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Announcing a formal request for the Auditor General to audit the Australian BOM

Posted By Joanne Nova On February 16, 2011 @ 1:27 am In Global Warming | Comments Disabled

A team of skeptical scientists, citizens, and an Australian Senator have lodged a formal request with the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) to have the BOM and CSIRO audited.

The BOM claim their adjustments are “neutral” yet Ken Stewart showed that the trend in the raw figures for our whole continent has been adjusted up by 40%. The stakes are high. Australians could have to pay something in the order of $870 million dollars thanks to the Kyoto protocol, and the first four years of the Emissions Trading Scheme was expected to cost Australian industry (and hence Australian shareholders and consumers) nearly $50 billion dollars.

Given the stakes, the Australian people deserve to know they are getting transparent, high quality data from the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM). The small cost of the audit is nothing in comparison with the money at stake for all Australians. We need the full explanations of why individual stations have been adjusted repeatedly and non-randomly, and why adjustments were made decades after the measurements were taken. We need an audit of surface stations. (Are Australian stations as badly manipulated and poorly sited as the US stations? Who knows?)

The NZ equivalent to the Australian BOM is under an official review

The New Zealand Climate Science Coalition found adjustments that were even more inexplicable (0.006 degrees was adjusted up to 0.9 degrees). They decided to push legally and the response was a litany of excuses — until finally The National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) was forced to disavow it’s own National Temperature Records, and belatedly pretend that it had never been intended for public consumption. But here’s the thing that bites: NZ signed the Kyoto protocol, arguably based very much on the NZ temperature record, and their nation owes somewhere from half a billion to several billion dollars worth of carbon credits (depending on the price of carbon in 2012). Hence there is quite a direct link from the damage caused by using one unsubstantiated data set based on a single student’s report that no one can find or replicate that will cost the nation a stack of money. NIWA is now potentially open to class actions. (Ironically, the Australian BOM has the job of “ratifying” the reviewed NZ temperature record.)

Thanks to work by Ken Stewart, Chris Gillham, Andrew Barnham, Tony Cox, James Doogue, David Stockwell, as well as Cory Bernardi, Federal Senator for South Australia.

Copied below is the cover note of our request.

Click on the image to download the full PDF (3.3 Mb)


Ian McPhee
Auditor-General for Australia
Australian National Audit Office
GPO Box 707
Canberra ACT 2600

Presenting a Formal Request to Audit BOM and CSIRO Climate Data and Advice

The following is a request and justification for the independent audit of the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) climate record data, particularly the data and algorithms that contribute to the formal assessments of Australian climate change provided by BOM and CSIRO to the Australian government.

BOM Data is vitally important to the nation

The CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) are publicly funded institutions. The Government relies on advice from these organisations. Decisions based on BOM data and CSIRO may increase taxes and will direct the allocation of billions of dollars in the Government and private sectors.

There are currently no independent audits of climate data

Despite their importance, there are no truly independent audits of the quality and accuracy of some of that data and information provided to the Government and to the public from these organisations. Audits are a safeguard to ensure there is no possibility of politically or ideologically motivated manipulation of records and advice.

Unexplained adjustments and errors have been discovered

Preliminary surveys of the BOM temperature record by independent analysts including engineers and scientists have found large, unexplained, non-random changes to original temperature data and in some cases clear errors. Officials inside the BOM have not to date provided adequate justification or a detailed record of the discrepancies identified.

Artificial adjustments exaggerate the warming

A BOM spokesman has claimed that the adjustments make little difference to the overall trend reported for Australia and are simply made to improve data quality. Yet independent checks suggest that the adjustments may account for as much as a third of the reported warming trend in Australia.

Some questions that would be answered by the audit are:

  • Why have raw temperature records from the middle of the last century been artificially reduced? Are we to believe that 50 years after the measurements were recorded BOM officials realized they were artificially too high?
  • Why were so many thermometers believed to be overestimating temperatures in the first half of the 1900′s?
  • Where are the records detailing the justification for altering the historical record for each station?
  • Does the lowering of temperature records from the middle of last century result in an artificially exaggerated warming rate of the temperature record?

Independent checks also suggest:

  • The BOM temperature record includes sites with 100 year long “records” which are based on just 12 years of actual data. An undisclosed method was used to construct an extraordinary 85% of the graph. (Appendix I)
  • The BOM database appears ‘buggy’ with averages for an entire month across a large state suddenly changed upwards three months after the readings came in. The “bug” in this case produced a change comparable in size to the entire reported warming trend over the last hundred years. (Appendix I).
  • It has been shown that nearly 90% of temperature stations in the US are sited too close to artificial heating sources. There has been no independent auditing or checking of Australian temperature station sitings. It is reasonable to assume that some similar siting problems may exist in Australia. Predominantly, poor sitings lead to an exaggeration of warming trends. If an audit is done and changes are made to the temperature record, it must be done so on a site by site and transparent basis to ensure the changes can be checked and justified.
  • The US Goddard Institute of Space Studies has produced graphs with copies of the BOM data which are missing values which materially affect the results. BOM apparently does not notice, or is not checking, or does not report errors in order to make sure that international agencies are using accurate Australian records. Scientific conclusions are drawn by Australian, International and IPCC scientists based on the GISS presentation of Australian temperature records.(Appendix I).

