Bad timing: Study Claiming Less Rain Published in the Middle of a Flood

Storm Brewing, Port Lincoln South Australia, 2013.

Storm Brewing, Port Lincoln South Australia, 2013. By Jacqui Barker [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

A study led by ANU Professor Neville Abram, which claims climate is driving clouds south, resulting in less rain reaching Australia’s Southern Coast, has been published in the midst of massive flooding in South Australia. Greens of course blame climate change for the deluge.

The press release;

Australia’s west, south losing vital rain as climate change shifts winds, study finds

Rising greenhouse gases and ozone depletion over the Antarctic are increasingly pushing rain-bearing storm fronts away from Australia’s west and south, according to a new international study.

The research, which involved the Australian National University and 16 other institutions from around the world, has just been published in the Nature Climate Change journal.

It found Southern Ocean westerly winds and associated storms were shifting south, down towards Antarctica, and robbing southern parts of Australia of rain.

ANU Associate Professor Nerilie Abram, the lead Australian researcher, said this had contributed to a decline of more than 20 per cent in winter rainfall in southwestern Australia since the 1970s.

“That band of rainfall that comes in those westerly winds is shifting further south, so closer towards Antarctica,” Dr Abram, from the ANU’s Research School of Earth Sciences and ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, said.

Read more: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-09-28/australia-loses-vital-rain-as-climate-change-shifts-winds/7886546

The abstract of the study is rather opaque, and unfortunately the main study is paywalled. Interestingly the study seems to suggest natural variability may have been underestimated, which seems at odds with Professor Abram’s press statements.

Assessing recent trends in high-latitude Southern Hemisphere surface climate

Understanding the causes of recent climatic trends and variability in the high-latitude Southern Hemisphere is hampered by a short instrumental record. Here, we analyse recent atmosphere, surface ocean and sea-ice observations in this region and assess their trends in the context of palaeoclimate records and climate model simulations. Over the 36-year satellite era, significant linear trends in annual mean sea-ice extent, surface temperature and sea-level pressure are superimposed on large interannual to decadal variability. Most observed trends, however, are not unusual when compared with Antarctic palaeoclimate records of the past two centuries. With the exception of the positive trend in the Southern Annular Mode, climate model simulations that include anthropogenic forcing are not compatible with the observed trends. This suggests that natural variability overwhelms the forced response in the observations, but the models may not fully represent this natural variability or may overestimate the magnitude of the forced response.

Read more (Paywalled): http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v6/n10/full/nclimate3103.html

So what about that flooding? As WUWT recently reported, South Australia is currently experiencing severe flooding and rainfall, and a statewide power blackout, thanks to their dependency on unreliable renewables backed by high voltage interconnectors from other states – above ground interconnector lines which are vulnerable to extreme weather. Greens of course are blaming climate for the intense storm.

Climate change is driving storms like South Australia’s

The storm which has ravaged South Australia is a disturbing preview of what’s likely to come if Australia fails to act on climate change.

Storms like the one which knocked out the entire South Australian electricity network yesterday are occurring in a warmer and wetter atmosphere, the Climate Council’s Professor Will Steffen said.

“These conditions, driven by climate change, are likely increasing the intensity of storms like the one in South Australia,” he said.

Read more: https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/climate-change-to-blame-for-south-australias-storm

I suggest that the only conclusion we can draw from statements by Tim Flannery’s climate council, and the Abram study published in Nature, is that magic CO2 molecule is both driving both an intensification of storms, and it is also driving storms away from the southern coast of Australia.

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69 thoughts on “Bad timing: Study Claiming Less Rain Published in the Middle of a Flood

  1. Theres another article on the ABC interviewing farmers who state categorically “Climate Change is here!”. Potato farmer gets massive rainfall one year, a grape farmer blames increasing wildfires and others say that these extreme weather events are definitive proof. Also, some areas are warming so quickly that projections for 2050 might have to be revised. I’m so happy my tax dollars are going to support unbiased reporting. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-09-30/farmers-confront-extreme-reality-of-climate-change/7887720

    • Drought levels ought to be stated in units. For example if you have a metre of flood water in the centre of your town this could be stated in drought units called a Flannery. Two metres of flood water is two Flannerys and so on. What better way to honour climatology’s most reliable forecaster.

