Solar to river flow and lake level correlations

Guest post by David Archibald

Colder is drier.

The figure above is after a figure from Maus et al 2010 “Long term solar activity influences on South American rivers”. It shows a very good correlation between solar activity, as measured by sunspot number, and the flow rate of the Parana River, the second largest river in South America. The Parana River now hosts the Itaipu Dam with installed capacity of 14,000 MW.

A recent paper in an engineering journal shows a similar strong solar control on the level of Lake Victoria in East Africa (Mason March 2010): 

As Mason notes, an interesting correlation was noticed in the early 1900s between lake level and solar activity, in the form of the sunspot number. The interest this caused waned when the correlation seemed to disappear after about 1928. The early 1960s saw a dramatic climate anomaly in East Africa. Lake levels rose significantly, including those of Lake Victoria, and flows in the Tana River in Kenya doubled. The sluice gates at the Owen Falls dam were opened to release the additional water required by the Nile waters agreement and they stayed open, almost continuously, until well into the 1990s. This surplus water also led Uganda to invest in a new hydroelectric power station at Kiira. But the lake level starting falling from 1964 with an oscillation around the falling trend. This oscillation, controlled by solar activity, is shown in the following figure from Mason:

The falling trend in the level of Lake Victoria meant that the new hydro dam at Kiira did not produce any long term, additional energy for Uganda.

Back to South America and the Itaipu Dam – it produces 90% of the electric power consumed by Paraguay and 19% of Brazil’s consumption. As Maus et al note, the relationship between smaller solar activity and low Parana’s discharge can also be found in historical records.

For example, low discharges were reported during the period known as the Little Ice Age (LIA). In particular, a traveller of that period recalls in his diary that in the year 1752 the streamflow was so small that the river could not even be navigated by the ships of that time, which were less than 5 ft draft, to be compared with ships up to 18 ft draft that can navigate it at present as far north as Asuncion in Paraguay.

Our prediction for Solar Cycle 24 in terms of F10.7 flux is shown following:

Given the link between East African and central South American rainfall and solar activity, the list of economic impacts from the current solar minimum (Solar Cycles 24 and 25) can be expanded to:

  1. Canadian agricultural will get a severe whacking from a shortened growing season and un-seasonal frosts.
  2. 24 year drought in central South America
  3. 24 year drought in East Africa
  4. Paraguay and Brazil having severe power shortages.

This list is by no means exhaustive. The last time the world witnessed mass starvation was the 1965-67 drought in India which killed 1.5 million people. Things don’t look pretty.

References:

Mauas, P.J..D., A.P.Buccino and E.Flamenco, 2010, Long-term solar activity influences on South American rivers, Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics on Space Climate, March 2010.

Mason, P.J., 2010, Climate variability in civil infrastructure planning, Civil Engineering 163, pages 74-80.

David Archibald

July 2010

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DR

It makes no difference, an ice age will be upon us by Spring anyway 🙂
http://geraldcelentechannel.blogspot.com/2010/07/emergency-report-dr-gianluigi-zangari.html
Sorry, couldn’t resist.

Stephan

I live here/there and I tremble if DA predicts anything as he is usually correct. So far though rainfall has been way above average and temps way below average. LOL

The Parana River correlation is impressive, to say the least.
I notice the work by Mason is from 2010. Was there any indication noted by him that flow on the Parana was decreasing again?

Oops. Both works are from 2010. Sorry ’bout that.

Austin

I imagine the reverse would be true for basin and range with no direct outflow to the oceans. As things cooled off, and evaporation rates eased, a return of subsoil moisture and then standing playa lakes would occur. Nevada used to be the land of many lakes until about 6000 years ago. I read a paper a few years ago saying that much of Nevada would return to a more moist regime if irrigation were stopped as inflows were now exceeding evaporation…

kadaka (KD Knoebel)

Now we wait for someone to want to see the first graph using F10.7 flux rather than sunspots…

Andrew W

I see sun spot numbers in Africa are different to sun spot numbers in South America.

