Stoat, always first with the news. Too busy with real work and the pub, sorry. Yes, its the RP teacup.

Life is too short to wade through the full skewed mess. Read John Fleck for the summary and Coby Beck for pages more detail. Or better still, don’t.

Part 2 appears to be a total pile of toss – I can only think its done to make part 1 appear reasonable by contrast.


  1. #1 Eli Rabett

    Try part 3 BTW this too has metastasized.

    At this point you say: Eli was right and I was wrong. I apologize. Or not

    [I happy to admit that you are right about many things, and I’ve been wrong about some. What am I supposed to apologise for, though? As for part 3, I’m largely with RP on that (no-one can be wrong all the time). Melting snowpack? Quite likely. Agricultural collapse? Doubtful. Except the request for no name calling in the comments is rather ironic -W]

  2. #2 Nicolas Nierenberg

    I can’t believe I’ve become so addicted to these blogs that I’m posting this.

    [Next thing you know you’ll be editing wikipedia :-) -W]

    Anyway reference to part 2. It is clearly a tempest in something much smaller than a teacup. But I think it was very immature of Dr. Schmidt to claim that some unnamed person independently discovered the issue. It was him, and he discovered it because of a post on another blog.

    [RP is so irritatingly coy I wasn’t even sure that this is what he was talking about. But presumably it is. I which case RP’s posting is utterly indefensible: assuming this is the case, all G did was to tell BAS their data was in error, which seems entirely sensible All the botty-wipes about stealling other peoples ideas is so much twaddle by RP -W]

    Since then there have been about 10,000 blog posts arguing about the issue. Testosterone is a terrible thing.

    [RP has a reputation to build and to maintain. He needs to be talked about. He is off on the political side, quite explicitly: his is a policy, not a science blog -W]

  3. #3 Magnus W

    This is humour? It’s not like there is a difference between adding your name on a paper you barely have participated in and hearing or reading that there is trouble with data then fixing it…

    Damn if some one where jumping around pointing fingers going Nananana na na! there is something wrong… nana! Without explaining what it was, why should that “one” have any credit? It’s not like any one that makes a new invention will credit some dude who where talking about making it… maybe a mention if that other “one” is lucky… however, I don’t know who found what when…

  4. #4 Eli Rabett

    Eli did say or not

    You have to know something about agriculture in the Central Valley of California to understand the serious issue, which Chu certainly does and Pielke is trying to minimize. That’s curious, because Colorado has the same problem.

    The CV used to be linked to the sea, and has very rich land and is absolutely flat. Winters are mild, an ideal place for ag, but you have to add water. Using the run off, major water distribution canals and other means, the water has been added in the past ~70 years, but if the water goes away the ag goes away and we are back to the status quo ante, of a dry, semi arid plain with little productivity. Not nothing, but effectively nothing compared to what flows out today.

    Because transportation became inexpensive, it has actually been lower cost to raise crops there and ship them to the rest of the US(this is also true for parts of the coast west of San Jose) and significant areas of CA are devoted to monocultures of various crops which supply essentially all of that crop to the rest of the US. The Wikipedia article on the CV explains the situation very well. The flip side of that is that raising the types of crops that grow in the CV has pretty much died out in the rest of the US because no one could compete. Where it has come back in recent years it was driven by folk who wanted variety, and to encourage local farmers, not by cost.

    CA, as most of the western US states has a water deficit, demand caught between the growing, large cities and the need for agriculture and mining.

    [Fair comment. But the water isn’t going to go away because of the snowpack stuff; we’re just going to lose free storage. It will cost more to raise dams -W]

  5. #5 Eli Rabett

    Should have added this to the last post. You can gain some understanding of the water use issue by reading the Wiki article on the California Water Wars A one sentence explanation is that several rivers, including the Colorado, never reach the ocean or their drainage basin, but are completely diverted before they do

  6. #6 Nicolas Nierenberg

    On a more serious point while many find Mr. McIntyre’s site annoying and theatrical, it has, in this case, quickly led to the discovery of data errors at several of the antarctic temperature sites. Given the nature of these sites and the physical and logistical issues it is possible that there are other discoverable data errors.

    [Entirely likely. Hopefully McI will write BAS a nice email pointing ot the problems rather than jst grandstanding -W]

    As I have been following these episodes it has become clear to me that with the availability of the internet scientists should be required to post end to end versions of data and code that produce the results in the papers that they publish. Today they include a “methods” section which is an English description of the processes involved to produce the result, but this type of description falls far short of fully explaining the details and choices which can be critically important.

    Similarly I think that social science researchers like Dr. Oreskes who are using material which is only found in various archives should be required to post source documents where they are not currently available on line. Obviously the exception would be where there are legal restrictions such as copyright. If they perform something like an internet search with certain results they should provide the precise search script along with an archive of the results.

    [This is utterly impractical, and the idea behind seems just wrong. It simply isn’t true that everything you need to do science is on the internet, or is even close to being so. Trying to require it simply won’t work -W]

    Both of these would give peer reviewers and subsequent researchers, and others a chance to fully see where the results are derived from.

