Model trumps observation – dam operator caught in fabrication

From

Operator of dam ‘invented’ rain data

Hedley Thomas, National chief correspondent March 26, 2011 12:00AM

EXTREME rainfall so rare it happens on average once every 2000 years has been “invented” by the government operator of a major Queensland dam as part of its explanation for releasing huge volumes of water that caused most of Brisbane’s January flood.

The claim by SEQWater in its official report that a “one-in-2000-year” rainfall event occurred over the Wivenhoe Dam at a critical stage on January 11 has been widely reported in the media and cited by senior public servants to justify the near loss of control of the dam at the time.

But no such rainfall event was measured by any rainfall gauges. Instead, the claim was manufactured by SEQWater after it modelled the rapid rise of levels in the dam, repositioned rainfall data to an area immediately upstream of the dam, and then doubled it.

After extrapolating in this unusual way to achieve an extreme number, the SEQWater report states: “Rainfall of this intensity and duration over the Wivenhoe Dam lake area at such a critical stage of a flood event was unprecedented.

The technical report by SEQWater shows it relied on a manual gauge of dam levels, not the actual rainfall in gauges, to extrapolate data to claim the occurrence of a one-in-2000-year event.

However, in doing this, SEQWater disregarded the data from a nearby electronic gauge, which showed dam levels lower than those in the manual gauge.

Full story here

=================================================================

My heart goes out to the people of Queensland and in particular, Brisbane, where I visited last year. Heads should roll over this. h/t to WUWT reader Betapug

UPDATE: Reader Frank K points out this article by skeptical cartoonist John Cook in ABC:

http://www.abc.net.au/environment/articles/2011/01/17/3114597.htm

The headline:

The essay was also posted on his antithetically named “Skeptical Science” blog:

http://www.skepticalscience.com/OK-global-warming-this-time-its-personal.html

He’s right about one thing, this event IS personal, and preventable. And, I’m willing to bet there will be scads of very personal lawsuits by people who have been grievously harmed by the government ineptitude in managing the dam.

If Mr. Cook has any integrity, he’ll retract his story. But, I doubt he will.

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Mark Wagner

when people begin suffering actual, measurable economic losses, or even loss of life, as a result of mann-ipulated data, we’ve gone from “just” fraud to… something else.

Jeff in Calgary

So all that dramatic flooding we saw in TV news was not due to AGW induced rain, but was due to operator error at a dam? WOW!

Patrick Davis

All designed to make the flooding in QLD “worse than expected” (Shame about 1974, 1951….and all the way back to 1870). And in Victoria and the snowy mountain hydro plant doing “odd things with water flows” (I don’t have the details anymore, but basically, hydro plant “1” was at full chat, during the flooding downstream).

The error was caused by global warming heating the operator’s cranium so that he suffered an episode of extreme delerium.

vboring

If I read it correctly, the article states “the Brisbane flood” damage was caused by the dam operation.
The loss of life was in other parts of Queensland and not impacted by dam operations.
The flooding in Brisbane came with plenty of warning and was only property damage.

Geoff Alder

Strange. A graph of flood levels measured on the Brisbane River, dated 28/05/2010 and issued by the Australian Bureau of Meterology shows an equal level of water rise in about 1975 as well as three similar earlier 19th century cases, plus a further two substantially larger events, these being in about 1842 and 1892. (The graph has not been scaled so as to allow for accurate date back-tracking.) That is the difficulty of these once-in-2000-year events. They occur so darn often!
Geoff Alder

golf charley

Someone just demonstated the qualities to become a climate scientist, and IPCC Lead Author

Richard111

I am sure I remember reading at the time there was an embargo on releasing water from dams due to forecast droughts expected as a result of global warming. It seems they eventually had no choice but to release water to save the dam. I feel it was the government that was at fault and this was an attempted cover up.

R.S.Brown

Are there any Aussies out there who are familiar with
Australian liability laws that would apply to SEQWater
operators and any “harm” the folks downstream might
claim ?