Correlation with cloud cover and rainfall?
Dr. Svensmark anyone?
Any killer marmots connected with this work?
Max

jaypan

I mean, the sun does not affect climate at all.
Why should it rivers?

dp

I don’t mean this in the usual humorous way, but if true it really is worse than we thought.
I wonder now how well this correlates to global economic health – that is also a function of climate/weather. The Great Depression and the current depression are certainly well timed.

John Gorter

Hey David
How do the sunspot numbers stack up against Warrick Hughes’s rain fall trends for Perth, Western Australia?
Ciao
John Gorter

Ed Murphy

While your at it, how do the sunspot numbers add up to this?
Sahara Desert Greening Due to Climate Change?
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/07/090731-green-sahara.html

alan

Hello Anthony,
On this site there is frequent discussion of the role of the sun in long-term climate variation, but I haven’t seen any discussion of the role of the moon. The British astronomer, Paul Murdin, has observed that the earth-moon system, a “double-planetary” system, is unique in the solar system. He speculates that the presence of our relatively large moon has stabilized the spin of the earth over billions of years, and this has made possible the evolution of life on the earth. Hansen (NASA) seems to have developed his CO2 “green-house” alarmism out of his early Venus work. Just the absence of a moon for Venus would seem to negate any earth-Venus analogy.
A better understanding of the cyclical forces that stabilize the earth’s climate would help in rebutting the AGW nonsense about “tipping points” and unique catastrophic events.
I am a professor of music theory, and have some limited knowledge of acoustics, ie compound wave forms, the harmonic series, noise, resonance etc. These phenomena are significant in Astronomy as well. It has occurred to me that the earth’s climate must be in some kind of long term “dynamic equilibrium”, like the complex wave of a richly timbred musical tone. To understand long-term climate change it is necessary to break down this complex wave into its major components, a kind of Fourier analysis of the climate signal.
Thank you for making this inspiring and informative site available to the public. I would be most interested in your opinion, and those of your readers concerning the influence of the moon on the earth’s long-term climate stability.
REPLY: Yep, it is all wave analysis. In fact there’s already a sound that describes GW theory right about now “Mythbusters in C4” 😉

Terry Jackson

Is this coincident pattern also observed for other large systems, say the Great Lakes or Mississippi/Missouri or the great Asian or European river systems? Or is this strictly a Southern Hemisphere observation? If you looked at the Columbia/Snake and/or the Fraser system in BC, do they differ from this pattern or from the Great Lakes or the Mississippi/Misouri patterns?
The article goes from sunspots to F10.7 flux, which may hold a lot of meaning for some and causes confusion in others. A few extra words of explanation would help a lot. Maybe a sticky sidebar or a reference to some other place.
The Canadian ag difficulties have been noticeable both this year and last.
Hope we see more of this type of data and observation based post.

LightRain

It’s funny, well not really, but Lake Superior is supposed to be down significantly compared to normal.

Michael

The sunspots seem to be migrating to lower and higher latitudes these days. Is this a cause for concern?

Andrew W says:
July 22, 2010 at 9:18 pm (Edit)
I see sun spot numbers in Africa are different to sun spot numbers in South America.

This paper was brought to my attention on my blog a fortnight ago. The reason I haven’t done a post on it yet is I’m still trying to work out the full rationale behind the way Maus et al have processed the sunspot data. They say:
“When plotting together different quantities, the offset and the relative scales
are free parameters which are usually arbitrarily introduced. To avoid these
two artificial parameters, as a final step we have standardized the quantities
by subtracting the mean and dividing by the standard deviation of each series
shown, for the whole period 1909-2003.”
It seems on the face of it to be a reasonable approach, I think Mr Archibald should have mentioned it to avoid confusion though.
I had a lot of interest yesterday in a solar graph I created a year ago and put on my blog. I integrated the sunspot data as a cumulative count departing from the long term average which matches global temperature since 1880 well.
http://tallbloke.wordpress.com/2010/07/21/nailing-the-solar-activity-global-temperature-divergence-lie/

Duster

There was a recent archaeological report published by Russian scientists that noted that during the Medieval Warm Period the flood planes of certain rivers and lakes in Russia were more extensively occupied than at present (a link can be found at C3 Headlines). Their conclusion was that warm periods were drier. This also seems to be true in the Sierra Nevada in California. I would suggest that in fact, different parts of the globe may respond differently and that there is no simple global correlation between sunspot numbers, temperature and rainfall.

