After 15 Weeks, the Bureau Responds With Non-Answers

July 16, 2015

On 30 March 2015, in response to some “interesting” claims made on ABC Radio by Dr Bob Vertessy, the head of the Bureau, I sent by the normal feedback channel four questions, summarised below:

Q.1: Can you please supply me with a reference to your data that show that the number one cause of death is heatwave?

Q.2:  Can you please supply me with a reference to your data that show five times as many very serious heatwaves today compared with the middle of last century?  Could you also please tell me your criteria for a very serious heatwave.

Q.3:  In what way can 38.9%, 36%, or 34.1% difference in quadratic change (between trends of the supposedly “raw” Australian Water Availability Project data and those of the ACORN-SAT dataset) be interpreted as “no difference”, “exactly the same story”, or “the same result”?

Q.4:  When can we expect to see the results of this further work (monthly and seasonal analysis of differences between AWAP and ACORN) published on the ACORN-SAT website?  If it is available elsewhere please refer me to it.  I am particularly interested in any difference in quadratic change in summer maxima between AWAP and ACORN-SAT, as this is relevant to heatwave analysis.

I followed up with reminder queries on 28 April, with an email to Bob Baldwin (the Parliamentary Secretary responsible for this farce the Bureau) on 1 May, a Formal Complaint on 18 May, another email query to him on 15 June, and phone calls to his office on 25 June and 10 July.  In this last phone call I mentioned that I would approach the Opposition Environment Shadow Minister (Mark Butler) if I didn’t get a reply soon.

A reply was emailed to me on Tuesday 14 July.

Unfortunately, Baldwin’s reply contains no straight answers, avoids answering questions, gives misleading answers, contradicts itself, makes debateable interpretations, has at least two links to references that are not valid, and makes no apology or explanation for the delay.

Here is the full text of Baldwin’s reply, emailed on Tuesday 14 July, followed by my comments.

“I refer to your email of 1 May 2015, concerning an email sent to the Bureau of Meteorology’s Queensland Regional Office regarding an ABC radio interview with the Director of Meteorology.

As I am sure you can appreciate, the Bureau deals with a number of important issues in the interests of the public, including many severe weather events across the country.  As such, the Bureau does not always have the capacity to provide detailed and tailored responses to the many individual enquiries they receive.  I have, however, requested that the Bureau provide a full explanation to the four questions you raised in your email dated 30 March 2015.  The responses are below:

1.  Heatwaves kill more Australians than any other natural disaster.  As outlined in Coates et al (2014), from 1844 to 2010, extreme heat events have been responsible for at least 5,332 fatalities in Australia, and since 1900, 4,555: more than the combined total of deaths from all other natural hazards.  Refer:

-Coates, L., K. Haynes, J. O’Brien, J. McAneny and F.D. De Oliviera (2014)Exploring 167 years of vulnerability. An examination of extreme heat events in Australia 1844-2010. Environmental Science & Policy, 42, 33-44, doi:10.1016/j.envsci.2014.05.003.


-Queensland University of Technology (2010) Impacts and adaptation response of infrastructure and communities to heatwaves: the southern Australian experience of 2009, report for the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, Gold Coast, Australia.


2.  The duration, frequency and intensity of heatwaves have increased across many parts of Australia, based on daily temperature records since 1950, from when coverage is sufficient for heatwave analysis.  Days where extreme heat is widespread across the continent have become more common in the past twenty years.  Refer:

-Perkins, S.E., L.V. Alexander and J.R. Nairn (2012) Increasing frequency, intensity and duration of observed global heatwaves and warm spells.  Geophys. Res. Let.., 39, L20714, doi:10.1029/2012GL053361.


-Perkins, S.E., (2015) A review on the scientific understanding of heatwaves- their measurement, driving mechanisms, and changes at the global scale.  Journal of Atmospheric Research, submitted.

There are many valid ways to characterise discrete heatwaves and warm spells.  The Bureau has adopted a particular operational heatwave definition motivated by human health considerations, defined as a period of at least three days where the combined effect of high temperatures and excess heat is unusual within the local climate.  This does not preclude the use of other heatwave indices suitable for various research questions.  The bulk of heatwaves at each location are low intensity with local communities expected to have adequate adaptation strategies for this level of thermal stress.  Less frequent, higher intensity heatwaves are classified as severe and will challenge some adaptation strategies, especially for vulnerable sectors such as the aged or the chronically ill.  Refer:

-Perkins, S.E. and L.V. Alexander (2013) On the Measurement of Heat Waves, J. Climate, Vol. 26, No. 13, pp.4500-4517. Doi: 10.1175/JCLI-D-12-00383.1)


-Bureau of Meteorology Pilot Heatwave Forecast:

3.  As shown in the figure below, both adjusted and unadjusted temperatures show that Australia’s climate has warmed since 1910.  Most of this warming has occurred since 1955, when adjusted and unadjusted data are virtually identical.