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Given the acknowledged national importance of our climate data the Australian people should not have to rely on volunteer members of the public to identify these errors and omissions. The Hadley Centre of the British Meteorological Office has accepted the need for a checking and revision of the HADCRUT global temperature record that they supply to the IPCC. So too, an independent audit of BOM climate data records is needed now.

Urgent action is needed

These disturbing findings should be referred to the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) as a matter of urgency to carry out a complete audit of the BOM climate records, if necessary by subcontracting some of the detailed aspects of the work to independent, skilled scientists. It is important that the Australian Government and the Australian public have complete confidence in the BOM records and the reports produced by BOM and CSIRO based on those records. That is not currently the case. The following are more specific, detailed case studies of why an independent audit of BOM data records are urgently needed.

1. Serious questions have been raised about the quality, accuracy and political motivation driving the Australian temperature records. Recent research as reported in several new articles show that the bulk if not all of the recently recorded temperature data being used by policymakers and being supplied to the media could contain serious flaws and bias. [Source APPENDIX I: Australian Temperatures in cities adjusted up by 70%!?, Australian warming trend adjusted up by 40%, BOM, GISS have record setting bugs affecting a million square miles? From http://joannenova.com.au/]

a. ….When Ken Stewart wrote questioning data adjustments with Dr David Jones, Head of Climate Monitoring and Prediction, National Climate Centre, Bureau of Meteorology, Dr Jones replied that their adjustments havea near zero impact on the all Australian temperature”. Yet when Ken looked at the raw data from Australia’s 100 high quality rural sites, the adjustments increased the trend in the raw data by 40% — from a 0.6°C rise over 100 years, to 0.85°C over 100 years. These are clearly not random, and obviously not “zero impact”. [Source: Appendix I - Joanne Nova]

Ken has written again to BOM, and to MP Tony Burke, asking for explanations for the adjustments, but has not received a reply. We need the answers to the 8 questions Ken Stewart poses in Appendix II.

b.….Chris Gillham (Appendix III) noted that on November 17 2009 the mean temperatures for all WA recording stations were adjusted upward by as much as 0.5 °C for August 2009, making it the “hottest on record”. The incorrect temperatures, according to the BOM were due to a “bug”. This is a very large correction across 2.5 million square kilometres and over all of the data for an entire month.

c.…. Andrew Barnham (Appendix IV) has shown that while the Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect is a well recognised phenomenon, the BOM adjustments to “compensate” for this, make almost no difference to the trend, a finding which is contrary to the latest understanding of UHI as shown in Appendix IV.

 

 

2. Multiple problems have been uncovered with temperature records around the world. There are many examples given of potentially inaccurate or ‘fudged’ data, including such accusations from the Government or their agencies in Russia, China and India. The matter has been particularly well discussed in this selection of articles. We specifically emphasise the fact that NIWA has backed away from ever having been responsible for providing New Zealand’s official temperature records. Information on the NIWA matter and other temperature data problems around the world are detailed in Appendix V.

All countries’ temperature recording authorities share basically the same IPCC approved methods of adjusting data. As mentioned above, Australia’s records have been found to be questionable based on the analysis detailed in the Appendices and referred to above. However, as BOM is affiliated with overseas agencies which have been found wanting, it is not surprising similar suspicions are held regarding BOM’s data record. Given justifiable doubts are being raised around the world regarding different countries’ temperature records it is important Australians have confidence in the records reported by BOM. This can only be achieved through an independent audit of the data record.

3.There are many examples where other agencies outside of Australia have been using BOM supplied data and it has been discovered the data used by the overseas agencies is wrong. An audit is necessary to determine whether the errors are originating at the Australian end within BOM. See for example in Appendix V, ‘Computer geek uncovers British climate-data errors’ [SMH]

 

4. It is important that the Australian Government and the Australian people have confidence in the data provided by BOM because the data is being used on an almost daily basis by the Governments, it’s officials, the media and social commentators to drive public opinion and Government policy. For example: ‘Labor seizes on temperature figures as evidence of global warming’ Jan 2010 [Source: The Australian]

5. It is clear the CSIRO are relying on the dubious data published by BOM as evidenced by the publication of ‘ State of the Climate’ CSIRO [PDF Copy] In addition an article about the new head of the CSIRO earlier this year titled ‘Life science’ it was written that “a piece of CSIRO work to which McKeon points is the snapshot of Australia’s weather patterns during the past 50 years, released in March by the organisation and the Bureau of Meteorology. It said Australia’s average temperature had risen 0.7 degrees since 1960, that the average daily maximum temperatures had risen every 10 years for the past 50 and that the past decade was also the hottest on record.” [Source: The Age] Without an independent audit, there can be no confidence that CSIRO’s conclusions, and advice to the Government, are accurate.

