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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Much ado about nothing ...

Pop quiz!  You are the editor of a major scientific journal whose policy is " disseminate concisely-written, high-impact research reports on major scientific advances", with a rapid turn around between receipt of manuscripts and publication so that such results can be communicated rapidly.  In pursuit of the later goal " be a fast-track and high-impact journal ...", your journal has "... a policy of rejecting papers for which major revisions are required to meet the [journal's] criteria of impact, innovation, and timeliness."  You receive an article which one (of two) reviewers considers to be, with minor revision,  a worthwhile low impact paper, but which he deems would require major revision to be a high impact paper.  What do you do?

Roger Pielke Jr thinks that if it is his paper, at least, and if the journal is Geophysical Research Letters (GRL) you should publish!  I think that claim strains credulity.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Holmes on Bolt

Johnathon Holmes has an interesting article on the case which discusses why the case succeeded under the racial discrimination act, but would not have succeeded as a defamation action. He writes:

"But – and this is the disturbing part – the judge goes on to find (in par 424):

"Even if I had been satisfied that the section 18C conduct was capable of being fair comment, I would not have been satisfied that it was said or done by Mr Bolt reasonably and in good faith."

Defamation law doesn't require fair comment to be reasonable, as we've seen. It doesn't require it to be 'in good faith'. But the exemptions listed in section 18D of the Racial Discrimination Act, including fair comment, only apply to "anything said or done reasonably and in good faith".

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A simple test ....

This is post is proposed as a simple test of so-called AGW "skeptics" to see if they are entitled to their claim to skepticism. It just asks three simple questions. Any so-called AGW "skeptic" who wishes to self test their skepticism can do so by answering the questions. If all three answers are correct, you are entitled to a claim of skepticism about this aspect of climate science. You may still be unskeptical about others. Answers and follows up questions will be given in a following post if there is sufficient interest.

The questions:

In his well known book, "Heaven and Earth", Ian Plimer has claimed, "[M]assive volcanic erruptions (e.g. Mount Pinatubo) emit the equivalent of a year's human CO2 emissions in a few days." (Heaven and Earth, p. 472).

1) Is this claim true or false?

2) How do you know?

3) Explain a simple test which would establish almost certainly whether the claim is true or false, and carry it out?

Comments will be sent to moderation and published after one week to avoid cribbing.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Joint Flood Taskforce Report on the Brisbane flood of 2011

The Joint Flood Taskforce has also released a report on the flood.  On factual matters, it largely confirms the SEQWater report where they overlap, but mostly it concentrates on determining an interim standard for flood levels for council planing.  I don't have much more to say about it at this time.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Insurance Council of Australia Reports on South East Queensland Flooding

Belatedly, I have come across the reports prepared by the Insurance Council of Australia by WorleyParsons, Water Matters International, and Water and Environment.  There are three reports, one dealing with theToowoomba flood, one dealing with the local effects of the Brisbane flood, and one dealing with the background and causes of the floods in the Lockyer Valley and Brisbane River.  The later two are in fact part 2 and part 1 (respectively) of a two part report, and of those two parts, it is the first part (and third linked) that interests me most.  That is because it is that report which contains the information relevant to the issue of the Wivenhoe Dam's operations and strategies that are continuing to interest me.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Mick O'Brien and the Brisbane Flood of 2011

Chemical engineer Mick O'Brien has released his submission to the Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry. Mick O'Brien has been the chief informant of the Australian's Hedley Thomas, so unsurprisingly, the submission is just a rehash of many of the inaccurate and unwarranted claims that Hedley Thomas has being making over the last few months.  However, there are a number of points that Mick O'Brien raises that I wish to address, and will do so briefly here.  In later posts, I will give a more detailed survey of information now becoming available as part of the preparation of my own submission to the inquiry.

The Greenhouse Effect and the Laws of Thermodynamics

I have just made a comment at Skeptical Science which I believe provides a good summary refutation of the denier claim that the greenhouse effect violates the laws of thermodynamics. Here it is:

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Reporting on Wivenhoe

SEQ Water have released their initial report on the operations of Wivenhoe and Sommerset Dam during the     Brisbane flood of January, 2011.  I have yet to read it all, but certain things stand out.

The 2011 flood at Wivenhoe, showing inflows (Dark Blue), releases (Light Blue), Dam Levels (Bright Red) and the approximate level of peak flows for the sub catchment in 1974 (Dark Red).  Figure is from the SEQ Water Report, and modified to show 1974 peak.

