Climate Change, Variability, Recurrent Frequencies, and Planning

Guest Opinion: Dr. Tim Ball

One of my graduate courses comprised field trips to places that used weather and climate data in their everyday decision making. Apart from pushing my idea with the students that there are a few relevant things they can do in university, it gave them a very clear understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of weather and climate research. Here is a short list of places and the lessons learned. I present them here as a limited example of issues that people confront in the real world. These are issues that need the trillions wasted on the false threat of global warming.

  • A visit to the airport for a briefing as if they were pilots flying commercial flights from Winnipeg to Vancouver. They learned that all the flights, year-round, travelled 90% of the time above the Tropopause and in the lower stratosphere. This was important because we were studying the creation of weather in the Stratosphere, particularly the formation of noctilucent clouds. They also learned that the primary issue for commercial pilots is the flight levels at which they have the smoothest air. Weather at the destination is of far less consequence now because of the ability to land in almost zero visibility.
  • The Canadian Wheat Board was an agency set up by the Canadian government on behalf of grain farmers to sell their Wheat and Barley. It continues as the CWB, a new name created when it was sold to private companies. One of those was a Saudi Arabian owned company, and that is now at the center of the current dispute between the Canadian and Saudi governments.
  • When we took our visits, the Wheat Board had a group of people charged with monitoring weather and crop conditions for every major agricultural region of the world. Their job was to anticipate potential crop failures and then advise the salespeople to pursue opportunities. Remember, this was also at a time when the Soviet Union and China were major importers of grains.

Manitoba Hydro is a government established agency that controlled all energy production in the Province. Every Canadian Province has similar centralized energy controlling agencies. The one in the climate news currently is Ontario Hydro (now called Hydro One) that saw Maurice Strong become Chairman in 1992. He applied his ideas of a green agenda based on the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and almost bankrupted the Province.

Manitoba Hydro produces most of its electricity, the common denominator of all energy sources, from massive hydroelectric projects in the northern half of the Province. They were only able to do this because of Soviet technology. Many places including Russia have great hydroelectric potential, but most of it is beyond the distance you can economically transmit alternating current (AC) electricity. The Soviets pioneered a technique of converting the AC produced by water-driven turbines into direct current (DC) electricity. You can transmit the DC power at least twice as far as AC then you reconvert the DC back to AC and put it into the grid.

The climate issues of primary concern for Manitoba Hydro are precipitation to ensure lake levels used as their storage reservoirs are maintained, and temperatures as they affect

a) the demand for electricity (cold winters). Interestingly this is somewhat offset by less line loss when atmospheric temperatures are very low.

b) the date of ice forming on the lakes

c) the storm tracks across the Province because of wind damage and freezing rain bringing down their massive transmission lines.

They established their own network of weather stations because the official network is completely inadequate in the density of stations and type of data collected.

One interesting and unique measure was the date of ice formation on the lakes near their water intakes. They wanted to know within a couple of days when the ice would form so they could close the intake and allow the ice to form quickly and with a smooth underside. This prevented turbulent flow from under the ice into the intake that reduced the power potential. An important issue we discussed that requires investigation is the discharge of electricity from the high voltage lines to the ground under certain atmospheric conditions and the possibility they trigger forest fires.

  • Manitoba Crop Insurance Corporation was discussed in my last article relating to their coverage of hail damage. One of the hardest challenges was determining the extent and intensity of the damage. This is understandable for hail that comes from clouds that make streaky tracks across the countryside.

A more interesting problem developed when the Province of Saskatchewan decided to introduce frost insurance. It challenged and underscored the limitations of the IPCC claim that a weather station is representative of a 1200 km area. The issue came to my attention when the Provincial Ombudsman contacted me over a claim from many farmers that frost insurance did not pay even though they had severe frost damage. The plan allowed the farmer who bought the insurance to identify an Environment Canada weather station that would be used to determine if frost occurred on their farm. The first year the plan operated there was an unusually early frost before the end of August over most of the coverage area of the Province. The disparity between the farms affected and the official temperature records was remarkable, and that perplexed the ombudsman.

