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Today (September 30, 2014) marks the last day of the 2013-2014 water year.  Given that I have been otherwise occupied and the last water year I discussed was 2010, an update is certainly in order.

As everyone is aware, there has been a tremendous amount of discussion and a fair amount of concern about the current drought situation in California.  Indeed, the November ballot contains a measure to authorize a $7.5 billion bond offering to fund “water quality, supply, treatment, and storage projects.”  Without getting into the merits of the upcoming ballot measure, I wanted to offer a quick update of the precipitation situation, now that the 2014 water year is effectively in the books.

Northern Sierra 8-Station Index

For simplicity’s sake, and for direct comparison with my prior post, I will use the Northern Sierra 8-Station Annual Precipitation historical index as the basis for looking at precipitation over nearly a century.  The 8 stations used for the Northern Sierra precipitation index are: Mount Shasta City, Shasta Dam, Mineral, Quincy, Brush Creek, Sierraville RS, Blue Canyon, and Pacific House.  A map of the area covered is below (courtesy, the California Department of Water Resources): (more…)

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Just watched Hurricane on the Bayou, a simple yet poignant look at Hurricane Katrina through the eyes of two musicians.  The documentary tells the story of these two individuals, a man who lives in the wetlands and a teenage girl from New Orleans, who got together to raise awareness of the importance of the wetlands to hurricane mitigation specifically and the local biosphere in general.

The 40+ minute documentary is generally well done and provides an intriguing, if brief, look at the wetlands and their important role.  Hurricane on the Bayou never mentions global warming or climate change, focusing instead on man’s land use impacts, specifically (i) the levees that have prevented the seasonal flooding responsible for transporting silt that would otherwise rejuvenate and restore the wetlands, and (ii) the canals that were built through the wetlands for navigation convenience, but which have unfortunately allowed a significant influx of salt water, killing many of the plants that would normally inhabit this ecosystem.  The only thing that could even be construed as global warming related is the reference to the fact that the loop current in the Gulf was approximately 2 degrees warmer than usual at the time of Hurricane Katrina, which experts believe may have contributed to Katrina’s large size (although if memory serves, in terms of strength Katrina had dropped to a category 3 by the time it made landfall).

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Just finished watching the 2003 documentary, Coral Reef Adventure, featuring experienced divers Howard and Michele Hall.  The film is an enjoyable, if somewhat simple, documentary about the Halls’ 10-month long expedition to study coral reefs, with a particular eye toward determining why some reefs have experienced significant declines in health in recent years. 

In an effort to determine why some reefs are doing so poorly, the documentary highlights the Halls’ research into those reefs, as well as contrasting reefs that have enjoyed long-term good health or are quickly bouncing back from challenging circumstances.

The film makes a couple of (semi-anemic) references to increases in ocean temperatures and how they can affect the reefs.  However, in the Halls’ actual research into specific reef systems, the culprit is clearly shown to be other environmental factors, primarily land sedimentation flowing into the reef systems as a result of deforestation and a lack of mangrove groves (Louisiana, anyone?) that would otherwise filter out such sedimentation before it reaches the reefs.  The other primary culprit that emerges is overfishing of large coral reef dwellers.

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Is it Fraud?

Thus far, I have purposely avoided entering into the recent discussions on Climategate, but there has been a lot of ink spilled on the question of whether or not the individuals in question (primarily Michael Mann, Phil Jones, et al.) engaged in “fraud,” as evidenced in the now-famous email about the desire to “hide the decline.”  As a result, I thought I would offer a few quick thoughts.

Several prominent individuals have, perhaps wisely, carefully avoided referring to the academics’ activities as “fraud.”  Indeed, Roger Pielke affirmatively says “The ‘trick’ does not show scientific fraud.”  http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2009/12/trick-in-context.html#comments

I do not know what Roger has in mind in terms of “scientific fraud,” but I think it is helpful to step back a moment and consider what we mean by fraud.

As has been pointed out by others, there are several potential uses of the word “fraud.” If we are going from the strict legal definition, although details differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, one typically has to show five elements in order successfully prevail in a fraud claim, namely:

1. misrepresentation

2. scienter

3. intent to defraud

4. justifiable reliance

5. damages

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In response to a post by William Briggs at:

http://wmbriggs.com/blog/?p=1390#comments

I got to thinking about the so-called “precautionary principle.”  The precautionary principle is one of the most common fallback positions advanced in support of the idea that we should pursue (mandatorily or otherwise) dramatic cuts in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, even if there is a question about the underlying science.  I posted the following comments on Brigg’s thread and decided to repost here, because I think this is an issue that is important for everyone to understand.  My comments, as previously posted, follow:

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I’m not sure the precautionary principle is a helpful idea, even in principle. Most in the CAGW camp who state that they are relying on the precautionary principle simply don’t understand it. There is even a very popular video on YouTube that makes the explicit argument that we don’t need to know the underlying science or settle the debate, because the precautionary principle mandates that we should act to reduce GHS’s in any event. However, what is misunderstood is that the very application of the precautionary principle requires that we make some conclusion in advance about the possible underlying outcomes.

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