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:

http://www.abc.net.au/radio/programitem/peyl3MNdrQ?play=true

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,
or
(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

Are We Getting More Heatwaves? Part 2

April 22, 2015

It is now over three weeks (15 business days) since I questioned Dr Vertessy on his claims in his ABC Radio interview, but still no reply.

To test Dr Vertessy’s claim that we are seeing “of the order of five times the number of very serious heatwaves” as in the middle of last century, I have continued to use the following metric:

“Three days or more in a row in summer (December- February) where the maximum temperature is in the top 5% of temperatures for that day at that location, with daily benchmarks calculated using daily maxima for each month from 1961 to 1990.”

I have also used as an absolute metric of very hot days the Bureau’s own definition, days above 40 degrees Celsius.  I have used ACORN-SAT maxima to 31 December 2014 downloaded directly from the Bureau’s Acorn site, and daily maxima from 1 January to 28 February this year for each site, downloaded from Climate Data Online.  I have calculated decadal running counts of the number of days meeting the criterion to show how hot weather has changed over time.

In this post I have looked at rural locations to the north and west of Melbourne, including far western New South Wales and northern Victoria.  Where there is a continuous ‘raw’ record, I compared with raw data.

Once again, results are mixed, but I also came up against the major difficulty in analysing Australian temperatures- missing data.

I’ll first show a group of locations that appear to support Dr Vertessy’s claim.- Deniliquin, Nhill, and Kerang.

Fig. 1: Decadal count of heatwave days in Deniliquin

Decadal cnt 95 3d heatwaves summer Deniliquin3

Fig. 2: Decadal count of very hot days in Deniliquin

Decadal cnt 40 Deniliquin

Fig. 3: Decadal count of heatwave days in Nhill

Decadal cnt 95 3d heatwaves summer Nhill

 Fig. 4: Decadal count of very hot days in Nhill

Decadal cnt 40 Nhill

Fig. 5: Decadal count of heatwave days in Kerang

Decadal cnt 95 3d heatwaves summer Kerang

 Fig. 6: Decadal count of very hot days in Kerang

Decadal cnt 40 Kerang

Deniliquin, Nhill, and Kerang all appear to show the present decadal count of both heatwave days in summer and very hot days to be very much greater than- 4 to 5 times greater than- that of the count to the mid 1950s.  But next consider Tibooburra.

Fig. 7: Decadal count of heatwave days in Tibooburra

Decadal cnt 95 3d heatwaves summer Tibooburra

Acorn shows the recent peak, and the number of heatwave days in the decade to 1915 is about the same as the 1920s and 1940s- early 1950s.  The raw record shows the current count is about the same or even less than in the 1950s.

Fig. 8: Decadal count of >40C days in Tibooburra

Decadal cnt 40 Tibooburra

This shows a distinct rise to 2007, with a small decline since, but still above anything previous.  However, consider the following.

Fig. 9:  Decadal percentage of available data at Tibooburra

Decadal percent obs Tibooburra

With up to a third of data missing in Acorn, the heatwave and very hot day counts are too low for more than two decades.   The apparent dip in the decadal counts can be attributed to missing data.

This problem is as bad or worse at Nhill and Kerang.

Fig. 10:  Decadal percentage of available data at Nhill

Decadal percent obs Nhill

Fig. 11:  Decadal percentage of available data at Kerang

Decadal percent obs Kerang

A fair comparison is not possible.  Only Deniliquin can conclusively confirm Dr Vertessy’s claim.

I now turn to Bourke, Cobar, Walgett, Mildura, and Rutherglen.

Fig. 12: Decadal count of heatwave days in Bourke

Decadal cnt 95 3d heatwaves summer Bourke

 Fig. 13: Decadal count of very hot days in Bourke

Decadal cnt 40 Bourke

Bourke has five to ten more heatwave days than in the 1950s, not five times more.  (The peak 10 years ago got to twice as many.)  The effect of adjustments can be clearly seen, but even Acorn shows the number of very hot days (>40C) is less than the 1920s.

Fig. 14: Decadal count of heatwave days in Cobar

Decadal cnt 95 3d heatwaves summer Cobar

Fig. 15: Decadal count of very hot days in Cobar

Decadal cnt 40 Cobar

Cobar has recently had twice as many heatwave days as the 1950s, but less than the early 1930s, and the recent very hot day peak is less than the 1940s.

Fig. 16: Decadal count of heatwave days in Walgett

Decadal cnt 95 3d heatwaves summer Walgett

Fig. 17: Decadal count of very hot days in Walgett

Decadal cnt 40 Walgett

Walgett has many fewer heatwave and very hot days than the 1940s.  To 2015, the decadal count of heatwave days is half that of the mid 1950s.