BOM awap-acorn graphic

4.The Bureau continues to monitor and research Australian temperatures.  This work is ongoing, and not being conducted as part of a specific project.  Therefore, the work is undertaken as resources allow, and not subject to specific milestones and timelines.  However, all significant research will be published and made available in the scientific literature following its completion and peer review.

The Bureau of Meteorology puts a great deal of time and effort into producing research and services around climate variability and change.  The Bureau shares observations daily with the world and its research is peer reviewed and published in high quality international journals for everyone to see.

Noting the wide public availability of scientifically robust climate data and information, I encourage you to seek answers to questions through the publicly available information, such as the references provided above.  The Bureau can provide any further analysis and response on a cost-recovery basis, in line with Australian Government Cost Recovery Guidelines.

Thank you for writing on this matter.

Yours sincerely

Bob Baldwin”


There is no mention of my Formal Complaint, just my first email to Baldwin’s office.

There is no apology, and no explanation for the delay in replying by either the Bureau or Baldwin.

Response to Question 1: 

Why doesn’t Dr Vertessy just admit he may have misled listeners by not specifying that heatwaves are the number one cause of death “in natural disasters”?

Coates et al do indeed show that heatwave deaths exceed those of other natural disasters since 1844.

Figure 1:   From Coates et al (2014)- heat related deaths 1844-2010 (click to enlarge)

Coates graph

However, they clearly show that the number of deaths (and much more so, the death rate) was consistently much higher in the first 75 years of last century than the past 40 years, and while the 2009 heatwave certainly caused a spike in the number of deaths, the mortality rate per 100,000 was eclipsed by the 1896 heatwave, as well as 1908 and 1939, and also 1910, 1912, 1914, and 1927.  It appears from this graphic alone that “very serious heatwaves” were more common in the past than recently.

Figure 2 shows the average daily death rate per 1,000 for Australia from 2002 to 2012 taken from Australian Bureau of Statistics data (monthly death rate divided by the number of days in each month).  It is clear that mortality peaks in late winter, and is lowest in summer (December – April).

Figure 2: Daily Mortality Rate per 1,000 Population, 2002 – 2012

Daily mortality

Unfortunately, cold spells are not recognised as natural disasters, as they occur every year.  Deaths from cold are not limited to hypothermia, or burial under snow, or crashes on slippery roads, or house fires caused by heaters.  Every winter the death rate rises significantly as the sick and elderly succumb to chronic cardio-pulmonary illness, influenza, and pneumonia.  Cold is the real “silent killer”.

Response to Question 2:

Notice how my question, specifically querying five times as many very serious heatwaves today compared with the middle of last century, which is what Dr Vertessy claimed, has been neatly avoided.  The Bureau merely states that heatwaves “have increased”.  Dr Vertessy’s outlandish claim cannot be substantiated.

After quoting Coates et al in answer to the previous question, the Bureau now claims heatwaves can only be analysed since 1950.  If that is so, we can ignore the 70% of all heatwave deaths that occurred between 1900 and 1949, as only 1,378 heat related deaths occurred between 1950 and 2010 (see Figure 1 above).  While exact figures are not available to me, it would be interesting to see the total for floods, cyclones, bushfires, storms, tornadoes, earthquakes and landslides for this period, and whether 1,378 heat related deaths exceeds this.  Does the Bureau not see this contradiction?

Further, Perkins et al (2012) finds increased heatwave trends in percentage of days per season are “confined to… southern Australia”, not “many parts of Australia” as claimed in Baldwin’s reply, which is therefore misleading.  The claim that “days where extreme heat is widespread across the continent have become more common in the past twenty years” is not supported by evidence in this reply, as the second Perkins paper referenced is not yet published.  True or not, this is irrelevant.

Unfortunately, the link to the third Perkins paper does not work.  The Bureau’s Heatwave Forecast appears to be based on a similar metric to that used by Nairn and Fawcett (2015) in calculating an Excess Heat Factor to identify and predict heatwaves.  This at least will be useful.

Response to Question 3:

Again, the Bureau has chosen to avoid answering my question, clinging to their meme of warming since 1910, which I did not dispute, and that the difference between AWAP and ACORN since 1955 is negligible, which also I did not dispute.  My question was whether this negligible difference was evident from 1911, which the Bureau’s own paper (CTR-050) shows to be false.