Many European rivers (Danube, Rhine Rhone etc) were used for irrigation and navigation for centuries if not millennia, accurate records are made and kept.
No such correlation available as yet.

Duster says:
July 22, 2010 at 11:09 pm (Edit)
There was a recent archaeological report published by Russian scientists that noted that during the Medieval Warm Period the flood planes of certain rivers and lakes in Russia were more extensively occupied than at present (a link can be found at C3 Headlines). Their conclusion was that warm periods were drier.

Or maybe the population grew quickly during the warm times? The blossoming of architecture and large building works during the period in Europe indicates there was a lot of surplus labour and plenty to feed them with.

Martin Brumby

Wait for some bright alarmist to point out that man’s CO2 emissions cause reduced solar activity!
Gotta scrap that SUV and hand knit yourself a bicycle!

That F10.7 projection looks very pessimistic, given that the current flux is hitting 92, from a single small region of activity. Too early to call if activity will break out of the current level in 6 months time, or stay roughly the same for the next 3-4 years. Look at the very fast rise of some of the other curves once they pass the 100 mark. Agree 10.7 is the best plot to make though (still with a 13 month average)

John Gorter says:
July 22, 2010 at 9:40 pm
Fellow WUWT disciples, John is my neighbour across the road. He was the wretched cripple in a wheelchair that St Anthony could not cure at the dinner party I had while we were in Perth during the lecture tour. But I have seen John walking around with the aid of a walking stick more recently, so perhaps Anthony effected a partial cure. But what I was after was more like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ww7WlSPi9gc

Andrew W

This DA post is just silly.
The sunspot figure for the Parana River has been obviously been adjusted (tortured) to get a better fit with the river flow data, and who knows how the river flow data was adjusted to better fit the sunspot data.
With the Lake Victoria data there was a huge block of data that didn’t fit the purposes of the authors, so they just disposed of it.
And what exactly is supposed to be the causation here? The water levels in one lake in Africa and the flow rates of one river in South America supposedly show a correlation with sunspots, whats the mechanism supposed to be, what’s the causal relationship that’s supposedly exists??
If this sort of vague half arsed manipulated data was being used to promote a theory that didn’t suit the people who follow this site you’d all be quite rightly condemning it as nonsense.
Correlation (or in this case half a correlation) is not causation.

rbateman

Duster says:
July 22, 2010 at 11:09 pm
Yes, Climate is regional in the short term. Overall, through millenia, that too changes.
In these cases, we are considering precipitation in river basins. You can sort the data via solar cycle length or height and see what gives. More pieces to the puzzle of Climate.

Jantar

Terry Jackson says:
Is this coincident pattern also observed for other large systems, say the Great Lakes or Mississippi/Missouri or the great Asian or European river systems? Or is this strictly a Southern Hemisphere observation? If you looked at the Columbia/Snake and/or the Fraser system in BC, do they differ from this pattern or from the Great Lakes or the Mississippi/Misouri patterns?

I’m interested in investigating the same question with relation to the Clutha Catchment in New Zealand. I have our river flow data going back 80 years, but I’m having trouble finding the raw sunspot numbers. All the online sites I’ve looked at give graphs but no numbers.
The methodolgy described in Mauas et al is described clearly enough to attempt to replicate it with New Zealands catchments.

Tommy

I wonder if sunspots throw particles that pepper over the Earth’s skies, seeding clouds for more rain.

