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Under pressure, Australian BOM puts up facade of “transparency” — too little, too late

Bottom line: The BOM has added a page listing “Adjustments”. It’s two years late, inadequate and incomplete. Skeptics shouldn’t have had to ask for it in the first place, and we still don’t have the algorithms and codes, or rational answers to most questions.  No one can replicate the mystery black box homogenisation methods of the BOM — and without replication, it isn’t science. There is still no explanation of why an excellent station like Rutherglen should change from cooling to warming, except for vague “statistics”, or why any station should be adjusted without documentary evidence, based on thermometers that might be 300 km away.

Lo and behold, the pressure from The Australian and independent analysts means the BOM has made a weak belated attempt to do what it has implied it always has done. When Michael Brown provided cover for the BOM he said the notion that scientists were hiding data was “pseudoscience”. The BOM, meanwhile, added a page called “Adjustments”, two years after launching “ACORN”, quietly admitting that the skeptics were right. They did not correct Brown’s baseless namecalling. Other apologists for their inexplicable anomalies, major adjustments or errors — like David Karoly — demand the skeptics publish in the peer reviewed literature before they will even consider their point of view, but neither Karoly nor the BOM can name the peer reviewed document, or any publication or link, with the full homogenization code. How can skeptics discuss a method in the peer review literature which is not publicly available? The BOM homogenization technique remains a black box method that cannot be replicated — only the secret guild of anointed BOM staff are privy to the details.

Let’s open that BOM black box: let’s have a replication of the homogenization process, open to public inspection, so it can be audited. So everyone can see where every homogenized number came from, back to the raw data and the adjustments. No public company could shield its finances from observation like this: they have to produce audited accounts every six months that show all money in the company bank account, all money owed, and all money owing. All of it.

And once we have replication, then we can have an informed discussion of the ramifications of the current homogenization process, and how it might be improved or made more realistic.

Is the BOM a science agency or a PR bureau?

On August 29 2014 the BOM said it had published everything:

BOM said its methods had been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals but did not say where or in what form.

Later on Sept 11, 2014, the BOM says they have finally complied with a recommendation made years ago:

A spokesman for BoM said “publication of this table meets the Bureau of Meteorology response to the recommendations of the Independent Peer Review Panel”.

So which is it? Either they were wrong before that the methods were published, or they are repeating  information now and pretending it is new in the hope of getting the critics off their back. The answer is “both”. It was inadequate before. It’s still inadequate now.

The new “adjustments” page doesn’t resolve much at all. There are still blatant errors — The changes to long term trends in minima are not “neutral”,  but increase the trend by nearly 50% (See Ken Stewart’s site here and the finished set here). The hottest day in Australia was almost certainly not in Albany in 1933 (which remains uncorrected at 51C). Many maximums have been adjusted and become lower than minimums. Those mistakes did not exist in the raw data. The homogenisation has created them, like the new discontinuity in Deniliquin.

The adjustments page is just a glorified rehash of the same old excuses

Effectively the bureau is saying “we need large mysterious transformations of data to make Australian trends look like international trends”. What serious climate scientist thinks Australia is supposed to get hotter, colder, wetter, drier, or cloudier with the exact same timing and patterns to the rest of the world? Even high schoolers know that when it rains on the East Coast with El Ninos, it’s not raining on the other side of the Pacific. Just because other homogenizations have produced the same trends by blending data to the point where it is unrecognisable does not make it “good” science.

Lots of international bankers were marketing the same overrated mortage bundles. Anyone want to buy subprime science — I have a collateralized trend for sale?

Three years ago the independent audit team, with Senator Cory Bernardi, asked for an ANAO audit of the BOM’s “High Quality” HQ data set. The BOM was not enthused. They dumped the HQ set that they had previously lauded and set up a new one called “ACORN”. We listed some of the errors in June 2012. Two years on, nothing much appears to have changed. They still haven’t released the algorithms used in the homogenization process. They are still using stations more than 100km away, some 600 km away, to “adjust” temperatures.  The mystery black box adjustments are still producing inexplicable nonsense, and the BOM still can’t explain why — on individual stations like Rutherglen and Bourke — anyone should find their adjustments necessary and scientifically justified. There is no documentation showing Rutherglen has moved. But there is documentation suggesting perhaps Bourke’s deleted “hottest” day really might have been 125F in 1909.

The BOM’s active silence on the long hot records of the late 1880s and 1890s suggests they are more interested in promoting one message — “it’s warming” — rather than being custodians of the real and more complicated history of the Australian climate.

The BOM still hides the “warming” effect of their mysterious adjustment procedure

The official CAWCR_049 [Back up copy here] Technical Report No. 04 claimed the adjustments were “balanced”:

“There is an approximate balance between positive and negative adjustments for maximum temperature but a weak tendency towards a predominance of negative adjustments (54% compared with 46% positive) for minimum temperature.” page 62, CAWCR_049.

Even in 2014, the BOM still maintains that the adjustments do not affect the national trends:

“And the bureau says an extensive study has found homogeneity adjustments have little impact on national trends and changes in temperature extremes.” — August 23, 2014

But a simple analysis shows this to be a misleading half-truth. The number of adjustments may be balanced, but Ken Stewart shows that the size of the warming adjustments is so much larger than the cooling adjustments that nationally the mimimum trend are warmed by nearly 50%. Given that skeptics pointed out the size of adjustments was larger two years ago, it would appear the Bureau is aware of the problem, but instead of justifying or fixing it, they carefully created ACORN so they could be seen to answer the critics while maintaining the same bias in the results. Seeming, not doing.

Where are the computer codes?

BOM’s 2011 independent panel called for the release of the computer codes:

recommended a list of adjustments be made publicly available along with the adjusted temperature series including the rationale for each adjustment. It said the computer codes underpinning the national ACORNSAT data-set, including the algorithms and protocols used by BOM for data quality control, should be made publicly available.”

Graham Lloyd’s article in The Australian yesterday shows that the BOM is under pressure, but their lack of transparency continues, and this new page appears to be more like a public relations effort than a big advance scientifically.

What Australia needs is a full working replication of the BOM methods and techniques — only then does a true scientific peer review process begin. If the BOM is so sure it’s doing obvious world’s best practice, why won’t it release the full code? Unpacking and replicating this detailed procedure would take months of analysis. If the Australian government is serious about our climate, they need to fund a proper independent study instead of leaving it to volunteers to do on the weekend, and hoping that someone with the right combination of IT, statistical, climate, and scientific skills will find it entertaining and want to do it for free.

The Greens would surely support more funding for climate research and a better, more rigorous Australian climate database. To oppose independent replication of the BOM procedures is to admit that they prefer the BOM to be a PR agency, not a scientific group.

Bureau of Meteorology warms to transparency over adjusted records

 THE Bureau of Meteorology has been forced to publish details of all changes made to historic temperature records as part of its homogenisation process to establish the nation’s climate change trend.

Publication of the reasons for all data adjustments was a key recommendation of the bureau’s independent peer review panel which approved the bureau’s ACORN SAT methodology.

BoM posted a new site on its ACORN SAT website on Monday, two weeks after being questioned by The Australian about the transparency of its homogenisation process.

Independent researchers had been calling for publication of BoM’s methodology for more than two years.

The Australian

All my posts on the BOM show that there are still more questions than answers.


The page for ACORN-SAT data.

The page for the entire computer code… does not exist.

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