Response to Question 4:

A short answer to my query would have been “No”.  No analysis of the difference between AWAP and ACORN on a monthly or seasonal basis has been undertaken.  Apparently I am the only person to have done this, and my results showing massive differences in maxima trends, largely due to just two adjustments, have not been falsified.

The final paragraph of Baldwin’s reply could be paraphrased as “Don’t ask us any more awkward questions.  If you do, you can expect to pay for the privilege of waiting three months to get a non-answer”.

Dr Vertessy has failed to substantiate his claims.  After 15 weeks, the Bureau has been forced to make a reply, which avoids answering questions, gives misleading answers, contradicts itself, makes debateable interpretations, has at least two links to references that are not valid, and makes no apology or explanation for the delay.  Thankfully, it does give references to some papers that give some information on heatwave detection.

What a farce.  I am disappointed, but not surprised.

However, I do think Dr Vertessy’s forays into the media world will be much more carefully scripted in future.

“Pause” Update

July 9, 2015

With the release of June data, showing the marked impact of a moderately strong El Nino, using UAH v. 6.0 data I have calculated the longest period back that the length of the pause in tropospheric temperature has been less than +0.01 degrees Celsius per 100 years:


uah pause globe 0615

North Polar:

uah pause npol 0615

Northern Hemisphere:

uah pause nh 0615


uah pause tropics 0615

Southern Hemisphere:

uah pause sh 0615

South Polar:

uah pause spol 0615


uah pause oz 0615


uah pause usa 0615

The El Nino will affect the length of the pause in some regions, but not all.  The pause continues!

The effect of two adjustments on the climate record

June 24, 2015

The warming bias in Australia’s ACORN-SAT maximum dataset is largely due to just two adjustments.

Last week’s Report of the Technical Advisory Forum’s review of the ACORN-SAT temperature reconstruction produced some rather bland, motherhood type statements.  However, hidden in the public service speak was a distinct message for the Bureau of Meteorology: lift your game.  Two of the areas I have been interested in are (a) whether individual adjustments are justified, and (b) the effect of these adjustments on national and regional temperature trends.  In this post I look at adjustments at just two sites, which are responsible for the single largest increase in national trend.

On page 17 of the Report we find the following graphic:

Fig. 1: Scatterplot of difference between AWAP and Acorn annual mean temperature anomalies.

scatterplot awap acorn mean diff

This is a clear statement of how much Acorn adjustments have cooled past temperatures, as AWAP is regarded as being only “partially homogenised”, and close to raw temperatures.   There is a considerable difference- more than 0.2 degrees- between the two interpretations of temperatures 100 years ago.

Mean temperature is the average of maximum and minimum.  In this post I shall look at just maximum temperatures, from 1911 to 2013.  The following graph is a plot of the difference between monthly Acorn and AWAP maximum anomalies, which I think is much more informative:

Fig. 2:

scatterplot awap acorn max months

Note there is a trend of +0.22 degrees / 100 years in the differences, indicating a predominance of cooling of earlier data; there is a very large range in the first 50 years, from about -0.7C to +0.3C, and one outlier at +0.4C, reducing to a much narrower band in the 1960s before increasing in the last 20 years; and the bulk of differences are negative before 1970.

Now let’s look at what has been happening in the past 35 years- in fact, in the satellite era:

Fig. 3: Monthly differences between AWAP and Acorn before and after December 1978

scatterplot awap acorn max phases

The trend in differences for the first 67 years is 0.33C / 100 years, but there is a very small tendency for Acorn to be cooler than AWAP recently- and the range of differences has been increasing.

That’s an interesting find, but I want to examine in more detail the effect of the adjustments which cause those differences.  Here are annual maxima in AWAP compared with Acorn.

Fig. 4: Annual mean of monthly maximum anomalies: AWAP and Acorn

graph awap acorn max

Again we see that Acorn has increased the warming trend from +0.59C to +0.81C per 100 years, an increase of +0.22C, or 37.3%.

However, the difference appears more marked before the mid 1950s.  The next graph shows the trends from 1911 to 1955 compared with the trends from 1956 to 2013.

Fig. 5: Comparison of trends in maxima before and after the middle of the 20th Century.

graph awap acorn phases

Note: while the trends of AWAP and Acorn are very similar (+1.32 to 1.4C per 100 years) since the 1950s- which the Bureau never tires of proclaiming- before then the plot tells a different story.  Acorn reduces the cooling trend by 0.44C per 100 years, a reduction of 86%.

How was this achieved?

