Monday, May 19, 2014

Snow-befuddled deniers at WUWT

Sou | 11:14 PM Feel free to comment!

The mood at WUWT can be measured by the type of comments. Today it's a bit of a mixture. Some people noticed a really silly and wrong analysis, which I wrote about earlier. Yet on the same day, the nutters came out of the WUWT woodwork when Anthony posted about brand new paper on snow (archived here).

Anthony got a press release from the University of Bristol (via Eureka Alert), where scientists W. R. Berghuijs, R. A.Woods and M. Hrachowitz studied the impact on stream flow of less snowfall. Based on their research they argue that, contrary to what is commonly thought, where there are significant reductions in the proportion of precipitation falling as snow (as opposed to rain), there will most likely be a reduction in the mean streamflow.

They've based their analysis on observations in 420 catchments in the USA.  Which is rather a lot, isn't it. As they say in the press release:
“With more than one-sixth of the Earth’s population depending on meltwater for their water supply, and ecosystems that can be sensitive to streamflow alterations, the socio-economic consequences of a reduction in streamflow can be substantial.
“Our finding is particularly relevant to regions where societally important functions, such ecosystem stability, hydropower, irrigation, and industrial or domestic water supply are derived from snowmelt.”

From the WUWT comments

The deniers at WUWT are virtually unanimous in their rejection of this paper. Almost all of the people commenting at WUWT think the research is useless. The thing is, though, that just as deniers have only one thing in common when it comes to climate science (they all reject it but for a multitude of different reasons), this time some deniers reject the study because they say it's wrong. Others reject it as useless because the findings are "obvious"!

Anthony Watts sets the ball rolling, writing:
From the University of Bristol  and the department of obvious science.
Charlie Martin says:
May 18, 2014 at 5:06 pm
Golly, I bet in areas with monsoons, the outflow of the river depends significantly on how much raInfall there is.

Joel O'Bryan didn't bother to read the article but had to have his say, and says:
May 18, 2014 at 5:13 pm
So a warmer world is a drier world???? I think not.

norah4you opts for the "scientists don't know nuffin'" meme and says:
May 18, 2014 at 5:24 pm
Is it possible that some educated persons might send the Alarmists no matter if the later has or hasn’t degree or scholartitle a hint of what every 4th grader around the world should have learnt – the Water cycle? Sadly enough the alarmists seems to have missed that essential part.

Brian M. Babey also opts for "it's wrong" and says:
May 18, 2014 at 5:35 pm
B.S. Snowfall moisture is based upon the temperature it is formed. Warmer the temperature the more moisture is in it! As a person who lives in Snowy and Cold Climate of Minnesota, this is crap research. For Example a quarter inch of rain can produce either 1 inch of snow or 4 inches of snow depending upon the temperature, While a quarter of rain at any temp is still the same. So instead of it falling as snow it will fall as rain. LOL, too much stupidity from people who dont have a clue about cold and snow. FYI last winter i recorded a low of -23.9 F. As a side note i think we need to stop recording snowfall in inches of depth and only measure content of moisture, because 96 inches of snow one season isn’t the same as 96 inches of snow in another since moisture content varies!

Does Steve Case want an honest answer to his question when he asks:
May 18, 2014 at 5:36 pm
Let’s see, precipitation (rain & snow) changes with regard to the ratio between rain and snow, but overall in a warmer world there is more precipitation. And we are being told that more rain and less snow equals less flow in the rivers.
How stupid do they think we all are? 

Latitude, I think, comes down on the scientists are correct side, but maybe for the wrong reason when he says:
May 18, 2014 at 5:48 pm
They already knew this:
With more than one-sixth of the Earth’s population depending on meltwater for their water supply
But they didn’t know this:
New research has shown for the first time that the amount of water flowing through rivers in snow-affected regions depends significantly on how much of the precipitation falls as snowfall.
…and they got paid what for this?

Nick Stokes asks a pointless question, given the venue, and says:
May 18, 2014 at 5:51 pm
It’s not obvious science. It asks the relevant question, how does the amount of river runoff vary depending on whether a given amount of precipitation falls as rain or snow? Is that something you all knew? 

TimB says - well, I'm not really sure what he's saying except it's clear that he toes the illiterati line and claims the research is useless:
May 18, 2014 at 5:55 pm
Meh. Snow allows the trees to have a more continuous supply of water. No snow, trees die. Less trees, more albedo and more water available to people. It’s win-win-win. Or it’s such a narrow view of the entire coupled process as to be virtually useless information.

