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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Is the Corps of Engineers trying to forcibly revert Missouri River floodplain to its natural state?


That's the eye-popping thesis suggested by Joe Herring at American Thinker, and his prima facie evidence, while thin, is also hard to get around. The key fact is this:

On February 3, 2011, a series of e-mails from Ft. Pierre SD Director of Public Works Brad Lawrence sounded the alarm loud and clear. In correspondence to the headquarters of the American Water Works Association in Washington, D.C., Lawrence warned that "the Corps of Engineers has failed thus far to evacuate enough water from the main stem reservoirs to meet normal runoff conditions. This year's runoff will be anything but normal."

For the why, Herring quotes the Corps' Master Water Control Manual:

Releases at higher-than-normal rates early in the season that cannot be supported by runoff forecasting techniques is inconsistent with all System purposes other than flood control. All of the other authorized purposes depend upon the accumulation of water in the System rather than the availability of vacant storage space. [Emphasis added.]

Originally, these other purposes were water supply, river navigation and recreation, none of which are served by failing to leave enough reservoir space for normal runoff in a high runoff year. But through thirty years of environmentalist domination of the federal bureaucracy, additional purposes have gained ever higher priority. The Missouri River should be "natural":

The Clinton administration threw its support behind the change, officially shifting the priorities of the Missouri River dam system from flood control, facilitation of commercial traffic, and recreation to habitat restoration, wetlands preservation, and culturally sensitive and sustainable biodiversity.

Herring even quotes a Corps biologist celebrating the current flood:

The former function of the river is being restored in this one-year event. In the short term, it could be detrimental, but in the long term it could be very beneficial."

Sherlock Holmes' method of exclusion

The direct evidence here is merely suggestive. "Habitat restoration" is a high priority goal and there is a bit of overt cheerleading for flooding. Far from conclusive, but how else to explain not vacating even a normal amount of reservoir space in a peak snowpack year?

Climate contrarians know to be wary of argument by the principle of exclusion. That's what the CO2 alarmists do. Eyes wide shut to extensive evidence that 20th century warming was caused by an 80 year grand maximum of solar-magnetic activity, they claim warming has to be due to CO2 because every other possible explanation has been ruled out.

But in The Case of the Waterlogged Corps(e), Sherlock's method of exclusion is reasonable. The usual problem of failing to identify all the possibilities doesn't apply because the list of agency objectives is specified. Of these, "habitat restoration" is the only one that is served by the Corps' actions.

The other possibility is that these government functionaries failed to notice that they had not vacated even the usual amount of space from their reservoirs, but low as expectations are for government work, this isn't really plausible. Such a mistake would have to be motivated, and as Herring points out, we know these people's motivations. Almost to a man they are eco-leftists, and we know the eco-leftist position on rivers.

It isn't the dot-connecting that is outlandish, it is the dots. People who expressly want to see floodplains returned to their natural state followed policies that guaranteed massive flooding. Herring is right: this calls for investigation.

Rational environmentalism

To the extent that risk of flooding can be lowered by flood-control infrastructure, the extra building on floodplains that this risk-reduction encourages is perfectly rational. What induces irrational building on flood plains is the federal government's longstanding policy of providing subsidized or implicit flood insurance.

After major flooding the government is prone to declare a disaster area. Even if the flood victims are not made whole, their losses are substantially mitigated, reducing the natural disincentive to build in flood zones. Get rid of this market interference and flood damages would be much diminished. In particular, flood plains would end up relegated mainly to agricultural uses that can weather occasional flooding with limited damage.

Seasonal flooding can actually be good for farmland so there is room for a win-win solution where flood control systems are set up to inundate large agricultural bottom lands as necessary to provide room for floodwaters. Instead of farmland on the outside of our riparian cities, substantial amounts of the best farmland would be on the inside of these cities. We see some of this now, but it would go much further if the government limited itself to infrastructure and did not interfere in markets. Safer for people, better for farming, better for migratory birds and the environment, and better for taxpayers.

Not easy to get there, after people have been building on the strength of government promises of relief for many decades, but it is a solution that is rational both economically and environmentally. Unfortunately, this is not what the eco-freaks want.

Instead of "natural" in the market-driven or liberty-driven sense, they embrace a sans-human naturalism, and it looks like the administrators of our flood-control infrastructure are in this camp. They have been hostile to flood-control infrastructure per se since the Clinton era, which is the only obvious explanation for why this infrastructure has been so completely misused.

Crossposted at WUWT.

UPDATE: Well, it turns out I did omit one of the Corp’s objectives: hydroelectric generation. Thanks to Harry for bringing up the new factor of dam operators being required to hold back hydroelectric generation to make room for wind-power when the windmills are in operation. The specific complaint of Pierre’s water manager was about the high level of lake Oahe. The Oahe dam is a major provider of electricity to the north-central U.S. and the Dakotas are the site of substantial new wind farming. Could this account for the deviation from past norms?