After the frost event, half the farmers received no coverage because their chosen station showed the overnight low was 0.5°C. The problem was the crops showed evidence of a “black frost.” It is called this because the black reflects the cellular damage done in the leaves. In the other region, the farmers got paid even though there were no signs of frost, yet their chosen station recorded -0.5°C. As I explained to the Ombudsman, the major problem is the air temperature at the stations is taken in a Stevenson Screen located at least 1.25 m above ground. The difference between there and the ground, where the crops are located can be significantly different. In this case, the difference in the amount of soil moisture was probably what modify the temperature reading to affect the crop. It confirms that the ‘official’ global temperature is actually only the temperature at 1 meter above the surface at very few stations around the world.

  • We also visited the Provincial Water Resources Branch to learn about flooding and flood control. Most of the southern half of the Province is the lake bed of the former glacial Lake Agassiz. While this provides good flat agricultural land, it is a recipe for flooding. The soils in many regions have a very high, 60% clay content, which makes them fertile but with a high-water content capacity. In addition, Professor Bill Carlyle showed that the Red River Basin is the largest most densely drained agricultural region in the world. It doesn’t take much during snowmelt in the spring, accompanied by rain, for rivers to flood and Lake Agassiz to try and reappear.

Winnipeg is located at the confluence of the Red River of the North, flowing from North Dakota heading ultimately to Hudson Bay, and the Assiniboine River entering from the west. Almost every spring there is flooding to various levels, and in some years, it flooded major parts of the city. The 1950 flood was devastating and forced action. The City was assisted by large donations from all over the world and constructed a floodway that diverted the river around the city. It worked by raising a dam across the river, backing up the water and pushing it over a spillway into the floodway. This put the water back into the river north of the city. The floodway effectively doubled the river capacity over the length of the diversion channel. When the diversion was built, it was based on the modern record of flooding, particularly the 1950 event. This event was considered a one-in-100-year flood, which is what hydrologists call the recurrence frequency. People assumed that they were now protected for 100 years. The problem is, it is based on a statistical probability, but in climate, because of the wet and dry cycles, two floods of this magnitude could occur within two years. The precipitation pattern changes much more frequently and widely than any 100-year record could accommodate.

They ignored the historical evidence of the 1826 flood that was three times larger and reports of an even bigger flood in 1776, which coincides with cold events of that time. The 1826 flood was approximately a one-in-400-year event. Another flood of this magnitude occurred in 1996, and the floodway alleviated it to some extent, but it forced expansion of the floodway. The topic of discussion for the students was around this problem of cost against protection and the false security it creates.

One of the topics was the flooding after the 1900 hurricane in Galveston Texas. Drowning was the major tragedy with a variety of estimates ranging from 6,000 to 12,000. The problem was the protective sea wall was breached. The classroom discussion involved better strategies, for example, not allowing people to live in flood-prone regions. We then examined why flooding insurance is mostly provided by the Federal Government in the US. Part of the answer is on the FEMA website where they say, “Floods are the nation’s most common natural disaster. Flood damage is rarely covered under your homeowners or renters policy.” I wonder why?

Among the first example of climate forecasts and management decision conflicts I experienced was at a 1989 conference in Edmonton Alberta. The topic was planning for the future based on climate predictions for the Canadian Prairies. It underscored all the problems academia faces when it takes its theory to the real world. Naturally, it became an entire seminar for the graduate field trip class.

The conference was dominated by the keynote speaker, a climate modeler, Michael Schlesinger. His showed his work that compared five major global models and their results. He said they were valid because they all showed warming. Of course, because they were programmed to that general result. The problem is they varied enormously over vast regions. For example, one showed North America cooling, another showed it warming. The audience was looking for information adequate for planning and became agitated, especially in the question period. It peaked when someone asked about the accuracy of his warmer and drier prediction for Alberta. The answer was 50%. The person replied that is useless, my Minister needs 95% because he is planning extensive forestation and reforestation and there is no point if you say it will be a desert in 50 years. The shouting intensified.

Every academic contract for employment at a university should require a specific detailed clause on community service. Many of them do, but they don’t specify the function, and it is almost never given credit for promotion, tenure, or any other job performance reward. The trouble is this idea introduces the word that sends shock waves through academia, ‘relevance.’ At one meeting a philosopher challenged my idea saying he was too busy researching and publishing on death and dying, besides, how could that directly help the community? I pointed out there were groups at the local hospitals dealing with the real impact of death and dying every day, who might benefit greatly from his work. More important, he might learn how good or bad his work was in reality; and maybe that is the real fear.

