 1100………………………. => over 1,100
    It is estimated… per year… => The average annual

    As for the science… don’t you just know you can trust the Australian Greenhouse Office to sponsor good factual reporting…..

  11. Hmmm. It’s not like Australia has always had droughts and floods. I mean, there’s this recent puff-piece from some hack:

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

    - Dorothea Mackellar, 1907

  12. Willis you amaze me every time, there you go quoting facts and truth against scaremongering. Where is your sense of proportion couldn’t you throw in a few dubious figures so that those guys on the scare side might come back with some dialogue. No wonder they won’t debate you.

  13. Just watching the TV news and whether !

    Victoria has just had its wettest June in 9 years.

  14. Waxman-Markey

    http://globalwarming.house.gov/impactzones/australia


    The average annual death toll from heat waves is over 1,100 people in Australia and that number only stands to increase.

    Warmer and sicker? Global warming and human health

    http://www.science.org.au/nova/081/081print.htm

    This topic is sponsored by the Australian Greenhouse Office.

    Without measures to mitigate the effects of extreme heat, and with an increase in the proportion of older people in the population, we might therefore expect higher death tolls in Australia’s future heatwaves. It is estimated that there are currently about 1100 heat-related deaths per year.

    Wonderful language English… but translating from Australian English to American English can be difficult:

    heat-related deaths……….. => death toll from heat waves
    about 1100…………………. => over 1,100
    It is estimated… per year.. => The average annual

    As for the science… don’t you just know you can trust the Australian Greenhouse Office to sponsor good factual reporting.

  15. The unequivocal statement that the recent drought in SE Australia is the worst in a millennium is certainly not scientifically justified. Although I think we should give them the benefit of the doubt and assume it was an honest mistake – the difference between a historical reconstruction and a statistical return time is not immediately clear to everyone.

    You have misinterpreted somewhat the first point quoted however. The article is stating that higher temperatures are exacerbating drought, not that global warming is necessarily changing rainfall patterns to increase the intensity/frequency of droughts. Attributing Australian rainfall trends in any region to the increase in temperatures is very difficult, and I don’t think anyone has been able to say much about it with too much certainty. However, saying that higher temperatures, and therefore more evaporation will make a drought worse than it otherwise was is not too much of a stretch. Although perhaps calling it a ‘major contributor’ is going too far.

  16. I am off to the meeting shortly but a few comments.
    Australia wide rainfall does not relate well to the MD Basin. A lot of that is tropical monsoon/cyclone activity. Fig 3 shows a reduction in flooding rainfall from nearly 800mm in the 1940′s to 400mm now. Yes, there has been increased extraction but our inland rivers are really river channels that may or may not contain water. If they do, and mimic NH rivers, well and good, we can continue with our European farming, if they dry out then alarmism prevails and the original inhabitants laugh.
    Hope the meeting is civilised!

  17. One of the modus operandi of the AGW hysterics in the media or in politics is that they make alarming claims and predictions about place far far away.

    The Grauniad, where you source some of you material above, has some great form lying about climate change and Australia. I blogged about one most outrageous incident last year. And the travesty in all this is that this “journalism” never gets corrected – even when you write a letter of complaint. I know, I did.

    http://geckkosworld.blogspot.com/2009/09/rip-quality-journalism.html

    http://geckkosworld.blogspot.com/2009/10/bottled-water-frenzy.html

  18. People promoting global warming forget the Federation Drought of the 1890′s where farmers walked off the land because it was never going to rain again. Weather is great to lie about because most people only remember what it was like yesterday and if the MSM keep harping on about how hot it is, how dry it is now compared to last year or 10 years ago that is what they remember, not the facts.

  19. As a 3rd generation North Queenslander in his 70′s, I can assure the younger generation in Australia that the Murray River needs the North Queensland El Nino wet season rains, plus the agreement of the Qld. and the NSW farmers to stop excessively draining the system.

    This does not mean that I agree with water being allowed to go to the sea from the mouth of the Murray,which is what some outspoken advocates in Adelaide would see as desirable. This pure QUEENSLAND water is too valuable to go into salt water in South Australia. I would rather that it be used to replenish the underground water reserves that have been pressed too hard over past years for stock supplies.

  20. Yeah I have been pointing out this fact at Jo Nova and other blogs for a while. The Aussie BoM is highly selective with the truth when it comes to reporting rainfall. They tend to skirt around the fact that overall rainfall has increased nationally (as you mentioned) and focus on the areas that appear to show slight drying trends (like the SW of Western Australia).

    BTW for US readers when imagining Australia think of the lower 48 states… they are about the same size. I live in Perth (San Diego on the US map) and Western Australia (WA) covers everything west of Texas (about one third of the continent). Three quarters of the population of WA is in Perth and only about half a million in the rest of the state. The nearest city is Adelaide which would be more or less where Houston is.

    There is not much in between… which is why we call a section of that stretch the Nullabor (Latin for “no trees”). You don’t want to fall asleep at the wheel and fall off the Nullabor BTW cos it looks like this:

    and there will more than likely be a few of those chaps in the grey suits down the bottom.

    PS> There is no state called “West Australia”.

  21. Marty Singh says:
    June 30, 2010 at 12:17 am

    “However, saying that higher temperatures, and therefore more evaporation will make a drought worse than it otherwise was is not too much of a stretch. Although perhaps calling it a ‘major contributor’ is going too far”.