Jantar says:
July 23, 2010 at 12:56 am (Edit)
I’m having trouble finding the raw sunspot numbers. All the online sites I’ve looked at give graphs but no numbers.

Graph them on http://www.woodfortrees.org and then hit the raw data link under the graph.

Yarmy

Pablo Mauas was actually featured in a BBC documentary about the Solar System this year:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00qyxfb
But I remain sceptical. There are a lot of river systems in the world. Do they all exhibit the same pattern?

Andrew W says:
July 23, 2010 at 12:42 am (Edit)
This DA post is just silly.

Rather than jumping to a hasty conclusion that Maus et al are silly, and Anthony Watts is silly for posting their work, you might stop to consider what other metric correlates with these streamflows, even just for half the time. You may also stop to consider than Maus et al have spent considerably more time thinking about this stuff than you have.

Jantar

Thanks, Tallbloke. That is just what I needed.

UK Sceptic

Very interesting. Another one to file under the “it’s the sun, stupid” category?

Ralph

It may not be that the WORLD is drier when there are fewer sunspots, but that our weather patterns change (we appear to be having a lowering of the jetstreams towards the equator recently).
It may just happen that the Parana River is in just the right location to always be drier when these new weather patterns establish themselves. Other rivers on other continents may not be effected, or even get wetter.
Whatever the case, it is a striking correlation, and I am surprised nobody has noticed it before. Just what are all these climate scientists doing, to have not noticed this? Oh, yes, massaging the data in a darkened room in East Anglia.
P.S. Can anyone take some core samples from the Prarana River, to see what it was doing over the last 10,000 years??
What’s that you say? No funding left? Spent it all on massaging the data and propaganda trips to the Arctic??
.

I think the first of Mason’s two Lake Victoia levels graphs is interesting for a couple of reasons. Firstly the jump in the sixties lends support to ‘decade later response to solar activity’ noted in David Archibalds last post, following the record high solar cycle in the late 1950’s. Secondly, the decline in lake level since then matches the decline in solar cycle amplitudes (but not overall activity as noted on my blog yesterday – link above).
This says to me that David Archibalds assertion that cooler is drier is incorrect as a general principle on decadal scales, unless the country tmperature data in Africa shows cooling in the late C20th? My conclusion contingent on that is that there is a non-linear response in the Earth’s feedbacks which is linked to UV, ozone, gomagnetism and rainfall rather than temperature and rainfall.

John Finn

tallbloke says:
July 22, 2010 at 10:42 pm

Andrew W says:
July 22, 2010 at 9:18 pm (Edit)
I see sun spot numbers in Africa are different to sun spot numbers in South America.

This paper was brought to my attention on my blog a fortnight ago. The reason I haven’t done a post on it yet is I’m still trying to work out the full rationale behind the way Maus et al have processed the sunspot data. They say:

“When plotting together different quantities, the offset and the relative scalesare free parameters which are usually arbitrarily introduced. To avoid these two artificial parameters, as a final step we have standardized the quantities
by subtracting the mean and dividing by the standard deviation of each series
shown, for the whole period 1909-2003.”


It seems on the face of it to be a reasonable approach, I think Mr Archibald should have mentioned it to avoid confusion though.
‘Normalising’ the 2 sets of data in this way is a “reasonable approach”. It will result in both sets of data having a distribution with mean=0; SD=1. That’s fine – but it still doesn’t look right. The sunspot plot should still follow the peaks and troughs of the sunspot cycle. Ther doesn’t appear to be a trend (it’s probably been removed) and the south american sunspots have declined to below average since the late 1970s.
Is here a link to this paper (non-pay)?

Rhys Jaggar

Perhaps the key issue is to highlight which parts of the world show INCREASED rainfall as sunspot numbers drop and thus think about how to share resources across the decades in a manner which says that rain falls somewhere on earth all the time, it’s just the place where it falls may oscillate quite a lot?
Probably the same can be said about agriculture trends…..

