UNSW Academic Repeats Tired “Dams will Never Fill” Climate Change Myth

Dr Clare Stephens, UNSW Water Research Centre

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

According to UNSW academic Dr. Clara Stephens, future extreme rainfall will fail to fill Aussie dams, because the drier ground will absorb too much moisture.

What you might not realise about the flow-on effects of climate change

Fri 14 Aug 2020 10.42 AEST

In the coming years, we are likely to see more extreme weather conditions. We will need new engineering approaches to manage the complex impacts on our water resources, writes Dr Clare Stephens.

Changing rainfall, evaporation and soil

Climate modelling suggests that, in the coming years, average rainfall will decrease over much of the continent. Simultaneously, extreme rainfall is likely to increase, bringing heavier downpours.

Much of the rainfall over Australia is lost to evaporation. The “thirst” of the atmosphere is measured by its evaporative demand. Since the Millennium Droughtbegan in the 1990s, higher temperatures have driven evaporative demand up by increasing the air’s capacity to hold water vapour.

Decreasing annual rainfall and increasing evaporative demand will tend to result in drier soil. Drier soils are more absorbent, so less rain runs directly into waterways. This means that, even if we get heavier downpours in the future, they won’t necessarily produce the floods we rely on to fill dams. Unfortunately, this flood-reducing tendency won’t apply equally to urban environments (where it might actually be helpful) because we have paved over that absorbent soil in cities.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/westpac-scholars-rethink-tomorrow/2020/aug/14/what-you-might-not-realise-about-the-flow-on-effects-of-climate-change

This echoes Tim Flannery’s famous prediction that Aussie dams would never fill again – shorty before record flood years.

Predicting the end of rain is an old game. In the 1920s American hit music hall song “It aint going to rain no mo'”, full of rude verses which poke fun at alarmism, was a worldwide success – not a bad effort in the age before mass media.

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Richard (the cynical one)
August 16, 2020 6:07 pm

“Climate modelling suggests that in coming years” many will ridicule the fools who believed in their simplistic and wildly inaccurate climate models.

Reply to  Richard (the cynical one)
August 17, 2020 12:46 am

A poet had the extreme Aussie weather nailed in this poem from 1919

“We’ll all be ‘rooned’ ” said Hanrahan,
In accents most forlorn,
Outside the church ere Mass began
One frosty Sunday morn.

The congregation stood about,
Coat-collars to its ears ;
And talked of stock and crops and
As it had done for years.

“I believe y’re right,” said Daniel
Croke ;
“You’ll find I’m right, bedad,
For never since the banks went broke
Has seasons been so bad.

” It’s looking crook,” said young O’Neil ;
At which sedate remark
He squatted quietly on his heel,
And chewed a piece of bark.

And all around the chorus ran —
“It’s keepin’ dry, no doubt.”
We’ll all be ‘rooned,’ said Hanrahan,
“Before the year is out.”

“The crops are done; ye’ll have your
To get one bag of grain;
From here ‘way out to Back-o’-Bourke
They’re singing out for rain.

“They’re singing out for rain,” he said,
“And all the tanks are dry ;”
The congregation scratched its head
And looked around the sky.

“There won’t be grass, in any case,
Enough to feed an ass.
There’s not a blade on Casey’s place
As I kem down to Mass.”

” If rain don’t come this month,” said
And cleared his throat to speak;
“We’ll all be ‘rooned,” said Hanrahan,

” If rain don’t come this week.”
A heavy ssilence seemed to steal
On all at this remark;
And each man squatted on his heel, and
chewed a piece of bark.

“We want an inch of rain, we do,”
O’Neil observed at last ;
But Croke maintained we wanted two
To put the danger past.

“If we don’t get three inches man,
Or four to break this drought,
” We’ll all be ‘rooned'” said Hanrahan.
“Before the year is out.”

In God’s good time down came the rain,
And all the afternoon
On iron roof and window pane
It drummed a homely tune.

And all the night it pattered still,
And lightsome sleepless elves
In dripping spout and windowsill
Kept talking to themselves.

It pelted, pelted all day long
A singing at its work,
And every heart took up the song
‘Way out the Back-o-Bourke.

And every creek a banker ran,
And dams filled overtop.
“We’ll all be ‘rooned'” said Hanrahan,
‘If this rain doesn’t stop.”

But stop it did in God’s good time,
And spring came in to fold
A mantle o’er the hills sublime
Of green and pink and gold.

And day went by on dancing feet,
To harvest hopes immense,
And laughing eyes beheld the wheat
Nid-nodding o’er the fence.

And oh; the smile on every face,
As happy youth and lass,
Through grass knee-deep on Casey’s
Went riding down to Mass.

But round the church in clothes genteel
Discoursed the men of mark ;
And each man squatted on his heel
And chewed a piece of bark.

“There’ll be bush fires for sure, my man.
There will beyond a doubt.
“We’ll all be ‘rooned’ ” said Hanrahan,
“Before the year is out.”

John of Cloverdale
Reply to  tonyb
August 17, 2020 4:26 am

Seems like the poets know more about Australian climate than the PhD’s.

The skies are brass and the plains are bare,
Death and ruin are everywhere –
And all that is left of the last year’s flood
Is a sickly stream on the grey-black mud;
The salt-springs bubble and the quagmires quiver,
And – this is the dirge of the Darling River

– The Song of the Darling River by Henry Lawson (1891)

Alasdair Fairbairn
Reply to  tonyb
August 17, 2020 5:29 am

Luv it👍

Reply to  tonyb
August 27, 2020 3:41 am

Hammer. Nail. Head.
That poem’s the duck’s guts TonyB, thanks for sharing.

Reply to  Richard (the cynical one)
August 17, 2020 5:20 am

no waiting years
this is tonights Bom report for NSW

August 16, 2020 6:08 pm

“According to UNSW academic Dr. Clara Stephens, future extreme rainfall will fail to fill Aussie dams, because the drier ground will absorb too much moisture.”