PaulH

From the article:
“Mr O’Brien, who has mounted a strong case that the devastating floods in and near Brisbane would have been almost completely avoided with better management of the dam, said the one-in-2000-year event was an “invention” that could not be taken seriously.”
Wow! That is a serious charge!

Gerald Machnee

Hey! You beat RC with this headline. Oh, the irony.

Jeremy

Sounds like they’re measuring the dam level with a “hockey stick” like device.

Fred from Canuckistan

Wow . . . these guys are really channeling their inner climate scientologist. They believe their models trump reality, they make up data as required and can cook-up a cover-up in nanoseconds.
What next, applying for a Faculty job at East Anglia or Penn State?

Frank K.

And it only took a couple of minutes to find this article on the Brisbane Floods…
OK global warming, this time it’s personal!
By John Cook
ABC Environment | 17 Jan 2011
Climate change is making a better boxer of Mother Nature. She landed a few good punches last week.
.
.
.
But now our climate is packing more of a wallop. Fuelled by more water vapour, it’s looking like what we used to call 100-year events will become more common. And that means we’re going to see more and more extreme rainfall and flooding.
Climate change isn’t just some theoretical prediction for the distant future. Global warming is happening now. Extreme rainfall has been increasing over the last 50 years. As the world continues to warm, we’re going to be seeing more.
Ironically, we see the flip-side of this as well. Part of the reason that the air is so moist is that the water has been baked out of lands elsewhere. Global warming means more intense rainfall and more intense drought. Again, this isn’t theory – it’s happening now. While the rate of extreme rain events are increasing, we’re also observing an increase in drought severity.

[sigh]

Mark Wagner

The flooding in Brisbane came with plenty of warning and was only property damage.
“only” property damage. well, that makes it all better. so what if we fudged the data, then. didn’t really hurt anything.
moral relativism is a cancer.
the data manipulators/fraudsters should all be put in a prison cell next to Madhoff. The only difference between them is that increased taxes are legal, hidden, “somebody else’s money” and largely forgotten about. Their actions, as we are beginning to see, have real consequences for real people, all based on fabricated “facts” to suit the agenda.
It will continue until we all get serious about holding those responsible to account for their actions.

pat

What fools. And expect similar from California. It has been so long since California has experienced normal/above normal rain fall that there is discussion that the current generation of operators are unprepared for reservoir and dam flood control. Given that most reservoir levels are over 100% average and many at capacity sound judgment will be essential.

Latitude

hind casting …….
Stick with what you’re good at

James Sexton

Frank K. says:
March 28, 2011 at 9:43 am
And it only took a couple of minutes to find this article on the Brisbane Floods…
=======================================================
Did you read the article linked to Anthony’s post? The ramblings of Mr. Cook aren’t relevant to this discussion. And neither are his delusions of an atmospheric water-world.
This is a story about piss-poor judgment, methods used to determine future water levels at a particular site, and the misstatements after the fact.

James Sexton

@ Frank K. says:
March 28, 2011 at 9:43 am
Sorry, conditioned response to Cook.

DirkH

Geoengineering.

JohnH

The flooding in Brisbane came with plenty of warning and was only property damage.
Thats OK then /sarc off
If it was your house you would not be so happy!!!!!

crosspatch

The data are sent to a secret prison deep in the Queensland wilderness where they are tortured until they tell the “truth”.

ShrNfr

This is a major advance in the “science” of global warming. Rather than putting a lot of effort into truncating data series and building bad models, all you have to do is just to “make it all up”. Think of the labor and watt-hours saved by this new approach. It is guaranteed to win a Nobel prize.

Hector M.

In China, if proven guilty, the dam operator would be made to knee down and then shot in the head from behind. Not my favorite solution, indeed (I am strongly and unconditionally against the death penalty) but useful here to remark on cultural differences. Something of the sort (say, a few years of jail time) would be better than the promotion frequently granted to such types, for their heroic efforts to promote the cause of climate change mitigation through the difussion of an “undiluted message.”

