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CLASH OF THEORIES by Professor Will Alexander March 26, 2009

Posted by honestclimate in Discussions.
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CLASH OF THEORIES by Professor Will Alexander

Received via email, 23 March 2009

From the very beginning of my involvement in this climate change issue in 1993, I have repeatedly stated that there is no scientifically believable evidence to support the alarmist predictions of climate change scientists.

In this and the next memo I demonstrate via the application of observation scenery why, twenty years after the establishment of the IPCC, climate change scientists are still not able to produce scientifically believable evidence of human causality of climate change, in a format that meets the basic requirements of scientific enquiry and practical applications.

Also, the rapidly deteriorating international situation on the climate change issue must be of increasing concern to all responsible national and international authorities.

The Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. An internationally binding successor agreement has to be reached at Copenhagen nine months from now. A ‘road map’ was negotiated at Bali in December 2007, whereby the developed nations that are the cause of the problem, would entice the developing nations to come aboard by offering financial and technological incentives.

As a result of the global economic recession this ‘persuasion’ is turning from economic assistance to threats of protectionist taxes by the developed nations on imports from developing nations who do not agree to adopt these restrictive measures. This is contrary to the whole spirit of combating the postulated consequences of climate change, as well as the World Trade Organisation’s requirements. Trade wars are on the horizon.

Unless carefully managed, the whole situation could get out of control as it did in the years following the Great Depression and concurrent global droughts, both of which commenced in 1929 and continued through the early 1930s.

This is a time for cool heads and a co-operative scientific effort. My frequent calls for interdisciplinary co-operation have been either rejected or ignored by climate change scientists and the institutions that they represent.

Please try to keep an open mind while reading this and the next memo.

Memo 15/09

Climate change – the clash of theories

Part 1. Observation theory

Monday 23 March 2009

Ponte Vecchio – photo by the author

The Ponte Vecchio across the Arno River in Florence is my favourite civil engineering structure in my favourite city. It was built by Taddro Gaddi in 1334 close to the site of the first Roman bridge which carried the road from Rome to Paris until 1218 when it was destroyed by a severe flood. The earliest recorded flood at this site occurred in 1177, over 800 years ago. Subsequent severe floods are well documented.

This is one of the many thousands of major bridges in the world built over the ages. Without exception, their designs were based on the application of observation theory.

This is how Vriarte described Florence. We must dearly love Florence, for she is the mother of all those who live by thought. It is a good point of departure for this memo.

I have studied, researched, published, practised and taught applied hydrology for more than 30 years. My first encounter with the climate change issue occurred in 1993. I informed a small study group that there was no hydrologically believable evidence of changes in the hydrometeorological data that could be ascribed to unnatural causes. That remains my view after diligent searches ever since then.

Scientific theory requires proof. Proof of unnatural global climate change in the form of numerically verifiable evidence has not been forthcoming. Claims of increases in the hydrological extremes, floods and droughts, are demonstrably false. Sea levels are rising at a rate equivalent to the width of my thumbnail per decade. The volumes of Antarctic and Greenland ice that will have to melt to cause the claimed future increases in sea level are astronomical (many thousands of millions of cubic metres). Where will the energy come from to melt the ice? For this energy to reach the polar regions there has to be an increased energy gradient from the tropics towards the poles. This implies a build up of energy in the tropics. There is no evidence of this happening. Furthermore, the melted ice will have to reach the oceans via flowing rivers. But there are no rivers in Antarctica!

Science has made tremendous advancements in many fields. Why is it that the national and international scientific communities have allowed themselves to be misled on these and other elementary scientific requirements associated with unnatural climate change?

When I expressed my views in reports and publications my interpretations were challenged. I was personally vilified. Having an enquiring mind, I then became increasingly absorbed in trying to determine WHY climate change scientists were so sure of their position when all the physical evidence was to the contrary.

It is now clear, beyond reasonable doubt, that climate change scientists, the IPCC, Al Gore, the Stern Review, the Royal Society and others made, and continue to make, a fundamental error. They applied the wrong scientific theory to the issue. They followed the process theory route instead of the more appropriate, tried and tested observation theory route. Their conclusions have no foundations in science.

Please read on!


Observation theory consists of visual interpretation of recorded observations followed by numerical descriptions. These are then applied in practice. Process theory consists of theoretical descriptions of natural processes that are incorporated in mathematical models. The outputs cannot be used in practical applications. These are fundamentally different approaches.

Voyage of discovery

In this memo I will take you on a voyage of discovery. Civil engineering is the oldest of all the professions being as old as civilisation itself. From the very beginning, accommodating floods and droughts was one of our major activities. As mentioned in earlier memos these problems date back to biblical times. The Noah event occurred about 2500 BC and the Joseph event about 1700 BC.

The Joseph phenomenon in particular has been an increasing worry as our water resources approach their limits of exploitation. Can we follow Joseph’s example and predict the likelihood of the onset of a serious regional (or possibly global) drought? Should this occur it will have extremely serious consequences on the welfare of the people of this country and possibly elsewhere, particularly in the light of the current global economic recession. The last time that the world experienced this combination was during the Great Depression of the early 1930s. What is the likelihood that this can happen in the very near future?

Consider the following example.

Vaal Dam example

The Vaal Dam on the Vaal River is our most important source of water. The annual river flow recorded at this site is the most studied hydrological record in South Africa. It is therefore a good starting point for our expedition. The record extends from October 1923 through to September 1996. After that time the imports and exports from the catchment affected the flows into the dam. The earlier, undisturbed record is nevertheless sufficient for our purposes.

