Another Climate FAIL: New Research Casts Doubt on Doomsday Himalayan Water Shortage Predictions

Barry Woods writes via email:

Previously: (at Copenhagen) Prime Minister Gordon Brown said:

“In 25 years the glaciers that provide water for 3/4 of a billion people will disapear entirely”

Glaciers near K2 in the People's Republic of C...

The Himalayas - Image via Wikipedia

Now: Himalayan Glaciers (and others) New Research Casts Doubt on Doomsday Water Shortage Predictions

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=research-casts-doubt-doomsday-water-shortage-predictions

Some great quotes from various scientists in Scientific American:

He agreed that overstatements about the impacts are rampant in the Himalayas as well, saying, “The idea that 1.4 billion people are going to be without water when the glaciers melt is just not the case.

From the Andes to the Himalayas, scientists are starting to question exactly how much glaciers contribute to river water used downstream for drinking and irrigation. The answers could turn the conventional wisdom about glacier melt on its head.

Yet, scientists complain, data are often inaccurately incorporated in dire predictions of Himalayan glacial melt impacts.

Creeping hyperbole?

“Hyperbole has a way of creeping in here,” said Bryan Mark, an assistant professor of geography at Ohio State University and a researcher

Mark said he expects to find that the impact of monsoon water is greatly underestimated in the Himalayas.

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44 thoughts on “Another Climate FAIL: New Research Casts Doubt on Doomsday Himalayan Water Shortage Predictions

  1. Here is a mainstream paper of last year. Yangtze, Yellow and Ganges are most important in terms of population.

    http://www.sciencemag.org/content/328/5984/1382.abstract

    Science 11 June 2010:
    Vol. 328 no. 5984 pp. 1382-1385
    DOI: 10.1126/science.1183188
    [blockquote]
    Abstract

    More than 1.4 billion people depend on water from the Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra, Yangtze, and Yellow rivers. Upstream snow and ice reserves of these basins, important in sustaining seasonal water availability, are likely to be affected substantially by climate change, but to what extent is yet unclear. Here, we show that meltwater is extremely important in the Indus basin and important for the Brahmaputra basin, but plays only a modest role for the Ganges, Yangtze, and Yellow rivers. A huge difference also exists between basins in the extent to which climate change is predicted to affect water availability and food security. The Brahmaputra and Indus basins are most susceptible to reductions of flow, threatening the food security of an estimated 60 million people.[/blockquote]

  2. I thought that the bulk of water used in India and surrounding countries came from snow melt not glacier melt.

  3. “In the Indus, they found, the meltwater contribution is 151 percent compared to the total runoff generated at low elevations.”

    How does that work??

  4. Did Gordon Brown say that?
    Let me put you non UK readers in the picture.
    Gordon Brown was Dr Watson to Tony Blair’s Sherlock Holmes.
    Tony’s perfectly honed intuition told him that Climate Change was one to get behind…harness the vote of caring, greenish, left leaning, middle class people and have powerful lobby groups eating out of your hand – for research funding, technical innovation grants, carbon capture schemes and of course…nuclear power. He saw it for the revenue raising opportunity it has become.
    But the thing about Gordon Brown is that being dense, he hadn’t noticed that the moment had passed…you can bet that when he said it…
    ‘in 25 years the glaciers what provide water for 1/4 million people will melt.’
    he imagined that it would fire up some loyalty and excitement, cement his green creds…like it did for Tony all those years before!
    Oh dear.
    They were a right pair!

  5. I’d have thought the biggest impact would be if the glaciers start to lengthen again and there is a reduction in snow melt.

  6. The bulk of india water comes from monsoon…

    John Marshall says:
    October 25, 2011 at 3:16 am
    I thought that the bulk of water used in India and surrounding countries came from snow melt not glacier melt.

  7. It would be nice if someone were to calculate the amount of water carried into India by the annual monsoons. Compare that to the amount of water generated when the glaciers melt.

    This article http://www.hindawi.com/journals/jgr/2011/765248/

    says:

    The Indian economy is based on agriculture, which mostly depends on the monsoon rain and to some extent on river flow and ground water resources. In the absence of monsoon that brings adequate rain, crop yield is reduced and due to recurrent droughts there may even be severe shortage of drinking water. The water resources of India comprise rivers, lakes, and ground water aquifers and the amount of water they hold is linked to the rainfall on the one hand and human exploitation on the other.

