Sunday, April 1, 2012


date: Tue, 11 Sep 2007 21:43:59 -0400
from: John Milliman <>
subject: RE: Nature manuscript 2007-07-07125
to: "Mossinger, Juliane" <>

Thank you, Dr. Mossinger, for your quick response. As Reviewer #1 never actually
read our Nature manuscript, you and I clearly differ in our opinion of his review.

As one of my co-authors has said, we were not served well by Nature's review of our
paper. As such I see no reasonable way in which we can consider resubmission of our paper
to Nature - to our disappointment and (I am sure) your relief.


John Milliman

Dear Dr Milliman

Thank you for your comments regarding our decision on your manuscript. As explained in
my letter of 6 September 2007, if you feel that you can address all of the referees'
concerns and if a revised manuscripts provides significant and novel insights into our
understanding of long-term trends in river discharge to the global ocean, then we would
be happy to look at a revised manuscript (unless, of course, something similar has by
then been accepted at Nature or appeared elsewhere). For us to be able to reconsider a
manuscript we would need you to submit a revised manuscript and a point-by-point
response to all of the referees' comments.

Having carefully considered referee #1's comments, we have no reason to doubt that the
criticisms raised reflect genuine scientific concern. Moreover, we can in general not
drop a critical referee simply because authors ask us to do so. In our experience we
find that reviewers can be convinced by scientific arguments. However, in the unlikely
event that the review process should result in a complete 'deadlock', we may consider
consulting an adjudicating referee.

I hope these comments explain our position in this matter and help you to decide how to

Yours sincerely

Juliane Mossinger


Dr Juliane C. Mossinger

Senior Editor


The Macmillan Building, 4-6 Crinan Street, London N1 9XW, UK

Tel +44 (0)207 833 4000; Fax +44 (0)207 843 4596;


From: John Milliman []
Sent: 11 September 2007 03:03
To: Mossinger, Juliane
Subject: Nature manuscript 2007-07-07125

Dear Dr. Mossinger:

After several days of mulling over the two reviews of our paper, "Climatic and
anthropogenic factors affecting river discharge to the global ocean, 1951-2000", it
becomes increasingly clear that neither you nor my co-authors and I were well-served by
one of your reviewers, and that, combined with some points of confusion by the other
reviewer, resulted in your decision to reject the paper.

We did submit an earlier version of manuscript to Science, which was rejected in part
based on the comments of Reviewer #1. Parenthetically, we saw no reason by inform
Nature of the manuscript's prior history nor changes we had made to the manuscript
based on those reviews. We did, however, take the Science reviews into account as we
revised manuscript for Nature.

As a single example, Reviewer #1 requested that we compare our trends with those
obtained by Milly et al. (Nature, 438, p. 347) for a 100-yr period, something that a
second reviewer also suggested. In fact, there were several valid reasons for not
initiallyl comparing our results with either Milly et al. or those of Labat et al.
(Adv. Water Res., 27, -p. 631), the most obvious being that their "100-yr" records were
strongly biased towards North American and northern European rivers, compelling the
authors to rely on questionable models to extrapolate long-term records for rivers from
the less-developed countries (e.g., Asia, South America, Siberia and Africa).
Realizing, however, that other readers might also wonder why we did not refer to the
Milly or Labat papers, we added both new words and footnotes to p. 2 of the Nature
manuscript; note particularly footnote (8):

Although 50- to 100-yr discharge records are desirable, access to globally distributed
long-term data remains problematic. Of the ~650 rivers listed in the Global Runoff
Data Center (GRDC) database that discharge directly to the ocean, for instance, only 20
records extend back to 1900, only two of which (Karun and Nile, both of whose accessible
records cease in the mid-1980s) lie outside northern Europe or the USA. Attempts to
compensate for the lack of long-term empirical data include wavelet-based runoff
reconstruction (6) and climate models to simulate regional discharge (7). The lack of
data (8), however, calls into question such reconstructions (9, 10).

6) Labat, D., Godderis, Y., Probst, J.L. & Guyot, J.L. Evidence for global runoff
increase related to climate warming. Adv. Water Res. 27, 631-642 (2004).
7) Milly, P.C.D., Dunne, K.A. & Veccchia, A.V. Global pattern of trends in streamflow
and water availability in a changing climate. Nature 438, 347-350 (2005).
8) The 100-yr trends for the 165 rivers in (7), for instance, are based on a median of
59 years of observational data; the median record for Asian, African and South American
rivers in that dataset may be closer to 50 years.
9) Legates, D.R., Lins, H.F. & McCabe, G.J. Comments on "Evidence for global runoff
increase related to climate warming" by Labat et al. Adv. Water Res. 28, 1310-1315

10) Peel, M.C. & McMahon, T.A. A quality-controlled global runoff data set. Nature 444,
E14 (2006).