Roger Knights

Slinging in the rain.

Anyone who doubts that John Cook’s Skeptical Pseudo-Science blog is anything but an alarmist propaganda blog should read his Brisbane tripe. Any remaining doubts will evaporate for all but the most cognitive dissonance-impaired.

mpaul

It sounds like they started by simply using climate science best practices — namely removing adverse data:
“The technical report by SEQWater shows it relied on a manual gauge of dam levels, not the actual rainfall in gauges, to extrapolate data to claim the occurrence of a one-in-2000-year event.
However, in doing this, SEQWater disregarded the data from a nearby electronic gauge, which showed dam levels lower than those in the manual gauge.”
They then used the commonly accepted next step of adjusting the retained data to suit the model (since data that doesn’t fit the model is ‘obviously wrong’). I think the real innovation here was in adjusting the data by 2X.

Laurie Bowen

I think may qualify as temporary man made climate change . . .

jorgekafkazar

“Global warming means more intense rainfall and more intense drought.”
Yes, the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus told you so. Say hello to the fairies at the bottom of your garden for me.

Stephan

This is what its going to cost if you let these ##### people have any sort of say in government etc. ie Gillard etc. Its going to cost lives and a lot of money. This is probably the first concrete example of what happens.

Stephan

As I recall Flannery would have been one of responsible by feeding these pea brains (the SEQ Water Board and Bligh warmistas)) the idea that QLD was in for eternal drought. He even published a paper on it probably in another trashy Australian Scientific Journal.

Moral turpitude. Not a phrase I often use, but it sure springs to mind here. Inventing data to suit the model is a novel kind of hindcasting. Not without merit as a speculative device in some circumstances. But not in the ones reported in your post.

RockyRoad

Incredible. Absolutely incredible!

mit_t

only nuclear power plants are unsafe, hydro is perfect

James Sexton

jorgekafkazar says:
March 28, 2011 at 11:18 am
“Global warming means more intense rainfall and more intense drought.”
Yes, the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus told you so. Say hello to the fairies at the bottom of your garden for me.
========================================
I’m still trying to understand the concept of a “more intense drought”. What does that mean? “AHHH!!!! THE LACK OF RAIN INTENSIFIES!!!! AHHH!!!”
I’m not sure how that occurs, but I think it has something to do with “super-exponential.”

patrioticduo

Somebody needs to plant half a dozen bristlecones near that rain gauge!

Taniwha

That dam was designed to be operated only half full specifically in order to provide capacity to the flood control system. The real problem is that the hype over water shortages before the flood resulted in the dam operators being unwilling to release water. Consequently the dam was almost full when the flood hit. At that point there isn’t much that could have been done to make things better. Looks like someone panicked and made things worse.

Frank K.

James Sexton says:
March 28, 2011 at 10:05 am
I was merely illustrating the typical CAGW cult’s practice of blaming every natural disaster on global warming…especially very soon after a given tragic event. We also saw this with the Japanese earthquake/tsunami. If the hurricane season is above normal this year, guess what??
Next, they’ll be blaming the UFO sitings in Colorado on global warming…[heh]

Sean

This is looking more and more like Milo Minderbinder from Catch 22 all the time.

Appealing to the integrity of alarmists is always a losing game. They simply have none, their mantra is “the ends justify the means”.

Andrew30

In the movie ‘V’ for Vendetta, the government did something that killed a lot of people and cause a lot of harm. In the movie ‘V’ for Vendetta the government did it to sway public opinion about an imagined threat. In the movie ‘V’ for Vendetta the government did it to increase their level of control over the population.
The movie ‘V’ for Vendetta had a hopeful ending.
It was only a movie.

DesertYote

vboring says:
March 28, 2011 at 9:22 am
####
And your point is ……… ?

rbateman

pat says:
March 28, 2011 at 9:54 am
What fools. And expect similar from California. It has been so long since California has experienced normal/above normal rain fall that there is discussion that the current generation of operators are unprepared for reservoir and dam flood control.