    Well actually it turns out that it was a bit of a stretch.
    This claim has the fingerprints of our resident alarmist David Karoly all over it.
    In 2003, he brought out a paper stating “…the higher temperatures caused a marked increase in evaporation rates, which sped up the loss of soil moisture and the drying of vegetation and watercourses. This is the first drought in Australia where the impact of human-induced global warming can be clearly observed…”

    Good old Karoly, blame everything on AGW.

    Unfortunately for him, in 2009 Lockhart et al published a paper titled “On the recent warming in the Murray-Darling Basin: Land surface interactions misunderstood.”
    (GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 36, L24405, doi:10.1029/2009GL040598, 2009)

    “This paper explores an alternative explanation of recent inter-annual variability and temporal trends in seasonal maximum air temperatures. First we present observations of sunshine hours (SSH) duration as an alternative explanatory variable for average maximum daily air temperature in direct comparison to average monthly rainfall. We then explore the role of elevated temperature in influencing land surface evapotranspiration.”

    “On average, an extra 1.5 hours of bright sunshine, instead of the alternative cloudy conditions, provides approximately 0.32mm of additional evapotranspiration. In contrast, an increase in air temperature of 2°C causes only an additional 0.076 mm of evapotranspiration over the entire day”.

    “The empirical correlations between temperature and rainfall identified by Nicholls [2003, 2004] and Karoly and Braganza [2005] are valid and statistically significant. However, to accept the correlation as the sole basis for the attribution of cause to human emissions is to implicitly assume that the correlation represents an entirely correct model of the sole driver of maximum air temperature. This is clearly not the case”.

    To cut to the chase, less cloud cover equating to more sunshine hours causes 4 times more drying than an increase of 2DegC in T’s

  22. My sister worked for the Murray river authority. There are a number of problems Australia needs to face up to;

    * Growing cotton in an essentially dry continent is not a sensible use of resources.
    * No matter that it is a big place Australia can only support a relatively small population. Arguably that has been just about reached and concentrating people desiring water hungry modern lifestyles into cities means a huge drain on water resources.
    *As agriculture expands so does the need for water and spraying it into the air for it to evaporate does not help the overall water conservation.
    *Australia is Australia not Britain or Europe with those countrys levels of natural rainfall and river systems. It needs local solutions for local problems and an aceptance that water is never likely to be plentiful.

    We have some interesting records going back to the early 1800′s and they show frequent devastating drought and a general lack of water alleviated by heavy rain in other years.

    Dorothea Mckellar one of Australias best loved poets summed up the sometimes savage weather and the droughts in this moving poem ‘My country’ The first verse is about England; Its a lovely poem that sums up the debate-please find the time to read it.

    http://www.imagesaustralia.com/mycountry.htm

    Tonyb

  23. Excellent job, Willis. My Mum used to tell me that liars never prospered, but the CAGW lot seem to be doing okay for now but I am sure that, as she also said, “The truth will out”. You are doing a great job of laying out the truth for all to see.
    My grandfather, a ‘New Australian’ who emigrated from Yorkshire to NSW in the late 19th century, was a victim of the ‘Federation Drought’. The farmland he bought and settled in the Blue Mountains had nil rainfall for almost a decade, which ended his farming career in Australia. He moved to relatively temperate New Zealand in 1900.

  24. I was glad to see the great Federation drought brought up – the mighty Murray ran dry at its mouth at a time when no water for irrigation was being extracted from the huge Murray Darling basin which covers the whole south east of the continent.

    Just read a few short stories by Henry Lawson to get a feel for just how dry this land was but 100 years ago.

  25. Marty Singh (12:17 am) mentions evaporation, another factor in drought.

    Although there appears not doubt that Australia, like the rest of the Earth, has experienced a rise in temperature as a (maybe temporary) recovery from the global LIA (the coldest prolonged episode for some thousands of years), as well as some anthropogenic effect, there doesn’t seem to be any significant increase in overall evaporation (since mid-70s), nor for individual zones except Southwestern Australia.

    http://www.bom.gov.au/cgi-bin/climate/change/timeseries.cgi?graph=evap&area=aus&season=0112&ave_yr=T

  26. ‘ Sydney has just had it’s coldest low (overnight) June temperature since 1949 of 4.3C ‘.

    My car told me it was still 3.0C till at least 8.30 at Westmead. It has never been wrong when checked against the car radio weather bulletins.

    How many ABC weather experts does it take to work the temperature out?

  27. Another skeptical Greenie

    By Peter Taylor, author of “CHILL”
    “In all of that work I managed a multi-disciplinary team of natural scientists, engineers and sociologists. I have extensive experience of how panels, committees and institutions deal with complex science and most especially where large investments are made by the science community and major policy decisions by government and industry follow the scientific recommendations. In all of this time – over 30 years, I have come to know all the tricks…….”
    “This argument forms the basis of my book – which is a summary of the arguments based upon the peer-reviewed literature (something I feel well-qualified to do) and where I conclude that recent evidence shows that the IPCC has erred and is reluctant to admit its error.”
    Greenie Watch

    http://antigreen.blog.com/

  28. ‘ Sydney has just had it’s coldest low (overnight) June temperature since 1949 of 4.3C ‘.

    My car told me it was still 3.0C till at least 8.30am at Westmead. It has never been wrong when checked against the car radio weather bulletins.

    How many ABC weather experts does it take to work the temperature out?