    [Generally I think these ideas are wrong. Subsequent researchers don’t want to repeat previous peoples work. Its boring, and you learn nothing. They *want* a nice encapslated write up of what other people have done. Otherwise yo’d drown in data -W]

  7. #7 Magnus W

    But would raising damns be an answer? I don’t know… what would happen to the water? Evaporation?

    Getting better irrigation and swapping crops seams to be the way… but higher costs is newer good, and I don’t know much about crops.

    CA already has a conflict about water though, who should have how much north or south and so on and they are both already taking out more ground water then are flowing in…

  8. #8 John Mashey

    [I live on the edge of the area Formerly Knows as the Valley of Heart’s Delight, famed for orchards … lately called Silicon Valley.]

    0)Marc Reisner’s “Cadillac Desert” is a useful book for those unfamiliar with the US West.

    Building dams is nontrivial, and surprise! many of the best places are already taken and surprise! dams have other consequences, not all good and surprise! CA actually has thought about dams occasionally before:

    The CA Department of Water Resources is a powerful government entity, along with the California Air Resources Board and the California Energy Commission.

    Water-related activities use ~19%, see Table 1-1 of California’s electric power.

    [Which actually makes CA’s low per capita electricity use compared to most states even more amazing.]

    1) CA grows half of the fruit and vegetables for the US.

    2) One of the reasons for the monocultures is that some area is found to be good for crop X, due to combination of soil and climate, and then in usual clustering fashion, a monoculture infrastructure grows up around that. Here we say, every town has its vegetable, for example:
    Half Moon Bay: pumpkins
    Garlic: Gilroy (used to be anyway)
    Castroville: artichokes [and if you’ve ever there, visit the Giant Artichoke, wherein you can buy artichoke soup, artichoke fries, artichoke sandwiches … and others for takeaway.

    3) Even without water problems, some of these are going to change anyway, given temperature changes that move the optimal climate for crop X somewhere else. Unclear whether for better or worse.

  9. #9 Eli Rabett

    Where are you going to put the dams? Just about every suitable place is taken. Hydrology is a major obsession in California, don;t think you can find anything they have missed.

    [It will rather depend on how important the dams are. The valleys that the run-off will come down are the obvious place. Since I know nothing about the area, my detailed opinions are worthless -W]

  10. #10 Steve Bloom

    William, a large part of California’s coming snowpack problem is that the existing system was designed for both storage and flood control, with reservoirs kept drawn down through the spring and then allowed to fill up with snow melt after the flood danger has passed. Take away that reliable post-flood season melt and we have a very large problem. Raising dams helps a little, but not nearly enough. As Eli points out, sites for new dams are pretty limited as well.

  11. #11 Nicolas Nierenberg

    What was impractical about my social science suggestion. I wasn’t suggesting that everything is on the internet, I was suggesting it ought to be posted as used.

    For example in the case of the “chicken little” paper I had to get the archivists at Scripps to go hunt down the various referenced letters agendas etc. They had quite a bit of trouble doing this from the references in the paper. Dr. Oreskes had already retrieved these documents. So if she had just scanned them to a web repository related to the paper, anyone subsequently could have just read them.

    No one wants to repeat previous work, but frequently the work overlaps. For example Steig et al. refers to several other papers with results that are somewhat different than the results that they got. Since they were using a new, and quite clever I might add, methodology it isn’t surprising. But it would have been nice to know if the data sets the old papers were based on were different, or if it was the analysis that was different.

    Also if I want to do the same type of analysis on another data set, it would really be nice to look at exactly what they did, rather than trying to figure it out from an incomplete description.

    [You seem to be trying for an era of quick-n-easy internet science which isn’t here yet and likely never will be. I suspect it would as likely lead to namespace pollution as any advance. The model is one of trust, which can be a problem sometimes. This isn’t the commercial world -W]

  12. #12 Steve Bloom

    I should add that while Chu’s reported comments were hyperbolic, they were understood as such (in California, anyway). Note that lack of any pushback from people claiming his remarks weren’t literally true.

  13. #13 wildlifer

    In a related story, Gavin dots “i” crosses “t”, an enraged McIntyre calls for his head….

  14. #14 Nicolas Nierenberg

    WC, Ok I give up, but when my paper is published I will create an archive on line of the various referenced sources. Seems trivial.

    [Leading by example is definitely the best way! But how will you deal with the problem of copyright? -W]

  15. #15 Eli Rabett

    Seems simple till you realize that

    “Great fleas have little fleas
    upon their backs to bite ’em,
    And little fleas have lesser fleas,
    and so ad infinitum.
    Yet data set fleas are larger still
    Than the great disks which hold em
    And no one knows where a misprint lurks
    Until they stumbles upon one”

    -ER with apologies Augustus de Morgan

    [:-) -W]

  16. #16 Magnus W

    But you can build all the dams you want in the dessert… it won’t help. The big problem is lack of water and changing patterns. (Ok, I don’t know that much of the area)

    [As I understand it, the problem is not that there will be no ppn, but that the warming will melt the snowpack, so we lose the for-free storage over winter. I rather suspect that high-up dams would solve most of that problem, but like you I know nothing of the area -W]

  17. #17 alufelgi do bmw

    In my opinion the largest threat for California are cataclysms and ecological catastrophes. Not important is how many money we have because one tragedy can us take all.

