Emerald Floods 2010

Right now I am in Emerald, Qld., Australia with choppers droning constantly overhead in the middle of a flood event, having spent the last few days bagging sand for friends’ houses. I have been through this a few times now, having grown up in country areas.

I want to document how poorly BoM modeling has served the community during this event. No flood risk was projected initially.

Dec 25th: The main rain fell on Christmas day in the catchment, a widespread 4-6 inches.

Dec 27th: The Bureau of Meteorology advised that Emerald was facing a minor flood level of just under 3.5 metres over the spillway at the Fairbairn Dam within the next 72 hours.

Then a minor flood was predicted.

Dec 29th:Water should peak at the Nogoa River approximately midday Friday 31st December 300mm (12 inches/1 foot) above the 2008 level. This may close rail access.

Suddenly they panicked. Projections jumped 0.5 meters. On the basis of advice the Mayor ordered evacuation of 80% of the town.

Dec 30th: The flood height is estimated to get to 800mm or 0.8 metres above the 2008 flood levels to a peak of 16.2 metres . Residents in the red shaded area from yesterdays map 1 need to evacuate now to the Town Hall.

This was followed by a map covering 95% of the town. Evacuate a town of 10,000 people to a tiny town hall in 24 hours — yeah right.

Right now, 5:30pm on the 30th the flood gauge at the Nogoa River bridge has stabilized. I think this will be the peak at 15.85 meters. Fairbairn Dam will probably peak at 4.5 meters in the next few hours.

The BoM predictions started at 3.5m at the spillway on the 27th, kept rising daily as the water rose, then paniced and overshot by 0.5m on the final day.

A known amount of rain fell on a known terrain. It can’t be that hard.

All advisories here.

The Cost of Green Schemes

Another day, another half-baked green scheme busted as $150 million is blown on a clean coal scheme. Common sense tells us that burning a bulk substance, only to recapture it and return it back to where it came from will be very expensive. And, OMG, that’s what they found.

Its a good example of moral hazard, as the scientists, policy makers and advisers bear none of the costs that all fall on the long-suffering taxpayer. The list of green debacles in the state of Queensland (with a GDP about the same as Tennessee) is long:

  • ZeroGen Clean-coal $150 million
  • Mothballed Tugun desalination plant $1.2 billion
  • Traveston Dam $265 million
  • Bundamba water treatment plant $380 million
  • Gibson Island Water Treatment Plant $313 million
  • Cloncurry solar thermal power station $7 million

This from a state that is selling off assets in a desperate attempt to reduce its debt.

I see more articles starting to pin blame on CSIRO advice. Michael Asten, a professorial fellow in the school of geosciences, Monash University writes in the Australian about exaggerated government models of sea level rise:

Did scientists from the no-longer independent CSIRO (or other competent body in Australia) brief minister Combet and his team at Cancun on this discrepancy and its implications? Are they permitted to make such comment publicly? And how will such observations affect the targeting of our funds on offer for regional adaptation programs?

The same questions could be asked of the studies reporting increases in drought that motivated the building of desalination plants around the country. Did scientists from CSIRO brief the ministers on the discrepancy between the decreasing rainfall shown by the models, and the observations of increasing rainfall over the last century? And how will such observations affect the targeting of our funds on offer for regional flood adaptation programs?

Financial advisers would bear some moral (if not financial) liability for losses resulting from the forecasts of models known to be worthless. The same goes for climate models exaggerated at best and proven to be worthless at regional scales.

Sensitivity to CO2 ex oceans

A very interesting couple of graphs were posted by Bill Illis here.

The sensitivity of the climate system to CO2 (or its doubling) has often been estimated from the left-over warming after removing natural variations. Bill uses a very simple and straightforward approach of fitting a regression of the atmospheric temperature from RSS to selected ocean basins. He arrives at the following graph and regression:

Bill also makes a prediction of temperatures over the next few months, which is both bold and testable (down). Lets keep an eye on it.