  29. “Drought

    Global warming is a major contributor to Australian drought. Record high temperatures are increasing evaporation, damaging vegetation and reducing water for irrigation in the continent’s agricultural basin.”

    LOL. What ludicrous bs.

    Most drought that westerners experience is man made, is not due to warming and evaporation, but drainage. A funny thing about going overly wild in the drainage department is when it “suddenly” rains “more an usual”, especially when what they drained in the 1900-1970/80 used to be a bog or, worse, lake. Flooding ensues since the ground is still prepared to mostly hold the water instead of letting it seeping through the soil.

    When one drains a patch of land it goes dry, that’s the whole point of drainage. Farmers want it dry but not too dry, right, so they drain usually too much in certain parts of the world since they lack the necessary ingredient to irrigation control–an abundance of water. Huh, maybe they need to learn to collect the water they drain away to the ocean, instead of ending up having it like Californians.

  30. … and here I thought it was the increased “water vapor” that caused the heat that I now learn caused evaporation that makes the water go away.

    Kurt Vonnegut would be proud … “Catch 22″ lives on.

  31. Patrick Davis says: (June 29, 2010 at 11:46 pm) Also, this flooding of the basin plus Lake Ayre from rains in northern NSW and Queensland is a once in 100 years event I believe.

    No, Patrick. The lake has a better bloodline than that:

    Recorded fillings

    The existence of water in Lake Eyre was first reported by Ross in 1869 and then by Halligan in 1922, however, their reports were dismissed as observation errors. Madigan who explored the area after a long drought in 1929 was convinced that the lake is permanently dry. The first reliable record of filling was in 1949_50, when Lake Eyre North reached a peak storage of 21 km3. This was followed by a series of minor floodings in 1953, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1963, 1967 and 1971, leading to a most significant flood event which began in 1973, reached its peak in 1974 and persisted until 1977. Lake Eyre North reached its highest recorded level of _9.09 m AHD in June 1974, and the equilibrium level of -9.5 m AHD between both lakes was achieved in October 1974. The peak combined storage was 32.5 km3.

    The last decade brought two unexpected events. The filling of 1984 with a total volume of 10 km3 was a relatively minor one, but if proved that the western tributaries can fill Lake Eyre in a matter of days. Lake Eyre South this time filled first – an event never previously recorded and considered to be extremely unlikely – and overflowed to Lake Eyre North. In 1989 this event was repeated, coinciding with the filling of the second largest Australian playa, Lake Torrens, which filled for the first time since 1878.

  32. But short term weather events always prove global warming.

    What they need to do is change the name from Murray River to Murray Drainage Ditch………..

    Then it might be clearer……

  33. As a resident down-under I am embarrased by the naive alarmists down here ranting on without regard to the facts. Perhaps beer reviewed science instead of peer reviewed is more appropriate in this case.

    Australian weather is extremely variable and long periods of drought are usually followed by periods of flood. There are claims that the the strengthening of the southern vortex has pulled low pressure systems furter south causing the drop in rain, but much of the water in the basin comes from snow melt run-off in spring, and there is no long term trend of reduced snow.

    In the past year or so, SE QLD saw it’s dam levels go from 20% to 100% after a long drought. Some alarmists claimed the drought was caused by AGW and it spelt the end of sustained habitat in this region. Now it’s like a lush Irish pasture.

    The cycle continues…..

  34. Well done, again, Willis! Nothing like prima facie evidence to overturn the lies.

    Interestingly, these “public servants”, Waxman and Malarkey, and others like them, funded by the taxpayer….if they were bankers, brokers, or anything of the sort, and they lied and misrepresented to the public, they could be tried and convicted of fraud.

    But for some reason, lies, misrepresentations, and fraud…are OK for politicians.

    Hmm….maybe they are taking their cues from a few “scientists” like Mann, or vice versa.

    Chris
    Norfolk, VA, USA

  35. tonyb says: (June 30, 2010 at 2:29 am) No matter that it is a big place Australia can only support a relatively small population.

    Don’t bet your shirt on that, tonyb. When the recent green scum covering this land dries up and blows away, and the roll-up-your-sleeves blokes* can go adventuring again and marry the massive waters up the top end to the wide open spaces, you’ll see the deserts bloom and the true levels which my country can support explode.

    *Gender neutral for this use here.

  36. Hi Willis, you wrote, “Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the people who wrote the Waxman-Markey website page on Australia”.

    Nice post. Unfortunately we have our own share of shoddy science here in Australia. It has infested our once prestigious CSIRO. Look at the scary regional temperature charts on the following link , p14, the last one being for the Murray Darling Basin. This is from the paper “An assessment of the impact of climate change on the nature and frequency of exceptional climatic events”, Hennessey et al, July 2008. The sky’s the limit.

    “Figure 8. Simulated percentage area with exceptionally hot years in the
    seven regions for 1900-2040, based on 13 climate models.The red lines
    are the multi-model means while the shading shows the range between
    the lowest and highest 10% of model results, all smoothed by decadal
    averages. Observed data (black lines) are smoothed by a 10-year moving
    average”.

    http://www.daff.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/721285/csiro-bom-report-future-droughts.pdf

    You are probably aware that David Stockwell dissected this nonsense on his Niche Modeling blog, “Drought Exceptional Circumstances”. To follow this, best start here.

    http://landshape.org/enm/drought-exceptional-circumstances/

  37. @Marty

    However, saying that higher temperatures, and therefore more evaporation will make a drought worse than it otherwise was is not too much of a stretch.

