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Friday, February 20, 2015

Denier weirdness at WUWT: An intensive five year water research project vs a "quick Google search"

Sou | 6:02 PM Go to the first of 23 comments. Add a comment

While parts of the Northern Territory and coastal Queensland are suffering a surfeit of water (and devastating damage), South Australia is figuring out how to cope with a deficit.

This classic was from Cameron Goodison at WUWT today (archived here):
Recently the Australian Goyder Institute released a report detailing the effects of climate change on rainfall in South Australia. The result:
‘Climate change will halve inflow to SA’s biggest reservoir.’
The ABC,
To make such a alarming statement one would think the ABC has done its research. They must have first done a quick Google search of the average annual rainfall for the region to see if there is any sort of noticeable downward trend that would give such a statement some degree of credibility.

Yeah, right. Don't trust the detailed scientific report. All you need is a quick google search!

Cameron started off badly. The Goyder Institute is South Australian. He got progressively worse from there. Cameron is talking about a very detailed segment of a five year climate change study. This particular research was of a single water catchment! There is probably nowhere else to check, unless you want to do the same study yourself from first principles. Typical WUWT nonsense.

I'd better tell you about the study.

Scientists at the Goyder Institute for Water Research in South Australia have been doing research on how climate change will affect South Australia. That state is the driest state on the driest continent in the world after Antarctica, and water is a very precious commodity there. This particular project was investigating a major water catchment for Adelaide, and how it would be impacted by climate change. As stated in the introduction to the report's Volume 3:
The Onkaparinga catchment has been identified as the case study location for this project. The catchment was selected because of the availability and quality of observational data and its importance as a water supply catchment for the Adelaide region....

And from Chapter 3:
...This report provides hydrological model projections for three sub-catchments of the Onkaparinga catchment (Scott Creek, Echunga Creek and Houlgrave Weir), based on NHMM simulations of rainfall and potential evapotranspiration from 15 general circulation models (GCMs) and two representative concentration pathways (RCPs).

The Onkaparinga Catchment is important. It supplies up to half of Adelaide's water. You can read a short overview of the catchment from a WaterWatch website.

As an aside, George Woodroffe Goyder was an explorer who is best known for having identified a South Australian boundary beyond which land wasn't suitable for farming. This is known as the Goyder line or Goyder's line. Most of South Australia is unsuitable for farming because of the low and unreliable rainfall.

Below is a rainfall map of Australia. South Australia is in the bottom middle - the state boundaries are marked on the map. (Click to enlarge.) You can see Adelaide, the capital of South Australia in the bottom right of the state. Alice Springs in the centre, is in the Northern Territory. It's drier in most of South Australia than it is in Alice Springs, in the Red Centre!

Source: Bureau of Meteorology

As you can see, the average annual rainfall is very low. Adelaide is okay but has always had to overcome difficulties in delivering a ready supply of potable water.

Climate Change and Surface Water in the Onkaparinga Catchment

The Goyder Institute has released three volumes on Impacts of Climate Change on Surface Water in the Onkaparinga Catchment. The volumes are:
  • Volume 1: Hydrological Model Development and Sources of Uncertainty (click here)
  • Volume 2: Hydrological Evaluation of the CMIP3 and CMIP5 GCMs and the Non-homogenous Hidden Markov Model (NHMM) (click here)
  • Volume 3:  Impacts of Climate Change on Runoff (click here)

(It has also released a report on 'Statistically Downscaled Climate Change Projections for South Australia', which looks interesting and flags challenges ahead, particularly in regard to rainfall reductions.)

The ABC reported the Onkaparinga Catchment study. Here are some extracts:
The flow of water into the biggest reservoir in South Australia is expected to halve over the next century, scientists say. ...
...The data includes modelling that Mount Bold reservoir, the state's largest water catchment just south of Adelaide, will see a big reduction in inflow.
As a changing climate brings hotter weather and less rainfall by the end of the century, the scientists say the reservoir will be dry at times.
Institute director Michele Akeroyd says the Onkaparinga catchment which feeds Mount Bold reservoir will change significantly in the next few years.
"The worst-case scenario indicates a halving of inflows into the Onkaparinga catchment over the century. That is against the high emissions scenario, and if you look at the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) data, we are actually tracking on that scenario at the moment," she said.

There is also an article about this research at The Conversation, which starts with:
Imagine a future where the yearly flow into one of the largest water reservoirs of a major Australian city could halve within 70 years. This is a scenario that Adelaide could face if the world continues on its current trajectory of high greenhouse gas emissions...