Fig. 18: Decadal count of heatwave days in Mildura

Decadal cnt 95 3d heatwaves summer Mildura

Fig. 19: Decadal count of very hot days in Mildura

Decadal cnt 40 Mildura

The recent/ current peak in decadal counts of very hot/ heatwave days is about twice that of the mid 1950s, but not markedly higher than the 1940s and late 1960s.

Rutherglen is interesting.  Here is an example of how one extreme season can affect the record, with a large step up in the 1938-39 summer, but Acorn adjustments have increased the decadal count in the 1940s even more.

Fig. 20: Decadal count of heatwave days in Rutherglen

Decadal cnt 95 3d heatwaves summer Rutherglen

Fig. 21: Decadal count of very hot days in Rutherglen

Decadal cnt 40 Rutherglen

Acorn does not always cool the past.  In Rutherglen adjustments have increased the number of very hot days in the record from 1939 to the late 1940s, garbling the climate record.  Unfortunately for the Bureau, this shows heatwave days in the decade to 2015 a bit more than twice the number to 1955, but less than the 1940s.

And who knows how many heatwave days were between 1959 and 1965:

Fig. 22:  Decadal percentage of available data at Rutherglen

Decadal percent obs Rutherglen v raw

Rutherglen has November 1959 to December 1965 missing, which makes comparison with the mid 20th century period somewhat difficult.

Conclusion:

So, are rural sites getting about five times more very serious heatwaves now compared with the middle of last century?  At six of nine rural sites in western NSW and northern Victoria, No.  Only Deniliquin definitely supports Dr Vertessy’s claim.  While some sites (Nhill and Kerang) appear to support the claim, fair comparisons are not possible because up to a third of data is missing from crucial years.  None of the other sites support his claim (although no doubt careful selection of comparison periods will allow global warming enthusiasts to agree with him).  Most show similar or higher frequency of heatwave days than now, before the 1950s.

We are not getting more heatwaves.

Are We Getting More Heatwaves?

April 14, 2015

As it is now two weeks (nine business days) since I questioned Dr Vertessy on his claims in his ABC Radio interview, it appears an answer is still to be given, so I shall post what I have found so far.

Dr Vertessy claimed that we are seeing “of the order of five times the number of very serious heatwaves” as in the middle of last century.  Not knowing Dr Vertessy’s definition of a “very serious heatwave”, I have used the following metric:

“Three days or more in a row in summer (December- February) where the maximum temperature is in the top 5% of temperatures for that day at that location, with daily benchmarks calculated using daily maxima for each month from 1961 to 1990.”

I have also used as an absolute metric of very hot days the Bureau’s own definition, days above 40 degrees Celsius.  I have used ACORN-SAT maxima to 31 December 2014 downloaded directly from the Bureau’s Acorn site, and daily maxima from 1 January to 28 February this year for each site, downloaded from Climate Data Online.

Note that this does not consider other serious factors such as humidity or night time minima.

I have initially looked at all state capitals, and will later look at other locations.

I have calculated decadal running counts of the number of days meeting the criterion to show how hot weather has changed over time.

So what did I find to be the answer to “Are we getting five times more heatwaves than we did 60 years ago”?  Mostly no, but it depends where you look.

Fig. 1: Decadal count of heatwave days in Adelaide

Decadal cnt 95 3d heatwaves summer Adelaide

Yes, but the peak may be past.

Fig. 2: Decadal count of >40C days in Adelaide

Decadal cnt 40 Adelaide

This shows a distinct recent rise.

Fig. 3: Decadal count of heatwave days in Brisbane

Decadal cnt 95 3d heatwaves summer Brisbane

A peak 10 years ago, dropping to zero heatwaves in the decade to 2015.

Fig. 4: Decadal count of >40C days in Brisbane

Decadal cnt 40 Brisbane

One day, 22 February 2004.

Fig. 5: Decadal count of heatwave days in Darwin

Decadal cnt 95 3d heatwaves Darwin

As Darwin doesn’t have “summers”, the count was of all days.  Note the 1930s and 1970s.  Darwin is not seeing more heatwaves.  Darwin has never had a day over 40C.

Fig. 6: Decadal count of heatwave days in Hobart

Decadal cnt 95 3d heatwaves summer Hobart

Hobart has had no heatwave days in the past decade, compared with five in the 1950s.

Fig. 7: Decadal count of >40C days in Hobart

Decadal cnt 40 Hobart

Hobart has fewer extremely hot days than in the past.