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35 thoughts on “Climate Change, Variability, Recurrent Frequencies, and Planning

  1. Thank you Tim.

    God forbid that university professors should actually do anything that is of practical importance.

    The universities’ primary function, at least in climate and related biological and social sciences, is the raising of false alarm – such as “we’re all gonna burn!”, and “a biblical plague of locusts will be unleashed upon the land!” – UNLESS you give us a whole lot more grant money to study something so obscure and irrelevant that it has absolutely nothing to do with anything!

    It seems that so many government departments have also taken on this heavy task as well, as they try to demonstrate that they are relevant, or “with it”, or as we say in our nominally bilingual country, “dans le vents”.

    Governments in Canada are so damned overbearing and incompetent that I wish they would just legislate themselves out of existence. Everything governments touch turns to crap – made worse by their over-reaching interference and complete lack of common sense.

    We’ve had two extremely smoky consecutive summers in the West, and it appears to be caused by the adoption of new “green” forestry management practices – where we save a few trees here and there, only to ruin air quality for millions, and burn up forest tracts the size of small states.

    Our kids might as well be smoking three packs of cigarettes a day, given the amount of forest fire smoke we are all exposed to.

    It’s not like we are short of trees in Canada – the four contiguous parks including Banff are bigger than Switzerland. You can fly east-west over SIX Time Zones in Canada and see only trees, but the greens will tell you that every single one of them is precious – but it’s OK to let firestorms get out of control and burn away.

    The loss in 2011 of the Town of Slave Lake to a firestorm taught us nothing – so we almost lost the City of Fort McMurray in 2016 – much of Fort Mac was saved only through the heroic efforts of fire crews.

    In Edmonton, our provincial capital, the lights are on but nobody’s home. Who votes for these imbeciles?

    Maybe it’s just that the smoke is really getting to me – half our summer has been ruined, and these idiots are falsely attributing the problems to climate change, rather than looking in the mirror.

    Best, Allan

    • You can fly east-west over SIX Time Zones in Canada and see only trees..

      lol. I recall also seeing a lot of snow/ice, even in the summer months going Seattle-London. And people have told me about the unimaginable boringness of being experienced on the Trans-Siberian Railway.

      I first began to ken how big the world is when I flew across the USA, drank several wines/beers, fell asleep at 500+mph, woke up, and realised the pattern of land use hadn’t changed underneath. And humans are only a small part of the land mass in the USA.

      There is space for a LOT more humans on this planet yet.

        • When I lived in Atlanta we had a group of German’s over for a training class. We found out that the group had made plans to drive to Dallas for the weekend.
          Fortunately they asked us about places to see while there, so we were able to talk them out of it.
          The concept of how big the US is hadn’t sunk in.

          • There are plenty of Americans that don’t grasp that either, Mark. Some years ago a client who was a farmer decided to fly his Cessna to Washington DC from Arizona to protest a recently passed farm bill. A little over half way he turned back after flying over the Midwest. As he put it, “After flying for hours over endless farm land I started to realize that my 1200 acres was hardly a pinch of dirt in the big scheme of things.” They call it “flyover country” for a reason but there’s a lot of land and a lot of hard working people down there.

    • In Ontario, the newly elected government, is scrambling to sort out this recent development:https://www.thestar.com/news/queenspark/2018/08/24/no-ban-on-the-words-climate-change-top-ontario-bureaucrat-says.html
      It’s time for a thorough educational series, presented through a wide variety of media, to begin exposing the facts around the deception that Dr. Ball is consistently exposing.
      Even though the Liberal government was decimated and in fact lost their party status, the general public does not fully understand how they were/are still being deceived.

  2. The denizens of the Ivory Tower could care less about reality or relevance. They pontificate to their peers and the politicians without any care about how it actually affects the outside world. That’s why academia is overrun with pseudo marxists who most of probably haven’t read Marx (as Thomas Sowell, someone who read Marx, pointed out).