Ignorant sarcasm from WUWT

Cameron Goodison must be from somewhere far, far away from South Australia. He posted a time series chart to support his sarcasm. Problem is his chart was for all of southern Australia - including the southern half of Western Australia, most of South Australia and New South Wales, and all of Victoria and all of Tasmania.

The area the scientists were reporting on was the Onkaparinga catchment, which is a tiny portion of the state of South Australia, near to Adelaide!

I've put together an animation of maps showing the trend in annual rainfall, so you can see how things have changed over time. Each map is from the date specified to the present, going up in ten year increments from 1900 to 2014 through to 1970 to 2014.

Source: Bureau of Meteorology

As you can see, the trend over much of the continent declined quite remarkably from 1970. That period included the "big dry" - the very long drought affecting much of eastern Australia from early 2000s to 2010. Therefore it doesn't necessarily indicate future trends. What you can see, though is that from the 1950s onwards, the rainfall trend has been decreasing in the southeastern part of South Australia, which is ominous because that's where most of South Australia's population (and the most productive agriculture) is.

Water security is a very big deal in South Australia and particularly in its largest city, Adelaide.

Preparing for less water

The reports themselves are full of information. As you can see above, there are two full volumes discussing the hydrological and GCM models and confidence, as well as the report on projections.

I've animated Figure 3 from the third volume, which plots the projected percentage change in mean annual flow at Houlgrave Weir for two RCPs, for each of four time slices over this century through to 2100. It shows the expected decline in mean flow as climate change kicks in. (Click to enlarge it.)

I'd say that's definitely something that needs to be planned for. It takes a long time and a lot of money to build additional water facilities.

More conspiracy ideation from WUWT

WUWT is going great guns on conspiracies this week. WUWT-ers can't complain about Professor Lewandowsky's work, their conspiracy ideation is in your face, front and centre.  Anthony Watts has been belting out one nefarious plot after another.

Cameron, while he did also post the trend map from 1970 to 2014, contributes his own effort of conspiracy ideation. Not only that, but he seems to expect the scientists to make projections of future streamflows and precipitation by guessing. Deniers don't like models - downscaled or otherwise. He wrote with what I think is meant to be sarcasm, denier-style (my emphasis):
Next what is the method used for making the projections??
Well the report says they used a CIMP5 model and combined it with a Markov model and a hydrological model and well the words are starting to get a bit big now so everything in the rest of the report is probably right. And we won’t the question the motives of the Goyder institute which relies on climate change for its very existence.

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

Is he suggesting that the government shouldn't aim for water security? That South Australians should be left without any water from time to time this century?

Deniers really are weird and wacky, aren't they.

From the WUWT comments

cnxtim confuses short term variability affecting global surface temperatures,with long term projections of climate change. He or she also ignores the extensive volume detailing confidence and uncertainties.  Not that Cameron, who wrote the article, was any help.
February 19, 2015 at 5:11 pm
they cant with any hint of accuracy predict the cause (or Pause) BUT they can predict the outcome, sheer genius!

Farmer Gez is an Australian, I'd say. He sums up the situation here very well.
February 19, 2015 at 5:50 pm
The high variability in Australian rainfall makes it a trend seekers delight. Start any line from the early 70’s or the 50’s and you will get a decline. Start at the 40’s or the first few years after 1900 then you get a slight increase.
An old farmer was once asked what was the average rainfall at his farm. “Sixteen inches, but we never get it” he replied.

poitsplace is another one who confuses short term natural fluctuations with long term climate changes.
February 19, 2015 at 6:19 pm
One of the big problems for anyone trying to tease out temperature/weather correlations from the modern data…is that it is dominated by ENSO and other natural cycles. The only remotely meaningful comparisons would be of similar global states, basically at the same point in the cycle. Sadly, once you do that…a great deal of the “climate change” goes away…and that reality just doesn’t make for good copy with the green cult. They’d rather lie about it and/or follow their sacred models. Sort of like when Bill Nye told a reporter that he feels they should mention “maybe its climate change” basically with all the extremes of weather.

poitsplace is wrong about the "dominate". Over the medium term, it's the greenhouse effect that dominates global changes. Look at the rising temperatures below and compare it to the PDO phases and ENSO (blue are La Nina and orange is El Nino years). The temperature rise is because of the CO2 we've added.