On page 44 of the technical paper CTR-050 we find this explanation:

Returning now to maximum temperature, the differences between the AWAP and ACORN analyses show a marked drop in the early 1930s, with a sudden decrease of about 0.15 °C. This is most likely attributable to substantial negative adjustments between 1929 and 1932 in the ACORN-SAT dataset, indicating substantial discontinuities (expressed as artificial cooling) at a number of individual locations with a large influence on national analyses, because of the sparsity of data in their regions in that period. These discontinuities are mostly related to site moves that are associated with concatenated records for single locations. These include Alice Springs, Kalgoorlie and Meekatharra. Alice Springs, where the adjustment is associated with a site move in late 1931 or early 1932 from the Telegraph Station to a climatologically cooler site in the town, has a notably large “footprint”; at that time there were only two other locations within 600 kilometres (Tennant Creek and Charlotte Waters) which were observing temperatures, while the nearest neighbours to the west (Marble Bar and Wiluna) were more than 1200 kilometres away.

This large change between AWAP and Acorn is shown in the next graph.

Fig. 6: 12 month mean difference in monthly maxima anomalies

graph awap acorn diff 1930 drop

As I explained in my post in September 2014, Acorn sites are homogenised by an algorithm which references up to 10 neighbouring sites.  A test for the validity of the adjustments is to compare the Acorn site’s raw and adjusted data with those of its neighbours, by finding the differences between them.  Ideally, a perfect station with perfect neighbours will show zero differences: the average of their differences will be a straight line at zero.  Importantly, even if the differences fluctuate, there should be zero trend.  Any trend indicates past temperatures appear to be either relatively too warm or too cool at the station being studied.  My aim is to check whether or not individual adjustments make the adjusted Acorn dataset compare with neighbours more closely.   If so, the trend in differences should be close to zero.

I have tested the three sites named above.  I use differences in anomalies calculated from the mean of maxima for the 30 year period centred on 1931, or for the period of overlap if the records are shorter.  The neighbours are those listed by the Bureau on their Adjustments page.

Fig. 7:  Meekatharra differences from neighbours (averaged)

Meek acorn v neighbours avg

Note that the Acorn adjustment (-0.77C at 1/1/1929- the adjustment of +0.54C at 1/1/1934 does not show up in the national signal) is indeed valid: the resultant trend in differences is close to zero, indicating good comparison with neighbours.  However, since Meekatharra’s record starts only in 1927, two years of the Meekatharra adjustment cannot have had a large influence on the national trend as claimed.

Fig. 8:  Kalgoorlie differences from neighbours

Kalg acorn v neighbours avg

Kalgoorlie’s steep cooling compared with neighbours (from 170 km to 546 km away) has been reversed by the Acorn adjustment (-0.62C at 1/1/1930- the adjustment of -0.54C at 1/12/1936 does not show up in the national signal), so that Kalgoorlie now is warming too much (+1.02C / 100 years more than the neighbours).  Kalgoorlie’s adjustment is too great, affecting all previous years.

I now turn to Alice Springs, which ‘has a notably large “footprint”’.  Too right it does- its impact on the national climate signal is 7% to 10%, according to the 2011 Review Panel, p. 12.

Fig. 9:  Alice Springs differences from neighbours

Alice acorn v neighbours avg

Alice Springs, cooling slightly compared with neighbours, has been adjusted (-0.57C at 1/1/1932) so that the Acorn reconstruction is warming (+0.66C / 100 years) relative to its neighbours.  The adjustment is much too large.

And exactly where are these neighbours?

Tennant Creek (450 km away), Boulia (620 km), Old Halls Creek (880 km), Tibooburra (1030 km), Bourke (1390 km), and Cobar (1460 km)!

The site with the largest impact on Australia’s climate signal has been “homogenised” with neighbours from 450 km to 1460 km away- except the adjustment was too great, resulting in the reconstruction warming too much (+0.66C / 100 years) relative to these neighbours.  The same applies at Kalgoorlie.  Meekatharra’s record only starts in 1927 so its effect can be discounted.  These are the only remote Acorn sites that had large adjustments at this time.  All other remote Acorn sites open at this time either have similar trends in raw and Acorn or had no adjustments in this period.

The 37.3% increase in the trend of Australian maxima anomalies in the “world’s best practice” ACORN-SAT dataset compared with the “raw” AWAP dataset is largely due to just two adjustments- at Kalgoorlie and Alice Springs- and these adjustments are based on comparison with distant neighbours and are demonstrably too great.

If it wasn’t so serious it would be laughable.

Peak Warmth?

