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ABC, Climate experts do damage control on 1896 heatwave story, can’t say why, but they “know” it was cooler. Faith!

Winning! The 1896 heatwave story is going viral and the  ABC is reduced to weak, late excuses

Australians are realizing that our hot history has been hidden from us. We’ve set a new site traffic record with around 100,000 people checking in since Wednesday, plus thousands more reading the story elsewhere like Catallaxy and Facebook. Thank you for sharing! We first posted the 1896 heatwave here first in 2013, then again on Wednesday. The ABC has gone into damage control responding with a direct attempt to rebut the story, but they are too scared to name this site. What are they afraid of?

We, of course, have no such fear. Six years after skeptics let Australia know about the 1896 heatwave, the ABC and “experts” finally catch up but only under duress. So now they mention it, but use vague caveats, distractors, discuss different time spans, ignore 49 other hot sites, appeal to authority, and don’t mention their own recent artificial site changes that skeptics have documented in more detail than the BOM have. The “experts” allude to “thermometers on beer crates” but in Bourke the heat was recorded at the post office on Oxley st. Skeptics are well aware of the places using beer crates, verandahs and stone walls — they were recording temperatures like 130 F in the shade (a blistering 54.4C), and we didn’t even use those readings to create the heatwave map of 1896 (below). See Marra station N.S.W. and Berlino  S.A..

If the ABC wants to focus on Bourke, bring it on. Let’s talk about how cooling trends were changed to warming ones, and how they threw out original data, and from a Stevenson screen — a record of 51.7C in 1909 — wiped “because it was a Sunday”. We can detail the site, the moves, the ground, the equipment and the flaws — apparently better than the “experts” can.

The Australian heatwave of 1896, Map.

The Australian heatwave of 1896

My point remains — how can the BOM say they “know” it was cooler?

Where is the scientific accuracy to a tenth of a degree coming from? They can’t admit they don’t know and that it might have been as hot or hotter in 1896.

ABC: 435 people died in an 1896 heatwave — but scientists say the extreme heat events of today are still hotter

By Sophie Meixner and Daniel Nancarrow

This is what 97% certainty looks like — a bunch of vague caveats

Wait for it: they “know” it was cooler because it can’t be “easily compared” and is “likely suspect”?

The Bureau of Meteorology noted in a 2017 report the 1896 data “cannot be easily compared with modern recordings”.

“Detailed study has shown that extreme temperatures recorded at Bourke during the 1896 heatwave were likely suspect due to non-standard exposure, and likely around two degrees warmer than temperatures recorded with standard instrumentation.”

The Experts don’t even know the Bourke readings in 1896 came from the post office on Oxley St:

University of Melbourne climate researcher Linden Ashcroft said thermometers in Bourke were likely placed in sub-standard conditions in 1896. “Some thermometers were under verandahs, or they were against stone buildings,” she said. “I’ve heard of thermometers being kept in beer crates.

How about 51.7C in Bourke recorded in a Stevenson screen in 1909 then? Still not good enough?

It wouldn’t matter if Bourke had a Stevenson screen in 1896, high temperatures would still not be accepted. How do we know, because Bourke had a modern Stevenson Screen and recorded 51.7C in 1909 and the BOM threw the original data in the bin and declared it invalid, “Because it was a Sunday”. Jennifer Marohasy and Graham Lloyd documented the whole scandalous incident where a long cooling trend was changed to a warming trend, and original documents were binned:

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.

The Stevenson Screen went to the dump and, but for fate, the handwritten notes could have gone there too. But without instruction, the records were kept and are now under lock and key, held as physical evidence of what the weather was really doing in the mid-20th century.

Independent research, the ­results of which have not been disputed by BOM, has shown that, after homogenisation, a 0.53C warming in the minimum temperature trend has been increased to a 1.64C warming trend. A 1.7C cooling trend in the maximum temperature series in the raw data for Bourke has been changed to a slight warming.

