A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).

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Hiding something? BOM throws out Bourke’s hot historic data, changes long cooling trend to warming

Hello Soviet style weather service? On January 3, 1909, an extremely hot 51.7C (125F) was recorded at Bourke.  It’s possibly the hottest ever temperature recorded in a Stevenson Screen in Australia, but the BOM has removed it as a clerical error. There are legitimate questions about the accuracy of records done so long ago — standards were different. But there are very legitimate questions about the BOMs treatment of this historic data. ‘The BOM has also removed the 40 years of weather recorded before 1910, which includes some very hot times. Now we find out the handwritten original notes  from 62 years of the mid 20th Century were supposed to be dumped in 1996 as well. Luckily, these historic documents were saved from the dustbin and quietly kept in private hands instead.

Bourke has one of the longest datasets in Australia — but the BOM, supposedly so concerned about the long term climate trends, appears to have little curiosity in the hot weather of the 1880′s and 1890′s (I talked about the amazing heatwave of 1896 here where hundreds died and people in Bourke escaped on special trains). If it had been a cool spell then, would the BOM feel [...]

Big adjustments? BOM says Rutherglen site shifted, former workers there say “No”

The hot questions for the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) mount up. Rutherglen was one of the temperature recording stations that was subject to large somewhat mysterious adjustments which turned a slight cooling trend into a strongly warming one. Yet the official notes showed that the site did not move and was a continuous record. On paper, Rutherglen appeared to be ideal — a rare long rural temperature record where measurements had come from the same place since 1913.

The original cooling trend of  – 0.35C was transformed into a +1.73C warming after “homogenisation” by the BOM. To justify that the BOM claims that there may have been an unrecorded shift, and it was “consistent” with the old station starting  further up the slope before it moved down to the hollow.

Today retired scientist Bill Johnston got in touch with Jennifer Marohasy, with me and with Graham Lloyd of The Australian to say that he worked at times at Rutherglen and the official thermometer had not moved. It was always placed where it is now at the bottom of the hollow. That information has already made it into print in The Australian.

The original thermometer records suggest a [...]

BOM finally explains! Cooling changed to warming trends because stations “might” have moved!

It’s the news you’ve been waiting years to hear! Finally we find out the exact details of why the BOM changed two of their best long term sites from cooling trends to warming trends. The massive inexplicable adjustments like these have been discussed on blogs for years. But it was only when Graham Lloyd advised the BOM he would be reporting on this that they finally found time to write three paragraphs on specific stations.

Who knew it would be so hard to get answers. We put in a Senate request for an audit of the BOM datasets in 2011. Ken Stewart, Geoff Sherrington, Des Moore, Bill Johnston, and Jennifer Marohasy have also separately been asking the BOM for details about adjustments on specific BOM sites. (I bet Warwick Hughes has too). The BOM has ignored or circumvented all these, refusing to explain why individual stations were adjusted in detail.

The two provocative articles Lloyd put together last week were  Heat is on over weather bureau  and  Bureau of Meteorology ‘altering climate figures, which I covered here. This is the power of the press at its best. The absence of articles like these, is why I have said the media [...]

The heat is on. Bureau of Meteorology ‘altering climate figures’ — The Australian

Congratulations to The Australian again for taking the hard road and reporting controversial, hot, documented problems, that few in the Australian media dare to investigate.

How accurate are our national climate datasets when some adjustments turn entire long stable records from cooling trends to warming ones (or visa versa)? Do the headlines of “hottest ever record” (reported to a tenth of a degree) mean much if thermometer data sometimes needs to be dramatically changed 60 years after being recorded?

One of the most extreme examples is a thermometer station in Amberley, Queensland where a cooling trend in minima of 1C per century has been homogenized and become a warming trend of 2.5C per century. This is a station at an airforce base that has no recorded move since 1941, nor had a change in instrumentation. It is a well-maintained site near a perimeter fence, yet the homogenisation process produces a remarkable transformation of the original records, and rather begs the question of how accurately we know Australian trends at all when the thermometers are seemingly so bad at recording the real temperature of an area. Ken Stewart was the first to notice this anomaly and many others when he compared the raw data to [...]