Ironically, she has it backwards. When the ground is bone dry, it can’t absorb the rain as quick as when it is already partly wet and/or partially saturated and be able to still hold more water. So the reservoir will fill faster initially, because it will all be run off instead of the soils absorbing the water.

Reply to  Eric Worrall
August 16, 2020 7:54 pm

She drinks too much beer.

Reply to  Lrp
August 16, 2020 8:45 pm

And obviously has never watched how it runs off after she’s done with it.

Iain Russell
Reply to  Rocketscientist
August 17, 2020 5:19 am

Rude, but good!

Reply to  Lrp
August 17, 2020 12:01 am

And it has actually made her more attractive (hats on for misogynistic comebacks 😱)

Reply to  AngryScotonFraggleRock
August 17, 2020 1:53 am

Yes, another Pretty Polly squawking out immitations of something someone has repeatedly told her!

Reply to  Eric Worrall
August 16, 2020 10:43 pm

I don’t know how this idiot got a PhD. They must be the prize in a box of cracker jacks. Her understanding of the topic is abysmal.

C Lynch
Reply to  jpm
August 17, 2020 1:48 am

She got her PHD by singing the right tunes for her supper.

Reply to  Eric Worrall
August 16, 2020 10:59 pm

Way to go down in flames ..
As At Monday 17 August = 100 %

Same for Tasmania and 75% for Canberra.
Perth is the lowest at 43% which is nothing unusual it was the same for last 3 years and the desalination plants will be running hard again this year providing 48% of our water.

Reply to  LdB
August 17, 2020 1:28 am

Almost every state built desal plants when the scare was first raised. Yours is the only one that’s actually gotten value out of it – apart from a few green votes.

Reply to  Eric Worrall
August 27, 2020 3:56 am

from UNSW:
“Clare is a post-doctoral researcher and chartered engineer with the UNSW Water Research Centre. Her key interests are in hydrology and climate change, with a focus on ecohydrologic modelling and data analysis. She obtained her PhD from UNSW, researching the performance robustness of hydrologic models under climate change. Clare was selected as a Westpac Future Leaders scholar in 2016 and the Young Environmental Engineer of the Year (Engineers Australia) in 2015. Before starting her research career, Clare was a consulting engineer working on flood risk management and infrastructure design projects.”

So more evidence that contemporary PhD are awarded by ticking all the (politically) correct bullshit boxes it would appear.
I certainly never heard of such nonsense as ‘ecohydrologic modelling’ or peering into crystal balls to guess how hydrologic models would perform in the future under the influence of could/might/maybe imagined weather. But then again, I studied hydrology long before gullible warming became the bed wetter’s cause du jour, and according to a thesis I recently participated in (as a interviewee), it would appear I am suffering ‘cognitive dissonance’; which I assume is the preferred modern term describing a person who retains critical thinking skills and formulates opinions individually rather than agreeing with the prevailing group think.

Richard (the cynical one)
Reply to  Earthling2
August 16, 2020 6:43 pm

Ironic yes, but so predictable. How would one who so confuses computer output with reality ever get real life hands on dirt under the fingernails experience? The poor girl may be highly educated but is as dumb as a sack of hammers at what really matters.

Reply to  Richard (the cynical one)
August 16, 2020 8:20 pm

That ain’t dum; thass iggerant.

Javert Chip
Reply to  Richard (the cynical one)
August 17, 2020 7:31 am

She’s not “highly educated” she’s “highly attended” (as in “I attended grad school…”).

Michael Jankowski
Reply to  Earthling2
August 16, 2020 7:05 pm

Not sure how she could get this so wrong unless the article is over-simplifying her reasons.

It is amusing to see a reliance on a bad thing like “flooding,” particularly in cities, to fill reservoirs.

Michael Jankowski
Reply to  Eric Worrall
August 16, 2020 8:08 pm

Seems like she should know better from her quals…just wondering if she had to oversimplify and “drier” means “still wetted but drier than in the past.”

Still poor wording and still looks like a heap of garbage.

Reply to  Michael Jankowski
August 18, 2020 1:55 am

She needs to look out the window. We in eastern OZ have come out of a very severe drought when the soil became so dry that Eucalypts were dying. Then the rain came and yes the soil soaked it up and most of the trees have recovered. The dams in the east coast Hunter Valley are now average 80% full with several 100%.

Reply to  Earthling2
August 16, 2020 7:39 pm

It is just make believe.
Any discussion about more this or less that relating to floods and droughts need to be catchment specific.
Catchments have different shapes , slopes, sizes and levels of development.
The best the climate models do is give a percentage range for more or less rainfall by season.
Every catchment within the region will likely have a different outcome.

Reply to  Earthling2
August 16, 2020 8:18 pm

Any person who experiences a drought knows this. It’s a major problem in the Midwest (and elsewhere), if the ground is on one extreme or the other (too wet or bone dry), you can bet money on floods, over-burdened reservoirs, destroyed crops, washed away roads, etc.

Not sure why someone like “Dr” Stephens would dismiss what is both logical and empirical.

Reply to  Earthling2
August 16, 2020 10:31 pm

When i moved to France just over 20 years ago, I wondered why the farmers disc harrowed lines on the recently harvested fields, something that I had not seen in the UK.
The answer; to allow the rain to penetrate the ground. If they did not harrow the fields the rain would run to the lowest part of the field.

Stephen Richards
Reply to  JohnM
August 17, 2020 3:21 am

I do the same every year. Plough in late October rotavate in mid spring and sow immediately. I live in central west france. I listen to my neighbours.

Interestingly, my neighbours are all old, like me, and their families have lived on the same land for well over a hundred years. They all say the same thing. AGW is nonsense. Climate is cyclic.

As for the rain running to the lowest part of the field. My property extends to 300metres long and at the furthest point is 130m above sea level where the house is 30metres lower. It rises very quickly. About 25metres over 50 metres. The summer, like this year, is very dry. The rains arrive in October and flood the bottom corner of the front garden. Why ? Because water runs down hil very rapidly over the very dry land. It takes about a week of rain, every day, to dampen the ground sufficiently to hold more water.

