Data, Models, and the Australian ABC

Guest essay by Cameron Goodison

Recently the Australian Goyder Institute released a report detailing the effects of climate change on rainfall in South Australia. The result:

Climate change will halve inflow to SA’s biggest reservoir.’

The ABC, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-17/climate-change-will-halve-inflow-to-sa-biggest-reservoir-mount-/6128832

To make such a alarming statement one would think the ABC has done its research. They must have first done a quick Google search of the average annual rainfall for the region to see if there is any sort of noticeable downward trend that would give such a statement some degree of credibility.

Now perhaps the ABC decides that it would be better to look at data only from 1970 onwards as rain gauges before then were probably inaccurate. clip_image002

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Ok now we’ve found a trend we should probably read the report in full so we can find see if the methods used appear to be somewhat reliable. Firstly let’s see what data the report used.

Stream flow records for the catchment. They are scientists so they probably accounted for changing usages by humans and changing inflows from the Murray river pipeline.

Rainfall records. 93 rain records are found in the catchment area but the scientists have decided to use only 23 as the others appear to be unreliable and these particular 23 seem to be spread out nicely. Oh and they are using data from 1970 onward too so the scientists must agree that anything before then is unreliable.

Ok so the ABC have done their research and all the data appears to be reliable. Next what is the method used for making the projections??

Well the report says they used a CIMP5 model and combined it with a Markov model and a hydrological model and well the words are starting to get a bit big now so everything in the rest of the report is probably right. And we won’t the question the motives of the Goyder institute which relies on climate change for its very existence.

So now the ABC has some science for its report they should probably go ask some politicians what they think. The Environmental minister says the report justifies his governments 1.8 billion dollar desalinisation plant which is costing 1 million dollars a day to produce water which currently isn’t needed. And so the ABC now has its typical climate change article in which the world is ending and we can only be saved by clever politicians, spending billions of dollars and a non-biased government funded media outlet.

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65 thoughts on “Data, Models, and the Australian ABC

  1. they cant with any hint of accuracy predict the cause (or Pause) BUT they can predict the outcome, sheer genius!

    • This one is quite easy to debunk looking at their own graphs. The anomaly graph uses 1961-1990 as their baseline average, which also happens to be the rainiest 30 year period in the last 114 years. This creates far more negative anomalies than positive ones and makes 1970 look just above average when in reality it was well above average compared to the last 114 years. And of course when you start the trend from an anomalously high data point the trend will appear to be down.

  2. Cameron, could you please explain what the map of Australia represents/means. Is there a trend for the drought areas of WA to get wetter, and the East to get drier?

    • From that graph you could also say that in the 70’s the drought areas were unusually dry and the east coast unusually wet and that we have moved back into normal rainfall patterns. This graph simply isn’t useful for creating long term trends or predicting the future. 44 years is not long enough to get a reasonable trend from and the trend you’ve picked up on is most likely natural variability at work. The point of its use was to demonstrate how easily data can be manipulated to show anything. Localised, long-term future predictions are incredibly difficult to make and are accompanied by huge margins of error so be skeptical of anyone perpetuating absolute certainty.

  3. The high variability in Australian rainfall makes it a trend seekers delight. Start any line from the early 70’s or the 50’s and you will get a decline. Start at the 40’s or the first few years after 1900 then you get a slight increase.
    An old farmer was once asked what was the average rainfall at his farm. “Sixteen inches, but we never get it” he replied.

    • Indeed. In 1974-76 Lake Eyre was 6 meters deep. At the moment it is 0.6 meters which is about average for the season (insofar as anything is ever average about Australian climate).

  4. One of the big problems for anyone trying to tease out temperature/weather correlations from the modern data…is that it is dominated by ENSO and other natural cycles. The only remotely meaningful comparisons would be of similar global states, basically at the same point in the cycle. Sadly, once you do that…a great deal of the “climate change” goes away…and that reality just doesn’t make for good copy with the green cult. They’d rather lie about it and/or follow their sacred models. Sort of like when Bill Nye told a reporter that he feels they should mention “maybe its climate change” basically with all the extremes of weather.