That Reviewer #1 did not note these rather significant changes (which appeared in the
second paragraph of the Nature manuscript) suggests that he did not read it ("Therefore,
my review is the same, and if the authors in fact have made changes, they should
indicate specifically what and why to the Nature editor."). In my 40 years of
publishing and 23 years editing (Deep-Sea Research) I have never come across a reviewer
who submits a review without reading the paper in question. It may be a first for you

Many points raised by Reviewer #2 seem valid; his insights are greatly
appreciated and will be addressed fully in a revised manuscript - no matter where it is
eventually published. However, several of his points, we feel, are off-base, four of
which I cite below four (in blue), together with our responses in brackets:

1) The reviewer has some problem to understand why the authors discuss the increase and
decrease of trends for rivers without statistical significance. In Table S2, only half
of the river basins show statistically significant increases or decreases. Therefore the
reviewer is puzzled to see a sentence like "local and regional changes were significant"
at line 3, page 5. The reviewer recommends discussing the long term trends only for
statistically significant river basins. [With the exception of the Yana River all
deficit and excess rivers showed a statistically significant change in runoff and/or
precipitation. In contrast, 21(out of the 31 normal rivers show no statistically
significant change in either runoff or precipitation. But this should not be
surprising: if normal rivers are defined as rivers in which DR reflects DP, is it not
logical to assume that temporal trends for either both or neither should be
statistically significant? To discuss long-term trends based for statistically
significant river basins , as suggested by the reviewer, necessarily negates all those
rivers (including, for example, the Amazon, Yangtze, Rhine, etc.) for which there was no
statistically significant trend in either DP or DR. To that extent we may have added
to the reviewer's confusion by using the word "significant" in both a statistical sense
and a non-statistical sense; substituting, where appropriate, a word like "relevant"
might help eliminate this confusion.]

2) It is also strange to compare the linear relationship between DP and DQ by
percentage, as Fig.2 or the text at the middle of page 5. As far as the reviewer knows,
there is no geophysical theory that DP and DQ are equal in long term trend under natural
condition. Recalling the Budyko's empirical curve of the water balance considering the
available radiative energy, the relationship between DP and DQ is non-linear. Of course,
any functional relationship may be able to be approximated as linear, the changes
discussed here is more than a few tens of percent and applying perturbation concept
would not be appropriate. [Nowhere did we infer that DP and DQ are equal (the DP and DQ
axes in Fig. 2 are not equal) or that they correlate linearly; the purpose of Fig. 2 is
simply to show global and latitudinal similarities in the two trends, the notable
exceptions being the deficit and excess rivers identified and discussed in the paper.
(Parenthetically, this figure may not be as essential to the paper as the other figures;
if space is a problem and if the editor were insistent, we might be "persuaded" to
eliminate it.)]

3) Since global river discharge from land to ocean is estimated to be approximately
40,000km3/y or more, the article covers less than half of it. Moreover, most of the
findings and discussions in the article are changes in individual river basins, and the
title "To The Global Ocean" seems not appropriate. [As Fig. 1a clearly shows, our 135
rivers represent a global distribution of temporal trends. Moreover, global basin areas
are more or less equally apportioned, cumulative African, Arctic, Australasian, North
American and South American rivers each ranging between 8-11 x 10^6 km^2. With the
data at hand, this represents just about the best that one can hope for in terms of a
global picture - and the task grows almost exponentially more difficult as one attempts
to increase the coverage. To achieve 75% global coverage, for instance, would require
long-term temporal trends for >250 rivers, including from at least 25 Indonesia and the
Philippines, for which there may be no long-term data.]

4) Secondly, there should be longer river discharge record for Arctic rivers, and the
authors will be able to show more robust long term trend and would be able to discuss
the reason of negative DP and positive DR. [Extending our record for Arctic rivers
further back in time, which Peterson, McCllelland and others have done with Siberian
rivers (whose records date back to the 1930s), would compromise our synthetic global
approach, as the records for many rivers (e.g., Chinese, Brahmaputra, etc.) only extend
back to the early 1950s - the reason that we chose the 1951-2000 interval for this

We are somewhat perplexed as to our next step with Nature - if, in fact, there
is a next step. Your rejection letter seems to have left the door opened for your
re-evaluation of a revised manuscript. Any revision obviously would address the
reviewers' points (the manuscript that we submitted to Nature, in fact, already had
addressed many of the points raised by Reviewer #1). We must wonder, however, whether
Reviewer #1 would/could give us an impartial review; I suspect not. On the other hand,
we think that we can respond to all of Reviewer #2's comments to his satisfaction.
Assuming that you will need a new reviewer, Des Walling (Exeter) read an early draft of
this paper, but would serve as an excellent reviewer in terms of his global perspective
on temporal trends in fluvial discharge.

I might add that I/we never have nor never would submit a manuscript
simultaneously to more than one journal. We hope that this manuscript will published in


John Milliman

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