Reply to  Stephen Richards
August 17, 2020 5:30 am

on old farmland in france….dont they have “french drains” in place from decades ago?
woulda thunk so;-)

Reply to  Earthling2
August 16, 2020 10:31 pm

Dry ground can also becomes repellent and therefore allows for better run off. So this will allow all those privately / foreign owned mega dams to fill quicker before they allow their run off to get to the river systems.

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Ron
August 17, 2020 7:16 am

Yes . . . it’s a fundamental reason why very dry desert areas are so prone to flash floods when they very rarely receive a heavy rainstorm.

Lawrence G
Reply to  Earthling2
August 16, 2020 11:31 pm

Drier ground, will cause better run off in may cases as the soil is too hard to penetrate. Watch what happens to rain when it falls along the natural water courses that empty into the Lake Eyre basin. It’s NOT rocket science!

Reply to  Lawrence G
August 17, 2020 1:37 pm

This matches with my take

Reply to  Earthling2
August 17, 2020 5:26 am

to try n stop non wetting soil issues using soapy water breaks the bonds and allows ingress faster
some farms use such tactics I heard the amway companies used to flog their loc for just that purpose
expensive though
dish detergent works fine, as does laundry water for home gardens

o f course the old fashioned turned tilled soil before rains due also works rather well:-) soils dry bits get ripped round n the broken open areas get water pooling to soak in not run off

Alasdair Fairbairn
Reply to  Earthling2
August 17, 2020 5:55 am

She has also got screwed up about evaporation and rainfall.
She says: Quote: “Decreasing annual rainfall and increasing evaporative demand will tend to result in drier soil. “
The Hydro Cycle works as a Rankine Cycle and is essentially a closed system where evaporation EQUALS condensation/rain etc.
Matters of the random distribution of the rain is a separate and chaotic subject open to conjecture.
Note: In the Rankine Cycle any increase in energy input results in an increase in the RATE of the cycle but NOT in the mass of the working fluid. Don’t take my word; have a look at how our steam generating plants work.
This is why global specific humidity flat lines within a smidge or two.

Russ Wood
Reply to  Earthling2
August 17, 2020 7:22 am

I’ve seen examples of this in Israel’s Negev Desert, where they have to build rings of earth around each planting to retain the occasional rain. Where a road crosses a dry river-course or wadi, there are DEPTH warning signs, and I was told by a colleague of camping in such a river-course during his call-up. One night there was an urgent radio call that there had been a rain shower further up in the hills – and they should GET OUT NOW! A couple of minutes later, a 2-3 metre high wall of water came down the wadi, washing all before it! So, REAL scientists know that water will REALLY run off a dry, compacted soil.

Dave Allentown
Reply to  Earthling2
August 18, 2020 7:45 am

She fixed your real world observation with the assumption that absorption rises as moisture content falls. She learned to do so in her social justice class.

mike macray
Reply to  Earthling2
August 24, 2020 12:20 pm

Right on Earthling 2!
Anyone who’s seen a flash flood in the desert knows this. The process is called skinning. In the dry months wind moves the finest particles first, forming a skin of powder-fine dust on the surface which causes the water to ‘bead’ and flow over the the surface without wetting the soil/sand.

August 16, 2020 6:24 pm

“Clare Stephens is one of 470 Westpac Scholars who are setting new benchmarks in innovation, research and social change.”

Reply to  Latitude
August 16, 2020 7:12 pm

These sixpac scholars are “setting new benchmarks for social change” so consequently they have less time and attention for research, hence lower benchmarks for the core issue of Science.

Richard (the cynical one)
Reply to  Antonym
August 16, 2020 9:13 pm

The ‘social change’ goals inevitably skew the selection and interpretation of data to achieve a preselected outcome. That is incompatible with real science, which follows the facts regardless of pet theories and personal prejudices.

M Seward
Reply to  Latitude
August 17, 2020 11:04 am

‘new benchmarks’ aka KPI’s and using critical thinking speak ‘innovation, research and social change’ just means regression while pretending its progress, like Michael Jackson’s ‘moonwalking’, all just a form of performance.

And again I embarrassed to be a UNSW engineering graduate although with a good number of decades to separate me from the recent degradation. Rather staggering that a civ. eng. would buy into this sort of crap but I guess the renaming of the faculty from Civil to ‘Civil and Environmental’ really was a disgarding of the reality of traditional engineering and an embrace of the ‘humanities’. Very sad.

August 16, 2020 6:38 pm

The movie inconvenient truth was feed to Australian government authorities in about 2006.
About the same time theses authorities came up with the more droughts and more floods scare in its various forms.
After 14 years there has not been any quantitative assessment to prove this.
Droughts and more intense rainfall are statistic concepts. It is total BS that a catchment has both.

August 16, 2020 6:43 pm

The last time the dams didn’t fill was the 2010 deluge.
Oh wait – that’s when most of SE Queensland went under because the main storage dams were in danger of overflowing, and gigalitres (or thousands of Olympic swimming pools) had to be released as an emergency measure.

I believe a negligence lawsuit has either just been settled or is ongoing against the Qld government?

Perhaps young Dr Clara should study modern history before speculating about the likelihood of dry dams.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Mr.
August 16, 2020 7:31 pm

Another issue that hit some of those downstream towns was that some local councils when laying drains did not follow an engineers advice to install 10″ drains and installed 6″ drains instead to save money.

Reply to  Mr.
August 17, 2020 12:28 am

And this was after Tomfoolery (er-Tim Flannery) predicted that the dams would never fill again

Bob in Castlemaine
August 16, 2020 6:58 pm

“It ain’t gonna rain no more” my favourite:

Keith Bates
August 16, 2020 7:02 pm

Meanwhile Sydney’s main water storage, Warragamba Dam is overflowing, for the firs time in *gasp* 4 years. I think that’s how dams normally work.
Another case of ignoring facts to advance a theory.