  5. Seeing that good Queensland, New South Wales and Victorian water being diverted from it’s river bed to feed the South Australians in Adelaide who will not build their own dams and hence cause massive silting and degradation of the Murray mouth with wetland destruction and bird deaths over the last 20 years makes one happy that they have built a desalination plant. Can they turn it on and save the Mighty Murray River?
    Where is Greenpeace when you need it?
    Drinking Lattes in the Adelaide Art Museum and street cafes, no doubt.

    • In “Evidence that deforestation affects the onset of the rainy season in Rondonia, Brazil”, scientist Nathalie Butt and colleagues reaffirmed what farmers, agronomists and Indigenous peoples have observed for decades:
      “Anecdotes from local residents and modeling studies suggest that deforestation may delay the onset of the rainy season in western Brazil, . . . Here we investigate trends in the state of Rondonia, Brazil, a region that has been continuously deforested since the 1970s” (Butt et al 2011).

      • Everybody (except perhaps climate scientists) knows that deforestation causes less rain. I was told the same thing by “local residents” in Guatemala many years ago. It was even known back in 1776 when the colonial government on Tobago created the Main Ridge Forest Reserve “for the purpose of attracting frequent showers of rain upon which the fertility of lands in these climates doth entirely depend.”

    • @angech, “Seeing that good Queensland, New South Wales and Victorian water being diverted from it’s river bed to feed the South Australians in Adelaide who will not build their own dams”
      Now where have I seen this scenario being played out before?
      Does it sound a bit like California by chance?

    • Ange. You have it quite wrong. It is fact Qld, NSW, and Vic that suck so much water out of the Murray Darling river system that very little reaches the SA border, let alone the Murray mouth. I do however agree that we should build more dams and not ridiculous Desal plants. Ps I do believe most of the Latte drinking Greenies all reside in Melbourne, and, keep in mind that all that water does go into making wonderful SA wines! Think I’ll have another right now.

    • theres 3 biggish dams I know of in sa
      maybe YOU should be asking why the whingeing greentards wont allow us to build more
      rather than throw high salt waste from the desal into the already trashed by sewage gulf?
      we lost seagrass from the 60s onwards
      and it is NOT farm or other runoff as much as idiots not recyc;ling waste water n solids
      INland where we need the fertiliser for soils..
      ditto the issues with qld reef problems
      try millions in sydney melbourne brisbane etc and sewer outlets pumping nitrogen phosphates and pharma drugs in waste out to sea flowing along the coastlines!!

  6. Oh yeah, we get a daily sermon from our publically funded agenda driven propaganda broadcaster scaring the wits out of us on every impending catastrophe under the sun caused by that wicked “pollutant” carbon dioxide.
    They have hit the jackpot to-day describing the “catastrophic havoc” caused by cyclone Marcia which is presently battering the Yeppoon/Rockhampton district of Queensland. So, as I cannot recall a damage inflicting cyclone for some time I can imagine they will be having a field day with this one.
    But as far as de-salination plants are concerned. I am sure that some in specific locations CAN be justified. Don’t know about the SA one. If it is anything like the Sydney one which I believe has not produced one drop of water for going on 3 years, you could describe it as a very hungry giant white elephant covered in mothballs costing taxpayers over half a million dollars a day to keep it on standby.
    Sydney’s main water supply Warragamba dam is presently 87.6% full and the chances of needing to turn on a desalination plant in the next few years look lower better than me winning the lottery.
    But who knows, I might be able to convince my wife I need a new Mercedes Benz 180 to stick in the garage just in case the old Toyota Camry does a radiator and runs out of water. She is always telling me that you can justify anything if you try hard enough.

    • Personally I have never understood how Sydney can manage to have water supply problems. On average Sydney gets 1200 mm rain per year, anywhere else in the world that is a wet climate: It is actually more rain than Brisbane (not usually thought of as a dry place) gets.
      Yes, it varies a lot, but that is what you have dams for and I understand that Ozzies are still taught in School that Australia is the land “of parching drought and flooding rain”.