Wow, look at those BOM adjustments – trends up by two degrees C!

The mystery of Australian temperature adjustments

Ken Stewart has been checking the Australian BOM official ACORN minima data against the raw data. This week he highlights the six very strange cases of Brisbane Airport, Amberley RAAF, Dubbo, Rutherglen, Rabbit Flat, and Carnarvon. In all these places the adjustments change the trend by more than 2 whole degrees C. It’s a kind of hyper-homogenization.

Thermometers are supposed to be accurate to a tenth of a degree. Australian average trends are sometimes calculated to one hundredth of a degree. What then do we make of adjustments that change the trends by a whopping 2 degrees, and decades after the data came in? The only thing we know for sure about Australian temperatures is that we need an independent audit. Why is it left to volunteers to check? Surely the Greens want good data too?

Some of these stations are isolated outposts, so theoretically they are the heavyweights on Australian area-weighted averages. The map scales can be a bit deceptive. In outback Australia the nearest neighbours can all be 500 km away (300 miles). Some dots on the map are not so much a town as a motel and a gas station. [...]

Was the Hottest Day Ever in Australia not in a desert, but in far south Albany?!

Albany, Western Australia. Not near a desert. Not near the tropics. Hottest place in Australia?

Lucky, thanks to the BOM, that we have such high quality data to understand the Australian climate. Without it, we would never have found out that the hottest day ever recorded in Australia appears to be the 8th of February, 1933 in, wait for it… Albany, in the far cool south of Western Australia.

Chris Gillham emails:

“Guess where and when was the hottest day ever recorded in Australia? 50.7C at Oodnadatta on 2 Jan 1960? No way! Mardie at 50.5C on 19 Feb 1998? Get out of here! It was at Albany on 8 February 1933, that historic day when this normally chilly town on WA’s southern coast was razed with a temperature of 51.2C. Don’t believe me? You can’t question the accuracy of ACORN, a temperature network that shapes economic policy, and the screenshot from last night’s ACORN download for Albany max proves it …”

The all new marvellous ACORN  dataset has been “expert peer reviewed”, it “employs the latest analysis techniques “ and it is “a complete re-analysis of the Australian homogenised temperature database”. Phew. The BOM lists their [...]

Australian BOM “neutral” adjustments increase minima trends up 50%

UPDATED, Ken has now finished the full tally of comparisons and the adjustments to minima increase trends by 47% . (Headline changed from 60% to 50% to reflect the shift.) See the new details of the last few stations at KensKingdom.

Billions of dollars, climate models, predictions, and hundreds of press releases depend on the BOM records of Australian temperatures. There were so many inconsistencies, inexplicable adjustments and errors that we put in a Senate request for the ANAO to audit the records. In response, to dodge the audit, the BOM dumped its HQ (“high quality”) dataset entirely, and established a new “best practise” ACORN dataset.

Independent volunteer auditors have been going through the ACORN records — thanks especially to Ken Stewart who is publishing his findings on his site as he works through the set. He’s analyzed 84 out of  104 sites, and finds that ACORN is just as bad as the HQ set. At Kenskingdom he shows that so far, the adjustments used to create the official Australian temperature record increase the warming trend by13% for maxima and a whopping 66% for minima. (Note the caveats in the conclusions below.)

The raw Australian data suggest the [...]

Climate-trivia headlines and the BoM’s unscientific obession with “hottest ever” records

Bob Fernley Jones takes a close look at Australian temperature records, and finds that while the BoM can fish out records that are technically true, those “records” can also be paradoxically irrelevant and largely meaningless at the same time. Not so long back weren’t these same people telling us that only long term climate trends mattered, and that one hot or cold year, or bad storm was cherry picking and unscientific?

Dare I suggest the obsession with headline records is more a PR stunt than a scientific measure?