Reply to  Keith Bates
August 16, 2020 8:13 pm

My dam in south east Queensland filled only twice in my first 23 years here.

It has filled 3 times in the last 5 years.

I’ll take as much of this global warming as I can get

Reply to  Keith Bates
August 16, 2020 8:40 pm

Folks, Keith is not exaggerating.
As at 17 Aug 2020 at 13:330 (see https://www.waternsw.com.au/supply/Greater-Sydney/greater-sydneys-dam-levels)
– Warragamba dam (capacity 2.017 Gigalitres) is 100% full
– the other dams (about 0.5 Gigalitres are nearly full.
The whole Sydney system is 98.2% full.

And we regularly hear Tim Flannery or other Greens saying “we’ll never see Warragamba full again” and if the science is settled and the land is drying out, how come the dams do get full again? Not good enough just to say that such will not happen again in the future.

Let’s see the detailed theory
Let’s see the model
Let’s see the data
Let’s see the peer review results (so we know who else to mock!)

Reply to  OldCynic
August 16, 2020 10:02 pm

It’s not just that they’re full but that they’re full in a hot year.
The whole hypothesis is flawed.

Reply to  Waza
August 17, 2020 6:27 pm

Firstly anyone who is a devotee of the Flannery rainfall theory immediately identifies themselves as an idiot, just like Doctor Whats-Her-Face above.

Having said that, it equally gets up my nose when a lot of the Oz commenters here say that their tank or local dam is overflowing and then proceed to extrapolate that to the whole country.

The dams west of the Dividing Range in NSW are by and large still in dire straits:
Carcoar 21.5%; Chaffey 24.7%; Copeton 15.5%; Keepit 22.4%; Menindee 26.5%; Oberon 25.9%; Pindari 16.0%; Split Rock 4.9%.

These are major dams for town water supply and irrigation and cover a huge area. Don’t assume that what is happening in your backyard is happening everywhere. The fact that Warragamba is full is nice, but an irrelevance to everyone except Sydney-siders. Warragamba ain’t Australia.

Bruce of Newcastle
Reply to  OldCynic
August 17, 2020 5:18 pm

Warragamba is also the most “recently” built dam serving Sydney. I’ve put “recently” in quotes: it was completed in 1960.

Since then Sydney’s population has risen from 2.1 million to 5.3 million, yet no new dams are even contemplated. Ergo the problem isn’t filling, it’s the emptying, because the politicians have refused to match growth with necessary water infrastructure construction.

August 16, 2020 7:11 pm

The only way that CO2 could warm the world more than half a degree Celsius is through positive water vapour feed back.
This is unproven and the tropical hotspot has also never been located .
Both of these factors have to come into play to make a difference to the worlds temperature.
Even if these factors are proven to exist more water vapour means more rain and less droughts .
You cannot have it both ways .
CO2 does not control the weather and if a little more warmth results a little more water evaporating from the oceans a warmer atmosphere holds more water vapour to fall on the land .
Weather records around the world going back as far as they have been kept show no pattern of more droughts and more violent tropical storms .
What is wrong with these people ?
They are speculating with absolutely no proof to back up their theories of doom and gloom.
Defund the Universities might be the way to go.

August 16, 2020 7:20 pm

“Tired Climate Change Myth”?
Great phrase!
Thank you.
There are so many of those!

A much needed phrase in any discussion about the climate movement.

Reply to  Chaamjamal
August 16, 2020 7:40 pm

Another tired climate change myth is that our fossil fuel emissions are melting ice shelves in Antarctica. This stuff normally flows out of Columbia University, the UNSW of the North, but the latest such alarm is from UC San Diego that has not really indulged in the climate game in the past.

Anyway, now that we have ICESAT2 ice shelf data, expect a renewed torrent of ice shelf alarms in the journals. Here is one …


Right-Handed Shark
Reply to  Chaamjamal
August 17, 2020 4:33 am

It has already started. BBC in January:


My favourite quote from the piece, referring to “a degree or two” warmer water:

“It can set glaciers on fire,” says Prof Holland, “increasing melt rates by as much as a hundred-fold.”

I have made a note of your name, “Professor” Holland..

Jarryd Beck
August 16, 2020 7:24 pm

It’s funny that you post this now, because as you speak, the dams in Sydney are at 100%.

Leo Smith
Reply to  Jarryd Beck
August 16, 2020 7:41 pm

Hot dam!

Reply to  Jarryd Beck
August 16, 2020 7:49 pm

Oh yes but climate change starts ………NOW! …… no I mean………NOW!!

August 16, 2020 7:28 pm

So she got her 15 minutes of fame and now what?

August 16, 2020 7:33 pm

“Youth is wasted on the young”.

Reply to  u.k.(us)
August 16, 2020 8:32 pm

Youth is a trick played upon the young to make more young.

John in Oz
August 16, 2020 7:33 pm

The Australian Bureau Of Meteorology (BOM) have graphs of rainfall in Australia.

The 1900 – 2019 data shows:
Australia – trending UP
Eastern Australia – steady
Northern Australia – trending UP
Southern Australia – trending UP
Southeastern Australia – steady
Southwestern Australia – trending DOWN
Murray Darling Basin – steady

It’s no wonder there are people such as myself who doubt the messages coming from the doomsters when reality is at such odds with the models and their doom-mongering prognostications of climatageddon.

August 16, 2020 7:50 pm

How do these people actually remember to breathe?

Ken Davis
Reply to  Mike
August 16, 2020 9:51 pm

There’s an app for that.

Reply to  Mike
August 17, 2020 1:01 am

Or cross the road unaided?

August 16, 2020 7:51 pm

Academics are the equivalent of soothsayers and jesters employed by the monarchy in the days of yore. They use computer models instead of crystal balls. Some paid a heavy price when too many predictions didn’t occur.

