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, [...]
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 [...]
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 [...]
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 [...]
Photo: Jo Nova
Post by: Lance Pidgeon with assistance from Chris Gillham and others.
It is as if history is being erased. For all that we hear about recent record-breaking climate extremes, records that are equally extreme, and sometimes even more so, are ignored.
In January 1896 a savage blast “like a furnace” stretched across Australia from east to west and lasted for weeks. The death toll reached 437 people in the eastern states. Newspaper reports showed that in Bourke the heat approached 120°F (48.9°C) on three days (1)(2)(3). The maximumun at or above 102 degrees F (38.9°C) for 24 days straight.
By Tuesday Jan 14, people were reported falling dead in the streets. Unable to sleep, people in Brewarrina walked the streets at night for hours, the thermometer recording 109F at midnight. Overnight, the temperature did not fall below 103°F. On Jan 18 in Wilcannia, five deaths were recorded in one day, the hospitals were overcrowded and reports said that “more deaths are hourly expected”. By January 24, in Bourke, many businesses had shut down (almost everything bar the hotels). Panic stricken Australians were fleeing to the hills in climate refugee trains. As reported at the time, the government felt [...]
Trawling through our National Archives, Lance Pidgeon has found stories of how a heatwave in 1932 was so extreme that it caused mass bird deaths across outback Australia. The PDF is posted on Warwick Hughes blog. As Lance says, imagine the headlines if that had happened 80 years later. Presumably some would blame coal, airconditioners, and SUV’s for “killing billions of birds”. These old newspaper records also raise questions about our national temperature databases. Things appeared to be hotter then, than history now records them? I’ve only had time for a quick look and a cut and paste.
Great numbers were killed alone by the fortnightly train to Alice Springs. These fell exhausted on the railway line. A large number flew into the fans in the carriages and perished. Thousands fell exhausted in water pools and were drowned. A letter from Minnie Downs told of the death of thousands of birds on one day. The temperature that day was 125 degrees in the shade— and there was no shade. One woman at Tarcoola filled a 40-gallon drum, with shell parrots in one afternoon. Trees actually snapped under the strain of flight after flight of birds which swarmed exhausted on them. More than [...]
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