    No mention of glacier melt as a significant contributor to India’s agriculture.

    Didn’t the British at one time run India? Didn’t they notice the monsoon season? Why don’t they remember what they saw while they were there?

  8. Prime Minister Gordon Brown said:

    “In 25 years the glaciers that provide water for 3/4 of a billion people will disapear entirely”

    That’ll teach him to believe what the IPCC say. They said the glaciers would be gone by 2035 if I recall correctly. Others can peer review my statement. It’s all voodoo to me.

  9. Is that the very same Peter Gleik who was dissing Ms LaFramboise’s little tome a little while ago?

    charles nelson says:

    October 25, 2011 at 3:46 am

    The funniest double-act in recent years, although as a self-employed person I didn’t laugh that much. Gordon Brown, he of “just 50 days to save the world” fame, I seem to also recall! :-)

  10. Why did the people at Copenhagen believe Gordon Brown? No one in Britain did and that is why he is out of power brooding away in Fife.

  11. So is this how the scientific fight back will progress?

    Step by step.

    The CAGW hegemony will be taken down, as bricks individually from a wall?

    Nice.

    Keep it up, Mr Watts. Keep the little tear aways from the mask of ideological environmentalism (which does our beautiful planet no favours) coming.

    The Bear claps big fluffy paws …

  12. Whatever the water source, current C02 levels produce 10% to 15% more food with the same water then they would in a 280 PPM world, so once again, while the harm of CO2 is another unrealized hypothetical, the benefit is not disputable.

  13. ‘mizimi says:

    October 25, 2011 at 3:30 am

    “In the Indus, they found, the meltwater contribution is 151 percent compared to the total runoff generated at low elevations.”

    How does that work??

    Lets use analogy: Lets say you need 100 USD a day to survive. You earn 150 USD a day. You have 150 percent of what you need.

  14. Gee if the BEST results are correct why the hell are the SST’s currently the coldest on Satellite record? What Baloney!

  15. “aaron says:
    October 25, 2011 at 4:10 am

    Build reserviors. Problem solved.”
    Exactly my thoughts and few hydro stations on the Ganges to get cheap power.

    The only way to bring down CAGW or climate change is now to get a small enough population within a country to still believe it is a big problem and this will probably take decades. The reason is that like in Australia’s case the politicians do not want to lose that vote which still represents 30% or so of the population. So in Australia’s case our conservative opposition which probably like the population has a simular belief level will not make it the parties policy even though the majority don’t think it is a big problem. Another tactic might be (I hope) to get into power first and then change your mind and this could accelerate the decline of alarmism.

    To Anthony Watts if you ever read this millions of people appreciate what you are doing so Thank You, but hope you are patient.

  16. The same Gordon Brown, non-UK readers, who, when Chancellor of the Exchequer (and against advice), sold half our gold reserves in the late 1990′s when gold was $200/ounce.
    Smart move, eh..??

  17. Oh well, whilst we’re at it – The same Gordon Brown who like his not so chmmy pal Tony, said how concerned they both were that people weren’t putting enough away for their retirement/old age, then promptly proceeded to raid private pension funds each year to the tune of billions! What a guy!

  18. It is not possible for glacier/snow melt to contribute significantly to the river flow in India. The catchment areas of the major rivers is enormous while the area above the snow line is only a small proportion of that area. The monsoons provide a huge quantity of water, far far more than the small amount that gets deposited as snow in the high mountains.

  19. David says:
    October 25, 2011 at 5:34 am
    The same Gordon Brown, non-UK readers, who, when Chancellor of the Exchequer (and against advice), sold half our gold reserves in the late 1990′s when gold was $200/ounce.
    Smart move, eh..??

    It is if you want to use the money for your own advantage while you are still in power. All that gold doesn’t do Brown any good as he can’t use it. Once converted to $$, it is much easier to spend. The fact that it is now lost to the British people, well that is the sacrifice they have to make. Politicians as a lot tend to feel that sacrifice is a good thing when made by the common people, and a bad thing when made by the ruling class.

  20. The far East has so much water that has nothing to do with glaciers that they would adapt nicely and barely notice the difference. Focusing on glacier melt is pure scare tactics without merit.