PDO, ENSO and Global Surface Temperature:
Sources: Nate Mantua, BoM and NASA

angech2014 is unusual for a WUWT-er. He or she is not just informed but is concerned about the dangers to the Murray River and environment. South Australians takes a lot of water from the Murray.
February 19, 2015 at 6:38 pm
Seeing that good Queensland, New South Wales and Victorian water being diverted from it’s river bed to feed the South Australians in Adelaide who will not build their own dams and hence cause massive silting and degradation of the Murray mouth with wetland destruction and bird deaths over the last 20 years makes one happy that they have built a desalination plant. Can they turn it on and save the Mighty Murray River?
Where is Greenpeace when you need it?
Drinking Lattes in the Adelaide Art Museum and street cafes, no doubt.

schitzree calls on some "they" who he or she wrongly thinks made predictions of permanent drought. No-one has predicted that. What will happen is that some areas will get a lot drier in already dry Australia. Droughts will get worse, not just from lack of rain but from the higher temperatures. The climate is changing.
February 19, 2015 at 7:22 pm
Didn’t they make these same predictions a few years ago? Just before the floods came again to overflow the dams kept at maximum level because of their predicted ‘Permanent Drought’? And didn’t they then claim that Floods were also consistent with their predictions? And now their back to drought.
These Prophets of Doom only seem to be able to predict whatever weather we’re currently getting.

Jack  doesn't know if he's coming or going. He's a conspiracy theorist by inclination, assuming "dodgy data", and "advantageous" starting date and site. Perhaps he thinks the scientists should make up data that doesn't exist. And I don't know whether he expects the researchers to look outside the Onkaparinga Catchment to report on the Onkaparinga Catchment - or what. He does agree the desal plant is a good investment for South Australia.
February 19, 2015 at 8:29 pm
Dodgy data again by selecting the most advantageous starting date and sites.
They are not the only ones. Other states select data from low monsoon periods as the low jet cloud moves to and from the equator belt.
To be fair though South Australia is a dry state. It could not exist economically without big draw downs from The Murray River. It is one place where a desalination plant is useful. By 2016 the increased water charges, whether the plant is used or not, will have paid for it.
The point is that the desalination plant should be fully commissioned. 3 reasons.
The draw from the Murray River is expensive due to the cost of water.
The groundwater reserves are fully allocated and expensive to treat and the recharge is problematical in dry years.
The dams and weirs on the catchments can be systematically dredged and deepened by using the desal plant to take up the slack through their extensive pipeline systems.
Algal blooms cause a distinctive smell in Adelaide water and the cost of treatment is high. So by using the plant instead of abusing water rates payers, South Australia can virtually renew their whole water system.
Climate change has nothing to do with it. It is just good policy and forward thinking.

But then Jack wanders down the rabbit hole that Cameron pointed him to, writing (extract):
As for the start point 1970, that is laughable when Australia is one of the oldest and most weathered continents in the world. A lot of South Australia is desert. So if you bodgy your site selection around, you can make it fit any scenario.

Does he know that the "start point 1970" goes back as far as possible in the records - and is actually 1969 - and is streamflow data, not rainfall? (Rainfall records used go back as far as 1889.) I don't think anyone at WUWT understood what the data is or why it was selected or even where the Onkaparinga Catchment is. I'd say most WUWT-ers didn't have a clue that this was about a particular catchment - not all of South Australia.

Volume 1 discusses the data sources in a lot of detail, explaining what data was available, its reliability and why the data that was used was selected.  Nor do I know why they keep talking about a start point of 1970.  For rainfall data, the report has this:
Teoh [2002] identified 93 rainfall records from the Bureau of Meteorology within and surrounding the Onkaparinga catchment. They then selected a subset of 23 gauges that have long records and are evenly spaced over the region....The timespan of each gauge is shown in Table 3 with the majority of gauges covering the entire record from 01/1889 to 06/2011. Days are defined as the 24 hours prior to 9 am. 

And for streamflow data, the report has a table showing the length of the records and a detailed discussion of the data, including missing records. You can only work with what you've got. (The standout was Scotts Creek, which apparently had a continuous unbroken record from the first record in 1969.)

They are nothing but a bunch of fake sceptics at WUWT, believing without question the rubbish that Anthony Watts feeds them.


  1. Sou,

    "Don't trust the detailed scientific report. All you need is a quick google search!"

    And a sprinkling of the standard talking points. I should switch sides, it's so much easier.

    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    2. "...can go up whilst the Onkaparinga Catchment (located within South Eastern portion of South Australia) rainfall goes down..."