  18. #18 P. Lewis

    I preface the following by stating I know next to nothing about California’s Central Valley, its geology or hydrology, but it seems to me to be naive to think that you can build a dam in just any valley that runoff happens to occur in in order to recover that free storage loss.

    First, California has a well known tectonic and resulting earthquake problem, so siting of dams is presumably not straightforward (I know there are dams, so it is possible). You certainly don’t want them close to or astride active faults, and I doubt you’d want them close to or astride inactive faults. But perhaps there are no such problems on the Sierra Nevada side of Central Valley. (Perhaps I should look at current dam siting in CA’s CV surrounds.)

    Second, there’s no point damming runoff in a valley if the permeability of the valley’s underlying geology is high; unless, that is, the requirement is absolutely necessary. Then, I suppose, you can import suitable materials to cap the underlying geology for your dam/reservoir.

    A third factor to bear in mind is siltation. If valley runoff normally takes a lot of surface material with it, then you’ll rapidly have siltation problems and declining capacity of your dams/reservoirs.

    Added to the above, if you start damming large parts of the mountain ranges to maintain the level afforded by the free storage, then you will surely have to manage the dam/resevoir outflows/runoff to match the current free-storage outflows/runoff to maintain groundwater levels/recharge aquifers in the valley floor, and presumably to maintain the river systems. Maybe they would do that, maybe they wouldn’t. Maybe it would be required automatically to maintain current agricultural production levels anyway (he says, musing aloud).

    It might be better/cheaper to build dry-ice (oh the irony) or liquid-nitrogen production facilities at the heads of these free-storage valleys to ensure freezing of the precipitation in situ and then allow nature to take its inevitable course over the spring/early summer… he said semi-facetiously.

  19. #19 luminous beauty

    If the Sierra snowpack is reduced by 90%, the Central Valley is screwed, no ifs ands or buts.

    We’ve already dammed practically every stream in the whole blinking state.


    Only one river and two creeks in the entire Sierra system aren’t dammed.

  20. #20 Nicolas Nierenberg

    The items that are at issue are not subject to copyright. They are things like letters that are in the SIO archives. The whole issue is that they are very difficult to access. In fact I think that had I not been connected with SIO I wouldn’t have been able to get to them very easily.

    So my rule would be. If the item is copyrighted or already available on the Internet then a reference works fine. If it is something that doesn’t fall in those categories, then why not scan it up and make it available?

    [That would certainly be helpful of you. As for the issue in general, http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/02/antarctic-warming-is-robust/langswitch_lang/in#comment-111955 may be relevant -W]

  21. #21 P. Lewis

    Only one river and two creeks in the entire Sierra system aren’t dammed.

    F…f…flippin’ ‘eck!

    “…build dry-ice (oh the irony) … then allow nature to take its inevitable course over the spring/early summer”®

    So (not being a knowledgeable beaver), can the dams’ capacities be built up (do the dams’ capacities need building up) to compensate for possible/probable loss of free storage?

  22. #22 Hank Roberts

    Currently (last 70 years or so) water flow has been managed to keep the Delta fresh water so water reaches the intake for the big pumping system that moves it to south.
    You may have heard of the “peripheral canal” idea — to take the Sacramento and other rivers around the delta, delivering fresh water to the south without having to first send it all the way through the delta. The delta has a nasty problem with invasive plants (fresh water adapted) that will be solved if the salt water is allowed back up into the channels there intermittently, but that has problems for the local agriculture. The delta “islands” are now well below sea level because they’re peat that has dried out (and/or burned away) inside levees, so they flood whenever the levees fail. Currently they flood with fresh water so they can just be pumped out. Once the flood with salt water again, not so easy.

    Dams longterm simply don’t work — they silt up far faster than anyone thought a few decades ago. No dam can come close to holding the amount of water that snowpack holds — compare the surface area of the mountains to the possible volume that could be impounded.

    Something like 80 percent of water in California goes to agriculture
    and the cities divide the rest; So. Cal is far more advanced at water conservation these days than No. Cal.
    Rationing is expected again unless the next month or two are truly remarkably wet, which doesn’t seem likely.

    Yes, it’s raining right now. Not hard, not much.

  23. #23 Brian Schmidt

    Following up on Steve Bloom’s point, current California dams can provide water storage to the extent that devastating winter floods aren’t anticipated. Guess what changes when 90% of the snowpack comes down as rain instead.

    Not only are we losing the snow storage of half of our water, our artificially-created storage system will have less capacity because of the need for increased room to accommodate floods that may not come.

    And thousands of high-altitude dams are impractical. Increased groundwater storage is practical and done here in Silicon Valley, but we’ve already tapped out local groundwater storage capability. I’m not sure how far it can spread, and has other risks from pollution, spreading coastal salt water intrusion, etc.

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