  3. …More important, he might learn how good or bad his work was in reality; and maybe that is the real fear….

    You do good, relevant work if you are audited properly. If you are not audited, your work will become progressively worse. Academia is learning this lesson right now.

    Another unaudited group which may be of interest are the security and intelligence services. Their work was of value during WW2, and for the first part of the Cold War, but they became increasingly pointless after Glasnost. I leave you to wonder how effective their work is after nearly 40 years of unaudited existence… and why our foreign policies are in such a mess…

    • Well, dodgy, assuming that you live in a developed country, your security and intelligence services probably spend most of their time and effort trying to thwart the activities of militant islamists trying to do bad things in your country (e.g. 9/11 and 7/7).

      They probably worry about Iran and PRNK and their nukes too.

      And they probably try and devise ways of stopping the Tsar of most of the Russias from helping his good friend the Butcher of Damascus from slaughtering his own people. No doubt they’d be more effective if they weren’t embarrassed by politicians who draw lines in the sand then turn their backs and walk away.

      They probably do a mediocre job, and they are probably not cost effective, but that really is the nature of the game. I don’t think I’d want to live in a country that didn’t have security and intelligence services. It might get nasty very quickly.

      • There is a certain irony in seeing someone apply due skepticism to the official CAGW story but completely suspend disbelief when it comes to the matter of security intelligence. Mr Rock, you would be better informed if you did some investigation on this subject rather than simply absorbing the misinformation we are immersed in. May I suggest looking into “Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity”. You will soon see the similarity between ‘Climate Science” and “Intelligence/Security” in that once people are freed from the fear of losing prospects for promotion or even their paychecks, that they have a story quite at odds with the common understanding.

      • Well, in sort-of developed South Africa, the Security and Intelligence services spend most of their time spying on rivals of those ANC people currently in power. As an indication of just how effective they are/were – some years ago, the wife of the Minister for National Intelligence was arrested for running a drug smuggling ring. Of course, the Minister knew nothing about that…

    • I have a quick and dirty test for relevance of higher education: Does the cost justify itself? Too many degrees for specialties that have no market value, or at least not enough to pay off the student loan.

  4. Having had one of the world largest marine research laboratories under my purview and also an outgoing research grants program we were continually bombarded by scientists demanding they be allowed or paid to do “pure research.” We continually pointed out that was NOT our statutory mandate. Under our mandate we were to provide data and research results in a timely fashion to policy makers and resource managers, i.e., practical research that could be applied to real world problems. We, myself specifically, were attacked by big name institutions, in the news media, by their paid lobbyists to anyone they could get to listen, though luckily only a handful of elected officials. In response I even got our mandating statute amended to make it ever clearer what our job was. We got it passed by overwhelming majority on both houses. That didn’t come close to stopping the complaints. Meanwhile, it was another reason to label me Darth Vader.

    • Clear signs of socialism. When someone else is paying everyone wants a piece of the pie (free money).

  5. Dr. Ball, very interesting. Some years ago at the American Meteorological Society annual meeting I had a conversation with the Union Pacific Railroad’s meteorologist. He told me the railroad has a network of weather stations along its right of way. They are principally interested in wind. They stop rolling trains when wind speed reaches 50 mph because of derailment risk. He was interested in sharing the railroad’s weather data with the NWS. I was a contractor supporting NWS so that was out of my wheelhouse, but knew by name who he should talk to in NWS and shared that.

  6. There is a palpable Manitoban calmness in this piece. My folk were 19th Century homesteaders who lived in sod houses west of Neepawa. The great grandparents also built a cabin for the family to enjoy Clear Lake in what is now Riding Mountain National Park. The family was eventually unceremoniously kicked out when the park was created.

    As a Boy Scout, I filled sandbags in 1950 for the flood you mention. Women of the city made a few million sandwiches and buckets of coffee. It was the very first cup of coffee I had drunk and I was especially fond of the chopped egg sandwiches. I graduated in geological engineering in 1961 and my first job was as a hydrologist with the Water Control Branch you mention, monitoring piezometers, along the right-of-way of the Winnipeg Floodway prior to its excavation. I also measured and inspected farmers wells, advised of their condition and recorded depth to water to have data used to follow up on the inevitable complaints.