June 17, 2015

Global Warming Enthusiasts have held the floor for too long.  It is time for genuine climate scientists to take the initiative and adopt, address, and promote the concept of Peak Warmth.

What exactly is Peak Warmth?

The well-known concept of Peak Oil is the point in time when the maximum rate of extraction of petroleum is reached.  Peak Warmth is an unrelated but similar concept.  Peak Warmth is that point when global temperatures inevitably reach their maximum before beginning to cool.  Included in our discussion of the hiatus, pause, slowdown, or plateau in global temperatures, which may be followed by temperatures going up, down, or sideways, we need to consider Peak Warmth, as its consequences could be enormous.

The first thing to note of course is that Peak Warmth is well and truly past- in fact, around 5,000 to 8,000 years past.  Many studies from around the world show the Holocene Optimum was from one to several degrees Celsius warmer than now, in different regions of the globe.   The previous Eemian interglacial appears to have been even warmer.    The Holocene has also had periods of millennial-scale variability in temperature and precipitation (think Mediaeval Warm Period, Little Ice Age).  In various parts of the world, regional temperature change of four degrees Celsius in a century has not been unusual, so there’s nothing unprecedented about recent warming.

However, the focus of this post is the recent warming of the past 160 years.

Fig. 1:  Hadcrut4 since 1850

WFT hadcrut4

Global Warming Enthusiasts can see no end to the recent warming, at least not without massive cuts to greenhouse gas emissions.  They need to be pinned down: what will happen after 2100?  Will there be runaway warming?  Will temperatures continue to rise, and by how much?

Sceptics of the validity of the IPCC’s global warming scenarios have a different view.  If the recent temperature increase is mainly due to natural causes, then a decrease at some stage is very likely.   Some sceptics will say that natural influences will shortly cause (or have already caused) temperatures to begin cooling.  Others (including myself) will say “We don’t know and can’t predict what will happen, or when”.   We note, however, that going by the past, future cooling is inevitable- the instrumental record, such as it is, shows short warming phases are followed by cooling.  The Dark Ages followed the Roman Warm Period, and the Little Ice Age followed the Mediaeval Warm Period.  And while we don’t know the timing or mechanism of glacial inception which could be decades, centuries, or millennia away, we are overdue for the next glaciation.

Are there any indications of Peak Warmth?  Arguably one of the best temperature datasets is that of the satellite derived UAH (University of Alabama- Huntsville).  The Temperature of the Lower Troposphere gives a good indication of what the bulk of the atmosphere is doing.  Unfortunately, we only have data since December 1978.

Fig. 2: UAH monthly temperature anomaly data for the Globe, December 1978 to May 2015. (The x-axis labels show December of each year.)

uah globe 7915 phases

During the satellite era, the global temperature record shows 15 years of modest warming, then a rapid increase between the early 1990s and 2001 – 2002.  (This period includes but is independent of the 1997-1998 Super El Nino.)  The pause is undeniable since then- a bit over 13 years.

Actually, it is a small cooling.

Fig. 3: Phases of warming and cooling in UAH data

uah globe 3 trends

For the benefit of those who think including the Super El Nino exaggerates the trend of the rapid warming phase, excluding 1997, 1998, and 1999 gives a trend of +1.54C- just 0.07C less.

While we can say that current temperature trends are not consistent with IPCC projections, and alternative climate scenarios must be considered, it is too early to say whether we have reached or passed Peak Warmth of the current warm period, or if there will be future warming phases to a higher peak.  We won’t know until many years afterwards.  It is possible that Peak Warmth will be identified as occurring in a single month or year (for example, April 1998), but it is also possible that it will be seen as a period of some decades or even centuries.

I hope I am not around to see the cooling which will follow Peak Warmth.  A long plateau at about current temperatures, or even a small decline, would not be detrimental for the world, but unlike Elsa, cold does bother me.  While I have great faith in the ability of humankind to adapt to future challenges, another Little Ice Age would have very serious consequences for world food production, and the next glacial period must surely bring an end to civilization as we now know it.

It is time for genuine climate scientists to adopt and address the concept of Peak Warmth.  The Precautionary Principle, invoked to justify measures to combat or mitigate global warming, needs to be invoked to address the consequences of future global cooling.  Myopic denial of the pause wastes time and resources which must be better spent in studying little understood influences on climate such as clouds, rather than the current fixation on greenhouse gases as a cause of warming to the exclusion of all else.

We do indeed live in interesting times.

Open Letter to Bob Baldwin

June 15, 2015

Dear Mr Baldwin

What does it take to get action following a formal complaint?

I draw your immediate personal attention to this matter.