Its true, that 2013 was probably the warmest year in Australia averaged over the whole land mass and the whole year, at least since we started recording temperatures  (a microsecond ago in geological time). But even so, for individual Australians it didn’t necessarily mean anything much at all. Nor has it got any scientific meaning; one hot summer over 5% of the surface of the world doesn’t tell us anything about cause and effect and CO2. But who would know that from reading a BoM release? But from BoM data we can tell that:

All seven states and territories of Australia have had significantly warmer summers in past years. (So, except for [...]

Dennis Jensen MP — Calls for audit on the BOM and CSIRO data

Dennis Jensen, M.P. in the Australian Parliament, made a formal parliamentary request for an audit of the BOM and CSIRO data handling processes.

This is an excellent request, something Australia desperately needs. Good data on the climate.

Given how important our climate is, I’m sure Tim Flannery, The Climate Council, The Australian Conversation Foundation, and The Australian Greens will join us in demanding that the BOM and CSIRO datasets are independently audited. Naturally, all of us would want to ensure our climate data is of the highest quality possible and not subject to any kinds of confirmation bias, or inexplicable adjustments. Right? And maybe its even worse than we thought, so they will want to check, yes?

Let’s leave no stone unturned in making sure we understand the threats to the Australian environment, the impact on our farms and homes, and on our National Balance Sheet! How could any Green disagree?

Dennis Jensen talks about the response he got from the BOM and the questions he did not get answered:

” … the BOM state the temperature trend prior to 1910 is unreliable. But the IPCC use data on Australia going back to 1850. So [...]

Get Headlines! How to find a heatwave in five easy steps

Heatwaves have become a publicity tool. Far from there being a clear trend in Australian heatwaves, Geoff Sherrington shows that it’s also legitimate to claim heatwaves were worse 80 – 100 years ago in Adelaide and Melbourne and things are getting better. Those officials who cherrypick their claims might be technically correct, but it’s outrageously deceitful and unscientific at the same time.

Just how hard is it to get a record heatwave? It’s so easy that if it’s summer in Australia, it’s hard not to set a record. That’s because heatwaves come in so many flavors  –  there are seven capital cities which can all have 3 day, 4 day, 5 day or 6 day heatwaves. Then there are the heatwaves over 40C, or over 38 C, or over 35C… already that makes 84 flavours of wave. If a hot spell doesn’t break one type of wave, it could easily break another. Then there is the pre-heatwave, and there would be another 84 types of heatwaves that we haven’t had, but might get, you never know. You might think I’m kidding, but pre-heatwaves get headlines already:

“More Canberra heatwaves forecast”

“A heatwave could return to Canberra next month, [...]

Forgotten: Historic hot temperatures recorded with detail and care in Adelaide

What I found most interesting about this was the skill, dedication and length of meteorological data taken in the 1800′s. When our climate is “the most important moral challenge” why is it there is so little interest in our longest and oldest data?

Who knew that one of the most meticulous and detailed temperature records in the world from the 1800′s comes from Adelaide, largely thanks to Sir Charles Todd. The West Terrace site in Adelaide was one of the best in the world at the time, and provides accurate historic temperatures from  “Australia’s first permanent weather bureau at Adelaide in 1856″. (Rainfall records even appear to go as far back as 1839.)  Lance Pidgeon went delving into the National Archives and was surprised at what he found.

If we want to understand our climate the records from the 1800′s in Adelaide are surely worth attention?

The BOM usually shows graphs like this one below starting in 1911. You might think you are looking at the complete history of Adelaide temperatures and that smoothed temperature is rising inexorably, but the historic records remain unseen. While “hottest” ever records are proclaimed in [...]

Hottest September Ever in records going back 0.000003% of Earths history!

How about some perspective on those alarming headlines:

 Thanks to Steve Hunter

We are tying ourselves in knots over 150 year old records (or even less) when:

These are just short Australian records, not long global ones. Even in the 1800′s Australia recorded heatwaves of 50+ degrees. The world was similarly warm 1,000 years ago, definitely warmer 7,000 years ago, and a lot warmer 120,000 years ago. The world has been warmer for most of the last 500 million years. Satellites are more reliable, have better coverage, and don’t have dubious inexplicable adjustments. They show it was not a record angry summer, nor the hottest year we’ve had. [...]