    I have spent a year in Thailand and have never before or since seen as much rain as in a monsoon.

    Take the heaviest rain I have seen in the USA and triple it and let it go on for months and you have some idea of a monsoon.

    A level field is turned into a lake in weeks and kids are paddling boats where it had been dry land before.

    I remember running from the bus to the O club and getting so wet that I couldn’t have gotten wetter by jumping in a swimming pool fully clothed. I walked the rest of the way.

  21. I’ve never understood why disappearing glaciers is a problem.

    If the glaciers stop receding, then they cannot provide water. If they disappear they also no longer provide water. They are similar to a damn, they cannot provide water they can only store it and their net effect is zero.

  22. I never understood the claim that glaciers have been supplying drinking/irrigation water. The only way for that to happen is for the glaciers to have been in constant retreat since the time humans started relying on the river water.

    For the glacier to supply water it has to melt, pretty simple concept. But if the retreat of the glaciers is only a recent phenomenon then where did the water come from before? Could it be that the annual snow on the glaciers melts and runs into the river while the glaciers themselves remain relatively stable? And if so the even a complete removal of the glaciers will have no effect on the water supply, since the water is just melting snow.

    Now if the snow fall decreases or the temperature increases and more of the snow falls as rain (with immediate runoff rather than delayed melting), then obviously that will have an effect. But the existence or non-existence of the glaciers will not change the situation.

  23. Climate Dissident says:
    October 25, 2011 at 6:20 am
    I’ve never understood why disappearing glaciers is a problem.

    If the glaciers stop receding, then they cannot provide water. If they disappear they also no longer provide water. They are similar to a damn, they cannot provide water they can only store it and their net effect is zero.”

    Indeed, if the world cools, and glaciers grow, then water runoff will reduce.

  24. AnonyMoose says:

    October 25, 2011 at 5:47 am

    Clouds have no effect on climate, so the rain from them can be ignored.

    The sun also has no effect on climate either. All those photons = no effect. Sad.

  25. The biggest problem the Earth faces at the moment is overpopulation but everyone is trying to save and prolong the length of human life. Just let nature take its course!

  26. Gordon Brown is a pretty cool dude; I recall he was going to control the earth temperature rise to 2 degrees.
    That’s not just brillliant science, it is incredible planetary engineering.
    By the way he also wrecked the UK economy (thus saving millions of tons of carbon!)

  27. “Gordon Brown was Dr Watson to Tony Blair’s Sherlock Holmes.” That’s a slur on Dr Watson, who was, in the books, far from being the idiot that Nigel Bruce played; he was Holmes’s trusted friend and colleague.
    Tony Blair as Sherlock Holmes…that charlatan! The Holmes character deserves better than that!

  28. Kelvin Vaughan says, The biggest problem the Earth faces at the moment is overpopulation but everyone is trying to save and prolong the length of human life. Just let nature take its course!

    How is that a problem for the earth? “Earth” will be just fine if people disappear. A problem for people maybe, not the earth. I always get a charge out of this mother earth stuff.

  29. From Gordon Brown’s ‘Fewer than 50 Days’ speech: (skip the ad. glaciers 55sec in)

    Gordon Brown PM:
    “There are now fewer than 50 days to set the course for the next few decades’

    “If we do not reach a deal over the next few months, let us be in no doubt”

    “Once the damage from unchecked emissions growth is done, no retrospective global agreement in some future period can undo that choice, by then it will be irretreivably too late..
    ..we should never allow ourselves to lose site of the catastrophy we face, if present warming trends continue…..”

    “In 25 years the glaciers that provide water for 3/4 of a billion people could disapear entirely”

    ———–

    pls Note, checked video again, says could not will. The whole speech is totally alarmist in nature. Yet, It sounds so very dated now, very alarmist, even the underwater Maldive’s cabinet meeting
    summer heatwave mentioned…
    In the lifetime of our children, grandchildren, etc.the intense temps of 2003, could become the average temps , etc

    worth listening to all 2 and a half alarmist minutes worth.

    Not least after, 50 days, to set the course for the decades to come, lest it be irretiivably damaged, Copenhagen failed politically, and all the 50 days (alarmist rhetoric) soon forgotten.. So can I be called a ‘political climate cynic’ now…

  30. The glacier-centric “physics” of Climate Science apparently necessititates that if a glacier disappears, it stops raining and snowing. And we’re all gonna die.