John Eggert is an expert on peer review (WUWT-style) and just knows it shouldn't have passed. I wonder how he thinks the scientists got their data, of which most goes back to 1948? He says:
May 18, 2014 at 5:58 pm
The statement “How river flow is generated in snowy areas is poorly understood due to the difficulty in getting appropriate measurements. ” tells me these people don’t know what they are talking about. In Ontario, the electrical utility measures snow pack regularly and has a clear view of how many inches of water it contains. This is used by many parties to estimate how much runoff there will be (this has been going on for decades). Also, there are two periods of increased water flow. The spring freshet, associated with snow melt and the fall freshet associated with precipitation from the contrast of the impending winter and the departing summer (for want of a shorter term, Joe Bastardi could give a long and detailed description I’m sure). How river flow is generated in snowy areas is VERY well understood. How did this pass peer review?

John Eggert, being a dinky di true blue fake sceptic who makes it his business to scoff at anything and everything that's published in a science journal, wouldn't realise that the lead author has a PhD in civil engineering, and that he and Dr Woods are with the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Bristol, and that Dr Hrachowitz is also an engineer and is an expert in hydrology in the Water Resources Section, Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands. John says:
May 18, 2014 at 6:06 pm
Nick Stokes: Nothing in science is obvious. Else Aristotle would have known that F=ma. This “study” is rehashing settled science, or to use the appropriate term for “settled science”: engineering. Civil engineers have been doing this type of work for years. It is somewhat important in things like dam design. The authors of this study have reinvented a wheel. And a hand chiseled stone wheel at that.
José Tomás also misses the point of the study and its findings when he says:
May 18, 2014 at 6:25 pm
You don’t need to live in a snowy country to know that.
Even here in Brazil, a virtually snowless country, small kids in school learn about the water volume in the Amazon River basin depending on the melting of the winter snow on the Andes…
Indeed, “How did this pass peer review?”

Pamela Gray misses the point of the research too, and foolishly says:
May 18, 2014 at 6:41 pm
The water content in snow pack and the conditions of the melt season are bigger measures of water flow in rivers during the summer/fall season. Snow pack and melt rate have been studied and results used for decades to manage water resources for agriculture purposes in closed ecosystems like Wallowa County. This article sounds like the authors are at the kindergarten stage.
Finally, there is a lone WUWT commenter (apart from Nick Stokes) who seems to have understood the article, though I'm not sure his conclusions can be applied universally. kenwd0elq says:
May 18, 2014 at 7:02 pm
This makes at least a little sense; precipitation that falls as rain runs downstream IMMEDIATELY, while snow remains on the ground and flows downstream at the rate of the snow melting.
Further, in places like the Sierra Nevada, rain not only runs downstream immediately, it also causes accelerated snowmelt.
So if the goal is a constant flow in the river rather than flood and drought, we either need precip as snow, or we need dams and reservoirs to control the downstream flow. Good thing we have them!

Hoser decides the scientists are wrong and says:
May 18, 2014 at 7:59 pm
A significant fraction of precipitation as snow is lost through sublimation. Rain will either run off or flow as groundwater. Certainly some will be lost through evaporation, but not during the precipitation event. Did the authors confuse total discharge and peak discharge? Peak snow melt will occur in spring, Multiple rainfall in a season would tend to decrease snow pack and reduce peak discharge unless a powerful late winter warm storm melts a substantial snow pack. The point is, if it rains, the water will stay on (lakes, streams) or in the ground. If it snows, a lot of the moisture will be lost to the air (typically from tree branches). Thus, it is likely the paper is quite wrong.

Jimmy Finley doesn't like Nick Stokes barging in uninvited (and spouting sciency stuff) to a denier festival  and says (excerpt with quote removed):
May 18, 2014 at 8:25 pm
Nick Stokes says:
...The question I want to ask, is, how truly stupid, arrogant and unknowing about the world are you? What are you, who has some snide remark to offer all the “deniers” here? We would really like to see your CV, and all the exalted degrees from exalted Universities, so we can give you proper respect. 
Steve Keohane who, being a typical WUWT fake sceptic, didn't look at the research let alone the data the scientists provided, says:
May 18, 2014 at 8:42 pm
Agreed, not worth reading.
In Colorado they watch accumulation of snow and water equivalency, time of accumulation maximum, and continual water flow rates for the Colorado River at least, the data already exists and they aren’t looking at it. Typical.

I didn't count up the votes, but you can if you want. I'd say the WUWT comments can be grouped into four categories:

  • It's so obvious that the research was a waste of time and, of course, money
  • It's wrong and proves that scientists don't know nuffin' - and therefore the research was a waste of time and, of course, money
  • I don't understand what the article is all about but I like seeing my name in cyberspace at the world's most read anti-science blog
  • It's useful science (almost no-one)

W. R. Berghuijs, R. A.Woods and M. Hrachowitz, "A precipitation shift from snow towards rain leads to a decrease in streamflow", Nature Climate Change, Vol 4, June 2014. doi:10.1038/nclimate2246

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