If so, wind-hydro effects could also have contributed to the flooding of Minot North Dakota. The main dam on the Souris River is the Canadian Rafferty-Alameda project, which in addition to providing flood control and water supply also supplies water to the Shand Power Station in lower Saskatchewan. The Canadians have also been going whole hog on windfarms, which would have displaced hydro. Were the Canadian dams fuller than usual as a result? Worth looking into.

The implications for wind-farming would be devastating. The water for the hydro that they replace will sometimes NEED to be released, meaning that if it is not used for hydro, it will have to be released without generating any electricity, so that wind generated electricity will at these times have zero value. If in order to avoid that implication they are holding the water in reservoirs when it needs to be released, then the wind farming becomes responsible for the resulting flooding.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Facepalm: More casual death wishes from Australia

Facepalm OrangutanGuest post by Alec Rawls

Jill Singer, long time Aussie talking head:
I'm prepared to keep an open mind and propose another stunt for climate sceptics - put your strong views to the test by exposing yourselves to high concentrations of either carbon dioxide or some other colourless, odourless gas - say, carbon monoxide.

You wouldn't see or smell anything. Nor would your anti-science nonsense be heard of again. How very refreshing.
Her mind is OPEN to wishing for the deaths of those who disagree with her ignorant presumptions. All in good fun of course! But this totalitarian closed-mindedness really does seem to strike her as a kind of open mindedness. She finds the thought "refreshing."

Maybe its just an Aussie thing, like the forced tattooing of political opponents. And Singer does make a serious charge. She accuses Aussie business leader David Murray of a very unscientific leap:
Murray states there's no link between global warming and carbon dioxide emissions because carbon dioxide is necessary for life, colourless and odourless - and therefore can't be considered a pollutant.
If Murray actually said that because CO2 is necessary for life it cannot cause warming then flamboyant gibes would be merited and the rest of us could only drop our faces into our own palms. We would never hear the end of it, sigh. But the charge is false. David Murray and his interviewer both clearly distinguished the pollution question from the warming question:
DM: [Carbon dioxide] has got nothing to do with pollution.

Financial Review interviewer Colleen Ryan: What do you mean?

DM: Well, carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. It is colourless, odourless. It is not a pollutant.

FR: Yes, but it is still bad for greenhouse gases.

DM: No it isn't. It is a tiny proportion of greenhouse gases.

FR: So, if you believe in the warming of the planet, it is a tiny proportion of that?

DM: There is no correlation between warming and carbon dioxide.

FR: So if you accept the warming of the planet, what should you do?

DM: Take measures to stop the effects of it.

FR: What about the melting of the glaciers?

DM: They're not. The amount of ice in the world is slightly increasing. It's not decreasing. It's just staggering. Staggering. So you call something a pollutant, which it is not. It is actually necessary for life. And then the people who disagree with you, you call skeptics or scumbags or doubters or something.
Murray gave a perfectly logical reason for dismissing the greenhouse effects of CO2 as dangerous and it has nothing to do with CO2 not being a pollutant. CO2's greenhouse effects can be dismissed because they are so tiny!

Exactly right. The only way CO2 warming could be dangerous is if it were dramatically amplified by water vapor feedback effects, in which case our climate would be radically unstable and sneezing would be dangerous. In other words, the only way CO2 is dangerous is if EVERYTHING is dangerous, and there is no evidence for such instability.

Singer is really just lying when she says that Murray denies a link between global warming and carbon dioxide "because carbon dioxide is necessary for life." After reading his remarks on a conservative Aussie site she accuses Murray of an unscientific leap that he absolutely did not make, then she uses this deception to justify her happy death wish for everyone who doesn't toe the party line.

If casual death wishes really were just an Australian mannerism they would appear on both sides, but Murray, for example, is the opposite of Singer. He appeals to Singer et al. to stop calling their opponents dirty names and she responds by dreaming of his annihilation. Nope, it's a believer thing, as believers in authoritarian religions have always wanted to expunge heretics.

The only twist on this old story is how today's eco-religious believers are able to imagine themselves on the side of science even as they do things like knowingly deceive their readers about what their opponents are saying. What does science mean to them if it doesn't require truth? And if they don't care about the truth, how can they possibly think they are right?

Because their religious authorities tell them so. Facepalm.

As the heat continues to go missing, expect to see a lot more of this:


Cross-posted at WUWT.

UPDATE: evidence vs. models

A Watts Up commenter thought I was being as silly as Singer with my "sneeze" remark. Actually, I was being serious. My reply:
Steveta thinks it is silly of me to suggest that if CO2 is dangerous then sneezing is dangerous. I'll admit I was taking the point to an extreme when I went all the way down to a sneeze, but isn't the general point correct?