Michael in Dublin
Reply to  mikee
August 17, 2020 6:39 am

Please do not lump smoothesayers and jesters together. The smoothesayers are like many of our modern worthless politicians and self-(en)titled scientific experts. However, jesters not only entertained but were able to use humor to make pointed political criticisms without offending “a not too bright” king. We could learn some useful lessons from jesters on how to discredit alarmists by making fun of them. 🙂

August 16, 2020 8:04 pm

My climate grant for a new and improved self sharpening kind of guillotine has been approved for climate deniers. I just didn’t tell them that the real deniers are the climate scientists making all this crap up with crystal balls (computer models) Ok, a bit of sarc/ if I really need it.

Alan Tomalty
August 16, 2020 8:13 pm

https://www.linkedin.com/in/steven-mosher-27bb071/ Steven Mosher who went over to the dark side to work for or assist Richard Muller at Berkeley in the BEST temperature data set ; now calls himself a data scientist.

Reply to  Alan Tomalty
August 16, 2020 9:49 pm

” now calls himself a data scientist”

Self-satire ?

or just self-ridicule !!

Reply to  Alan Tomalty
August 17, 2020 12:09 am

So Steve has a computer science degree now?

Len Werner
August 16, 2020 8:37 pm

How to shut up an academic–you make them PERSONALLY RESPONSIBLE for their predictions. If Ms. Stephens wants to make predictions like this, build dams 10 feet lower but then she has to pay the price if she’s wrong. My expectation is that many models–including the IPCC’s–will wither once monetary accountability of the modeller becomes involved.

I too found the inverse of common experience of water falling on dry soil puzzling–has she never actually been out in the rain? It does depend on how the rain comes, but ‘downpours’ on dry soil quite clearly from practical experience results in increased runoff relative to moist soil; any of us who have had to shoulder the responsibility of logging-road and cut-block design know that one all too well. That reverses once soil becomes saturated and a ‘downpour’ occurs, but she is suggesting the opposite conditions for her model–a standard condition of drought punctuated by ‘downpours’. There is indeed an indication of there never having been soil under the fingernails, dry or wet.

Incidentally, I like many of you note the increase in the use of the ‘suggests’, ‘might be’, ‘may’ weasel words in so much of modern ‘science’. I remember wrestling with the use of these terms first in theses as far back as the 1960’s, and in many reports to clients since. I came to the conclusion long ago that they had no place in any report of mine; I could say that something ‘was’, or ‘wasn’t’, or that ‘I don’t know’, which means shut up about it and go do more work before expounding. How did we ever let anything that ‘might be’ science become so much of science?

That, plus rampant un-accountability, has produced an endless supply of academics peddling pointless pedantry.

August 16, 2020 8:48 pm

Apparently the educational system in AUS is as bad as the US. Not a clue about the past history for this “academic”. Get a real productive job miss!

August 16, 2020 8:55 pm

This is probably the zenith of her career. Being featured on the most popular climate sceptics site is something of an achievement.

Peter K
August 16, 2020 9:15 pm

Obviously Clara is on “man made climate change” benefits.

Melvyn Dackombe
Reply to  Peter K
August 17, 2020 5:42 am

Surely the ‘ man ‘ needs to be changed for sexist reasons.
Any ideas ?

Peter K
August 16, 2020 9:16 pm

Obviously Clare is on “man made climate change” benefits.

August 16, 2020 9:18 pm

She looks as Australian as a pie floater.

John of Cloverdale
Reply to  BCBill
August 17, 2020 4:10 am

Certainly not like your local sheila down the pub. More like a footie WAG.

Joel O'Bryan
August 16, 2020 9:24 pm

Pretty face, empty head.
And what is there is nonsense from a failed education.

Lewis P Buckingham
August 16, 2020 9:25 pm

One of the predictions of anthropogenic CO2 global warming was that the CO2 increased the greenhouse effect, amplifying the evaporation of water vapour from the oceans and dams. Water vapour being a bigger component of the atmosphere, then trapped more heat warming the oceans, creating more evaporation and water vapour in the atmosphere.
The reality of the hypotheses is that this will lead to potential run away warming, hence the wide range of scary results on the climate models.
However the feedback should be greater precipitation due to convectional cooling, cloud formation with resultant rain.
The models have not got a handle on clouds.
After all, more greenhouse water vapour, quicker response by convection, more precipitation.
Seems fairly reasonable.
Looking back to the belief stage of my life, when Al Gore told us that rainfall in Australia would fall, you can see how hard it is for me to remain a believer.
Rainfall in Australia’s North increased.
Despite a wicked Australian drought, the dams all filled in my area in the last month.
It seems that the Indian ocean dipole has a real effect, so models have to include ENSO and IOD.
Warragamba in NSW is 100%.
if you dig into the soil the subsoil is as dry as dust, yet the water ran off.
In the 80s and 90’s we had our ‘100 year flood’, almost twice.
Where it comes to models, it would be good to see if they work to predict rainfall and evaporation say from
1880 to get a good idea of drought and rainfall in Australia.
My tank also filled twice over.
We need more storage in Warragamba to prevent another flood.
There are too many people in the Hawkesbury that are at risk when it spills.

August 16, 2020 9:41 pm

2019 was the driest year on record for several regional areas in NSW, with records going back to the late 1800’s. This was on the back of 2 successive years of well below average rainfall. By the time the dry spell started to break early this year, there was virtually no ground cover on most farms, being either eaten by livestock, kangaroos or blown away in dust storms. When it did rain, the result was an incredible amount of water runoff from mediocre even light rainfall events – far more than what is seen with similar falls over wetter periods. The lack of ground cover enabled the water to flow more freely across the earth, quickly finding its way into gully’s and eventually our farm dams. I believe the good Dr Stephens research is incorrect, and appears to be theory rather than observational based.

stephen mueller
Reply to  Torledo
August 16, 2020 10:58 pm

Torledo it is worth a drive along the Stuart highway to Darwin , along the way you will see huge Mesas , at first you think that the ground must have been lifted up by Vulcanic events until you realize that the ground around them has been eroded away over eons , the amount of soil washed away must be staggering , and this process is still going on today .