  2. One thing for sure that can be said about climate change is that it creates the inability for climate models to be predictive when it comes to Climate Change

    • Or perhaps they need to tweak the models again. They’ve obviously modeled the world as a whole but didn’t account for the simple fact that the Northern hemisphere and Southern hemisphere are figurative and literal Polar Opposites.

  3. Is a drought bad? Then it must be caused by a climate change.
    Is a flood bad? Then it must be caused by a climate change.

  4. “ANU Associate Professor Nerilie Abram, the lead Australian researcher, said this had contributed to a decline of more than 20 per cent in winter rainfall in southwestern Australia since the 1970s …”.
    =======================================
    That is true however for the maximum available trend period 1900 – 2015, the area affected is the marginal coastal area of SW Western Australia.
    Generally though, for Southern Australia, S E Australia, South Australia (state) since 1900 the annual rainfall has been very variable but no significant trend stands out:

    The data is here:
    http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/change/#tabs=Tracker&tracker=timeseries&tQ=graph%3Drain%26area%3Dsa%26season%3D0112%26ave_yr%3DT

    • I wouldn’t want to sit on that graph.

      As I recall Adelaide’s annual rainfall is 500mm (cf that State graph) so you can see how 100mm in a day can be quite alarming for some, particularly if the ground is already wet beforehand. The ADHD generation go through a long drought like we had and then when it finally breaks and they get some flooding to make up that long term average, they think Gaia is wreaking vengeance upon them.

  5. It’s not a new idea. I described here an experience I had forty years ago, soon after arriving in WA. To summarise, there was a question of whether the WA government should spend to extend the wheat belt infrastructure. Our advice was that prospects were bad due to the coming GHE and expansion of the Hadley cells, which would drive the westerlies south. Our advice didn’t arrive in flood; in fact there were then three very hot dry years. The wheatbelt rainfall has been down ever since.

    • Nick, I read somewhere that the long term climate cycles (drought and wet) in Australia tend to be longer than in the Americas and Eurasia. Any truth to that?

      • yup average drought can be 10yrs depending on the area, qld inland top areas Sth aus etc its not unheard of.
        as for steffen..hes the abcs fave moaner, along with karoly
        and typical, like with the famous flimflam never rain again claims
        we flood;-)
        damn wet where I am its gumboots to even get to the car or chookshed and more is coming down heavy now, and sunday 10 to 20mm more
        my shed floor is inches deep already, the drainage areas are full and cant drain..
        the stunningly full lush verdant green crops ive been admiring are taking a beating, some wont make it if this keeps up much longer
        root rot n fungals are a real worry

    • And this year they are expecting a bumper crop. It seems our farmers are smart enough to get around the lower rainfall. Humans have more initiative than the climate “scientists” thought.

      • Merredin is in the Eastern wheat belt. Here is a map of the whole picture (from here) of the trend in annual rain since 1970.

        You can see that the W Coast, and virtually everywhere in the path of the winter westerlies has dried. East of the wheat belt, it has been getting wetter, but that is a pattern from the North – summer/autumn rain from the remains of tropical storms (which are also coming south). Not the westerlies, and not much use for wheat.

      • Chris Hanley said:

        “The winter rainfall decline since 1900 in the W A wheat-belt is marginal:”

        So, you can start at the Federation Drought, and it’s still worse than that.

      • “The winter rainfall decline since 1900 in the W A wheat-belt is marginal”
        Yes. That is because the drying trend in question began about 40 years ago. If you add in the 75 years before that, you divide the effect by about 3.

      • Nick, with respect (really!), what I see is an ink blot. Not a trend, not a sign of DCC, DAGW or even AGW.

        I also feel that while a discernible effect might be tortured out from the data or models when necessary, the annual, decadal and spatial variation still dominate heavily, making the Climate Science Forecasts useless for farming purposes.

    • It’s not a new idea.”