  7. Didn’t they make these same predictions a few years ago? Just before the floods came again to overflow the dams kept at maximum level because of their predicted ‘Permanent Drought’? And didn’t they then claim that Floods were also consistent with their predictions? And now their back to drought.
    These Prophets of Doom only seem to be able to predict whatever weather we’re currently getting.

    • Contrary to a position that Pacific Islanders will be inundated by rising sea levels from a warming atmosphere: within the La Niña mechanism in 2011 there was unprecedented lowering in global sea levels. This was due to an exceptionally strong La Niña season, dumping oceans of rain on Central Australia. The hydrologic surface in 2011 held back, in the Australian interior, huge quantities of water that lowered sea levels throughout the Pacific. The La Niña associated precipitation anomalies were among the highest on record (Fasullo et al 2013). Didn’t hear that on the ABC!

  8. The map of Australia’s rainfall and the supposed decline in rainfall [ above ] begins in 1970.
    The graph from 1900 to 2014 tells a story which I am fairly familiar with having been born nearly 77 years ago into a SE Australian [ Victorian Wimmera district ] farming family in 1938.
    The old folks of my youth use to talk about the droughts of the 1920’s and particularly the great 1805 -1902 Federation drought where an estimated , about a third of Australia’s livestock, some 37 million sheep and about 4.8 million cattle perished in part because of drought combined with the immense damage the rabbit plagues did to the country when it was very vulnerable in drought times
    The severe droughts and heat of the early 1940’s I can still just vaguely remember as my father was still using horse teams as were most farmers and there was a World wide War on so living was hard out on the farms with no refrigeration, no aircons, no electricity, no piped water, just runoff dams / tanks which often dried up in drought and little feed for the working horses and farm animals.
    And then in about 1948 it turned and started to get much wetter.
    [ The old man got his first tractor , a rubber tired Massey 102 Snr in 1945 after the horses were sold during the bad 1944 drought and half the district came to look at those rubber tires on that tractor ]
    The 1950’s were a very wet period eclipsed only by the extreme rainfall of the first few years of the 1970’s when my wife and I experienced the first and only “wet” drought I have ever seen in this 400 mm annual rainfall country.
    The late 1970’s started to dry out and we entered a long period of dry years cumulating in a decade of near drought and drought years in the 2000’s where for the first time we had a couple of years where we did not even harvest any crops in most of this region.
    Over the last year or so this old farmer [ ret ] now has the distinct feeling in his old bones that we have turned the corner and are heading back into a seasonal climate and a rainfall pattern not that dissimilar to the 1970’s.
    There is one overriding and parallel climatic phenomena to my farming and drought and rainfall experiences over my 76 years and that is our decadal rainfall patterns, at least here in western Victoria and over most of Australia generally, align almost completely with the decadal phase of the PDO despite many doubting the role of the PDO and it’s influences on the Pacific littorals rainfall patterns.
    The sheer bloody ignorance of so many would be and wannabe climate predicting “experts” [ ?? ] who are usually born within the last 40 or 50 years and therefore know it all from their short, limited experience both intellectually and in real life experiences lifetimes as they seem to be too damn dumb and ignorant to understand that history and climate began some few hundred of thousands of generations before they were born.
    They seem incapable of examining their own prejudices, beliefs and ideology by going back through history to examine if what they believe is the climatic structure of the world as it existed during their life times was in reality the way it always was.
    Or was, in fact, an immensely varying unpredictable climate that was often very different and constantly changing, often rapidly and sometimes to extremes as far back as history and paleo research can take us.
    The old farmer saying is; You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.
    This old farmer says; You can lead a climate alarmist scientist to the facts but you can’t make him think!

    • Im in the wimmera area too, and reading early history our lake was near dry when the local town was settled, from the locals chatter now though? you would think it never had been dry before
      if? the weather goes back to earlier patterns when most of the place was too wet for sheep , fleece n footrot, and crops mould smut rust etc
      a hell of a lot of presently viable(or nearly) land is going to be off limits for many uses.
      and the govvy funded swamp regen is goning to look pretty funny as swamps take over again
      cant wait frankly.