That’s a pretty damn good fit of global temperature, and it uses only the tropical NINO3.4 region, the Atlantic AMO, the Kuroshio Anomaly in the Pacific, and a residual warming he attributes to CO2. Note the previous post of Bob Tisdale’s showed that the AMO was largely explained by the NINO3.4 temperature, which is closely related to the ENSO, or El Nino-La Nina cycle.

Now one could argue that the ocean basins are also warming due to AGW, so this is effectively factoring out part of AGW and this may be the case. However, the NINO and AMO temperatures are cyclical, and so essentially stationary.

Given the residual warming attributed to CO2, the leftovers so to speak, what is the sensitivity to doubling? The coefficient Bill quotes is 0.79*ln(CO2 ppm). As ln(CO2 ppm) is greater than 5, I am assuming his other coefficients such as -4.6 Global Warming Constant bring the CO2 effect to a zero baseline.

For a doubling, ln(2)=0.69. Therefore, the sensitivity to doubling of CO2 should be 0.79*0.69=0.55C or around half a degree. Now this half a degree is coming up all over the place in empirical estimates of the efficacy of CO2 within the climate system. One of the first was Sherwood Idso and his natural experiments with a sensitivity of 0.15C/Watt or 0.5C for doubling (multiply by three to convert sensitivity in degrees C/Watt to degrees C per CO2 doubling).

To give you an idea of how far out of range this is from the IPCC projections, Bill has a second figure showing the projections to 2100 for business as usual.

Now the argument against this view is that it does not factor in the delayed effect of CO2 forcing that could take 100’s or even 1000’s of years. While there are undoubtedly sinks such as the deep ocean that would take that long to reach equilibrium, its a stretch to say that a forcing from CO2 would be effectively accumulated in such sinks.

The issue is that the penetration of long-wave radiation into the oceans is a minuscule 1mm in depth. The atmospheric measurements show that the atmosphere reaches equilibrium after a perturbation in less than a year, so any effects of increasing CO2 in the atmosphere are immediately realized. Given the difficulty in heat penetration into the major heat store, the ocean, logic and the evidence points to a (mostly) harmless CO2 sensitivity of around 0.5C for a doubling.

Bill also makes a bold prediction for RSS temperature over the next few months (down). Lets keep an eye on it.

Warming in Antarctica – Who was right?

What did they say about warming in Antarctica? In a review by Professor Will Steffen, Australian National University, commissioned by the Department of Climate Change and a major input to Labor government policy advanced also by Senator Wong in her discussions with Senator Fielding:

Climate Change 2009: Faster Change & More Serious Risks

A recent analysis shows warming of about 0.1°C per decade over the West Antarctica region over the last half century, attributed in part to changes in sea surface temperature (Steig et al. 2009).

In a response by Bob Carter, David Evans, Stewart Franks, and William Kininmonth Minister Wong’s Reply to Senator Fielding’s Three Questions on Climate Change–Due Diligence

11. In addition to acknowledging inadequacies in modelling skill, Steffen also quotes papers that, contrary to many other studies, report empirical data in support of a recently enhanced rate of sea-level rise (Church & White, 2006; Domingues et al., 2006) and a warming of Antarctica (Steig et al., 2009). In reality, these papers are underpinned by complex data manipulations and computer modelling, and the outlier results that they produce contradict other similarly detailed studies that show a steady rate of long term sea level rise (albeit with decadal modulations which include the start ofa recent fall; Jevrejeva et al. 2008; Cazenave et al. 2009; Woodworth et al. 2009) and a cooling Antarctic icecap -which, like Greenland, appears to be close to mass-balance (Stenni et al. 2002; Goodwin et al. 2004; Masson-Delmotte et al. 2004; Schneider, et al. 2006; Monaghan, et al. 2008; Schneider & Steig, 2008; Chapman, 2009).

Who do you believe, flashy commissioned reports or hard-science scientists?