      It’s a discredited old idea being regurgitated for propaganda purposes at an inconveniently wet point in time.

      =========
      Drought Vortex
      ABC Catalyst (September 18, 2003)

      Is a mysterious new weather system causing the drought in southern Australia?

      Climatologists are desperately trying to explain the mystery of where southern Australia’s winter rainfall is going. They’ve known the rain is being pulled south by an unexplained force. Now they’ve devised a revolutionary new theory to explain why. It appears that the circulation of the entire Southern Hemisphere is changing to suck our rain away. The reason is the Antarctic Vortex – a natural tornado of 30km high, super-cold, super-fast winds spiralling around Antarctica. The vortex is not new; it’s one of the engines that drive climate in the Southern Hemisphere. But now it appears the vortex is shifting gear, and is spinning faster and faster, and getting tighter. As it does it’s pulling the climate bands further south dragging rain away from the continent out into the southern ocean. Most disturbing of all we might be responsible for shifting the speed of the vortex. Scientists at the US Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research believe the speeding up of the vortex is caused by the combined effect of global warming and the depletion of the ozone layer over Antarctica. If their theory is true it will have devastating consequences for our southern cities – the drought may not go away. It takes just a slight shift in rainfall patterns for our capital cities to start running out of water – and the reservoirs in Perth, Adelaide, and Melbourne are all dangerously low right now.
      […]
      Narration: So, what’s Australia’s forecast for the future? Unfortunately, if the modellers are right, [and they never are] Australia in winter will show the largest reduction of rainfall of any region in the world.
      http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/s948858.htm
      ==========

      Australian Bureau of Meteorology
      September 2016
      Winter of 2016. Why was it so wet?

      Winter 2016 was the second wettest winter since records began in 1900. Furthermore, the four months from May to August was the wettest such period on record. Relative to all years (since 1900), over 55% of Australia received decile 10 rainfall (rainfall in the highest 10% records), and 7% saw highest on record totals.

    • The south west of Oz experienced decreased rainfall. A peer review paper a few years back suggested that about 2/3rds of this drop was due to the felling of very tall (100m+) trees. This practice stopped around 1980; not sure if there were many such trees left to fell!

      The mechanism suggested that this felling reduced both the moisture and the level of nucleating agents released into the atmosphere (at an appropriate height level I imagine).

      How do you feel about this? It certainly would be AGW/climate change but hardly related to CO2. In fact more CO2 would be helpful in re-establishing those giant trees.

      As an aside Perth is spot on the average with YTD rainfall this year (654mm). The month of Sept avg T is the lowest since 1906; ok it is just weather! :)

      • “How do you feel about this?”
        This thread has the usual mix of people saying “no, it didn’t happen” and “yes, but it was because of…”.

        The area of karri gums in WA is small, and even there, very tall ones were sparse, and not 100m+. Most of the west winds that reach the wheat belt do not pass over the karri. The pattern of rain is drying toward the east. There isn’t any indication that the air could yield more rain overall. Nucleation might make it fall closer to the forest, but that wouldn’t really help.

      • Well Nick. There is one bloke stoking the story that the current flooding in SA isn’t happening because that area has been drying for 50 years. Or something like that. There’s another bloke heavily into lew paper who reckons we are all wrong (and insane) because we haven’t formed a grand unified theory of why alarmists are wrong. Then there’s the weather.

        Forgive those of us who are enjoying the made scramble from your team to explain how climate change caused a few electricity pylons falling over in one part of SA to put the whole state into darkness. I would have thought the prolonged version of earth hour would be something to celebrate but apparently that stunt isn’t as popular as it once was.

        In the meantime I offer you the sage advice about what to do when you find that you’ve dug yourself into a hole. At least stop digging for a while and enjoy a little chuckle about how little mankind knows about the future.