    • Well said ROM: love the punch line and the anecdotes which brought back so many memories, like scurrying home from town trying to beat an approaching red dust storm. Our first rubber tyred tractor was a John Deere AR, and I remember stripping wheat in 112 deg F. I’m ’39 drop – originally from N.Vic.and agree wholeheartedly with your analysis. It is especially frustrating to see truth and statistics so abused, and the perpetrators claiming moral and scientific ascendancy.

  9. “Now perhaps the ABC decides that it would be better to look at data only from 1970 onwards as rain gauges before then were probably inaccurate …”.
    =================================
    The Australian average temperature trends don’t go back beyond 1910 because the instruments before then were probably inaccurate, certainly not because they wish to ‘disappear’ the extremely hot and dry 1895 – 1902 period.
    And now the dry periods in S A prior to ~1950 are discounted for a similar reason.
    There’s a pattern developing here.

    • It is odd that Australian instruments were apparently much more inaccurate than ayone else’s. No other meteorological service I know of have such a “cutoff date”, and most have data going back to the mid-nineteenth century or earlier. Even a place like Greenland have records going back to the 1780’s.

  10. Ahhhh, the sweet smell of fresh picked cherries in the morning. Smells like… well, you know.
    Let’s see. Decide what you want to prove, throw out 75% of the raw data, pick a start point that creates the trend you want then slide it to a decade year to disguise it, run the whole thing through several complicated models that don’t work (but sound really cool) then publish, collect your check and head to the pub to brag about being a scientist. This one is so bad it makes my hair hurt.
    Back off man, I’m a scientist. (Bill Murray in Ghostbusters)

  11. For Melbourne the published map suggests an average rainfall decline of 40 to 50mm/decade since 1970.
    Longer term rainfall figures don’t support this trend..
    Year Melbourne Rainfall [mm]
    1860 646
    1870 859
    1880 724
    1890 617
    1900 715
    1910 627
    1920 720
    1930 647
    1940 505
    1950 667
    1960 852
    1970 804
    1980 644
    1990 625
    2000 630
    2010 781
    A few peaks and troughs but a trend ??

  12. The ABC often doesn’t follow the strict rules of fact checking and citing independently verifiable sources. Kim Landers, Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Washington correspondent in 2009, broadcast her radio story entitled: ‘White House report urges action on climate change’ (Landers 2009). The piece claimed that climate change produces increasing frequency in earthquakes and other natural disasters. Immediately after the broadcast, I contacted ABC Complaints, stating there was no scientific proof that global warming caused earthquakes. Audience and Consumer Affairs, a unit separate to and independent of ABC programming, investigated and acknowledged that the connection was unlikely and so noted the error under the reporter’s closing comment in the online version of the story. Two sources in the story were from press releases: the United Nations and the US government. One of these sources was Dr John Holdren, Science and Technology advisor to President Barack Obama. Holdren is famous for his wild predictions on sea level rises, higher than those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the scientific intergovernmental body established in 1988 by the United Nations. A YouTube clip, showing Holdren being grilled in USA Congress over why his predictions were so extreme, was available in 2011. A year later the clip was no longer available. Case studies like this demonstrate how sources must be carefully chosen, after thorough investigation.