Australia’s record hottest 12 month period? Not so say the Satellites

Another round of government-funded PR went out a couple of weeks ago, across the obedient Pravda-media. It told us about another meaningless “record” that was probably not a record, and wouldn’t tell us whether man-made warming was the cause, even if it was. Not a single journalist had the wherewithal, nous or intellectual honesty to search the Internet looking for a different point of view. Though, in their defense, how could they have guessed that Prof David Karoly wouldn’t know about the UAH satellite program to measure temperatures? (It has only been running since 1979.)

This below, are the 12 month averages over Australia by satellite. Graphed at Kens Kingdom by Ken Stewart, with no doctorate in climatology and no government funds.

In the troposphere over Australia it was a hot year but not a record.


For the third time this year we’ve been hit with claims of a “hottest ever” record that doesn’t tell us anything about the climate, but does reveal a lot about the sick state of government funded science, corrupted, decrepit, and so far from being scientific it might as well be run by Greenpeace.  If the government stopped funding climate science entirely, climate [...]

Australia’s Angry Hot Summer was hot angry hype– satellites show it was average

Lewis and Karoly 2013:  climate change is “likely” to blame for the hottest angry summer.

Did your air-conditioner make Australia the hottest angry summer ever? Could be. If we apply mystery-black-box-techniques to data from a few sparse thermometers averaged over thousands of square kilometers we can find a “record”. If we compare that “record” to  models that are known to be wrong, voila — then the coal fired power stations heated more than just your home, they heated the whole country.

On the other hand, if we use thousands of measurements from satellites that criss cross the nation day and night covering every corner of the land, we didn’t have a hot angry summer, we had a normal one. The Lewis and Karoly study is moot. If we caused a normal summer, is that so bad?

The not-angry-summer is visible with no statistical analysis.

According to UAH satellite measurements summer in early 2013 was not a record. Not even close.

Satellite records only go back to 1979, but to answer the question “was this the hottest ever summer” we only need records back as far as 2010.

The peer reviewed, comprehensive, Lewis and Karoly paper does not contain the [...]

Hottest summer record in Australia? Not so, says UAH satellite data

There are probably only ten people in Australia who haven’t heard it was the Hottest Ever, Record Summer Downunder. And they were probably born yesterday.

Summer here was so scorchingly awful it was Angry. But a funny thing happened on the orbit overhead. Check out the UAH satellite data on summers since the UAH records began.  The graph below (thanks to Ken) is the temperature data from the NASA satellites, processed by UAH (University of Alabama in Huntsville). Strangely there is a disparity between what the satellites recorded and the BOM.

The satellite data shows that the summer of 2012-2013 was close to ordinary, compared with the entire satellite record going back to 1979. Not a record. Not even extreme?

According to UAH satellite measurements summer in early 2013 was not a record. Not even close.

The graph data comes thanks to John Christy, Director, Earth System Science Center, Distinguished Professor, Atmospheric Science University of Alabama in Huntsville, Alabama State Climatologist and Roy Spencer. It was graphed by Ken Stewart at KensKingdom, and inspired by Tom Quirk at Quadrant. I was very happy to connect them this weekend. The data cover “average lower troposphere temperature anomalies for land grids [...]

Mystery black-box method used to make *all new* Australian “hottest” ever records

There were not many long term sites (in black dots) in the centre of Australia in 1930.

This summer the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) invented a whole new metric to measure average national heat, which might be all very well except no-one (other than the BOM) seems to know what it is.

On January 7th the BOM claimed Australia set a new “average maximum daily temperature record”. Now the headlines are about the “hottest” Australian summer.

With both records, no one outside the BOM team has access to the methods or data. This post is about the new “daily” temperature of Australia used to declare Jan 7th was a record, but the same point applies to the “hottest summer” records, even though they may be a different data set. Where is the data? Where are the methods?

Is the BOM a science agency or a PR bureau?

The January 7th heatwave supposedly broke all previous “daily” records in this category — a dubious honor since no-one can remember any records like it.

It’s a bit like winning the Side-Jump. It’s not an event anyone knew was on until the medal ceremony. Worse, no one knows how the [...]