      • The paper I was drawing on was:
        Andrich M., and Imberger, J. (2012) The effect of land clearing on rainfall and fresh water resources in Western Australia: A multi-functional sustainability analysis

        From memory I had thought 100m+ trees but would suggest that 90m+, which these trees certainly achieve, is not substantially different. You might find some quick key points here:
        http://www.news.uwa.edu.au/201311206266/research/plant-more-native-tress-increase-rainfall-south-west-scientists

        UWA Honorary Research Fellow Mark Andrich said land clearing of the forested coastal strip region south of Perth, which removed 50 per cent of the native forests between 1960 and 1980, coincided with a 16 per cent reduction in rainfall relative to stationary coastal rainfall.

        The researchers analysed existing rainfall and land clearing data which showed that winter rainfall along the coast was stationary, while rainfall declined inland during periods of extensive logging.

        Dr Andrich said the research conclusively showed that the clearing of South West forests between 1960 and 1980 had caused a direct reduction in rainfall of around 15 per cent at Mundaring Weir – an important source of drinking water for West Australians.  It also showed a decline in Wheatbelt winter rainfall relative to rainfall on the coast also started around 1960.

        “The research suggests there is an urgent need to increase rainfall and mitigate changes in climate via reforestation programs using large native trees,” Dr Andrich said.  “This would involve growing tall native trees including Jarrah and Karri on vacant coastal land, as well as strategically growing native trees in and around farms.”

        Professor Imberger stressed the importance of the findings and urged decision-makers to stop blaming everything on climate change.
        “Rather, they need to focus on what we can do locally to make our State water self-sufficient, carbon neutral and one where our agricultural community and our biodiversity receive the same recognition as the city dwellers in Perth,” he said.

      • “There is one bloke stoking the story that the current flooding in SA isn’t happening because that area has been drying for 50 years.”
        I can’t see one. There is a long term reduction in rainfall. That doesn’t mean it never rains. The westerlies still bring storms. Just not as often.

        TonyM,
        I actually don’t think this is a particularly authoritative paper. But anyway, it isn’t about 90m trees, and it isn’t much about the wheat belt. They are talking about clearing in the coastal strip, which is not tall forest (mostly marri, tuart etc), and about its effect on the catchments in the Darling Ranges. Jorg Imberger is a mathematician who writes about water supply. They do suggest that some wheat belt locations are drying relative to the coast, although that is quite contrary to the trend plot that I showed.

        They do suggest trying to grow Jarrah and Karri on the coastal strip. This shows considerable ignorance of what these trees are adapted to. Jarrah grows on the deep clay of the ranges; karri on deep loam soils. They have not previously groiwn on this sandy strip, and I don’t believe they ever could.

      • Nick, I was just having a little fun at your expense but since the floods in SA you’ve chosen to talk about little else but a claimed loss of rainfall.

        You must have just a little chuckle when you look in the mirror.

        Cheers!

      • Nick Stokes:

        I don’t claim expertise (I used the term “ I imagine” in my first post) so criticising me is not a problem.But the unwarranted and personal way you attack the paper and the authors themselves reflects more on you than them. Further it elides the fact that it displays a lot of ignorance on your part which should have tempered your criticism.

        I will cover it briefly and leave you to go investigate for yourself.

        For those wishing to follow, note that the SW coast of Oz is basically a sandy coastal strip. Around Perth this strip is close to 30km going East where it hits an escarpment of around 300m high. This is the western edge of the ancient Western Plateau. This slopes gently down right through into South Australia (the State that was hit by recent blackouts). I am only giving the gist of a direct line to Adelaide as this Plateau covers over half the continent and certainly can have mountainous regions, mesas, monoliths (Uluru is legendary) etc.

        Now Nick says:
        “They do suggest trying to grow Jarrah and Karri on the coastal strip. This shows considerable ignorance of what these trees are adapted to. Jarrah grows on the deep clay of the ranges; karri on deep loam soils. They have not previously grown on this sandy strip, and I don’t believe they ever could.”

        Contrary to your view Jarrah does grow on the sandy strip. Just go to to Yanchep north of Perth. One can see Jarrah woodland in the National Park.

        Further I refer you to an older Govt archive:
        https://www.dpaw.wa.gov.au/images/documents/about/science/cswa/articles/31.pdf
        “These forests follow the coast from about the Moore River to Two People Bay (east of King George Sound), in a zone about 75 to 120 km wide.