  13. Dodgy data again by selecting the most advantageous starting date and sites.
    They are not the only ones. Other states select data from low monsoon periods as the low jet cloud moves to and from the equator belt.
    To be fair though South Australia is a dry state. It could not exist economically without big draw downs from The Murray River. It is one place where a desalination plant is useful. By 2016 the increased water charges, whether the plant is used or not, will have paid for it.
    The point is that the desalination plant should be fully commissioned. 3 reasons.
    The draw from the Murray River is expensive due to the cost of water.
    The groundwater reserves are fully allocated and expensive to treat and the recharge is problematical in dry years.
    The dams and weirs on the catchments can be systematically dredged and deepened by using the desal plant to take up the slack through their extensive pipeline systems.
    Algal blooms cause a distinctive smell in Adelaide water and the cost of treatment is high. So by using the plant instead of abusing water rates payers, South Australia can virtually renew their whole water system.
    Climate change has nothing to do with it. It is just good policy and forward thinking.
    As for the start point 1970, that is laughable when Australia is one of the oldest and most weathered continents in the world. A lot of South Australia is desert. So if you bodgy your site selection around, you can make it fit any scenario.
    The ABC by its charter has to give both sides of any news and should remain neutral. However it has been taken over by the Greens, so it slavishly follows their agenda. It is the biggest media organization in Australia, except for a lack of newspapers, but only holds a declining 10% of viewers, which happens to coincide with the green vote of 10% and union membership of around 10%.
    Recently, the ABC had to have the same public service cut as all federal bureaucracies. The howls would have frightened a pack of dingoes. One bloke protested he could not finish work at lunchtime to attend his yoga class if the cuts came in. That is about the ABC standard. Overstaffed, soft and sloppy and intellectually very lazy.

  14. They picked 1970 because there was significant rainfall in the early 70s. The 1974 floods made records.
    It’s cherry picking.

  15. The warmaholics like to claim that arid South Australia, like most of central Australia, will become more arid with another degree or so of temperature rise in the future. But most research suggests that central Australia was more arid than it is now during the last glacial maximum and the one before that. So we have a situation where temperatures a few degrees lower than today and CO2 levels around 200ppm caused more aridity, but so does a degree or so higher than today and 400ppm CO2. Perhaps the authors could advise what combination of CO and temperature would be ideal and enable them to cease their alarmism.

  16. Yeeeeesh! I’d lose all credibility if I tried to deceive a room full of engineers and program managers with a cherry picked and deliberately limited data set analysis like that!
    Shameless…. and pathetic.

  17. I like to look to history. Cooma’s rainfall from 1858 to 1994 at Lambie St was 484mm pa. A new station was installed around the corner some 500 metres away in 1973. The average there to now has been 538.2mm pa. It is almost impossible to find any where in the Murray-Darling basin any place where rainfall has not increased since the 19th century.

  18. “Now perhaps the ABC decides that it would be better to look at data only from 1970 onwards as rain gauges before then were probably inaccurate.”
    I laughed out loud when I read that. I think post 1970 the CO2 in the atmosphere affected liquid water in some way we don’t understand but we’re sure it happened, so were fully justified in hiding the lack of decline.

    • This just in:
      Aussie inventors have not only found out how water can be wetter, but have devised a method to make it dryer, too. That’s right, dehydrated water. While the process of H20 dehydration and it’s twin byproduct, wetter water, is projected to be a great boon to mankind and might also save the planet in one fell swoop, so far, all government grant requests to perfect these processes have met with abject refusal. While Global Climate Whateverists have been blockading their efforts, water researchers/scientists involved with the project have turned to Bundanyabba resources for financing of this earth shaking discovery.
      More news at 10:00.

      • Does wetter water make a better ‘whistle wetter’?
        If I mix dehydrated H20 with dehydrated alcohol, do I create the driest martini evah?
        Inquiring minds need to know…..

  19. They just keep on coming down under, the ‘endless drought’ lunatics. The trouble is that the AusBOM ( that hotbed of DENIERS – NOT) data shows increasing rainfall pretty well right around the country in all areas except SW of WA and Tasmania. (BTW Tassie has about twice the rainfall to start with and has dropped about 10% over the past century so it is hardly the Sahara of the sounth).
    Usually these morons come out from some wormhole or under some leaf and spout this drivel a few months before there is a major deluge in the area in question. Oz is just that kinda place. We are really big on deprecating big noting dickheads. In a weird way they are like an arse about weather vane, quite reliable once you get the direction thing sorted.

  20. It is Even Worse than We Thought : the Australia – Bangladesh World Cup cricket match in Brisbane may have to be cancelled . Just as Australia was on a winning streak , having demolished England ( mind you that is not difficult to do these days alas).