      I would guess that is possible as the catchment area is apparently very small and South Australia is very large. Perhaps there are local conditions? The main point seems to be the actual amount of water halving into a reservoir. That could be affected by many things and is not just restricted to rainfall. I guess to answer this you need to read the original report in more detail to see what it is saying. Have you done that? In the interests of true scepticism perhaps you should and track down the differences in your and WUWT's perception and HotWhopper's.

      Please post here as I would be interested in the answer.

    3. OK Sebastion. I had a quick look at the original report and they seem to be predicting lower rainfall for the future in that area. It deserves closer reading but I do not have the time. So I looked at Sou's chart of Australia getting drier. This seems to fit with the report's predictions. Then I looked in more detail at your chart. Sure enough it did look very dry in the 1900s. But it also looks dry in the last few years so I do not see that is any invalidation of the predictions. It certainly is not a basis for saying the rainfall is going up. In fact taking the dry 1900s into account it looks like that is what we can expect again sometime with the added deficit of a drying Australia. I would say that is a serious concern.

      And we have not even touched on the local conditions and the hydrological model in that area.

    4. Jammy, Killian / Margaret / Jennifer / Sebastion / Oliver / Charlotte is a sockpuppet who indulged in thread-bombing and tone trolling today. Nothing it writes can be taken seriously. It doesn't even know the difference between southern Australia and the state of South Australia, writing about this chart "The data used within the original article at WUWT was for the state of South Australia. It was quiet clear within the original article as it had a title.... (The title of the chart was "southern Australia".)

      I doubt it would understand hydrology, stream flow or seasonal rainfall patterns much less care about such things. It's a science denier.

    5. Hi Sou

      Thanks for the warnings. I realised Sebastion was a denier type and they all tend to be a bit trolly. A bit sad he thinks sockpuppetry is an acceptable way to engage. I notice one of his aliases was whinging about cyber bullying - which is exactly what he is using sockpuppetry for. Either these people are about 12 years old or are just in arrested development.

      However he raised his denier questions and it did prompt me to look at the Goyder report. So I was satisfying myself to a degree. The 15 year running average of rainfall (Southern Australia) from 1900 is not as low as I would have guessed though it is quite clear it has been dry for the last 14 years or so. If there was a long run of dry years like in the 1900s it would be a big problem. (As it probably was then but with a smaller population). I notice from other posts there have been predictions of lower rainfall from way back but I have not seen any details. I gleaned nothing extra about the local conditions in the catchment area but I did not think I really needed to check further.

      I was also challenging him/her/it to back up what she was saying. As it turns out it is just a hit and run troll not even worth that respect. I just wonder if they actually have the capability to even understand the words they are reading let alone string them together to understand what is actually being said.

  2. It's one thing to aim so low, but to aim so low and miss is...funny.

  3. Thanks for this, Sou - you've prepared all my talking points in dealing with the local nutters!

    What many - even the majority of those who live here - don't realise is that we already have to regularly pump water from the badly over-stretched Murray into both the Torrens and the Onkaparinga catchments as a 'top-up' in poor rainfall seasons. Have done since the 70's.

    Local catchments are very small by national (let alone international!) standards, and we really don't get much rain; a bit over 1m annually at the top of Mt. Lofty on the top of the range (at a towering 710m!), back down to about 550 for Adelaide itself on the plain below, and around 750 in the hills district in which these catchments are located. Travel a little away from the backbone of the ranges to the north and east and even these modest figures decline dramatically!

    Then we have farm dams, declining water quality, increasing population, irrigation projects, boutique wineries, etc. etc.; frankly, anyone who claims we're not staring at a problem here as we confront rising temperatures and a clearly declining rainfall is talking out of their outfall pipe!

    On another note, the desal plant is a classic example of how whiny and irresponsible much of the population has become.

    As we were staring down the barrel of the loooong dry with no end in sight, thoughtful people (for whom Goyder is something of a hero, I might add!) were in favour of attempting to meet our needs via a much improved water efficiency using existing resources. After all, those who study these things - e.g. Professor Chris Daniels, author of the 'bible' on the topic - had suggested this was the smart and genuinely sustainable thing to do.

    However, much of the population whined and howled and claimed it's a human right to keep their lawns - and exotic gardens - green!

    End result; we have a desal plant. Now they whine and howl that we have an expensive desal plant. Wanna bet we're never going to see another decade-long drought?

    (I've had this conversation over and again. Asking 'alright, what would you have done if you were in the cabinet, then?' tends to make them go a bit quiet, though...)