        They are also most characteristic of the hilly region (100-300 m) on the outer margin of
        the tableland. The Jarrah forest, in fact, shows its best development here. It grows almost
        equally well in the lower sandy loams of the western coastal plain,

        On the Swan River near Perth one may see many fine examples, and in Perth suburbs those Jarrah trees which remain from the original bush are quite a roadside feature.”

        The Swan River runs through Perth. It is a salt water river mostly at sea level. So in fact Jarrah grew well on the coastal plains.

        The description of the Moore River well north of Perth right down to the south coast of WA east beyond the south tip of WA is a very long coastline. A straight direct line is over 500km long enclosing this SW triangle.

        Nick says:
        “I actually don’t think this is a particularly authoritative paper. But anyway, it isn’t about 90m trees, and it isn’t much about the wheat belt. They are talking about clearing in the coastal strip, which is not tall forest (mostly marri, tuart etc), and about its effect on the catchments in the Darling Ranges.”

        Really! Why? Because it does not agree with your hypothesis? Your lack of understanding the facts of tree clearance can’t help with this conclusion.

        If as you say I was wrong that it is not about 90m+ trees, which was partly my take, that should not be used as an indictment of the authors. Why do you confine their scope and range when they go to a lot of trouble by breaking up the whole triangular region into zones from the coast zone right through to the sparse rainfall four zones further east. A prime wheat-belt zone of this region is certainly covered (zone 2).

        The paper relies on over a dozen papers and many more authors as the basis of its facts which they highlight at the start of their paper. In effect you are being critical of them too. This paper essentially develops the methodology to analyze data in a coherent manner.

        Make what you will but being so dismissive of the paper and its authors was never warranted. BTW Tuarts are quite robust trees growing to 35m when left alone.

  6. My sex drive, muscle tone stamina and overall health has delined 28% since 1979 and I blame the rise in CO2.
    If it weren’t for all you people and your huge CO2 footprint, I’d still be gettin’ the young strange.

  7. Until recently the Subtropical Ridge had intensified and Timbal et al claimed it was because of global warming.

    Unfortunately for them its all come unstuck, the high pressure belt has apparently weakened and regional cooling has begun.

  8. I think the south Aussies will love to know this as their homes and property’s are currently being flooded .

  9. Flood of propaganda is what we are hearing-ever more desperate propaganda as the entire narrative falls apart.

  10. Green keep blaming climate change for bad weather and power failure. Surely that means that their proposed future energy supply with a high green content is unsuitable for an era of climate change. Does it not?

    • It’s hard to identify the official green line at this stage, but early efforts have been along the lines that if the world doesn’t do everything the greens want there will be no saving the world from events in SA being repeated everywhere all the time (along with simultaneous bushfires).

      In short it is much, much worse than they “thought”. Oh and nobody must talk about the current events until the greens have figured out the official explanation. That may take some time so they want everybody laughing at them to just shut up.

  11. Quote, “Rising greenhouse gases and ozone depletion over the Antarctic.”

    I thought we had cured the ozone depletion over the Antarctic, by changing to less efficient refrigerants.

    Well that was an expensive wast of time. What you get these days by listening to the “experts”.

  12. I sat here laughing as I read this, reminds me of British Rail blaming the delays on the wrong type of snow/leaves on the rails.

    James Bull

  13. Well sillies there’s no contradiction, because of course Global Warming causes terrible floods! Except when its causing droughts, because Global Warming is just crazy like that. That what it do!!!

  14. It may be worth to present rainy period and evaporation rates during the rainy period in wheat belt of South Australia. Otherwise it gives misleading inferences. In fact I presented some analysis for the northern Australia where the government failed to implement commercial agriculture — sorghum yields showed high variation as the rainfall presented high variation in space and time and duration.

    Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

  15. Climate forecasting disasters like this are the result of a number of related errors, but in particular the erroneous way in which the models are tuned.
    See https://wattsupwiththat.com/2015/09/17/how-reliable-are-the-climate-models/
    IPCC: “a climate model is used to calculate response patterns (‘fingerprints’) for individual forcings or sets of forcings, which are then combined linearly to provide the best fit to the observations“.
    If you do this (and the above link explains in some detail why you shouldn’t), then you get your model to fit observations, but with no mechanism. (It’s actually a bit worse than that). In this case, they would have fiddled model parameters until they got the observed southerly shift. Running forward, they would have found further southerly shift, because the parameters they used related to CO2 which was going in one direction only.
    The whole climate modelling activity is riddled with errors like this.

  16. Just in case you didn’t notice, Eric, here’s the rest of the ANU media release: While the findings showed climate change was causing westerlies in the Southern Ocean to shift closer to Antarctica, the study found the bigger picture of the region’s climate trends remained unclear, Dr Abram said.

    “Antarctica and the Southern Ocean experience extreme fluctuations in climate year to year.

    “In most cases our short climate measurements in this remote region are not yet long enough for the signal of anthropogenic climate change to be clearly separated from this large natural variability.”

    Measuring the surface climate across Antarctica and the surrounding Southern Ocean only became possible with the advent of regular satellite observations in 1979.

    The research team investigated how recent Antarctic climate trends compared to past climate fluctuations using natural archives such as ice cores drilled into the Antarctic ice sheet. They also studied how Antarctica’s recent climate changes compared with climate model simulations, including future climate-change scenarios.

    Lead author Dr Julie Jones, from the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom, said the Antarctic climate was like a giant jigsaw puzzle with most of the pieces still missing.

    “At face value, many of the climate trends in Antarctica seem counter-intuitive for a warming world,” said Dr Jones from the Department of Geography at Sheffield.

    “Scientists have good theories for why, but these ideas are still difficult to prove with the short records we are working with.”

    Co-researcher Professor Matthew England from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) said scientists still had much to learn about the climate system of Antarctica and the region, and how it would affect people and the environment.

    “Continued climate measurements and modeling in the Antarctic and Southern Ocean are critical to understanding how changes in the region will impact Australia’s climate,” said Professor England from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science at UNSW.

    ANU collaborated on this study with Sheffield in the UK, UNSW, Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre in Tasmania and 13 other institutes from the United States, Argentina, New Zealand, UK, Belgium, France and Italy.

    The ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, which is a consortium of five Australian Universities with national and international partners, supported the study.

    • Or just a change in weather patterns that were similar 50 years ago? Rain has been reported to have been heavier 50 or so years ago.

    • I would not worry too much about Belgium and if “information” on climate came from NIWA in New Zealand, I would rule that out as being reliable.

  17. “A study led by ANU Professor Neville Abram, which claims climate is driving clouds south, resulting in less rain reaching Australia’s Southern Coast, has been published in the midst of massive flooding in South Australia.”

    That is a real problem with scary water shortage models and predictions of drought.

    The dam levels are run too high, so when the deluge comes there is little time to release enough water. In my opinion, high water prices make releasing water a last minute decision.

    Two dams appear to be implicated in flooding conditions in SA right now:

    The SES advised that a dam east of Sevenhill in the Mid North was in danger of collapsing due to the recent heavy rain.

    “There is a risk that the dam will burst and cause flooding of properties and roads in the Sevenhill Township,” it said.

    A flood watch and act message was issued for Auburn due to a dam threatening to burst north of the township.

    If Wivenhoe Dam is the model for this dam mismanagement, the homes down stream will be flooded in a crest that matches the release of the water, not the crest of the storm. Flooded properties is horrible but insurance in the area afterwards skyrockets.

    Sorry about the strong winds and rain, and I hope lights come on soon–for the lead smelting plant and industries affected as well.

    • According to BOM the Indian Ocean Dipole is in a negative phase, which leads to rain in the South of the continent.
      http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/enso/#tabs=Overview
      It would seem the models have to talk to each other.

      Click on the pdf on the right bottom of the page to get their overview.

      Really sorry for Sevenhill in the Clare Valley.
      The local Jesuit winery is a legend.
      This rain may spoil the crop.

  18. Just out of curiosity, where was Al Gore when the paper was released (and the flooding occurred)?
    Is is (another) case of the Gore Effect?

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