The key findings are that this was an unusual event, with an Annual Expected return Probability of (possibly) less than 1 in 200, and for some stations, an AEP of less than 1 in 2000 .  That level of rainfall was not predicted in the Bureau Of Meteorology five and three day forecasts, and so was for practical purposes could not have been predicted.  Although the peak inflows to the dam far exceeded 1974 levels (by 200 and 230%), the rise to the peaks was much sharper than in 1974, so that total inflows to the dam only exceeded 1974 levels by 190%.  Peak inflows reached a level with an AEP of approximately 1 in 900.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The value of hindsight, or how to say "I told you so" without ever having done so

On the 9th of March, 2010, the opposition (Liberal National Party) called for a reduction of the flood mitigation capacity of Wivenhoe dam to enhance Brisbane's water supply.  Not content with a review of options, Mr Seeney (LNP Shadow Minister for Natural Resources) demanded that extra water be retained until the completion of any review.  "It would be absurd", he said, "to release water from Wivenhoe until all options are thoroughly investigated."   The LNP renewed its calls after Wivenhoe dissipated a flood event in early October of 2010.   Then Lawrence Springborg renewed the call on December 20th, in the middle of yet another flood event, from which Wivenhoe again protected Brisbane.

These calls represented the ideal time for anyone to argue for enhanced flood mitigation at Wivenhoe.  Those such as Andrew Dragun, who now believes that water should have been released to prevent the risk of flooding, said nothing.  He thought it was far more important to attack the Federal Governments Murray Darling Basin Scheme.  Hedley Thomas, who has run so hard on this story for the Australian, ignored the story.  And Michael O'Brien, the engineer who has so publicly condemned the dam operators was not to be heard. Their wisdom, it appears, is exclusively 20-20 hindsight.

Let's put this in context.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

2011 and History: How big was Brisbane's flood of 13/1/2011

In this post I will be returning again to the size of the Brisbane Flood.  The reason for discussing these issues again is that  I have some new and interesting information, and also because these issues continue to be revisited by people who are trying to drum up a witch hunt against either the dam operators or the state government (or both).

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

After-math 2

It is now long enough after the Brisbane floods for the vultures to start circling.  With 20-20 hindsight they are certain that SEQ Water (the authority managing Wivenhoe Dam) should have done things diferently, and that if they had done so, there would have been no flood worth talking about.

I disagree!

Friday, January 14, 2011


The Brisbane flood peak is over, and the peak was below that predicted on Tuesday, though one meter higher than that predicted when I made my last post on the floods.  Unfortunately the flooding in the capital has drawn focus away from victims who have suffered far more from the floods: those west of the range whose towns have been flooded, two, three and in one case five times in less than a month (and who in many cases were also flooded in March); and above all, those in Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley who faced the devastation of the "inland instant tsunamis".

It has also allowed AGW deniers to start playing there predictable, but disappointing game of "blame the victims".  The floods, we are told, was only so bad because because of inadequate mitigation, poorly managed.  And only a problem at all because fools built houses on flood plains.   Oh, and above all else, the flood did not exceed what commonly occurs due to natural variability.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Under Brisbane Waters?

I have been holding of blogging on the Queensland floods for a week or so, now.  I thought I might wait for a more appropriate time.  This seems like an appropriate time:

Brave New Climate - Qld Floods Highlight the cost of climate extremes (Link added 14/1)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Getting it wrong: George White's argument against AGW (Pt 2)

Continuing my critique of George White's argument against AGW*, I must first note its general structure.  After the introduction, White proceeds to analyse the various energy flows into, and out of the the Earth's atmosphere as revealed by satellite data.  He does this in the sections on Albedo Effects and Energy Flux.  He then mounts an argument that Thermal Lag does not influence the rate at which the Earth warms or cools due to changes in forcings.  White claims this result is itself an argument against AGW, but this is not so.  Rather, if he could make his case, it would be a necessary auxiliary hypothesis to the argument he mounts in his introduction, and to a lesser extent, his second argument.    That second argument uses the same data and an unusual method to determine the Earth's climate sensitivity, and is presented in the section on Climate Sensitivity.  I had hoped to deal with both of those discussions in one post, but on reflection I will require two (making this a four part series).

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Hypocrisy at Climate Clash

Although I will not normally make a policy of commenting on other blogs, in this case I will make an exception.

Until recently, I have been an active participant in the Climate Clash blog maintained Dr Ed Berry.  I had withdrawn from that site, in part because of the inconsistent moderation by Dr Berry which, in practise, gave open slather to opponents of AGW to insult both pro-AGW participants on the board, and noted defenders of AGW, both academic and in the blogosphere.

Getting it wrong: George White's argument against AGW (Pt 1)

George White mounts an argument;that the theory of global warming fails certain essential emperical tests. Specifically, he argues the temperature increase in the lower troposphere is to low to be consistent with global warming over the period of satellite observations; and that climate sensitivity is, at most, about one sixth of that determined by the IPCC.

Considering the former argument first, he writes:
"The first prediction of AGW to fail, is that a 20% increase in CO2 is expected to cause an increase in the average global temperature of about 0.8°C. Detecting trends in satellite data is difficult for many reasons. Year to year differences can exceed 1°C, global seasonal variability exceeds 3.5°C, hemispheric seasonal variability exceeds 12°C and discontinuities arise as the data from different satellites is merged, however; a 25 year trend this large should be evident and it's not."