The dam operators in California have engineered themselves into a potential nightmare. Current main reservoir storage is 80-92% of capacity, with 160% (as of 03/28/11) of normal April 1st snowwater content sitting on the mountains. Just because this is not an El Nino year and it’s past February does not mean that warm/heavy rains are unexpected. Such a disaster struck the state in May, 1955.
Right now, inflow equals or exceeds outflow with rivers in the valleys backed up near capacity to handle the discharge.
The dam operators in California are gambling.

James Sexton says:
March 28, 2011 at 12:24 pm
I’m still trying to understand the concept of a “more intense drought”. What does that mean? “AHHH!!!! THE LACK OF RAIN INTENSIFIES!!!! AHHH!!!”

rotflol!
I’m not sure how that occurs, but I think it has something to do with “super-exponential.”
In the case of rain in a drought, it might be underlogarithmic. Or hypozero. Climate rhetorics is making great contributes to newspeak.

Ben Hern

G’Day Patrick,
that story was covered by Jennifer Marohasy here: http://jennifermarohasy.com/blog/2011/02/questions-over-snowy-hydro-water-management/
In a nutshell, amping up electrickery production to benefit the shareholders (NSW, Vic & Commonwealth governments), while apparently oblivious to the results downstream.
I read in another of Jennifer’s blogs that this was in aid of a planned privatisation; more revenues from generation leading to a higher sale price for the utility.
Another example of piss poor water management and dare I say it another argument for binning useless, bickering state politics.

Tom in Florida

“However, in doing this, SEQWater disregarded the data from a nearby electronic gauge, which showed dam levels lower than those in the manual gauge.
Mr O’Brien said SEQWater’s methodology in adopting the data from the manual gauge, ignoring the data from the electronic gauge, and then having to “scale this rainfall up by a factor of two to match the rapid lake level rises” would become a “major technical argument”.”
Apparently Mike’s nature trick is at work here as well.

kbray in California

Dam Operator or Damn Operator?
Double Damn.

Stephen Brown

Today, Monday 28th March, I received an e-mail from a good friend of mine who had a house in Brisbane, which he’d rented out, and who’d put all of his household goods into a furniture repository whilst he and his wife went off up to Cairns to skipper a yacht running cruises around the Whitsundays for 18 months.
They’d watched on TV as their house was drowned and then the furniture repository get flooded up to the third storey. Their kit was all on the second storey. He put in his insurance claim (he’d paid for flood insurance) and all seemed to be progressing well until this morning (Aus. time).
Now his insurance company is withholding all pay-outs pending their own investigation into these revelations concerning the operation of the Wivenhoe Dam.
If insurance companies are taking this seriously, then so are all of their customers. I know that my friend is deeply concerned.

Aynsley Kellow

We had quite a discussion of this matter at Bishop Hill and Pielke Jr at the time, as it appeared that the release to save the dam might have caused the peak. It is worth reading those threads if anyone is interested in the case.
The main problem was the belief that the water in the dam had a high value for water supply, and that that value remained high even after the government commissioned a desalination plant and a water network permitting inter-basin transfers. The operating rules do not seem to have been changed, as I believe they should have been, after the system changed, because the relative value of water in storage and flood protection capacity should have changed. The evidence is mounting, including evidence that the dam operator warned over the weekend that releases should be made, but they did were not made until Tuesday – in time to produce the peak rather than moderate it.
All this will be the subject of an inquiry, and the insurers have engaged consulting engineers. They have several million reasons to be sceptical of the way in which the dam was operated. It does appear, however, that belief in a ‘perennial drought’ meme contributed to decision-making.
It should be interesting to watch.

kwik

mit_t says:
March 28, 2011 at 12:23 pm
“Only nuclear power plants are unsafe, hydro is perfect.”
Oh the irony of it all !!! It is almost mind-boggling!