    Must not increased evaporation necessarily result in increased rainfall?

    Where is it dryer – the equator or the south pole?

    I think it’s more than a stretch to say droughts are worsened by higher temperatures. It’s just wrong. Circulation patterns that move masses of moist air around are responsible for where and how much rain falls. Temperature merely increases or decreases the amount of moisture where higher temperatures increase it not decrease it.

  38. Willis, thanks once again for an informative post. It is a wonderful bit of timing. You stated, “THE BIG LIE: When you look at the full record for Australia, it is evident that as the globe warms, Australia is not drying out. It is getting wetter.” I suppose, that would be true globally. They said, “Record high temperatures are increasing evaporation,……”. Apparently, they forgot the other half of the equation. Where does the H2O go when it evaporates? Sigh, was it 4th or 5th grade when we learned about the water cycle? It really does cause one to pause and wonder if they really don’t know about such things or are they being intentionally deceitful? This is just one step in debunking the myths and misinformation the alarmists are disseminating. But, we can do better! We can apply this new found knowledge of the water cycle to the silly Amazon study that’s made such waves in the alarmist world. Increased evaporation due to heat, would necessarily cause increase rainfall. Regardless of peer-review or not, the assertion regarding the Amazon are just plain wrong. Predicting where it would fall is something else, but outside of less than a week, no one else can either. Thanks again.

  39. My soap box:

    Those graphs have the look of weather pattern oscillations. The climate zones haven’t changed but the weather patterns have within the range of the climate zones referred to in each graph. That is what natural drivers will do in my opinion. And get this: human influences (like putting up tall skyscrapers in such a way to increase temps or wind, or both) can also cause weather pattern differences within a climate zone.

    Change in a climate zone would mean weather parameters that consistently and over an extended period of time, go beyond the current high and low range, IE temps, precip, humidity, clear sky days, etc. Climate change has to do with range change.

    Everything else, including AGW, is weather pattern variations and oscillations within the climate range zone. At issue then is what is causing weather pattern change: natural drivers, anthropogenic drivers, or some combination of the two? But climate change? Haven’t seen it yet and don’t expect to. Not even in the Arctic.

    On the other hand change overs to glacial periods is climate change on steroids.

  40. However – - drought is more than just precipitation.
    There is no mention, whatsoever, of temperature trends – which are also available on the Australia Bureau of Meteorology’s excellent website. A quick look will show that overall temps in Australia have risen about 1C degree since WWII and 1.5C degrees in the Murray Darling Basin. Higher temperatures mean higher evapotranspiration – all other factors being equal. In the case of the Murray Darling, a increase of 1.5C degrees would negate 80 mm of increased precipitation in the summer months, alone.

    http://www.bom.gov.au/cgi-bin/climate/change/timeseries.cgi?graph=tmax&area=mdb&season=0112&ave_yr=10

    Now, I have no great love for the exaggerations coming from the alarmist camp, nor do I appreciate the extreme alarmism and historically inept recent article on the Murray Darling drought in the National Geographic; however, any critique that does not address long-term increases in temperature while only considering precipitation is not accurately addressing the full issue of drought.

  41. Chris in OZ says:
    June 29, 2010 at 11:53 pm
    ….
    Humans have to adapt to Australia like the wild life has, then, we have only been here 222 years, and still expecting the climate to be as it was in Europe.

    Hi Chris, I’m sure it was just an oversight or I’m reading it wrong but do you care to re-phrase your paragraph?

  42. Australia’s worst drought in recorded history,

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

    Almost forgotten now, the Murry Darling dried out. There are wonderful photos of the river steamships of the age high and dry on the river bed. More chilling were the memories of those involved, the total loss of vegitation over huge swaithes of territory. The recent drought was very mild by comparison. Humans have short memories sometimes.

  43. I love how the increasing demand for water by people in dry climates is used as an example of “drought” and global warming. Great post Willis.

  44. It’s fascinating to read all these anti-global warming/climate change comments: I guess that none of the people posting can have lived in the parts of Australia which have had water restrictions over the last 10 years? Are the empty dams – for example, Melbourne’s currently at about 35% – also a CSIRO/BOM conspiracy? Or are they also due to some kind of faulty measurement – we’ll just move the guages, they’ll start reading at full and then we can go back to hosing down our driveways? Towns like Geelong on stage 4 restrictions for the best part of a decade – are they imagining it? The point is that – in case you haven’t noticed – it hasn’t been raining in big parts of the country for much of the last 10 years. How do you explain it? Or can I confidently expect full rain tanks next week now that you’ve exposed the lack of rain for the commie plot that it is? I used to know a few meteorologists and I’d’ve never guessed that they were one-world-government stooges: guess you just can’t tell with some people, they hide it really well.

  45. Oh, and I liked the comment about all the shoddy science in Australia – I guess most of the people posting here have advanced degrees in meterology or general science or statistics and are in a position to assess the merits of the science they don’t like the conclusions of?