Reply to  Torledo
August 17, 2020 1:18 am

As others have mentioned, it is well known in soil science that drier soils are often much more difficult to wet than damp soils. It is one of the reasons that there is often flooding and erosion events if a hard rain comes on the heels of a dry period. When I was taught about this phenomenon so many decades ago, it came under the heading of wetting hysteresis. It often seems the case now that so called researchers have such a narrow area of specialisation that they are ignorant of fundamentals. This also leads to publications in one discipline of phenomena that are commonplace in another.

August 16, 2020 9:56 pm

“researching the performance robustness of hydrologic models under climate change.”

You cannot test the “robustness” of a fantasy !

Another academic sucked into thinking that un-validated climate models create actual real meaningful data.

Sad, really.

August 16, 2020 10:05 pm

She must be a Biden supporter who chooses truth over facts.

Reply to  DonK31
August 17, 2020 5:23 am

Back to ” the truth is what I say it is!”

stephen mueller
August 16, 2020 10:20 pm

They get away with this nonsense because Australia is a land of extremes or if you prefer boom and bust , so the individuals that reside in our large cities are easily fooled into believing that when we have a drought that that is the new normal not just part of an ancient pattern that’s been going on for eternity .

August 16, 2020 10:36 pm

Dorothea Mackellar nailed it in 1908 when in her poem ‘My Country’ she wrote that Australia is
‘A land of sweeping plains, Of ragged mountain ranges, Of droughts and flooding rains.’
Droughts and Flooding Rains will be with us long after Dr. Clara Stephens has been lost from memory.

John F. Hultquist
August 16, 2020 10:43 pm

In the coming years, we are likely to see more extreme weather conditions.

Let me guess:
The high-emissions ‘RCP8.5’ global warming scenario

Put this study on the Science Fiction and Fantasy shelf.

Clarky of Oz
August 16, 2020 11:23 pm

It always rains at the end of a drought.

Steve Richards
Reply to  Clarky of Oz
August 17, 2020 12:12 am


John of Cloverdale
Reply to  Clarky of Oz
August 17, 2020 4:12 am

It is called cycles.

Peter D
August 16, 2020 11:28 pm

I live off grid in Australia. I have been reading about an ongoing drought and falling rainfall for the past few years.
However, not only are my tanks full, they have been close to full for most of this year.
Go for a drive in the country side. There are plenty of dry barren paddocks. However, they are side by side with rich healthy pasture. Too many farmers, overstocking or over cropping say they are in drought, when in fact its really about inappropriate management.

If anything, over thirty five years living in this area, rainfall is slowly increasing. I suspect this lady lives in an office and works on a computer all day. She should get out and see the real world.

Geoff C
Reply to  Peter D
August 17, 2020 3:44 am

You are correct in your observations, Peter, the effects of management are bigger than the effects of weather. One only has to see one well managed property in the middle of ‘droughtstruck’ country to realise this.

Stephen Skinner
Reply to  Peter D
August 17, 2020 5:41 am

Peter D: The trouble is you are talking sense. Anyway you may already know this guy but I saw this on Youtube:

He seems to be managing the natural resources well and by maintaining the water table. I also saw an interesting video on the Aboriginal control of the land with ‘cool’ burning and how they are advising some civil departments. Obviously not everyone is listening as I would have thought knowledge gained over 50,000 years might be worth listening to? What I understood is that the Aboriginals burn in a patch work but ultimately all the land is burnt. That’s probably why Australia has so many plants and trees adapted to fire.

Reply to  Stephen Skinner
August 17, 2020 9:24 am

It seems the name of the YouTube was stripped out! It was:
“Natural sequence farming: How Peter Andrews rejuvenates drought-struck land | Australian Story”

Rod Evans
August 16, 2020 11:30 pm

I can only imagine she comes from the Joe hairy legs Biden, side of the science debate;

Steve Richards
August 17, 2020 12:16 am

I imagine Australian weather forecasts on daily tv will inform her of flood risk (surface water runoff) after every hot spell. They do in the UK. Last week we had some flash floods due to this reason.

Stephen Skinner
August 17, 2020 12:45 am

Dr Clare Stephens looks as though she has lived a full life and gained a lot of experience on the way?
Note: This is sarcasm

Matthew Sykes
August 17, 2020 1:24 am

And the water vapour feedback? The hydrological cycle is supposed top increase, not decrease.

Mike Haseler (Scottish Sceptic)
August 17, 2020 1:37 am

I have a 100% sure forecast “It will rain” also “it will be sunny”.

At least I thought it would always be sunny sooner or later – but ever since the UK government have been trying to stop people going to the beaches, the forecast has been continual cloud. That is until the day itself arrives, and then magically it turns out to be sunny!

Ed Zuiderwijk
August 17, 2020 1:42 am

‘Increasing evaporative demand’. Doesn’t that fall as rain somewhere else?

Reply to  Ed Zuiderwijk
August 17, 2020 9:33 am

Snow. It’s hard to explain, but the basic hot-makes-cold principle is magic and can only be grasped by PhDs in academia.

August 17, 2020 1:46 am

Sydney’s main dam, Warrangamba, is now overflowing, despite huge growth in population, and despite Flim Flam Flannery’s prediction of a “perpetual drought” more than a decade ago.

Gordon Newlyn
August 17, 2020 2:06 am

Its a land of drought and flooding rain, and with the approach of a back to back La Nina we can expect seriously big floods next year.

Climate believer
August 17, 2020 2:25 am

Just some layman thoughts:

“extreme rainfall is likely to increase, bringing heavier downpours”

Looking at historic records for extreme daily rainfall taken by Sydney’s Observatory Hill Park, that go back to 1859, during that time the heaviest downpour measured for a single day was 327.7 millimetres (12.90 inches) on August 6, 1986. That’s some serious Aussie rain.

