Are Pakistan’s Floods Your Fault and You Ought to Pay? – Watts Up With That?
This video provides the public with an understandable introduction to the complex dynamics driving Pakistan’s monsoon floods and droughts. The following information will provide the public with facts and a few critical thinking tools needed to decide if Pakistan’s floods were the result of your carbon-rich lifestyles, or just natural events long endured in Pakistan.
Jim Steele is Director emeritus of San Francisco State University’s Sierra Nevada Field Campus, authored Landscapes and Cycles: An Environmentalist’s Journey to Climate Skepticism, and proud member of the CO2 Coalition.
Today I want to separate the science of Pakistan’s devastating floods from the shamefully manipulative narratives by politicians and the media.
The worst is MSNBC’s attempt at public shaming by calling the catastrophe “climate racism”.
Pakistan’s government is in dire need of world bank bailouts due to past corruption and ineptitude. So it is not surprising that Foreign Minister Zardari blames a climate crisis and scape goats industrialized countries, stating “the citizens of Pakistan, are paying the price in their lives, their livelihoods for the industrialization of rich countries that has resulted in this climate change”
In contrast, honest scientists have stated what has been known for centuries, and I quote “the rivers of the Himalaya are susceptible to extreme floods on many timescales and future floods can be expected with or without significant human-induced climate change.”
First consider that Pakistanis have blamed their own government for many of their problems.
Critical of flood control policies, the adviser to chief minister of Baluchistan, Kaisar Bengali, reported: “dams create floods, dams don’t prevent floods…in 2010 the water that passed through the Indus was less than in 1976. Yet, it created more flooding because the river had risen 6-7 feet” due to the accumulation of sediments behind the dams.
Many accuse that flood control projects have favored wealthy landowners who benefit from developing certain floodplains while diverting waters to the floodplains inhabited by the nation’s poorest.
Environmental sciences professor Shafiqur Rehman said, “first we build dykes and spend millions of rupees on them & then we blow them up and drown people to save cities or other areas,”
And of course, there are widespread complaints about government corruption. Hashim Nisar Hashmi, at Pakistan’s university of engineering and technology said, “if maintenance of flood embankments had been adequately maintained by provinces, major losses would have been averted”
Now consider that Pakistan’s unique location has made it vulnerable to natural swings of dramatic weather between major droughts and major floods long before rising CO2 has had any impact. Since 1850 Pakistan has experienced 7 major droughts and 6 major floods. And it is common local knowledge that summer monsoons always cause flooding in some rivers somewhere in Pakistan.
The 2010 floods have been extremely well studied and those studies provide guidance in understanding the very similar 2022 floods.
As Khandekar (2010) published, “a rapid transition from El Niño to La Niña between spring and summer of 2010 appears to be the key element in triggering a vigorous monsoon of 2010 over the Indian subcontinent.”
Khandekar concluded, “the 2010 Pakistan floods, although seemingly unprecedented, were well within natural variability of the monsoonal climate over the Indian subcontinent. I have suggested before, there is an urgent need for an improved understanding of the many complex features associated with the Indian/Asian monsoon system”
So, to that end, this video intends to provide the public with an introduction to those complex dynamics driving Pakistan’s monsoon floods and droughts. The following information will provide the public with facts and a few critical thinking tools needed to decide if Pakistan’s floods were the result of your carbon-rich lifestyles, or just natural events long endured in Pakistan.
Indeed, natural La Nina / El Nino cycles have been demonstrated to contribute about 50% of monsoon variability.
During La Nina-like conditions the Bay of Bengal experiences heightened convection, and thus contributes greater quantities of water vapor to the region.
During El Nino conditions the center of convection migrates to the eastern pacific, thus reducing the water vapor that can be transported over India and Pakistan.
Additionally, the negative phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation makes La Nina-like conditions more frequent for 20 to 30 years, as has been the case since 1999.
So, consider that Pakistan’s heavy flooding in both 2010 and in 2022 happened during La Nina years.
Also consider that, since 1880 there is no trend in excess rainfall or drought conditions over the greater Indian region. There has been no unusual increase in recent decades in expected excessive rains either from la Nina or due to rising CO2.
So how does science explain recent floods?
Climate alarmists always frame every weather event in terms of warming from added CO2. Alarmists throw out a simple factoid that warmer air holds more water vapor. Thus, it should follow that increased rainfall must be due to rising CO2 warming. But that dynamic is often totally irrelevant for most weather catastrophes. Just consider that the warmest deserts hold the least water vapor.
In contrast most scientists understand there are many other factors affecting these complex weather events. Honest scientists will tell you that “increases in atmospheric water vapor content alone cannot explain changes in intense rain events due to rainfall’s strong dependence on vertical motions”
So first consider that the Intertropical Convergence Zone, or ITCZ, marks where moisture laden trade winds concentrate their water vapor while their convergence forces that air to rise, where it then cools, condenses, and precipitates.
Due to that dynamic, the world’s narrow ITCZ band accounts for 32% of all global precipitation.
When the ITCZ follows the sun’s seasonal path northward. It brings the wet season to India and Pakistan.