  21. well the ABC reported on Sydneys desal plant which was a complete wast of money all the experts said Sydney would complety run out of water because of global warming. so they rushed in and built the plant a funny thing happend after they built the plant. Warragamba dam Sydneys main supply dam overflowed twice and till this day is 87% full so South Australia can have Sydneys plant at a small fee http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-06-26/sydney-desalination-plant-to-switch-off/4092482

  22. There is the somewhat crude saying ‘to take the p*ss out of someone.’ Of course in Adelaide they literally do. I live just outside of our nations capital, Canberra. Our treated sewerage, of the highest quality of course, flows into the Molongolo River, which flows into the Murrumbidgee River, which in turn flows into the Murray River, the source of most of Adelaide’s water.

  23. Can we stop using anomaly for data that differs from an average?
    There is no evidence that any of the rainfall amounts are anomalous – even the Alarmists surely agree that rainfall in 1900 was not “anomalous”?

    • You are right “ANOMALY!!!” is a warmist term, it sounds a bit sinister. OK everyone, just start using variance, or some similar and more appropriate term

      • The point is variance from what exactly?
        Looking at a soccer players career average, we can note his scoring is up or down against his average in any given year. In this case players career is very specific and well defined.
        Climate history and averages on the other hand are random periods randomly selected by the wizards at climate international.

  24. ‘To make such a alarming statement one would think the ABC has done its research.’
    I do not now know why you think that , given ABC just repeats any such alarmist nonsense without thought and has done for years .

  25. Yeah but it usually doesn’t matter.
    According to climate science whether rainfall is up or down, it indicates something bad, caused by climate change, caused by the unnatural human species that figured out to to use use energy in grand amounts.
    The propaganda and government expenditures are currently heavily invested in rainfall being down, so they are going to continue to play that hand, at least until the floods come. And then of course excessive rainfall will be the calamity due to climate change.
    Wish they would just come out and say it; floods and droughts are both caused by climate change. Simplifies everything, no more arguing over whether it’s getting dryer or wetter. They get what they want, which is climate change is the cause of every bad thing and real scientists get to ignore them.

  26. Just as an aside, I can see a pretty clear correlation between the rainfall deficit in South Australia and the border between SA and Western Australia. I propose moving the border to the east coast so that it no longer blocks the rain.

  27. Lets face it rainfall figures are all either 0 or positive but anomalies can also be negative. When you are trying to represent a forthcoming disaster a negative figure is sooooooo much more convincing. It can even be made to look, by putting horrid brown colours on the map, like its negative rain…….negative clouds sucking up water instead of dropping it!!

  28. They can push out articles like this in the main street press and most people will believe it. Its only the skeptics with half a brain would know how absurd it is, however they have the money and the newspaper. People here can only realize how futile it is. Get over it, remember the golden rule, he who has the gold makes the rules, and with $100B+ a year spend on “climate science”, they have the gold.

  29. Somebody built one heckuva fence between SA and WA! Even patrolled by Maxwell’s Daemons to keep the rain out of SA…

  30. Listen to why climate models cannot predict future weather and future climate. It’s just mathematically impossible.

  31. Aunty is in more hot water over it’s biased reporting of scientific research-
    http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/media_watch_over_heated_on_wind_farms/
    Many of us are fed up with this taxpayer funded propaganda plaything of left/green fanatics that have captured and taken over what was once a reasonable alternative to commercial media, but has now become superfluous in the internet age. With a dire Federal Budget deficit position now, it should be sold off to realize any remaining asset worth.

  32. Gloom and doom for the SW of Western Australia. We have had significantly lower rainfall over the past decade, but what the BOM likes to ignore is that exactly the same decline in rainfall occurred between approximately 1890 and 1905. Apparently there wasn’t any weather before 1905, no, rainfall or temperatures, So if this is cyclical or para cyclical, event as I suggest, things should return to normal well within my life time. Presuming there is such a thing as “a normal” in weather”.

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