    But take some people, a river, a glacier, and stable sublimation and rain and snow year over year. Increasing glacier must mean decreasing water for river, right? Decreasing glacier must mean increasing water for river, until glacier is gone, right? So far so good?

    “No! Because when the glacier is gone, it’s suddenly stopped snowing and raining and we’re all dead, you fool….oops, except then leaving the GCM’s to correctly ‘manage’ what’s left according to ‘the physics’. So, Yes!”

  31. Help me out here. They claim that most of the water is coming from melting glaciers. So what happens to the water flow if we were somehow able to stop glacier melting?

  32. Kelvin Vaughan says:
    October 25, 2011 at 7:54 am
    The biggest problem the Earth faces at the moment is overpopulation but everyone is trying to save and prolong the length of human life. Just let nature take its course!”

    Dear Kevin, please stop eating, then nature will take her course.

  33. The quote in Scientific American, from Peter Gleick sound perfectly reasonable…….
    —————————–
    Creeping hyperbole
    “There has been a lot of misinformation and confusion about it,” said Peter Gleick​, co-director of the California-based Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security. “About 1.3 billion people live in the watersheds that get some glacier runoff, but not all of those people depend only on the water from those watersheds, and not all the water in those watersheds comes from glaciers. Most of it comes from rainwater,” he said.
    —————————–

    Where all these scientists were 2 years ago, when politicians were spouting off like Gordon Brown to the world’s media…. is of course another question…

    Why were they not correcting these hugely high profil public announcements of ‘water shortgages’ that afftected hundreds of millions of people in a few short years…

  34. This article reflects a number of such that have been appearing in Indian periodicals over the last 2 years. It does not appear to go into the importance of maintaining a forested watershed, but others do. And there is a general call for action in that regard, especially after the Pakistani floods of last year.
    Note the comments:

    “6. pokerplyer 10:19 AM 10/25/11

    I am amazed. Scientific American actually published an article demonstrating that a conclusions written by the IPCC regarding AGW was WRONG. Something must have frozen over…lol
    Reply | Report Abuse | Link to this

    7. Trent1492 11:34 AM 10/25/11

    Yo Poker Player,

    Allow me to introduce you this thing called science. One of the great definitions of science is an error correction method. I like that. What you perceive as a weakness is a strength.

    Now if only we could get Anthony Watts to admit to his errors…”

  35. As I posted earlier I have been to Thailand for 1 year and they have more water than they need.

    Most of it runs off into the ocean.

    Those people are smart enough to build a dam and save the water from the monsoon into the dry season. It is an insult to claim they aren’t.

  36. Gordon Brown was just repeating what he was told. He’s clueless. The only surprise is that he didn’t go on to explain that the UK was already doomed because the glaciers there are already gone.

  37. On April 28 1975 Time magazine had on its front cover the title THE BIG FREEZE!!, with an article, signed by climate scientists, concluding that the Earth is cooling to the point it will all be covered in ice and all living creatures will die.
    The “scientists” even came up with a solution: collect all the ashes and residues generated by coal-burning power plants and spread it over the North Pole, to capture the heat generated by the sun….
    This could only have come from sick, perverted minds, but at the time it was viewed as a real option.
    After a few years, when it obviously turned out that such a theory was nonsense, the so called climate scientists, in their quest for government grants, have invented a new fantasy, that of global warming……

  38. son and charles;
    The “2035″ number was a digit inversion of 2350, which itself was lifted from dirty grey literature written by a journalist, etc. It was accepted, then defended, rationalized, acknowledged but pooh-poohed, and swept under the rug &/or Pachauri’s beard by the IPCC.

  39. David says:
    October 25, 2011 at 9:02 am

    Dear Kevin, please stop eating, then nature will take her course.

    I thought of that Dave but what about all that CO2 released by my rotting body?

  40. There is far too much ice in the world (that is why we are still in an “ice age”). In order for ice to be biologically useful it must first melt. Every square inch of ice retreat is matched with a plant and biomass advance. Water is water. When it falls on a mountain it eventually reaches the bottom, as ice or not. The time delay, of that journey, is irrelevant to it’s eventual destination. If we want to save it, for our use, we must dam it, into liquid reservoirs. Ice just won’t deliver on demand. GK

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