Fig. 8: Decadal count of heatwave days in Melbourne

Decadal cnt 95 3d heatwaves summer Melbourne

Melbourne has fewer heatwave days than the middle of last century.

Fig. 9: Decadal count of >40C days in Melbourne

Decadal cnt 40 Melbourne

Melbourne has more very hot days than it did in the 1950s, but less than the 1940s.

Fig. 10: Decadal count of heatwave days in Perth

Decadal cnt 95 3d heatwaves summer Perth

Perth has had 10 heatwave days in the past decade.  In the decade to 1955 it had 6- but in the 1960s it had three times the current number.

Fig. 11: Decadal count of >40C days in Perth

Decadal cnt 40 Perth

The recent peak was one more than in the 1960s.  The warming since the 1970s is clearly visible.

Fig. 12: Decadal count of heatwave days in Sydney

Decadal cnt 95 3d heatwaves summer Sydney

Four days in the last 10 years, compared with zero in the 1940s and 1950s- but less than the 1960s.

Fig. 13: Decadal count of >40C days in Sydney

Decadal cnt 40 Sydney

The current peak of seven days in the past 10 years of very hot days is about the same as the 1940s and 1960s, but much less than the 1980s.

Technically, Dr Vertessy is correct in his claim of “of the order of five (four to six?) times the number of very serious heatwaves” as in the middle of last century, at Adelaide, Darwin, and Sydney, but not at Brisbane, Melbourne, Hobart, or Perth.  However, Sydney had far more in the 1960s, and Darwin had as many in the 1970s and far more in the 1930s.  Adelaide alone shows a clear picture of many more heatwave days in the past 10 years.

In several of the records it is possible to see cycles of 15 – 20 years duration.  While there is an argument that heatwaves and extremely hot days are weather events, not climatic, resulting from blocking highs or the lateness of sea breezes, these apparent cycles indicate a climatic influence.  What would cause blocking highs to be more persistent, or sea breezes to be consistently later, for 10 years or more?  Atmospheric circulation patterns, including the location of the sub-tropical ridge, would appear to be the major influence.

The longer term analysis from 1910 shows a more complete picture than since the 1950s.  Wouldn’t it be good to use “carefully curated” Acorn maxima from before 1910.

In a future post I will look at other locations, as a continent’s climate extremes can’t be usefully analysed with only seven sites.  As well, this analysis has used ACORN-SAT data only.   What will the raw data show?  Therefore I will also compare results for Acorn and raw.   Bourke might prove interesting.

Meanwhile, I am waiting patiently for Dr Vertessy’s response.  Apart from Adelaide, the state capitals certainly don’t support his claim.

The Bureau Boss on Temperature Trends, Heatwaves, and Climate Change

March 31, 2015

On Sunday profile on ABC Radio on Sunday 29 March, the Director and CEO of the Bureau of Meteorology was interviewed.  The whole interview is here:

http://www.abc.net.au/radio/programitem/peyl3MNdrQ?play=true

For a scientist who claims to be only interested in science and not in advocacy, he certainly sounds like a fervent Global Warming Enthusiast.

Here is the feedback I sent to the Bureau.

“[THESE QUESTIONS ARE DIRECTED TO DR. BOB VERTESSY, WHO WAS INTERVIEWED ON ABC RADIO ON SUNDAY]

Dear Dr Vertessy

I was interested to listen to your interview on Sunday Profile on ABC Radio yesterday, 29 March 2015. I was particularly interested in your comments regarding public criticism of the Bureau’s adjustments to temperature data, and on the increasing frequency in heatwaves.

Several times you stated that the adjustments “make no difference at all” to temperature trends, that the raw temperature data “tell exactly the same story”, and that we see “the same result (in temperature trends) for the whole continent” as for raw data.

You also stated that heatwaves are becoming “one of our most serious natural disasters”.  They are “a bit of a silent killer- it’s the number one cause of death.”  You also said, “We are probably seeing of the order of five times as many very serious heatwaves today as we did in the middle of last century.”

I have some questions.

Q.1: Can you please supply me with a reference to your data that show that the number one cause of death is heatwave?  I was sure it was cardio-pulmonary disease usually associated with very cold weather, with mortality rates much higher in winter than summer.  Perhaps you meant heatwaves are the number one cause of death when compared with other natural disasters, which is debatable.  This was not at all clear and must surely have misled some listeners.

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.