It is now fully 11 weeks since I submitted four simple questions to Dr Vertessy’s office (Reference REF2015-089-17) , nine weeks since my follow up request with a copy to you, and four weeks since I made a formal complaint to you.  Sam Hussey-Smith of your office emailed me on Tuesday 19th May, saying he would “seek to get a response as soon as possible”.

Still nothing.

I may be a mere insignificant individual with a minor query, but surely I deserve to be treated with a little respect, and surely the Bureau of Meteorology, the Environment Department, and the office of its Parliamentary Secretary, all need to demonstrate transparency and public accountability.

Perhaps Dr Vertessy hopes I will get sick of waiting and will lose interest, saving him the embarrassment of an apology and a probable retraction.   He should not underestimate my determination.  The longer he delays, the more it looks as if he has something to hide.

I seek your urgent personal intervention to ensure an immediate response.

Yours sincerely

Ken Stewart


Here is my formal complaint, sent 4 weeks ago (18 May).

Dear Mr Baldwin

Formal Complaint re: Dr Bob Vertessy, Director and C.E.O. of the Bureau of Meteorology

It is seven weeks since I submitted four questions to Dr Bob Vertessy, Director and C.E.O. of the Bureau of Meteorology, through the Bureau’s feedback channels, and two full weeks since I followed this up with a complaint with a copy to your office.  The Bureau acknowledged receipt (ReferenceREF2015-089-17) and an officer of the Bureau has confirmed that my queries were indeed passed on to the Director’s office.  However, there has been no other response at all, either from the Bureau or from your own office.

Seven weeks, Mr Baldwin, seven weeks!  This is beyond simple negligence.  It is now in the realm of conscious breach of the Bureau’s own Service Charter for the Community proudly displayed at .

Dr Vertessy demonstrably fails to meet several elements of his own Charter, in that:

  • I have not been treated with respect and courtesy;
  • The Director has not been clear and helpful in his dealings with me, and has given no reason for delay;
  •  My enquiries, which it appears the Director cannot answer, have not been referred to an appropriate source;
  • The Director has not dealt with my enquiries and subsequent complaints quickly and effectively;
  • The Charter claims the Bureau will “Reply to your letters, faxes and e-mails within two weeks – on more complex issues, our initial reply will give you an estimate of the time a full response will take, and the cost, if any.”  While lower level officers reply courteously well within this time (usually within hours or at most days), it seems the CEO is above this requirement.

It seems the Bureau has a long way to go in its aim to “Develop a more streamlined system of handling your enquiries and feedback on our services”.

I therefore request that you act to obtain for me an immediate reply to my queries from Dr Vertessy.  I also expect his apology and an explanation for not meeting “acceptable standards of quality, timeliness or accuracy”.

Until then, Dr Vertessy’s lack of response speaks volumes about his own credibility as a scientist, a communicator, and the Bureau head, as well as the credibility and accountability of the Bureau of Meteorology as a whole.

Yours sincerely




Ken Stewart

Denial 101- My “Assignment”

June 9, 2015

I have just completed the 6 week online course “Making Sense of Climate Science Denial”.  What joy! (that I’ve finished).  This was Climate Science Lite- at its most basic.  I don’t think we have to worry too much about the trolls trained up by this course.

I sent in my “assignment”  yesterday, and had to mark five other students’ responses.  My final mark- 87%!!  here it is:


  1. FACT: There is no evidence for any “hot spot” in the tropical upper troposphere, the hypothetical existence of which is one of the key signatures of man-made global warming.

    Satellites have been measuring temperatures of layers of the atmosphere since 1978. The most recent version of the UAH (University of Alabama- Huntsville) dataset shows the tropical upper troposphere has in fact a much smaller trend than climate models say it should be. The data show no amplified warming of the upper troposphere, and no hot spot.

    Further, since the 1950s thousands of weather balloons have been deployed in the atmosphere and have likewise failed to identify any hotspot.

    There is a myth, however, that claims that lack of evidence for the hot spot is not important, as the hot spot would be evidence for any natural warming, not just greenhouse warming.

    Those who advance this myth admit there is no sign of the tropical hot spot, but say that any sort of warming will produce one. This is true. They fail to explain, however, the reason for its absence, and fail to explain that as a consequence, global warming, natural or man-made, cannot be amplified by feedback from water vapour when there is no evidence for this in the most important location.

    This is because the hot spot is fundamental to global warming theory. As the Earth’s surface warms, much greater amounts of water can be evaporated. While much of this water vapour condenses to form clouds and returns to the surface as precipitation, with increased warming more water vapour condenses and releases heat higher up, in the upper troposphere. This effect is expected to be strongest in the tropics, and this is referred to as the tropical hot spot. (It is not really “hot”, but relatively warmer than the extremely cold upper atmosphere.)