Best estimates are that the water vapor feedback effect is negative: that it dampens temperature forcings rather than amplifying them. If we lived in a very different world, where instead of being dampened, forcings were amplified at least a couple of times over (the IPCC assumption), then otherwise transitory fluctuations could have grand effects.

As it is, the big internal variations--the ocean oscillations--can have profound effects on surface temperatures over periods of years (El Nino) and even decades (the Pacific Decadal Oscillation). Switch damping for amplification and these swings could be an order of magnitude deeper and longer. Weather would become climate. What is normally a sneeze (for the planet) would send the planet careening off in a warming or cooling direction.

Is this an unfair argument? After all, the IPCC claim is that we already live in a world with strong water vapor feedbacks. They don't see themselves as talking about a different world, but they ought to, because they are not actually looking at our world at all.

The IPCC does not estimate water vapor feedbacks (or climate sensitivity) directly. Rather, they calculate amplification effects to be whatever they would have to be in order to explain 20th century warming as being driven by CO2's tiny forcing effect. This is what Gavin Schmidt et al. are doing when they calibrate their GCMs to the data, and it is the GCMs that the IPCC is using to make all of its scary predictions.

But model-fitting isn't evidence. The fact that by tweaking hundreds of variables they can get an elaborate model to roughly track a century of temperature history is not evidence that their model is correct, any more than the fact that the geocentric model of the universe could be propped up with epicycles was evidence for the geocentric model.

So yes it is fair to say that they are looking at a different world than the one we live in, because they don't even TRY to look at the real world. They only look at what the world would have to be in order for 20th century warming to have been caused by CO2. They are looking only at this object of their own mental obsession, NOT at the evidence.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Fingerprints of global weirding weirdos found on CO2 "hotspot"

Newsweek's egregious call to Weather Panic (previous post) took the handoff from Katharine Hayhoe, an invoker of "global weirding" from Texas Tech, and ran with it. Hayhoe had called a single incident of freak weather in west Texas "the new normal," prompting Newsweek "science editor" Sharon Begley to suggest that this freak weather would in the future be seen in all places at all times. Eeeehaw!

In addition to citing self-proclaimed global weirdist Katharine Hayhoe, Begley's subtitle refers to "freak storms" and her article is accompanied by a photographic "freak weather gallery." Yup, Newsweek is all aboard the weirdo bandwagon.

So how do the weirdos justify blaming every weird weather event on people? Just ask leading global weirdist Donald Wuebbles, professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Illinois. He dusted for fingerprints and the culprit was revealed:
Climate does of course vary naturally, but the large changes we have been seeing in recent decades have the fingerprints of human emissions as being the primary driving force.
The IPCC did try to claim that their predicted CO2 warming "fingerprint"—a "hotspot" in the upper troposphere—had been found, but that claim has long since been debunked, as recounted in David Evan's recent piece in the Financial Post. (Evans also has a more formal presentation with citations).

If the CO2 explanation for late 20th century warming were correct, the hotspot would have to be there. The CO2 theory produces a testable hypothesis and the empirical falsification of this hypothesis proves that the theory is wrong. Ditto for the "global weirding" that stands upon it.

Trenberth is a weirdo too

Kevin Trenberth follows the Weirdo Wuebbles model for blaming every extreme weather event on human-caused global warming. We know that global warming is proceeding apace, says Trenberth (despite humanity's failure to cause any 21st century warming), so pitch it in strong:
“Given that global warming is unequivocal,” climate scientist Kevin Trenberth cautioned the American Meteorological Society in January of this year, “the null hypothesis should be that all weather events are affected by global warming rather than the inane statements along the lines of ‘of course we cannot attribute any particular weather event to global warming.’”
Trenberth's call to blame every bad thing on CO2 was used by the leftists at Think Progress to blame this year's killer tornadoes on global warming, just like Begley and Newsweek. It's one big global weirdo convention on the eco-left.

Video of Bastardi discussing the actual correlates of tornado activity

"We've got record breaking snow on the ground in the mountains in the Pacific Northwest. If you look at the tornado statistics, it's either cold or getting colder when this kind of thing goes on. And to see people say... well, because it's warm...

You need a clash in the atmosphere to do this. Do you know, according to the satellites, we've had the greatest drop in temperatures ever recorded between fifteen and twenty-five thousand feet in the middle of the troposphere since last year? And we've never seen something like this.

Now granted, we didn't have the satellites trained on the atmosphere back in the 1970s and 1950s, but there's been a tremendous drop in mid-level temperatures and that comes southeast into warm humid air, and what do you think is going to happen?"
All that is actually getting weirder are the claims of the warming alarmists. Foot soldiers of panic like Sharon Begley are not proceeding just on their own ignorant initiative. They are following the marching orders of unscientific scientists like Wuebbles, Trenberth, and Heyhoe.