    After that work I was ordered to do a groundwater survey in the dry southwest (Souris, Manotoba). I wound up finding the buried old former Missouri R. channel when the Missouri flowed North to Hudsons Bay in prior interglacials. It was identified by the presence of quartzite, petrified wood and opalized wood pebbles. It had been traced up from the Dakotas to Saskatchewan, but no further. No one suspected the river had made a broad swing eastward into Maintoba. With the ice dam forming Lake Agassiz, the headwaters of a small stream flowing into the Mississippi “captured”the backed up headwaters of the old Missouri and the river reversed and cut its channel in its present location. So, Missoura, you can thank Manitoba climate change. And I can see from Tim Ball and myself, that we are from Missouri on the climate change issues.

  7. “…The problem is they varied enormously over vast regions. For example, one showed North America cooling, another showed it warming…”

    Which is still true. So much focus is on model results of GLOBAL temperature. Models can be tuned to get close to the “right” answer globally…but it is made up by the sum of a bunch of wrong answers regionally. This somehow passes for valid.

  8. Galveston had no sea wall at the 1900 hurricane. It was constructed afterwards. Sand was used to raise many parts of the island city, including the buildings.

  9. Great as always, Tim but one minor point.

    Ontario Hydro (now called Hydro One) is not the same structure as Manitoba Hydro. Hydro One only provides power to all the rural areas of the province and has no regulatory authority. Each major city has their own city controlled hydro companies. The equivalent to Manitoba Hydro is OPG Ontario Power Generation.

  10. It doesn’t take much during snowmelt in the spring, accompanied by rain, for rivers to flood and Lake Agassiz to try and reappear. –>

    It doesn’t take much during snowmelt in the spring, accompanied by rain, for rivers to flood and Lake Agassiz to dry and reappear.

  11. I just watched a book signing speech by unabashed alarmist Roy Scranton (Book: “We’re Doomed. Now What: Essays On War And Climate Change”; essay “Learning How To Die In The Anthropocene”) on C-Span. How did America ever produce a man like this? He describes feeling grief carrying his newborn baby out of the hospital, asking her for forgiveness because he and her mother had brought her into a “dystopian world”. Here we have another incipient suicide triggered by the climate alarmists dogged fear-mongering. I really feel not pity but disgust for apparently intelligent and educated people who choose to wallow in self-pity and anger based on this AGW hoax. This chap Scranton is literally going insane from fear of climate change, and even more his anger that people simply do not care enough about it, or are too selfish, to renounce modernity and voluntarily revert to a pre-industrial existence immediately. He’s better off following Anthony Bourdain right now, and sparing us his bleating self-pity.

    If you want to be amazed, go onto C-Cpan’s web site and find the Roy Scranton video.

    • RE: This chap Scranton is literally going insane from fear of climate change…

      He is lucky he was born in 1976 and didn’t have to go through all the air raid drills and “Duck & Cover” practice and associated mushroom cloud nightmares (and occasional daymares) my generation went through in the late 50’s and early 60’s. I can still see my grade school teacher in October 1962 saying “It’s just like a fire drill except we don’t go outside, we go into the hallway and sit quietly along the walls” even though I’m sure she knew full well that since we were only a few miles from a SAC base that would have only prolonged the agony by a few minutes, at most. We faced “Learning How To Die” at an early age and many of my peers did go insane. Some still are (Jane Fonda comes to mind.) Forcing the world into energy poverty and the civil unrest that would inevitably create is FAR more dangerous than a 1 or 2° C temp rise.

    • “…carrying his newborn baby out of the hospital…” If he really believes that people should “renounce modernity and voluntarily revert to a pre-industrial existence immediately” why was his kid born in the hospital and not in a log cabin? Idiots abound…

  12. “Floods are the nation’s most common natural disaster. Flood damage is rarely covered under your homeowners or renters policy.” I wonder why?
    _____________________________________________________

    Sone kind of “joy of adventure” and lottery:

    Why should I, say in 400 years, be the one who suffers the damage.

    The fallacy of that thinking: if everyone in the flood-prone zone decides for insurance, the contributions from the single one are barely noticeable.

    • The biggest single reason is that you can buy insurance from the federal government at way below cost.

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