  46. The fit of those lines doesn’t loot good enough to reject null that there is no change in rainfall at all.

  47. well In Victoria we just had at least 2 and possibly 3 inches of rain in the last 2 days, after some frosts and cold days, its been quite mild but winter finally arrived:-)
    I have a mini lake out front and need gumboots to walk round the yard, its wonderful:-)
    keeping up the firewood supply is a worry, but the trees are booming!
    growing so fast they are splitting Vertically as the bark cant keep up.
    a tree we cut last week has HUGE growth rings for the last 2 years, like triple the prior years at least.
    Feb 08 was the coldest I can remember being in my life, even the ’09 fires came in the ONLY hot week we had, prior to and days after it went back to quite cool.
    feed malarkey and co to the sharks:-)

  48. Yes but says:
    June 30, 2010 at 5:14 am

    BTW – the Lockhart et al. paper was shot to pieces for the pretentious drivel that it was

    http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2010/2009GL042254.shtml

    I take it from your dismissive response that you haven’t read the Lockhart paper.
    The Cai et al 2010 paper you linked to makes the following criticism..

    Cai et al. (2010) note that the previous paper used data from 15 stations that have records of varying length and uneven geographical distribution over time. The early period of data included more stations farther away from the equator, while the later period included more stations closer to the equator. Since the analysis was performed during the winter season (when stations closer to the equator receive more sunshine), and since the climatological average was not removed from the station data, a spurious trend in sunshine hours was created by connecting the station records together over time.

    In response I note the following from the Lockhart paper…

    A potential criticism of this analysis is that the simple arithmetic averaging of the available SSH data over the MDB may have led to a spuriously improved correlation to maximum temperature in comparison to rainfall. To exclude this possibility, the analyses were repeated for each individual station using the available individual rainfall, temperature and SSH data, with results shown in Table 1. The results
    indicate that SSH is a better explanatory variable of maximum temperature than rainfall for 14 of the 15 stations used.
    [12] Consequently, data both at local and basin scale across the MDB demonstrate that SSH provides a more robust explanation of maximum air temperature variability,
    and that there is little support for an increase in underlying warming.

    That is, the Cai criticism that Lockhart weighted the data in favour of those stations closer to the equator during cool months doesn’t stack up.
    But hey, why believe researchers and scientists? Any housewife will tell you that her washing will ALWAYS dry quicker on a sunny day than on a sunless day of equal temperature.
    Yes but no but, try it for yourself.

    p.s. The reason why Lockhart used cool months data is because that’s what Nicholls et al did and arrived at the IT”S MANS CO2 THAT DID IT conclusion. Surprise surprise.

  49. Waxman-Markey
    I feel sorry for them. They could look at a new dam and see less water flow past the dam. That is a simple principle of how dams work. They catch water.
    Waxman-Markey think it is CO2 that explains less water flow downstream from the dam.

  50. It is obvious that Australia has extremes of weather looking at the graphs and anecdotes. Combine this with a growing population who put pressure on water resources, Australia is not a good indicator of climate.

  51. Christopher Hanley says:
    June 30, 2010 at 3:40 am

    Marty Singh (12:17 am) mentions evaporation, another factor in drought.

    Although there appears not doubt that Australia, like the rest of the Earth, has experienced a rise in temperature as a (maybe temporary) recovery from the global LIA (the coldest prolonged episode for some thousands of years), as well as some anthropogenic effect, there doesn’t seem to be any significant increase in overall evaporation (since mid-70s), nor for individual zones except Southwestern Australia.

    http://www.bom.gov.au/cgi-bin/climate/change/timeseries.cgi?graph=evap&area=aus&season=0112&ave_yr=T

    Outstanding, thanks, Christopher. I read Marty Singh’s comment, and I was reading on down and wondering where I could find information on pan evaporation in Australia … and you have beaten me to it.

    What Christopher points out is that evaporation in Australia, far from increasing, has actually decreased. So that claim goes out the window as well.

    w.

  52. Steele Lawson says:
    June 30, 2010 at 7:50 am

    It’s fascinating to read all these anti-global warming/climate change comments: I guess that none of the people posting can have lived in the parts of Australia which have had water restrictions over the last 10 years? Are the empty dams – for example, Melbourne’s currently at about 35% – also a CSIRO/BOM conspiracy? Or are they also due to some kind of faulty measurement – we’ll just move the guages, they’ll start reading at full and then we can go back to hosing down our driveways? Towns like Geelong on stage 4 restrictions for the best part of a decade – are they imagining it? The point is that – in case you haven’t noticed – it hasn’t been raining in big parts of the country for much of the last 10 years. How do you explain it? Or can I confidently expect full rain tanks next week now that you’ve exposed the lack of rain for the commie plot that it is? I used to know a few meteorologists and I’d’ve never guessed that they were one-world-government stooges: guess you just can’t tell with some people, they hide it really well.

    Steele, thanks for the view from down under. Obviously my writing is not as clear as I vainly think it is, you seem to have missed my point.

    Yes, there are assuredly droughts in Australia. Sometimes extreme droughts. Australia is far and away the driest continent, even on a good day. And on a bad day, it is dry beyond belief. You say “The point is that – in case you haven’t noticed – it hasn’t been raining in big parts of the country for much of the last 10 years. How do you explain it?” I explain it by saying “G’day, mate, welcome to Australia” …

    My point is that Australian drought is a natural phenomenon, which has been around for millions of years, and has nothing to do with humans. The Waxman Markey website claims that Australian drought is a result of CO2-induced warming. But the increase in rainfall over the last century, during which time Australia was generally warming, clearly shows that warming (from whatever cause) does not reduce Australian rainfall. So human actions are not causing any decrease in Australian rainfall.