Jantar

Andrew W says:
July 23, 2010 at 12:42 am
This DA post is just silly.
The sunspot figure for the Parana River has been obviously been adjusted (tortured) to get a better fit with the river flow data, and who knows how the river flow data was adjusted to better fit the sunspot data.
With the Lake Victoria data there was a huge block of data that didn’t fit the purposes of the authors, so they just disposed of it.
And what exactly is supposed to be the causation here? The water levels in one lake in Africa and the flow rates of one river in South America supposedly show a correlation with sunspots, whats the mechanism supposed to be, what’s the causal relationship that’s supposedly exists??
If this sort of vague half arsed manipulated data was being used to promote a theory that didn’t suit the people who follow this site you’d all be quite rightly condemning it as nonsense.
Correlation (or in this case half a correlation) is not causation.

Perhaps you should go back and review the Journal it was posted in. The complete paper is available at http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/1003/1003.0414v1.pdf
The whole purpose of the paper has nothing to do with climate change, but instead looks at flows in rivers. I am particularly interested as it may assist with flood forecasting, energy management and long term energy policy.
Nowhere in the paper is there any hint of a claim of a causal nature, just a correlation. And if such a correlation exists in other rivers as well, then lives and property may be saved; better use made of hydro electric resources, and better planning for new energy infrastructure.

Ralph

For those interested, here are the Parana River levels post 1990:
http://www.scielo.br/img/revistas/bjb/v69n2s0/a24fig09.gif
Here is a 2008 article on the same subject:
http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/36477
.

Yaniti

No matter how convincing the evidence, the warmists will always say it’s the CO2.

John A

Why do some changes in the flow of the Parana appear to precede changes in the number of sunspots?

Records for the rainfall and runoff for river Thames above Teddington are available since 1885.
I have made a graph comparison with the sunspot records.
http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/Thames-SSN.htm
You are invited to comment on the correlation as valid or not.

John Finn says:
July 23, 2010 at 1:27 am
‘Normalising’ the 2 sets of data in this way is a “reasonable approach”. It will result in both sets of data having a distribution with mean=0; SD=1. That’s fine – but it still doesn’t look right. The sunspot plot should still follow the peaks and troughs of the sunspot cycle. Ther doesn’t appear to be a trend (it’s probably been removed) and the south american sunspots have declined to below average since the late 1970s.
Is here a link to this paper (non-pay)?

http://www.iafe.uba.ar/httpdocs/reprint_parana.pdf
I agree the plot looks odd, which is why I hadn’t posted about it yet.
Replication replication replication!

Yarmy says:
July 23, 2010 at 1:09 am
There are a lot of river systems in the world. Do they all exhibit the same pattern?

Some have more confounding variables affecting their catchments than others…

John Finn

Re: my last post
John Finn says:
July 23, 2010 at 1:27 am

“late 1970s” should read “mid 1980s”

Jantar

Tallbloke,
Your link is to Mauas et al 2008. I believe this is an earlier attempt at the same work.
[reply]Quite right, my mistake. RT-mod

John Finn

tallbloke says:
July 23, 2010 at 1:40 am

Thanks for the link.
[reply] See Jantar’s comment above. RT-mod

BillN

Re:
Sean Houlihane says:
July 23, 2010 at 12:12 am
That F10.7 projection looks very pessimistic, given that the current flux is hitting 92
———–
Where are you getting that number? I ask because solarcycle24.com (right sidebar) links to NOAA SWPC and shows current f10.7 flux at 72.6 and dropping, with the last smoothed monthly reading of 92 (as you quote) not occurring since 2005.
Do you have a better data source?
Cheers,
BillN