Table 1 shows the dam inflows.

Table 1. Vaal Dam inflows.

The grouping of sequences of low inflows (droughts) suddenly followed by sequences of high inflows (floods) is immediately apparent. Even more important is our ‘discovery’ that these sudden changes do not occur randomly. They are evenly spaced at approximately 21-year intervals. Without manipulating the data in any way, we can now disaggregate the record into four sequences commencing with the years during which these reversals occurred. (The first sequence began in 1913.) Let us call them periods and renumber the years that followed the reversals, starting with the first year when each reversal occurred.

The next step is to divide all the annual values by the record mean value and express them as percentages of the mean value. This will allow us to compare the data with that of other sites later in our experiment.

Plot the results

We can now plot the results in the form of a vertical bar chart as shown in Figure 1. The bars show the range within which the observations occurred.

Figure 1. Periodic inflows into Vaal dam prepared by Alwyn van der Merwe.

It is now abundantly clear that there is a pattern in the chart. To describe it more precisely, it is very clear that these sequences do not consist of random events about a constant mean. If there are clearly discernible, regular sequences we can use them for future predictions. We are now in period year 13. What we CAN say with a high degree of confidence is that the inflows into Vaal Dam during the rest of the current period are LIKELY to be well below average. Can we improve on this?

The next step is to calculate the averages for each period year. We now have a single value of each period year instead of range of values. This facilitates comparison with the average values derived from the inflows into other major dams.

Add other dam inflows

We are now in a position where we can have a broader insight. Are the Vaal Dam inflow sequences coincidental or are they representative of the wider region of South Africa?

[ In passing, note that we are using dam inflows directly instead of deriving the data from river flow gauging stations. In this way we avoid any calibration uncertainties that may be present in the data, particularly the very important high inflows (floods). It is these high inflows that fill our dams and restore our water supplies.]

Figure 2 was also prepared by my colleague Alwyn van der Merwe. It shows the periodic sequences for ten South African dams. He produced similar graphs for other hydrological data. They all show a similar periodic pattern.

Figure 2. Periodic dam inflows. Prepared by Alwyn van der Merwe.

Now another fascinating pattern emerges. There is a very clear annual oscillating phenomenon that is more prominent in the second half-period than the first half.


This is the end of the first stage of our expedition. All that I wish to bring to your attention at this stage is that there are very clear multi-year patterns in the South African hydrometeorological data. These have to be accommodated in future water resource development and management procedures.

Note that at this stage we are not trying to prove anything. Nor are we determining any causes of these phenomena. This is the very heart of observation theory that has been practised by civil engineers for centuries. We are simply studying the data with a view of applying our observations in practice. Where there are uncertainties these are accommodated by applying factors of safety.

A closer look

For those of you with a closer interest in this subject please pause here for a while. It is very important.

Go back to Table 1 and the two figures. What strikes you most? I have studied tables, graphs and figures throughout my professional career. The re-arrangement of the raw data described in this memo was one of many exercises in my search for information that challenged the minds of many stochastic hydrologists and others involved in water resource and flood studies ever since the introduction of electronic computers.

As described in recent memos, through these patient and diligent studies, together with colleagues, we have not only solved these problems. We have gone further and demonstrated the causal linkage of the 21-year periodicity with synchronous variations in received solar energy. The cause of the annual oscillations clearly evident in Figure 2 has yet to be determined. We are working on it!

The most important outcome is that we have developed and verified a broad prediction model for sub-continental, long duration drought sequences. Another very important result was Fred Bailey’s demonstration that variations in received solar energy are more than 17 times larger than the claimed changes caused by increasing undesirable greenhouse gas emissions.

Process theory

Process theory will be discussed in detail in the next memo. As I will describe, all the conclusions reached above, including the periodicity in the Vaal Dam data, were specifically and vigorously denied in an article by Midgley and Underhill of the South African National Biodiversity Institute, that was published in the Water Research Commission’s magazine WaterWheel. All that I wish to emphasise at this stage is that it is both physically as well as theoretically impossible for the hydroclimatic processes illustrated above to be numerically quantified by applying process theory.

While climatologists and environmentalists involved in the climate change issue confined their activities to alarmist media releases and national and international conferences and summits, practitioners simply ignored them. They typically shrugged their shoulders and described these predictions as nothing more than untested hypotheses. They then went on with their work. There is no incentive at all for civil engineering academics and practitioners to participate in the debate on climate change.

The difficulties go even further. Climatologists and environmentalists involved in climate change studies repeatedly refuse to discuss the issue with those of us in the engineering and applied sciences. Civil engineering academics and practitioners with a wealth of knowledge and experience in the fields of floods, droughts and water resource studies, were deliberately excluded from participating in the Midrand Summit. This gave those in the natural sciences a free hand to present alarmist predictions without fears of being challenged.

This is an unstable situation. Eventually the bubble must burst. This may occur within months. It will catch the South African authorities completely unprepared. People will suffer and scapegoats will be sought. It will not be difficult to locate them and the organisations that they represent. My attempts to prevent this from happening have been of no avail. There will be more details in the next memo.


1. Climate change – the clash of theories, by Professor Will Alexander « An Honest Climate Debate - April 3, 2009

[…] differ from city to city and day to day. Notice also the multi-year information in Figure 2 in the previous memo. Because of the complexity of the atmospheric and oceanic processes, the accuracy of the […]

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