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William Kininmonth: Is it Extreme Weather or Climate Change?

Posted By Joanne Nova On January 17, 2013 @ 3:31 am In Global Warming | Comments Disabled

Following in the heatwave theme… William Kinninmonth points out that the long term data on the red hot centre of Australia shows that this January is not unusual.
- Jo.

Letter to the Editor of The Australian

A pattern of extreme weather should not be confused with climate change.

The recent heat wave across much of Central Australia and its occasional extension east and south is a pattern of extreme weather. Climate is the recurring patterns of weather that inure us to such extremes. The climate of Alice Springs is exemplified by 1887, the previously hottest January with an average maximum of 40.7oC. The extreme, nearly 5oC above the long term January average, was made possible by a spell of 11 days over 40oC, a brief respite then another 10 days over 40oC.

Climate change, of course, is a persisting significant departure from the experienced pattern of weather. The current pattern of extreme weather is not outside the envelope of experience that describes Central Australian climate.

William Kininmonth

William Kininmonth headed Australia‘s National Climate Centre at the Bureau of Meteorology from 1986 to 1998.

PS: You may be interested in the pattern of January average temperatures downloaded from the Bureau of Meteorology online archive. The Post Office (PO) site closed in 1953; the airport (A/p) site opened in 1942 and is currently the official Alice Springs meteorological observing station. During the period of overlapping records the airport was, on average, 0.2oC cooler than the Post Office.


The current heat has occurred before in Alice Springs. Wait and see what the ave of Jan 2013 brings.

POST NOTE: to clarify “averages”.

The average January temperature was in the context of the daily maximum temperature as used in the letter. The BOM have both max and min tables in their site and ‘average daily temperature’ is usually taken as (max + min)/2. In the context of heat waves people are only interested in max.

William Kininmonth added this in an email Monday morning, but I unfortunately was on holiday…

UPDATE: Back from holiday. Chris Gillham, David Stockwell and others in the BOM had emails waiting for me to point out that “heatwaves” have many and varied definitions, so I dropped the “wave” from the caption, and of course, they are keeping track of Jan 2013 numbers, and while it’s obvious this graph could not possibly have data from Jan 2013 when it was posted on Jan 17, I’ve added the line “wait and see” just to make that clear, especially as this post ages. Even if Jan 2013 in Alice sets a record, this graph (in uncherry-picked entirety) is no friend to those who want to alarm us. As if a four week hot spell is finally “evidence” that 120 years of man-made activities is changing the climate.

For a better idea of what the usual extreme weather in Australia looks like, see the post right before this one.



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