    Being a strong greenhouse gas, this additional water vapour adds to the warming due to carbon dioxide (or any natural warming) in a positive feedback. This is the reason that finding the hot spot is important. If it is not there, in the most important atmospheric layer for feedback from water vapour, then there is little evidence for amplification of global warming beyond that expected from carbon dioxide and other man-made greenhouse gases.

    Unfortunately, even after decades of warming, neither weather balloons nor satellites can find any evidence for this hot spot.

    Saying that the missing hot spot is not important is an example of the fallacy of misrepresenting the science. To claim this, misrepresents the science which says that the tropical hot spot would be strong evidence for the expected amplified warming due to increased water vapour.

    The lack of the tropical hot spot is indeed a major problem for climate scientists. No hot spot, no excessive warming.



    • ASSESSOR:PEER 1Peer’s Assessment:Good


    • ASSESSOR:PEER 2Peer’s Assessment:Good


    • ASSESSOR:PEER 3Peer’s Assessment:Excellent



    • ASSESSOR:PEER 1Peer’s Assessment:Excellent


    • ASSESSOR:PEER 2Peer’s Assessment:Good


    • ASSESSOR:PEER 3Peer’s Assessment:Excellent



    • ASSESSOR:PEER 1Peer’s Assessment:Needs Improvement


    • ASSESSOR:PEER 2Peer’s Assessment:Needs Improvement


    • ASSESSOR:PEER 3Peer’s Assessment:Excellent



    • ASSESSOR:PEER 1Peer’s Assessment:Needs Improvement


    • ASSESSOR:PEER 2Peer’s Assessment:Needs Improvement


    • ASSESSOR:PEER 3Peer’s Assessment:Excellent



(I think Peer Assessor 3 might be a sceptic!!  I wonder how many more there were.)

Call that a Pause?

May 13, 2015

The length of the “pause”, “hiatus”, slowdown”, or “plateau”, whatever you wish to call it, is of great interest to sceptics and mainstream climate scientists alike, although Global Warming Enthusiasts such as John Cook try to pretend it doesn’t exist and/or is not important.

In this post I am showing the length of time during which the linear trend of temperatures is less than +0.01C per 100 years- i.e. zero or negative.  I use the UAH version 6 data to April 2015 which has been recently released, for various regions of the globe.  University of Alabama (Huntsville) data are derived from satellite radiosonde data for the lower troposphere.  These represent how the bulk of the atmosphere is behaving.

I am well aware of the criticism that commencing the trend calculation near the 1997-1998 El Nino may distort the trend, so these calculations merely show how far in the past we can go to find a zero or negative trend.  (In a future post I intend to exclude the big lump of data around this period for an alternative look at trends.)  In several of these plots there is very little discernible bulge around 1997-1998 at all, so I consider the trends are valid.

Firstly, how long is the pause globally?

Fig. 1:  Global data with zero trend (less than +0.01C/100 years) (Click to enlarge)

uah pause apr 15 globe

This includes the 1997-98 El Nino which may distort the trend calculation.  However, see several plots below which don’t show this effect.

Fig. 2:   North Polar (60 degrees North to 90 degrees North)

uah pause apr 15 npol

Despite claims to the contrary, during this admittedly short period the Arctic has not been warming.

Fig. 3:  Northern Hemisphere (Equator to 90 Degrees North)

uah pause apr 15 NH

Only slightly shorter than for the whole globe. Trend= +0.007C/100 years.

Fig. 4:  Southern Hemisphere (Equator to 90 degrees South)

uah pause apr 15 SH

This includes three years before the 1997-98 El Nino.  The trend is +0.006C/100 years.

Fig. 5: Tropics (20 degrees North to 20 degrees South)

uah pause apr 15 Tropics

The tropics include the Tropical Pacific where ENSO events are identified, and the pause extends well before the super El Nino.

Now you’ve heard that Antarctic sea ice is expanding to new records, but of course this is due to, variously, stronger katabatic winds and/or melt water filling the gaps and freezing over- all due to global warming naturally.  But you may have a suspicion that the Antarctic region is not actually warming as much as global warming enthusiasts would have you believe.  Has there been a pause in Antarctica?

Fig. 6:  South Polar region (below 60 degrees South)

uah pause apr 15 spol

Now that’s a Pause!

I also checked pause length for Australia and the USA.

Fig. 7: Australia

uah pause apr 15 aus

There does not appear to be an unusually large spike during 1997-98.