When the ITCZ retreats southward in the winter, they experience their dry season.
Research has also demonstrated that due to changes in the earth’s orbit and axis tilt, the earth has been steadily cooling for the past 8 thousand years and accordingly the ITCZ’s northern limits have progressively moved towards the equator.
During the Holocene Optimum when the ITCZ was furthest north, monsoon intensity was the greatest in 100 thousand years.
The furthest southward migration of the ITCZ culminated during the little ice age, reducing monsoon rainfall and coinciding with devastating droughts across southern Asia. A combination of an extreme southward ITCZ and El Nino-like conditions produced the drought and great famine of 1876-1878 resulting in over 7 million deaths, with India being hit hardest.
Rainfall does not fall equally across the Indian sub-continent. The so-called monsoon zone” parallels the ITCZ’s current orientation. But the winds lose moisture as they travel westward from the Bay of Bengal and move inland towards Pakistan.
Winds over the Arabian Sea from the southwest typically bring the greatest rainfall to India’s west coast and sometimes into Pakistan when the winds curl to the northwest.
As reported by Kumar (2010) rainfall over India does not provide any evidence of a global warming trend. 3 major regions of India have declining rainfall while 2 others have increasing trends. And when all the sub-divisions of those regions are examined, the majority show neither increasing nor decreasing trends.
To be fair, CO2 global warming is not expected to increase rainfall everywhere or evenly, simply due to natural variations. This is especially true for the Indian Pakistan regions that experience huge natural extremes.
The Himalayan ranges will always prevent monsoon moisture from reaching further north. So heavy rains fall on the Himalayan southside, while north of the Himalaya is extremely dry.
Because the southwest winds bring abundant moisture across Bangladesh and into northeast India, and the intercepting mountains provide the needed vertical uplift, Mawsynram is the wettest city in the world, marked here by the red triangle, Mawsynram receives about 467 inches of rain per year, 20 times India’s average.
In contrast, the southwest winds only bring rain to Pakistan occasionally. The lack of moisture transport into Pakistan has created 5 different desert regions. And while beneath the tropic of cancer, clear skies and the sun’s direct rays produce Asia’s hottest recorded temperatures.
Jacobabad in Pakistan’s southern Sindh region, marked by a red triangle, experiences temperatures as high as 125°F (51.7 °C) nearly every year during the month of May before the monsoons start to cool the region.
The nearby archeological site of Moen-Jo-Daro holds Asia’s record for highest recorded temperature with 128.3°F (53.5°C)).
Climate crisis barkers commonly suggest rising CO2 will simply make this natural variability worse. Often arguing wet regions will get wetter and dry regions drier. But Pakistan’s floods contradicted such climate crisis claims.
In summer 2022, the wettest regions of northeast India were the driest, as illustrated by reds and yellow. There was no change in the green regions, but India’s west coast received excessive rains.
That pattern suggests global warming did not add more water vapor to the atmosphere, but instead atmospheric circulation simply shifted moisture transport from eastern India into western India and Pakistan.
In the heavily 2022 flooded Sindh region, the desert city of Moen-Jo-Daro is the site of Asia’s record highest temperature. It was first built about 3000 years ago. Then abandoned after being buried in mud from heavy flooding. Exemplifying the region’s erratic extreme weather, archeologists believe Moen-Jo-Daro was reclaimed and then abandoned at least 6 times over the past 3 thousand years until finally being buried by mud for the last time.
Unfortunately, the Sindh region’s natural hot zone also provides fodder for global warming fear mongering. Despite Jacobabad temperatures reaching 125°f (51.7 °c) most years, the uardian fear mongered that 51°c in 2022 was “record-breaking”. But that is a total falsehood if monthly or yearly records are being considered.
Scientists expect severe weather when they observe a weather pattern known as a dry line. Frequent dry line formation in southern Pakistan and the Sindh region makes the region vulnerable to extreme thunderstorms and flooding whenever moisture transport from the Arabian sea increases.
When moist air from the Arabian sea moves northwestward and collides with denser dry air flowing eastward from Afghanistan and the Baluchistan highlands, a dry line forms and flooding can be expected.
Pakistan’s summer 2022 heavy rainfall was a regional event. Despite the low average rainfall (illustrated in orange) in Pakistan’s Sindh region, the region experienced a 500% increase in rainfall (illustrated in green). A similar increase was observed in the dry highlands of Baluchistan further west.
In contrast, the normally high rainfall in the Himalayan region of Kashmir, was the same as it usually is.
Observations of shifting atmospheric circulation have recorded that More water vapor from Arabian sea (blue line) has been most recently transported into southern Pakistan while less water vapor is being transported from Bay of Bengal into northern Pakistan (green)
Accordingly, it is southern Pakistan that is experiencing the worst flooding and infrastructure destruction (marked in brown)
Still some climate alarmists argue that global warming is melting glaciers and increasing regional snow melt. They claim that melting is adding to the river flows and thus downstream flooding in the Sindh region.