    On the other hand, the levels in the reservoirs that you discuss are affected by humans. For various reasons, Australia has not increased its water storage in decades. During that time both population and water use have increased greatly. It doesn’t take much math to predict what this will do to the water levels in Melbourne’s reservoirs … meanwhile, those of us outside of Australia scratch our heads and say “Instead of bitching about falling reservoir levels, why don’t they build more dams?”

    Finally, “one-world government stooges”??? “Commie plot”??? Take a deep breath, my friend. I’m just pointing out that Australia’s rainfall is increasing, not decreasing, no need to hyperventilate.

  53. Steele Lawson says:
    June 30, 2010 at 7:54 am

    Oh, and I liked the comment about all the shoddy science in Australia – I guess most of the people posting here have advanced degrees in meterology or general science or statistics and are in a position to assess the merits of the science they don’t like the conclusions of?

    Yeah, there’s no shoddy science in Australia, it is magically immune … not.

    Steele, like every other field, there is good and bad science in Australia as in the rest of the world. The poster who commented on shoddy science gave an example (including a citation) of what he thought was shoddy Australian science.

    Now, you could have taken the scientific path and shown how what he cited was not at all shoddy. That would have been good science. But you didn’t do that, you didn’t increase the amount of good science in Australia.

    Instead you just attacked the scientific qualifications of the people reading this site, the famously fallacious “ad hominem” strategy. By doing so, you actually increased the amount of shoddy science in Australia … I believe in soccer playing countries that’s called an “own goal”, but I grew up on a cattle ranch, and we called “shooting yourself in the foot”.

  54. I have never seen a heat wave caused death. I have seen dehydration complications.
    I suspect when life expectancy was 39, we had less deaths blamed on over heating than we do now with millions of people over the age of 80.

    I will discount the anecdotes regarding Austrailia untill I examine the official tree ring reports and hockey sticks from The MANN.

  55. Our own (warmist) CSIRO stated in September last year (sorry, no time to find the reference) that the drought WAS NOT caused by Global Warming. Are the CSIRO deniers now???

    Cheers,

    Tim

  56. Neville says:
    June 29, 2010 at 11:56 pm
    Good summary Willis, the facts are that southern Australia has been drying out for at least 5,000 years, see Catalyst ABC video or transcript below.
    In the last 100 years Tasmania is the only state that has received less rainfall, but from a much higher base than other states.
    Sure the SW of WA has had less rainfall but the rest of the state has had increased rainfall.
    I hope Willis has the time to watch the video ( approx 10 mins) because it proves that the drying out of southern Australia could not have been caused by humans, because it started way before the Industrial Revolution.

    http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/s1848641.htm

    That was quite interesting and very informative.

    Not mentioned: Have they looked into the CO2 content of the cores?

    Other than that, the only downside of the presentation was the constant banging on the AGW drum by the narrator.

  57. Steele Lawson says:
    June 30, 2010 at 7:50 am
    “It’s fascinating to read all these anti-global warming/climate change comments: I guess that none of the people posting can have lived in the parts of Australia which have had water restrictions over the last 10 years? Are the empty dams – for example, Melbourne’s currently at about 35% – also a CSIRO/BOM conspiracy? Or are they also due to some kind of faulty measurement – we’ll just move the guages, they’ll start reading at full and then we can go back to hosing down our driveways? Towns like Geelong on stage 4 restrictions for the best part of a decade – are they imagining it? The point is that – in case you haven’t noticed – it hasn’t been raining in big parts of the country for much of the last 10 years. How do you explain it? Or can I confidently expect full rain tanks next week now that you’ve exposed the lack of rain for the commie plot that it is? I used to know a few meteorologists and I’d’ve never guessed that they were one-world-government stooges: guess you just can’t tell with some people, they hide it really well.”

    And just over a year ago Brisbane dam levels were at 20% whereas now they are close to full. Incidentally they were also full back in around 2001. When you keep packing more and more people into an area without proper planning this kinda things happens and has nothing to do with global warming.
    Dam filling events never happened on an annual basis in the past and they are unlikely to in the future.

  58. Steele

    If you look at this graph (total Australian rainfall w/running 10 yr. average)

    http://www.bom.gov.au/cgi-bin/climate/change/timeseries.cgi?graph=rain&area=aus&season=0112&ave_yr=10

    you can figure out what happened to cause your water restrictions. Beginning in about 1970 the continent saw quite a significant increase in rainfall that lasted for more than a generation. When conditions persist for that long people perceive them as permanent. I’d bet dollars against donuts that water use, primarily for irrigation, grew to consume all that extra rainfall and over a period of 20-30 years became dependent on it. Now that rainfall has fallen back to the 1900-1970 average for the past 10 years all of a sudden there isn’t enough water to go around anymore.

    I’d start solving it by ditching the rice farms. Producing one million tons of rice per year in an arid region is kind of silly. I know that isn’t easy. I live on the shore of a large reservoir in Texas and the biggest single water users are rice farms 100 miles downstream. They have water rights that are legally unassailable. The rice fields continue to get flooded while those of us upstream can’t wash our cars or water our lawns because of mandatory water conservation measures. Such is life.

  59. The two dams feeding most of the water into the Murray River were partially emptied at the beginning of the decade in order to upgrade and repair the dam walls. This is the Hume and Dartmouth dams. I live in that region, and at the time, 2002, it was expected to take several years to refill the dams. So the environmental nitwits measuring river flows don’t realize that the low water levels they observe are indeed man made, but by the engineers with whom they would never deign to socialize.