Not the hottest ever summer for most Australians in Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane. Not “extreme” heatwaves either.

Despite the wild hype about records being broken, and how hot this summer has “felt” for most Australians there have been many hotter summers, and for millions of people this summer was not remarkable at all.

The BOM is planting the unscientific suggestion it “felt warm” when thermometers in most major centres tell us it was just summer. The population of Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne combined is almost 11 million. Nearly 50% of all Australians experienced an average to above average summer, but none of them experienced an extreme summer or a record hot season.

Since there are 100 different ways of measuring a “record”, could it be the BOM is cherry picking whatever record it can find, but ignoring all the non-records, the average measurements, and the ordinary heat?

Melbourne, hot but not extreme

In Melbourne there have been nine hotter summers, and two of those were more than a century ago. Those summers weren’t just a bit hotter. It was nearly a whole degree hotter (as an average of maximum summer temperatures) in 1898 and 1951.

In Melbourne this summer qualifies as the tenth hottest. It was far hotter in 1898, 1951, 1981, and 2001


Much [...]

How well did that 50 degree forecast work out for the BOM?

You could almost be forgiven for wondering if the Bureau of Meteorology is a science unit or a PR agency. They seem professionally adept at getting headlines, but not so hot at predicting the weather.

On Jan 7th the BOM models forecast 50 spanking hot degrees across hundreds of square kilometers in central Australia. But it was a whole week ahead, the prediction itself cooled with a day or two, and in the area under the “purple searing spot” the result on Jan 14th ended up being around 40C instead. That’s fine in itself — predictions are difficult. What’s not fine is the PR storm that ensued, which is still being used, as if somehow the very fact that our faulty climate models predicted a record temperature (but failed) is evidence of man-made global warming. How many thousands of people all around the world now think that Australia had a 50C plus day this January? Did anywhere hit the fifty mark? No report of one so far. Watch the loop of Australia’s January temperatures here. The highest brown bar on that graph is 45 – 48C, and those hot spots are a thousand kilometers from the purple patch.

That said, [...]

Eight reasons the Australian heatwave is not “climate change”

Eight  reasons why this current heatwave is a boring, overhyped example of weather being used for political purposes.

1. It’s the long term trends that matter — not a few weeks of hot weather

As climate scientists keep telling us (except when they have a heatwave to milk), ”weather is not climate”. It’s the long term trends that matter. One short four week period is not a long term climate trend, but it is an excellent opportunity to create hype and scaremongering in the newspapers. Scientists with little scruple and low standards are making the most of this.

2. The “records” we are breaking are pitifully short

Even if this is the hottest heatwave “ever recorded”, it doesn’t mean much in the long term scheme of things. Natural climate cycles work on scales of 11 years, 60 years, 200 years, 1500 years, and 100,000 years. We have decent temperature records for many locations for only 50 years. We have a scratchy patchy thermometer record for 150 years. Any scientist raving about breaking a 50 year record as if it means something is … embarrassing. There is too much noise in this system and too little data.

3. If a few weeks [...]

Australia – was hot and is hot. So what? This is not an unusual heatwave

The media are in overdrive, making out that “the extreme heat is the new normal” in Australia. The Great Australian Heatwave of January 2013 didn’t push the mercury above 50C at any weather station in Australia, yet it’s been 50C (122F) and hotter in many inland towns across Australia over the past century. See how many are in the late 1800′s and early to mid 1900′s. You can’t blame those high records on man made global warming.  [feel free to post some old records of your own and the source reference we can check and we will update the map]

 Did CO2 cause extreme heat in the 1820′s?

In explorer Charles Sturt’s time it was so hot that thermometers exploded. Was this Australia’s hottest day all the way back in 1828? It was 122F or 53.9C! Naturally it is not a BOM-registered-record (the BOM did not exist then). Nonetheless, Charles Sturt was engaged to explore the nation and given careful instructions to take accurate readings of the climate. Yes, inadequate thermometer shading may have exaggerated the maximum by 1C, 2C, maybe even 3C, but at 50.9C it would still have been considerably hotter than anywhere in January 2013.

Even that [...]