To orient you, here we see the snowmelt from the Himalaya region (marked in green) forms the headwaters for all Asia’s major rivers, Indus, Ganges, the Yellow and the Yangtze rivers. Nearly a third of Pakistan’s Indus River, flows westward through the Himalaya Then turns southward and flows to Pakistan’s Sindh region and into the Arabian sea.
It is also argued that changes in mountain snow alters the atmospheric pressure gradient that drives the monsoon water vapor from the cooler ocean onto the warmer land. More snow reduces summertime warming and thus reduces the pressure gradient and reduces the monsoonal flow.
In contrast, bare ground heats faster. That increases the pressure gradient and pulls more moisture inland. However, this dynamic is again irrelevant for the Indus River.
Despite measurable glacier retreat in the eastern Himalaya, the Indus flows through the Karakorum range of the western Himalaya. It is home to what scientists have labeled the “Karakorum anomaly”.
Several studies report that glaciers in the Karakorum are not melting, but stable and even advancing, and that should reduce monsoon rains over Pakistan.
Peak flows of the Indus River and its tributaries have been carefully measured since 1921 to monitor flood threats and irrigation needs. Those measurements further contradict claims that melting glaciers have increased monsoon flooding.
The Indus River flows are illustrated by blue bars and reveal a declining trend in stream flow. The data also illustrates that flow volumes can vary by 2 to 3 times, again illustrating the highly variable Pakistan climate.
The Karakorum also has a unique temperature history. Tree ring studies determined Karakorum temperatures were warmer in the 1600s than temperatures today, adding to the list of regions not experiencing a warming crisis.
Other natural weather dynamics affect the pressure gradient between the ocean and the land that controls the monsoon strength and location.
In the simplest of terms, the Madden Julian Oscillation’s 30-to-60-day migrations across the Indian ocean throughout the year alters the monsoon pressure gradient by altering the Indian ocean’s pressure systems on a weekly timescale.
The Madden Julia Oscillation contributes to the alternating monsoon pattern of active phases with heavy rains and suppressed phases with little to no rain.Jet stream meanderings also generate alternating regions of high and low-pressure systems. This causes regions of increased convection alternating with regions of suppressed convection, as well as regions where the winds pull warm moist air northwards versus regions where cool drier air is pushed southwards.
Deep convection from the Madden Julia Oscillation can also initiate a global wave train of rising and sinking air that creates alternating low- and high-pressure systems. These wave trains interact with the jet stream which enable a pathway, or wave guide, for the wave train to follow.
A common wave train pattern that affects Pakistan and India, is called the ” Silk Road Pattern ” and it can have a significant impact on monsoonal flows. Again in the simplest of terms, the wave train alters the monsoon pressure gradient by altering pressure systems over land.
Furthermore, the latitude of this pattern varies over decades which alters the wave trains impacts. It has moved southward (negative values) in recent decades associated with more shifts in monsoon rainfall from eastern India to western India.
And to illustrate one final example of how the earth’s natural oscillations have all conspired to produce Pakistan’s floods, consider how the North Atlantic Oscillation impacts the Silk Road wave train. When the North Atlantic Oscillation is in its positive phase, the jet stream remains further to the north, and monsoon rainfall in eastern India is strong.
However, when the North Atlantic Oscillation is negative, the jet stream and Silk Road Pattern dips southward. That weakens the monsoons in eastern India while promoting greater monsoon rains in Pakistan and northern china.
When CO2 warming predictions are contradicted by both observations and science, alarmist simply default to arguing CO2 warming is just making the climate go crazy. But again, science does not support such fanciful fear mongering.
Studies by Chen 2010 concluded “climate instability is above normal during cold periods”. “There is overwhelming evidence for increased climatic instability during the Little Ice Age over the past 1000 years in northwestern china”
And it seems to be the consensus that colder periods make climate more unstable or, dare I say, crazy. Leading climate alarmist, Michael Mann likewise wrote, “the Little Ice Age may have been more significant in terms of increased variability of the climate, rather than changes in the average climate itself.”
Most people don’t have the time or background to take a deep dive into climate science and uncover its truths. But there are several catch phrases that should alert everyone that it is not the science, manipulative catastrophic narratives that are preying on your sincere concerns.
So, beware when you hear or read
You are guilty of climate racism
You are guilty of promoting climate inequities
You are guilty of eating meat because cow farts are bad for the climate
You are guilty of driving a gasoline powered vehicle because they cause more wildfires & heatwaves
You are guilty of creating a climate crisis So, just give us your money!
To be clear, I am not suggesting that you shouldn’t voluntarily donate to humanitarian aid for flood victims.
I am simply arguing, when you are being falsely shamed and berated with any of the above arguments suggesting it is your fault for Pakistan’s flood, it is very likely that the media and politicians are obscuring the true science of natural climate change and trying to manipulate you.
Science and our democracy depend on interactions within a diverse array of good critical thinkers, and from such interactions the best solutions will emerge. So, please shun mindless group think.
Instead embrace renowned scientist, Thomas Huxley’s advice Skepticism is the highest of duties and blind faith the one unpardonable sin.