This is the last 10 years ‘most rainfall in a day’, Sydney:

Inches Millimetres
2.96 March 18, 2019 75.2
4.16 November 28, 2018 105.7
3.35 February 08, 2017 85.1
3.72 April 04, 2016 94.5
4.70 April 21, 2015 119.4
2.79 October 15, 2014 70.9
3.75 January 29, 2013 95.3
4.31 March 08, 2012 109.5
3.91 March 20, 2011 99.3
3.05 February 07, 2010 77.5

These are the numbers back in the 80’s :

9.59 February 03, 1990 243.6
3.13 December 05, 1989 79.5
7.52 January 17, 1988 191.0
4.77 October 25, 1987 121.2
12.90 August 06, 1986 327.7
3.20 October 14, 1985 81.3
9.24 November 09, 1984 234.7
4.31 March 17, 1983 109.5
3.22 September 20, 1982 81.8
2.72 October 20, 1981 69.1
2.58 January 03, 1980 65.5

……and these for the 1950’s, remember, back when we had 25% less CO² in the atmosphere :

5.54 October 22, 1960 140.7
5.30 February 19, 1959 134.6
5.84 February 09, 1958 148.3
3.56 March 29, 1957 90.4
7.56 February 10, 1956 192.0
7.41 May 01, 1955 188.2
4.46 February 22, 1954 113.3
4.14 May 02, 1953 105.2
5.01 July 26, 1952 127.3
4.16 August 01, 1951 105.7
4.70 July 24, 1950 119.4

“Drier soils are more absorbent, so less rain runs directly into waterways.”

A soils infiltration capacity depends on several factors, not least the soils own characteristics of porosity due to high clay or sand content. Compacted soils, crusted soils, recent scorched soils due to wild fires, and the local relief of the land all play a roll in a soils ability to absorbe water.

Any gardener will tell you that after a dry spell, 2 days of continuous light rain will be much more beneficial to the garden than a half hour rain storm for the same quantity of water.

If rainfall occurs at a faster rate than the infiltration capacity runoff will occur, which is generally the case with extreme rainfall events, which apparently are going to become more frequent, which means there will be more runoff water, which means reservoirs need to be made bigger.

Stephen Richards
Reply to  Climate believer
August 17, 2020 3:25 am



Nick Graves
August 17, 2020 3:08 am

I know everything is upside-down in Australia, but I was unaware PhD stood for Ph… Drongo.

Stephen Richards
August 17, 2020 3:23 am

PhD ? What in ? Stupidity ? Simplicity? Ignorance?

Reply to  Stephen Richards
August 17, 2020 9:36 am

Propaganda regurgitation.

John of Cloverdale
August 17, 2020 3:54 am

And the BoM says there is a good chance of a La Nina and negative IOD going into spring 2020.
“Both La Niña and negative IOD typically increase the chance of above average rainfall across much of Australia during spring.” To go with the recent rainfalls, the farmers will be looking forward to decent grain harvests.
That is, of course, if the BoM is right which is not always the case.

August 17, 2020 4:13 am

Meanwhile, back in the real world, just of today Warragamba dam which supplies Sydney’s water, and Flannery said wouldn’t fill again, is 100% full, and spilling over.

It’s full because, as always, it rained a lot earlier in the year, which happens on the east coast of Australia every few years, the water flowed in the creeks, the dam filled up, which is what it does regardless of soil moisture when it rains 300mm in the catchment, which it does every few years, and because the government decided last year to increase the capacity of the desalination plant because academics must have said it wasn’t going to rain again, and the dam continues to completely ignore every academic that says otherwise.

John of Cloverdale
August 17, 2020 4:21 am

Another PhD who believes his climate models is Dr David Jones.
“IT MAY be time to stop describing south-eastern Australia as gripped by drought and instead accept the extreme dry as permanent, one of the nation’s most senior weather experts warned yesterday.
“Perhaps we should call it our new climate,” said the Bureau of Meteorology’s head of climate analysis, David Jones.” THIS DROUGHT MAY NEVER BREAK, published in the SMH, January 2008.

Reply to  John of Cloverdale
August 17, 2020 9:40 am

“SMH.” Irony.

Tom in Florida
August 17, 2020 5:03 am

It is a very short article, easy to read in a couple of minutes. But in the end she writes the money line:
“Ultimately, however developed the science and however accurate the models become, we need to urgently cut our greenhouse gas emissions and support the rest of the world to do the same.”

Reply to  Tom in Florida
August 17, 2020 9:49 am

Odd how the weasel words evaporate in the presence of propaganda. I think we’ve reached peak academia. Why do we tolerate these numpties and their Lysenkoist nonsense?

Michael in Dublin
August 17, 2020 5:19 am

This sounds like the warning that was given to Cape Town and the Western Cape.

42 months ago this headline appeared in the Daily Mail:
WATER WARS: Cape Town faces ‘Day Zero’ when the taps will be turned off as South Africa is hit by severe drought

A few weeks later National Geographic published an article:
Why Cape Town Is Running Out of Water, and Who’s Next

A few days later CNN reported:
Day Zero deferred, but Cape Town’s water crisis is far from over
This article quotes a Professor of Geography – who had evidently not lived in the Western Cape – “The situation in Cape Town is almost a foretaste of what is likely to come in cities worldwide”

The Western Cape was proof for alarmists of what was going to happen because of climate change.
What has happened since these alarmist reports? Cape weather!

Today’s readings for the 6 main dams in the Western Cape indicate they are 84% full.
The largest, Theewaterskloof (with over 50% of the total capacity) is at 80.7%
After three good winters – this is a winter rainfall area – and the rainy season has five more weeks to run.


I think there is a lesson for this UNSW academic in what is happening in the real world.

Serge Wright
August 17, 2020 5:20 am

” higher temperatures have driven evaporative demand up by increasing the air’s capacity to hold water vapour”

The evaporation rate is actually controlled by relative humidity. For example in Darwin the evaporation rate is usually lower than in Hobart, even though the temperature is significantly higher in Darwin. More importantly, global warming theory (of the variety that she studies) suggests that relative humidity will remain constant as the temperature increases, meaning that evaporation rates would remain constant.