  60. Love reading this site. Have not commented before.

    Steele Lawson: I am but a humble researching engineer, no “advanced degree in meteorology”, but I worked for CSIRO for a big slab of my life, I’ve been studying meteorology for about 20 years or so and I live in Brisbane which has been on water rations since about 2000. I’m also 500 yards from the river and get to see it flood and subside.

    I took an early interest in GW due to my interest in meteorology, and as a consequence studied up on atmospheric physics and studied all the data I could find. In the 90′s all the weather data was available free off the BOM website. I understand government cuts force them now to charge for it but I am suspicious they refuse to supply data beyond WW2 for weather stations that have been in operation since the 1870′s. I also note the CSIRO now has an ex macquarie investment banker for a CEO. His first announcment was a commitment to focus CSIRO on GW issues. I am sure this has nothing to do with carbon trading. There are many good people in CSIRO trying to do good work. The people you see in front of TV cameras usually aren’t. A PhD is no garantee of intelligence let alone ethics.

    The previous MD drought has been mentioned along with some other pertinent comments. I would add that weather patterns in aus are generally more extreme than many other places and as many of you will know cycles tend to be long and not sit well with human memories and perceptions. You can cherry pick data all you like to make this drought or flood sound like “the worst in 10,000 years” or whatever. The reality is we in SEQ had a similar drought to this in the 50′s, and the so called 100 year ’74 floods actually occure about every 40 years. We are due. Also remember that Australia had a population about half it’s present level in the 70′s.

    Regarding weather records remember they are taken under specific controlled circumstances. I remember growing up in Sydney sub zero mornings in winter and 50 C afternoons in summer. The weather stations didn’t register those temps because they are off the ground in boxes.

  61. Comprehensive debunking of some utter rubbish – well done Willis! W-M ought to be ashamed of themselves for peddling such ill-informed bullsh!t.

  62. You have to look at the weather from the perspective of the University educated activists of today, if it hasn’t been on television, it hasn’t happened. In 1956 we could walk across the Murray at Echuca, in mid-May 1968 , Melbourne had less than a months supply of water, Droughts and floods.

  63. The front page story in this morning’s (01 July) Adelaide Advertiser states:

    “INTERSTATE farmers have diverted enough floodwater to private dams from the Murray-Darling floodplain to more than fill the dying Lower Lakes.” http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/

  64. The lack of June rainfall in Adelaide had been the subject of most weather forecasts in the nightly news until rain on the 30th pushed us over the June average (no mention of what period the ‘average’ referred to).

    The comment then changed from “we are still below the June average” to “we are still below the 6 month average”.

    It seems that, unless we receive the ‘average’ of some metric, there must be a problem and it MUST be caused by us dastardly humans.

  65. Baa Humbug – I’m not sure why when describing two opposing scientific papers you feel the need to question the motives of one and not the other. In any case, that a strong drought would be correlated with increased sunshine is almost self-evident. What matters is the long-term trend. Interestingly, the decrease in pan-evaporation over Australia (pan evap over the MDB has increased) some have noted has been attributed to _decreasing_ sunlight due to increased cloud cover and aerosol loading by by Roderick & Farquar, Science, 2002. I’m not fully convinced of this, however, the decrease in sunlight has been observed elsewhere and may be some reason for the skepticism of the claims of the Lockhart paper you cite.

    Additionally, the trend in mean evaporation is less important than the trend in evaporation under dry, drought conditions. There is some evidence (as Baa Humbug cited) that, at least for 2002, the evaporation was higher in the MDB that other similar periods.

    That a drought in a higher background temperature, all else being equal, is worse than one in in which the temperature is not elevated doesn’t appear to be all that controversial to me. Although I would again object to it being a ‘major contributor’. Attributing this sort of thing to greenhouse gases (or aerosols or anything else) is another matter, although people do try.

    Dave Springer – there must be a global balance between rainfall and evaporation, not necessarily at local or even continental level. The point I am making is that given the same circulation conditions in a drought, the higher temperature one will be “worse”. There is also a lot of modelling and theoretical work that suggests a warmed world would have an increased (in magnitude) value of evap – precip in most regions (see Held & Soden 2006, Journal of Climate, Held & Soden 2000, Ann. Rev. Energy and the Environment). That is, the circulation changes will tend to make the subtropics dryer. I know those that frequent this website like obs rather than models, but they are nice papers nonetheless.

  66. Anthony, don’t worry about being blamed for the cold weather down here Down Under. We Aussies figured out long ago that it is due to Al Gore.

  67. Never let a good crisis, true or false, go to waste.

    I thought the scientists figured out that the monsoons in the Indian Ocean were responsible for most of the changes.

  68. Carl Chapman says: June 29, 2010 at 11:09 pm
    The rule is simple: if a country has low rainfall then Global Warming will make it worse with less rain; if a country has high rainfall then Global Warming will make it worse with m[o]re rain. If you run the models enough times, you can pick whatever answer you want for each country.

    Succinct and accurate. Well done for a first post.

  69. Marty Singh says:June 30, 2010 at 8:32 pm
    Baa Humbug – I’m not sure why when describing two opposing scientific papers you feel the need to question the motives of one and not the other. In any case, that a strong drought would be correlated with increased sunshine is almost self-evident.

    Gee, I thought wet and dry periods were correlated with precipitation . And precipitation was associated with atsmospheric humidity. And atsmospheric humidity was associated with evaporation from water surfaces. And the biggest water surfaces are oceanic. And the surface temp of the water is associated with increased evaporation. And the surface temp in that area is collectively called the SOI, which is associated with wet and dry periods. But silly me.