Alan the Brit

Well, I for one welcome the research. It is very interesting. It’s the Sun stupid!
At the risk of being a bore, I again recall with fascination the BBC2 Horizon prog 30+ years ago all about Sunspots, you know, that time when the BBC was a trusted, well respected, honourable, & factual public broadcaster. It showed correlations in Sunspot activity, with beatle-mania, heights of hem-lines for mini-skirts, & a whole host of other things that were at times quite peculiar yet astonishing. It may have had many scientific errors in it I don’t know, & correlations can be drawn in almost anything if you look hard enough (except the Sun of course) but it was an honest programme, something the BBC would do well to revisit from time to time to remind them who pays their (large) wages, & what scientific integrity used to be!
Human beings are simply another ape with an intelligent brain (allegedly, Big-Al). We may have technically moved away from the cave, but mentally we’re still in it, hence all the “cry-witch” hysteria about AGW & some of the more laughable claims about it! We exhibit a broad range of primitive characteristics from herd instincts to mass hysteria & other irrational behaviour. Who knows how & what affects us on a global scale & even solar sytem scales. If cosmic rays & Solar-magnetic flux can affect our climtate, what effects could it have on the human mind or the behaviour of other fauna for that matter? If one wants to study a range of human behavours, study chimps & monkeys in their primitive societies! We’re not much different at times. I sometimes get exasperated at all the papers about Solar correlations & climate, yet some people go on blinkered refusing to acknowledge such things exist. I suspect the Sun affects our home far more than we like to think, & that we could even imagine if the truth were finally known! In the LIA, it was a time of great witch hunting & relegious zealotry in England for example, fiercely pro-protestant & anti-catholic, everyone looking to pin the blame for anything, we even had a Minister for Climate Change, sorry, Witchfinder-General I meant to say, to point out our ancestors’ evil wicked ways & to show them how to atone for their mortal sins. Some poor crone or youthful beauty would be seized & tried as a witch, all because she rubbed a herb on a scratch to heal it, she’d be dunked in a pond until she either drowend or didn’t, if she drowned she was innocent, if she survived, she would be hung or burned at the stake. Sounds reasonable behaviour to me! Nothing like that exists today thank goodness! Sounds not too disimilar to that fellow over here who was recently struck off as a Dr because as a medical expert on Munchausan Syndrome, his expertise was such that if an accused woman publicly protested her innocence, that was apparently even greater proof of her guilt, her denial, according to him, he was that good, & worse still people believed him for some time! I digress, snip away!

BillN

Re:
Sean Houlihane
and my own prev post
——
Okay, trying to figure out on my own, the solarcycle24.com number I quoted above is the previous month (June in this case) average flux. The Joint USAF/NOAA Report of Solar and Geophysical Activity SDF Number 202 Issued at 2200Z on 21 Jul 2010 indicates observed flux of 89.0. Above that report on:
http://www.solarcycle24.com/daily.htm
the “fluxadjflux” value is 91.9 at 2300fluxtime down from 92.0 at 2000fluxtime.
So, I withdraw my question and thank you for prompting my further education. 🙂
Cheers,
BillN

alan says: July 22, 2010 at 10:13 pm
On this site there is frequent discussion of the role of the sun in long-term climate variation, but I haven’t seen any discussion of the role of the moon… A better understanding of the cyclical forces that stabilize the earth’s climate would help in rebutting the AGW nonsense about “tipping points” and unique catastrophic events.
I am a professor of music theory…

I’d like to recommend you visit the work of Tallbloke and Richard Holle, both of whom work with cycles. Tallbloke is a good starting-point. Richard has taken hold of the lunar nodal cycle in developing weather predictions that years ahead of time work apparently just as well as the normal forecasts made just days ahead.
Also I’d like to recommend (to all readers here) an extraordinary little book whose tiny size thoroughly belies its beauty and its startling import. It’s like Kepler’s work has enabled the author to find what Kepler sought but failed to find himself, the harmonies of the spheres. It will speak particularly to you as a musician. Best to refer you to Amazon Books. A Little Book of Coincidence. It is about the highly exact geometrical relationships pervading the whole solar system and rich in pi and phi. Only exactitudes over 99% are even reported.