What about our North American cousins?

Fig. 8: Contiguous USA

uah pause apr 15 usa48

The effects of the 1997-98 El Nino do not have a large influence here either.

Note to Global Warming Enthusiasts: The Pause is real!  Build a bridge and get over it!

Beef Week, PETA, and Dr Vertessy

May 11, 2015

Last week was Beef Australia 2015 in Rockhampton.  The bus trip and the day I attended were thoroughly enjoyable, very professionally run, and a credit to the organisers and the beef industry generally.  The way the beef industry adapts to changing conditions through technology is fascinating.

One incident is worth repeating.  A chap was wandering around Beef Week wearing a cap with PETA embroidered on it.  Naturally people were pretty suspicious of him until they read the words printed in tiny script- “People Eating Tasty Animals.”  I’d like a cap like that.

I was pleased to find the Bureau of Meteorology stall, and met the local observers as well as Jess Carey of the Brisbane office, who instantly remembered my queries to Dr Vertessy about his claims on ABC Radio.  A thoroughly nice fellow.  He assured me he had forwarded on my queries within minutes, but had no idea of the reason for the delay in replying.

Speaking of which, today is six weeks since I sent my query to the Bureau, and still no reply.

Dr Vertessy’s lack of response speaks volumes about his credibility as a scientist, a communicator, and the Bureau head, not to mention the evidence for his claims.

The longer the delay, the more sceptical I am of anything the Bureau says about climate.

Complaint re Dr Vertessy

May 1, 2015

On Sunday profile on ABC Radio on Sunday 29 March, Dr Bob Vertessy, the Director and C.E.O. of the Bureau of Meteorology was interviewed.  The whole interview is here:

In this interview Dr Vertessy made some alarming, questionable, and potentially misleading claims.

On Monday 30 March I emailed four questions for Dr Vertessy to the Bureau, requesting him to substantiate these claims.

On Tuesday 31 March, Jess Carey of the Queensland office of the Bureau emailed me to inform me that my questions had been forwarded to the Director’s office “for actioning”.

On Tuesday 28 April, four full weeks after my email had been forwarded to the appropriate office, that of the Director of Meteorology, I sent a reminder email to Jess Carey, stating that I expected a reply by 5.00 p.m. on Thursday 30 April.

No response has been received. Whatever the reason, Dr Vertessy has failed to substantiate his claims.  Probably they cannot be substantiated.

Perhaps the Director’s office is dysfunctional, with correspondence not being forwarded to the correct person, or simply inadvertently overlooked.  Perhaps officers in the Director’s office considered my queries to be inconsequential and not worth a reply.  Perhaps the Director, who is a hydrologist, not a climate scientist, has been poorly advised.  Perhaps the Director realises that in his rendition of the Bureau’s narrative he made some poorly thought through statements, and honest answers to my queries would be too embarrassing.

Or perhaps the Director’s office functions perfectly, he is well advised, he thought through his statements carefully and meant every word he said.  In this case, believing the science is settled and no questions need be considered, perhaps he has directed that queries from mere mortals such as I should be ignored.

As the Director and Chief Executive Officer for a large, trusted, and publicly funded organisation, Dr Vertessy is accountable and responsible not only for his own statements but also for the performance and behaviour of the whole organisation, and especially his own office.

I am seeking firstly an apology from Dr Vertessy for his discourteous refusal even to acknowledge my queries, and secondly, honest and complete answers that will permit substantiation of his claims and replication of supporting work.

As my past experience has been that difficult questions addressed to the Bureau are only answered following media or political attention, I am forwarding this complaint to media outlets, bloggers, and various Members of Federal Parliament, including The Hon. Bob Baldwin, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment.

A copy of relevant correspondence (was) included below.

Yours sincerely

Still No Reply From Bureau Boss

April 28, 2015

On Monday 30 March I asked Dr Vertessy five questions about his claims on ABC Radio the day before.  So far, not a word in reply.

This afternoon I sent a reminder email to Jess Carey of the Brisbane BOM office, who had passed on my queries on Tuesday 31 March to the Director’s office.

Good afternoon Jess

As it is now four weeks since you passed my queries to the Director’s office and there has been no response, I can only assume that
(a)  this has been inadvertently overlooked and a reminder memo from you will prompt an immediate, apologetic, and informative reply,
(b)  no reply will be forthcoming, as an honest reply is not possible without embarrassing the Director.
I will expect a reply by 5.00 p.m. Thursday 30/04/2015.
Yours sincerely (and I do not imagine the delay is at all your personal responsibility)
Ken Stewart


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