 Apparently official temperatures were not recorded on Sundays in 1909 in Bourke, therefore it didn’t occur. Sure. No observer would voluntarily come in to work on the hottest day in history to note down the temperature. Probably there were too many other exciting things to do in Bourke, right? How about the observer in Brewarrina, a town near Bourke, who recorded 123F the same day. Both liars? Both wrong. It didn’t happen. You vill repeat after me comrade…

History is being destroyed.

Who’s in denial?

This is not just about Bourke. Lance Pidgeon and Chris Gillham and the BOM audit team including Warwick Hughes list extraordinary hot temperatures in 49 places. This was an Australia wide heatwave. Were they all wrong?

Geraldton W.A., Geraldton W.A.  Geraldton W.A. Perth W.A., Mullewa W.A. ,Carnarvon W.A., Pinjarrah W.A, Southern Cross W.A.,Wilcannia N.S.W., Isisford Qld. , Bourke N.S.W, Canowindra N.S.W, Farina S.A., Ungarie N.S.W, Farina S.A., Quirindi N.S.W.,Bulli N.S.W., Kiama N.S.W. ,Parramatta N.S.W., Camden N.S.W, Araluen N.S.W. ,Brewarrina N.S.W, West Wyalong N.S.W , Nannine W.A., Farina S.A. , Broken Hill N.S.W., Farina S.A., Charleville  or  Cunnamulla QLD., Olary S.A. , Adelaide S.A , Swan Hill Vic, Farina S.A., Mildura Vic , Broken Hill , N.S.W., Halbury S.A. , Rapanyup Vic ,Natimuk Vic ,Bega N.S.W. ,Geelong Vic , Hergott Springs S.A. ,Grenfell and Ivanhoe N.S.W, Charleville, QLD , Cunnamulla QLD ,Isisford QLD, Wilcannia N.S.W., Hillston, N.S.W., Wilcannia N.S.W. , Middle camp station Netely N.S.W. Gundabooka Station near Bourke. (or try here). Nelyambo station . Namagee N.S.W., White Cliffs. N.S.W.,  New Angeldool,  N.S.W. Mossgiel N.S.W.

Bourke: Perhaps the BOM should hire a skeptic and find out about their own sites?

Let’s talk some more about Bourke. Skeptics like Dr Bill Johnston have inspected it closely (We published his 8 page documentation here). Did the BOM “detailed study” explain that they artificially warmed their own modern expert site in 2013 by clearing the ground around it? Bourke’s temperature station is one of the eight longest running and best in Australia, yet it’s still terrible. It started in 1871 and is still listed as one of Australias top 104 ACORN sites. The reading in 1896 would have come from the official post office, in Oxley Street several allotments east of the courthouse. The site has moved several times (Johnston lists them all).  Bourke temperatures are hotter now than in the past because of site changes, not the climate.

Temperatures recorded there since 1999 have been artificially raised by site moves, a shrinking screen, electronic “super sensitive” thermometer, faulty and missing records and possible calibration problems:

“an automatic weather station (AWS) 700 m away in 1999, which used a small 60-litre screen and which reported whole-degrees before 2002. The many temperature values that were culled shows the AWS was frequently over-range, probably because its [rapid response-rate probe]* operating in the small screen recorded flurries of warm air that would not affect thermometers housed in large screens; or that due to calibration problems it was prone to spiking on warm days.

* Lance Pidgeon clarifies that it’s the rapid response rate which is likely causing the artificial spikes.

The BOM doesn’t fix their sites, they just magically homogenise the data instead, through a secret process. We call it vandalization:

Australia’s ACORN-SAT temperature datasets are riddled with problems. The process is opaque; lacks statistical control; synchronous inter-site changes such as replacing 230-litre screens with 60-litre ones and thermometers by AWS at infrequently serviced sites beside dusty tracks and in paddocks at airports, are propagated across the network by the process. Thus few ACORN-SAT datasets are independent of collective problems. Using comparator data that are not homogeneous to adjust faults in ACORN-SAT has no merit and should be abandoned. — Dr Bill Johnston

But the taxpayer funded “expert” doesn’t seem to know any of that, and the taxpayer funded ABC journalists are so incompetent they don’t ask. They only needed to do a ten second internet search to find the skeptics here that have done all their homework for them. It’s yet another example of how the ABC acts as a apologist propaganda agency to cover up for incompetent work from other government groups. Save the children, sell the ABC!