  70. Total grain production from Australia :

    2001/2002 – 38.01 mmt (best evah record at that date)

    http://www.fas.usda.gov/wap/circular/2003/03-02/wldsum.pdf

    02/03 – 17.08 mmt
    03/04 – 41.42 mmt (best evah record)

    http://www.fas.usda.gov/wap/circular/2005/05-01/WldSum.pdf

    04/05 – 35.42 mmt
    05/06 – 32.87 mmt

    http://www.fas.usda.gov/wap/circular/2005/05-09/WldSum.pdf

    07/08 – 25.4 mmt
    08/09 – 33.7 mmt

    http://www.fas.usda.gov/wap/circular/2009/09-05/productionfull05-09.pdf

    2009/2010 34.2 mmt

    http://www.fas.usda.gov/wap/circular/2010/10-06/production_full06-10.pdf

    Australian wheat production 1998-2008:

    03/04 – 26 mmt (best evah record)
    9 years above 20 mmt; 2 years bad crops 02/02 – 8.86 mmt, 03/04 14.81 mmt

    http://www.fas.usda.gov/wap/circular/2007/07-09/wapfull0907.pdf

    Where the heck is this massive drought, alledged increased evapotranspiration, doom and gloom, etc., etc., show up in the data? Good crops getting better, with a few drought years inbetween. The bad years only reduced exports. The Aussies will adapt and survive as they have before, if the government doesn’t take capital away from the innovative private sector to build Don Quixote amalgamations.

  71. Tim Clark – droughts are periods of low rainfall. To the extent that clouds are correlated with rainfall this is also a period of low average cloud cover, and hence high sunshine. Obviously drought is also correlated with precipitation as you state. Precip also has a relationship (although more complicated in the mid-latitudes than the tropics) with atmospheric humidity. In the subtropics/mid-latitudes total column humidity doesn’t really have a very tight relationship with evaporation, as most of the water vapour is advected into the column rather than evaporated from the surface beneath. The SOI is a measure of the pressure differential between Darwin and Tahiti. The sea surface temperature indicies related to ENSO are the ‘Nino’ indicies (there are a few) which mostly measure Eastern pacific sea surface temperature. The effect of El-nino on Australian rainfall is a remote effect and is not simply due to warmer water having the ability to contain more water vapour.

    Desptie all that, you do have one thing right – rainfall in Australia has a strong relationship with ENSO. The question I was addressing was really about whether a given drought (related to El-nino, IOD, or anything else) might be worsened by a warmer background state.

    Since you mention it however, a lot of the IPCC models predict a more ‘El-nino’ like state of the pacific in the late 21st century given increasing greenhouse emissions. I was rather sceptical of this result, as models have a hard time simulating a decent El-nino at all. However, the Held & Soden 2006 paper I already mentioned has a very interesting take on why the models might produce a weakening Walker circulation, which gives a little more confidence that the result is not too dependent on the complex dynamics of El-nino itself. Still, I’m not betting my house on it just yet.

  72. Marty Singh says: July 1, 2010 at 5:14 pm
    Desptie all that, you do have one thing right – rainfall in Australia has a strong relationship with ENSO. The question I was addressing was really about whether a given drought (related to El-nino, IOD, or anything else) might be worsened by a warmer background state.
    Since you mention it however, a lot of the IPCC models predict a more ‘El-nino’ like state of the pacific in the late 21st century given increasing greenhouse emissions. I was rather sceptical of this result, as models have a hard time simulating a decent El-nino at all.

    And the point I was making is that warmer global average temperatures are highly associated (1997-8, 2009-10)) with a positive El Nino. A positive El Nino is highly associated with increasing precipitation in many areas, namely S. Cal, Az, Co. Ks. Nm and parts of other us states and portions of Aus as moderated by the SOI. And specifically, under these conditions, higher temperature in Australia would generally occur in combination with increased precipitation. We both probably do not have time to correlate the absolute temperature – precip relationship that occurred during the recent drought in Aus. But I would be interested in seeing it.
    But consider that plants do not transpire much above a certain temperature, about 92F for c-3 plants, and plant response to any absolute temperature above about 95 F is subject to exponential diminishing damage from heat alone, provided sufficent moisture is available. So in regards to a warmer environmental equilibrium, the plant doesn’t care much if the temperature is 95 or 105. It’s also critically important at what stage of growth this occurs. Also, under dessicating conditions, more damage can be done by wind that by drought. Plants are more damaged by elevated nightime absolute temperature inhibiting dark respiration than by absolute daytime temp, if sufficient water is available. I believe it’s more complicated than just saying that warmer initial conditions would increase drought severity. It depends on what the normal is relative to warmer, nightime temps, and whether the wind blows more during an Aus drought.

  73. Tim Clark says:
    July 2, 2010 at 8:37 am

    And the point I was making is that warmer global average temperatures are highly associated (1997-8, 2009-10)) with a positive El Nino.

    Tim, thanks for the comments. Being the naturally skeptical SOB that I am, I thought I’d check your claim. El Niño/La Niña are defined as a temperature excursion of greater than 0.4°C in the El Niño 3.4 area (5S-5N, 170W-120W). Here is that long-term record, along with the running average for both conditions:

    I don’t see a whole lot of correlation between El Niño and global temperatures. It seems to be correlated with the PDO, but not with the global temperatures.

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