    We make extensive use of reclaimed water from the Bolivar sewage treatment works, I might add. In fact, our major horticultural production area adjacent to the city relies on it.

  4. I suspect many misinterpretations of data arise when people don't realize just how large Australia is---it will fit from coast to coast if overlain with a map of the US or of Canada.

    When in England, I had someone trying to tell me western Canada is in danger of desertification because they had taken average rainfall from southern Alberta (very dry), and applied it to coastal BC. Having lived on the coast for many years I can assure you western Canada in general is not in danger of turning into a desert--I had algae growing on the rubber moulding of my car in the wet winter of 2004/5. What was very annoying was that they insisted they were right because they had looked it up online, and I was welcome to do the same.

    Could have been worse...they could have tried to tell me it applied to all of Canada.

    1. Good point, Dan. South Australia (the state) is around 30% larger in area than Texas, and Alberta, more than twice as big as California, and 7.5 times bigger than England. It is a bit bigger than British Columbia.

      The Onkaparinga catchment is around 0.056% the area of South Australia, (and about 1,75 times larger than Malta).

  5. Cameron Goodison: "Ok now we’ve found a trend we should probably read the report in full so we can find see if the methods used appear to be somewhat reliable."

    Today's poster child for the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. So not a single contributor noted the distinction between "South Australia" and "Southern Australia

    That is sad.

    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    2. @Oliver

      Title:"Data, Models and the Australian ABC"

      I am missing your point. Can you clarify?

    3. Denier troll alert!

      Just so you know, Killian / Margaret / Jennifer / Sebastion / Oliver / Charlotte are the same person, who needs some help to figure out if they are male or female and to remember their own name.

  7. Totally off topic Sou, and my apologies for that, but James Halliday, the widely respected wine writer, last week had an OP ED in The Wine Companion (and published in the Oz too, I think), where he approvingly quotes Patrick Moore (supposed co-founder of Green Peace - or so he claims):

    "Moore asserts that a concentration of 1500ppm is optimum for plant growth and food production."

    Then he finishes with his own comment:

    "Increased CO2 and temperatures are just what the vine doctor ordered."

    This of course is the "CO2 is plant food meme", but what a totally insane position to take, highlighting one supposed "benefit" whilst ignoring all the other deleterious effects of increasing CO2.

    Since your stated remit is to demolish disinformation, this might be a good one to consider :)

    The article is here

    (Sorry, I don't know how to go about archiving it, I know you do not accept live links)

    1. Hey, what's the problem?; we'll all be able to maintain a good quality drunk while the planet falls apart around us!

    2. Charming - thanks. I'll look in more detail over the weekend. In the meantime, I'd be very surprised if James Halliday is not aware of what's happening in the wine-growing industry, even though he's in denial:

    3. Thanks Sou,

      Would be interested in your take. The article is laughably simplistic and sheer tosh, but unfortunately he has a lot of credibility, at least in the wine world.

  8. The recent Australian Academy of Science report on climate change has a very clear graphic (Fig 2.4) on rainfall trends during the winter months and the summer months in Australia at this link.

    "Since the mid 1990s there have been significant increases in wet season rainfall over northwest Australia (Figure 2.4 left), a declining trend in southwest Australia, and a 15% decline in late autumn and early winter rainfall in the southeast (Figure 2.4 right)."

    It is the decline in winter rainfall that results in less run off that is the problem.

    Across the border from SA in western Victoria, the western district lakes are shrinking from the same cause.

    The decline in winter rainfall in southern Australia has been a long term projection of climate change impacts in Australia from both the BOM and the CSIRO first raised AFAIK as far back as 1989.

    "In 1989, at a presentation to the Prime Minister’s Science Council, Dr Graeme Pearman of CSIRO summarised a scenario of climate change for Australia in 2030. He said there would be:
    * higher summer rainfall over northern Australia and extending further south.
    * possibly drier winters in southern Australia
    * more intense rainfall."

    Pretty much what has been observed.

    1. Thanks Mike. The decline in rainfall in our part of the world, was a long term projection back in the mid to late 1970s, too. Someone from the CSIRO gave us a lecture on the greenhouse effect and CSIRO model projections at the time, to we undergrads in Agr Sc at Melbourne Uni.

  9. The situation is similar in the West. Perth (and surrounding areas on scheme water) is now reliant on desalinated water and ground water, with very little coming from dams. Here is a link to the streamflow to the dams, pay special attention to the pre-1975 average and the post-1975 average (and the last four years have all been below the post-1975 average) :(

    Also click the "historical" tab to see streamflow since 1911.


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