 

Government policy in relation to Climate Change will have a significant impact on the lives of every Australian from the way we live to our financial well-being. The importance of taking action on Climate Change is being justified on the basis of the climate record as proof that humans have significantly contributed to unprecedented and adverse climate change. It should therefore be a top priority to address any possible doubts concerning the assumptions that are being made about climate change in Australia.

The much publicized BOM data record has to stand the test of independent scrutiny if accusations of ideological or political motivation are to be adequately addressed. If the BOM data record is accurate and any adjustments are scientifically justifiable, then the BOM should have no objections to being held to account to the standards they proclaim in their annual report. If there are any areas of doubt, then the policy-makers and public need to be made aware of those areas so that informed decisions can be made regarding how any doubt may influence policy decisions.

In light of the amount of money involved, the number of Australians affected and the imminent proposed changes to current legislation, we the undersigned hereby request immediate attention be given to the implementation of an independent audit of the BOM temperature records with specific but not exclusive reference to areas of concern raised in this letter.

Sincerely,

Signed,

Senator Cory Bernardi……Joanne Nova ……Andrew Barnham……Anthony Cox

James Doogue……Chris Gillham…… Ken Stewart…… Dr David Stockwell

The full PDF file (64 pages.)


The Auditor General has received the request

The ball is now with The Auditor General. His initial reply:

Correspondence relating to the Australian Temperature Record

Thank you for your letter of 24 December 2010 which raised concerns about the integrity and accuracy of the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) Australian Temperature Records.

To assist with the consideration of the issues raised in your correspondence, further information has been requested from BoM. Your request for an audit will be considered as a part of the process of determining our future work program, and within the context of current resourcing and work priorities.

I appreciate your interest in bringing this matter to my attention.

Yours sincerely,

Ian McPhee

Australian National Audit Office


From Comments:

AC of Adelaide points out that  Canadian data quality is “disturbing” too.

I have updated the PDF link: Hopefully it should work for everyone (3.3Mb)

http://jonova.s3.amazonaws.com/audit/anao-request-audit-bom.pdf

Thanks to Jaymez for reporting the bugs with the links in the signatories.


UPDATE #2:

People have been sending in some thoughtful letters. Here’s one from David Hagen that I was CC’d on who took a different approach.

TO: Ian McPhee, Auditor General

As an Australian citizen, scientist and engineer, I endorse the request: “Presenting a Formal Request to Audit BOM and CSIRO Climate Data and Advice” by Senator Cory Bernardi et al. May I recommend that your evaluation and audit be conducted in light of the guidance regarding uncertainty in measurement established by the International Standards Organization, of which Standards Australia is a member. See the following ISO and Standards Australia documents:

1) ISO Guide to the Expression of Uncertainty in Measurement
2) ISO 21748:2010 Guidance for the use of repeatability, reproducibility and trueness estimates in measurement uncertainty estimation
3) ISO/IEC Guide 98-1:2009 Uncertainty of measurement — Part 1: Introduction to the expression of uncertainty in measurement Document available as of: 2009-08-27
4) ISO/IEC Guide 98-3:2008 Uncertainty of measurement — Part 3: Guide to the expression of uncertainty in measurement (GUM:1995)
5) (ISO/IEC NP Guide 98-2 Uncertainty of measurement — Part 2: Concepts and basic principles (under development)
6) AS 2833-1985 Metrology – Symbols for expressing uncertainty of measurements
7) AS 2833-1985/Amdt 1-1986 Metrology – Symbols for expressing uncertainty of measurements
The ISO guides on uncertainty are discussed in:
8) NIST Technical Note 1297, 1994 Edition, Guidelines for Evaluating and Expressing
the Uncertainty of NIST Measurement Results, by Barry N. Taylor and Chris E. Kuyatt

In particular, I recommend that you audit:
1) How the Type B (Bias) uncertainties have been evaluated in the reported temperature data and trends.

2) Whether Type B (Bias) uncertainties were introduced in the processing of the raw temperature data.

Type B (bias) uncertainties are often comparable to Type A uncertainties, but often they are neither evaluated nor separately reported. From the evidence I have seen, the Type B uncertainties have not been adequately evaluated. Furthermore, systemic Type B uncertainties appear to have been introduced into the Australian temperature data processing, giving a the appearance of markedly warming trend.

For example, see the analysis by Willis Eschenbach, “Darwin Zero Before and After” posted on December 20, 2009 http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/12/20/darwin-zero-before-and-after/ Eschenbach shows warming adjustments by GHCN of 6 degrees/century to an otherwise declining temperature record at Darwin Zero.

This request for an audit is underscored by the findings of climate economist climate economist Professor Richard Tol, that cutting CO2 early would cost $17.8 trillion. See: Advice for Policymakers, Lee Lane et al. Copenhagen Consensus, 2009, www.FixTheClimate.com

With billions of dollars at stake for Australia taxpayers, and substantial evidence in the public record of biased processing, I strongly encourage you to conduct this audit.

Yours sincerely

David L. Hagen, PhD

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