I come not to praise Stephen Schneider, but to bury him

It is appropriate that Trenberth presented his sweeping justification for alarmism in a talk dedicated to the late Stephen Schneider, the spiritual grandfather of politicized eco-science.

It was Schneider who in the 1970's tried to blame global cooling since the mid-forties on the human burning of fossil fuels. When the planet started to warm a few years later he smoothly switched to blaming global warming on fossil fuels. It never mattered to him if any of it was true. His objective was to curtail the human burning of fossil fuels and any excuse would do. Honesty was not a requirement, as he explained to Discover Magazine:
To capture the public imagination, we have to offer up some scary scenarios, make simplified dramatic statements and little mention of any doubts one might have. Each of us has to decide the right balance between being effective, and being honest.

If what one wants to be effective at is discovering and advancing truth, there is no such conflict. It is only ulterior motives, like the unplugging of industrial capitalism, that can only be effectively promoted through dishonesty. Bad behavior springs from bad motives. Unfortunately, we've let a lot of bad people gain a lot of power, and it's going to be very difficult to dislodge them.

Addendum: Roy Spencer on the hotspot fingerprint

Roy denies that the absence of an upper troposphere hotspot invalidates the CO2 theory of late 20th century warming, but this conclusion seems to be a non sequitur:
The famous “hot spot” seen in [AR4 figure 9.1] has become a hot topic in recent years since at least two satellite temperature datasets (including our UAH dataset), and most radiosonde data analyses suggest the tropical hotspot does not exist. Some have claimed that this somehow invalidates the hypothesis that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are responsible for global warming.

But the hotspot is not a unique signature of manmade greenhouse gases. It simply reflects anomalous heating of the troposphere — no matter what its source. Anomalous heating gets spread throughout the depth of the troposphere by convection, and greater temperature rise in the upper troposphere than in the lower troposphere is because of latent heat release (rainfall formation) there.

For instance, a natural decrease in cloud cover would have had the same effect. It would lead to increased solar warming of the ocean, followed by warming and humidifying of the global atmosphere and an acceleration of the hydrologic cycle.

Thus, while possibly significant from the standpoint of indicating problems with feedbacks in climate models, the lack of a hotspot no more disproves manmade global warming than the existence of the hotspot would have proved manmade global warming. At most, it would be evidence that the warming influence of increasing GHGs in the models has been exaggerated, probably due to exaggerated positive feedback from water vapor.

Roy’s “thus” at the beginning of the last paragraph refers to his assertion that warming caused by a decrease in clouds (as would result from an increase in solar activity under Henrik Svensmark’s GCR-cloud theory) would create an upper troposphere hotspot, so long as there is a positive water vapor feedback effect. This does demonstrate that the existence of a hotspot would not uniquely implicate the CO2 warming theory, but it does not demonstrate that late 20th century warming could be due to CO2 in the absence of a hotspot. In fact the opposite is known to be true.

CO2 by itself does not trap enough heat to account for 20th century warming. The CO2 warming theory depends on a strong water vapor amplification mechanism, where the initial CO2 temperature forcing evaporates water into atmosphere which traps yet more heat, creating yet more water vapor, etcetera. As Roy notes, it is this “warming and humidifying of the global atmosphere” and the resulting “acceleration of the hydrologic cycle” that creates the upper troposphere hotspot. Ergo, no hotspot means no powerful water vapor amplification mechanism and no CO2-based account of late 20th century warming.

Svensmark’s theory, on the other hand, does not imply that there will be a hotspot. It is merely compatible with a hotspot. In the presence of a powerful water vapor feedback effect, the temperature forcing created by a GCR-cloud mechanism would create an upper troposphere hotspot. If the water vapor feedback effect is weak or negative, temperature forcing from the GCR-cloud mechanism will not cause a hotspot, but it could still account for 20th century warming just by the magnitude of its un-amplified forcing.

ThanksRoy, for all of your great work. Hope you don’t mind this bit of editing help.

Yes, impossibly stupid "weather panic" IS the new normal

Newsweek Weather Panic cover
Is Newsweek actually heeding the instruction of Linnaeus to "know thyself"? Their latest panic-mongering cover seems pretty self aware.

Panic is a loss of reason:
pan•ic (pænɪk), noun: a sudden, overpowering terror, often affecting many people at once.

Verb: to feel or cause to feel panic

Synonyms: go to pieces, overreact, become hysterical, have kittens

Yes, Newsweek "science editor" Sharon Begley is all het-up with teh kittehz, and offers readers a guide for how they too can work themselves into a state of unreasoning fear. A few details from her grab bag of hysteria provide an interesting look into this pathological mind.

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