Tim Gorman
August 17, 2020 5:28 am

This type of science is just getting more and more common in the “outside” sciences. There are two basic ways to understand the “outside”. 1. get out and live in the outside for an extended period, meaning years and not just days. 2. Talk to people who *do* live outside about their experience. Talk to a *lot* of outside people over a widespread area and that means areas the size of states, be they in AU or in the US.

If this so-called scientist had done either of these she would not have made such a simple mistake.

I can’t even tell from the little we are given what *data* she used to come to her conclusion. As we are finding out more and more “average temperature” is a very poor indicator on which to base any kind of prediction. It is certainly not a predictor of the actual temperature envelope let alone things like rainfall. These kinds of predictions are based solely on the assumption that a rising “average temperature” means a rising maximum temperature when the “average temperature” simply cannot tell you that. Even a 6th grader is taught that simple truth about averages. That means far too many of the so-called “climate scientists” don’t know as much math as a 6th grader – let alone have any extended knowledge about the reality of the “outside”.

EdA the New Yorker
August 17, 2020 6:16 am


It’s a blonde thing. You wouldn’t understand.

August 17, 2020 6:25 am

It wasn’t that long ago that Tim Flannery made a similar prediction and all the major metropolitan capitals build very expensive desalinization plants. Then the rains came, the reservoirs filled and the desal plants sat. And they still sit, just waiting for Tim or Clare to be right. How long will they sit idle waiting for Tim and Clare to be right?

They may be started up sometime in the future, but it probably won’t be due to a change in the hydrologic cycle; more like population demand.

August 17, 2020 11:26 am

have you seen Lake Meade or Lake Powell lately?

August 17, 2020 11:51 am

Well, being from Oklahoma, I remember “Lake” Optima.

Robert of Texas
Reply to  OK S.
August 17, 2020 2:01 pm

Lake optima was supposed to be filled by the overflow that fills the Ogallala Aquifer. Farmers tapped the aquifer for irrigation and lowered the water table dramatically – so the lake never filled.

It had nothing to do with Climate Change and everything to do with over-use of underground waters in marginal farmlands.

It does however provide a pretty nice (but expensive) wet land for some birds.

P.S. There are some beautiful gypsum caves up near that area, and therefore bats if the wind turbines haven’t already killed them all.

August 17, 2020 12:57 pm

I would like to see this speculation quantified. How much drier? What type of soils? The rainfall pattern? What she says might be true in some cases but not others. Some soils, like silts and clays, only absorb water very slowly, even when dry. Then too, a downpour (over one inch per hour, say) will run off before much can be absorbed by any but the most sandy soils. As it is what she says is simple minded, like most alarmist junk. (My first career was as a water resources engineer, specializing in what is called seepage and drainage.)

Tim Gorman
August 17, 2020 1:36 pm

When we built a house out in the county that needed a septic system we found out a lot about seepage rate. The county had a whole bunch of tables which would tell you how long your laterals had to be based on several percolation tests at various locations in the lateral field.

My guess is that this “scientist” has no idea that such a thing exists.

Robert of Texas
August 17, 2020 2:08 pm

If the air warms up a degree, and so it carries more water (which is the AGW claim to get 2/3rds the warming), then how can the air evaporate more water (since it has to already have the additional moisture)? They are using circular reasoning. If water provides 2/3rds of the additional warming and it’s dry air, then instead of that 1 degree increase you get 1/3 of a degree warming due to CO2.

If the air is carrying more water, then raining should increase in intensity, so there is more water available for evaporation (unless the water all runs off somewhere else). SO a warmer climate should mean more rain, which means the heat transport away from the surface of the Earth intensifies, so the heat is lowered.

I sure am glad they have all these mechanisms perfectly modeled so they can make 100 year predictions. (<– Sarcasm)

August 17, 2020 2:25 pm

Left Australia long time ago to emigrate to Beautiful South America Paraguay and rescinded my Australian citizenship I am so glad I did leave Australia its a complete dump used to be great up to the 1970 until Keating started the destroying process which we are now seeing. In my view Australia has no future whatsoever only as a Chinese Colony and it will probably be better off as the Chinese are more stable people

Reply to  Eliza
August 17, 2020 6:09 pm

I’d like to move to Paraguay also…..I hear that all Paraguayans have the innate ability to create the most beautifully long run-on sentences…Is this true ?

August 17, 2020 10:00 pm
sky king
August 18, 2020 12:30 am

Heavier downpours leading to a drier climate. Right.

Hey, I thought increasing CO2 heats us to the tipping point where runaway water vapor finishes the job on us.
Yet a drier climate! Right.

melbourne resident
Reply to  sky king
August 19, 2020 7:02 pm

Absolutely – I have long pondered this anachronism – global warming theory depends on the added forcing from water vapour to reach the predicted levels, so a warmer world has more atmospheric vapour – not less, so drought would be less common. They have not absorbed their simple geography lessons about wet tropics and dry deserts. Why do deserts exist – because of less moisture. Why is there less moisture – because the air is colder and can hold less moisture, or it is in a rain shadow (eg the Atacama). Why are the tropics wet – because on the equator more water is evaporated from the oceans and then falls on the land. Anyone who predicts more droughts from global warming doesnt understand climate systems,

Kelvin Duncan
August 22, 2020 7:51 pm

I love predictions like this. Rutherford predicted that atomic energy will be of no practical use to mankind (just before the atom was split!) . The US Patent Office predicted in about the 1890s that there are no more useful inventions (just before there was a flood of new inventions). And we have all experienced the recurrent prediction that the end of the world is nigh.
One interesting thing is that such predictions come just before the opposite happens. Therefore Aus must be in for a wet spell.
(PS, my analysis of many Australian weather stations show no consistent trends – rainfall patterns vary from place to place.

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