It’s all religious faith and excuses — not science

The UNSW genius explains that more people died in Bourke because “they wore more clothes”:

People weren’t prepared for heatwaves in 1896

University of New South Wales climate researcher Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick said people in 1896 were largely unprepared for extreme heat, meaning they were more vulnerable to its effects.

“Back then everyone wore a lot more clothing than what they do now, there was no air conditioning, people worked outside, they moved outside a lot,” she said.

“It’s like comparing apples and oranges.”

So if it’s like “apples and oranges” how can the BOM / CSIRO / UNSW say they “know” it was cooler? Only because of their faith, not their science.

Air conditioners, and cheap electricity will save more Australian lives than anything else

The only point the ABC gets right is that more people died in 1896 because there were no airconditioners. They don’t mention that scientific studies show these are the biggest lifesaver around (Achebak, 2018), they also reduce indoor pollution, and that more Australians will die if electricity prices keep rising as we force more unreliable, random, bat killing, volt-busting, generators which force out the cheap baseload suppliers and cost us more in pointless capital, land, staffing, inefficiency, and maintenance. Airconditioners save 20,000 lives in USA each year. (Barreca, 2016).

Scores dying in Bourke in 1896

Lance Pidgeon points out that the ABC are downplaying the deaths, saying “The town of Bourke lost at least 40 people — 1.6 per cent of its population” (as if that isn’t catastrophic!). He finds evidence that it was many more than this:

Of those 40 I have only been able to name 61.
So far. See

Even now it is not known how many men perished ; and it may not be known for months. There was a time when the “travellers,”
having fairly defined beats, were known and almost expected ; but latterly quite a new class has appeared —unknown city men, who, generally biding themselves under aliases, may be dead for months and never, if indeed ever, be missed. Already a few unfortunates have been found—one near Warri Warri, another on Morden, two on Nundora, and another, it is stated, on Yancannia. On Tickalara, on the Queensland border, a young man named Myers and an old man named George Smith succumbed ; the cause in each case is said to have been sunstroke.

How about those names from South east QLD.

Who’s dodging the point?

Dr Perkins-Kirkpatrick then tries to distract us from the topic the BOM and climate experts are unscientifically exploiting — the short heatwave. Suddenly she is talking about seasonal averages or annual averages, but the BOM is generating headlines and trying to scare people about heatwaves this week. Watch the goal posts shift:

Temperatures today are still hotter overall

Dr Perkins-Kirkpatrick said even taking into account flawed thermometer conditions, average temperatures in 1896 were still lower than last year’s average. “Around [1896], temperatures on average over Australia for that season were about one degree hotter than the overall climate mean,” she said. “But then in 2013, that summer was 1.5 degrees hotter than average.

“And last summer was over two degrees hotter than average.

“So although [1896] was a hot season, it wasn’t nearly as hot as some of the seasons we’ve seen since then.”

History denial?

The record “hottest day” in Australia graph on the ABC news last night only started in 1970 (a cool time when scientists were panicking about the coming ice age). Have they even tried to calculate the “hottest day” in 1896? And would we believe them if they did, after they have homogenised away many of the hottest days in Australia with two revisions of 100 year old data in the last six years?

h/t to Warwick Hughes, David B, George. Based on great research from Lance Pidgeon and Chris Gillham and the whole BOM audit team. Thank you!

If you are fed up with the ABC and BOM please help fund the independent research and commentary here.

To find out the real history of the Australian climate start here:


Achebak H, Devolder D, Ballester J (2018) Heat-related mortality trends under recent climate warming in Spain: A 36-year observational study. PLoS Med 15(7): e1002617.

Alan Barreca, Karen Clay, Olivier Deschenes, Michael Greenstone, and Joseph S. Shapiro  (2016) Adapting to Climate Change: The Remarkable Decline in the US Temperature-Mortality Relationship over the Twentieth Century, Journal of Political Economy 124:1, 105-159 [Berkley PDF]

Johnston, Bill, The full 8 page report is here:  Welcome to the back of Bourke where they make the weather warmer.


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