For the next question I refer you to Table 1 on page 14 of On the sensitivity of Australian temperature trends and variability to analysis methods and observation networks  (CAWCR Technical Report No. 050), R.J.B. Fawcett, B.C. Trewin, K. Braganza, R.J Smalley, B. Jovanovic and D.A. Jones , March 2012 (hereafter CTR-050).  This shows that quadratic change in mean annual temperatures from 1911 to 2010 in adjusted data of the ACORN-SAT network (+0.94C) is 36% greater than in the ‘unadjusted’ data of the AWAP network (+0.69C). For maxima, the change is 38.9%, and for minima is 34.1%.  In this paper the authors claim that the rise in unadjusted data is “somewhat smaller” than in ACORN-SAT.

Q.3:  In what way can 38.9%, 36%, or 34.1% difference in quadratic change be interpreted as “no difference”, “exactly the same story”, or “the same result”? 

Perhaps you should have told your listeners that the similarity was only since 1955, and that before this, raw data show temperatures (especially maxima) were cooling, but then 60 years is not such a long climate record for making trend analyses, and this may be confusing to those who cannot understand more than a simple climate narrative.

In the Concluding Remarks of CTR-050, p.50, the authors state that “further work will be undertaken to characterise in more detail these changes, particularly at the monthly and seasonal level”.

Q.4:  When can we expect to see the results of this further work 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 look forward to your reply.”

For an explanation for my interest in comparison with AWAP data, see my analysis of monthly and seasonal differences in trends between AWAP and Acorn from October last year.  My calculations indicate a 200% increase in trend in summer maxima.

One might think that if Australia wide there has been a five-fold increase in the number of very serious heatwaves, there should also be some discernible increase in the number of very hot days.

To illustrate my incredulity about this claim, here is the timeseries graph of very hot days (BOM definition: >40 degrees Celsius) straight from the Bureau’s website:

 Hot days graph BOM

The linear trend (for what it’s worth) shows an increase of 0.02 days per decade.  That’s 0.2 of a day per hundred years, or 2 days in 1,000 years.  Scarey hey.

I will be following up on the hot days and heatwaves analysis in coming posts.

First Meeting of Technical Advisory Forum

March 27, 2015

The first meeting of the Clayton’s Review Panel was held yesterday.  The press release about the proceedings is here.

“The Technical Advisory Forum held its first meeting today to advise on part of Australia’s official climate record – the Australian Climate Observations Reference Network Surface Air Temperature (ACORN-SAT) data set.

Today’s discussions were robust and productive, and the Forum would like to thank the Department of the Environment for managing the Forum’s membership and assisting the Chair. The Forum would also like to thank the Bureau of Meteorology for providing information and answering questions on the ACORN-SAT data set.

The Technical Advisory Forum was appointed by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment, the Hon Bob Baldwin MP as an independent advisory body to provide greater transparency and an impartial framework for quality assurance tests and analysis of the Bureau’s data sets.

In line with its Terms of Reference, the Forum discussed three aspects of ACORN-SAT: the extent of the public availability of the ACORN-SAT information; developments since the 2011 Independent Peer Review of the Bureau’s data and analysis methods; and the scientific integrity and robustness of the Australian climate record and the homogenisation process. The Forum considered a broad range of information and data concerning the management and development of the ACORN-SAT data set provided by the Bureau.

The Forum also received some additional information from members of the public about the data set. Members of the Technical Advisory Forum were appointed to provide advice on the basis of their formal expertise, and the Terms of Reference do not therefore require the Forum to receive public submissions. However, this additional information was provided to all Forum members to ensure that Forum members were aware of public concerns regarding the Bureau’s management of ACORN-SAT during their deliberations.

The Forum will deliver its report, including detailed recommendations, by June 2015.”

I’m not holding my breath.

How Hot Is Brisbane? With new, ‘improved’, daily benchmarks!

March 15, 2015

Recently I briefly posted about Brisbane, using 29.5 C as the heatwave bench mark.  Silly me- after checking Dr Perkins’ site (Scorcher) I now understand that Dr Perkins was not calculating a single bench mark temperature for a heatwave.  She calculates benchmark temperatures for every single day of the year.  Temperatures in the top 10% for each date for three days in a row constitute a heatwave- including in winter.  Thus Brisbane can have a heatwave in mid-July if the temperature is over 22.4 degrees for three days.  Some heatwave!  A real scorcher!  Only one winter ‘heatwave’ has ever been over 30 degrees (33.7 C in 2009).

It is interesting that Dr Perkins’ website, Scorcher! has this caveat on the front page: Scorcher.org.au is intended as an educational site. It should not be used for any policy decisions and comes with no warranty.”

However, silly as it sounds for winters, I decided to attempt to replicate Dr Perkins’ heatwave findings for Brisbane.  For the years 1961 to 1990, I sorted each month’s days from hottest to coldest, and found the value for the top 10 percent of each month.  I then used this value for each month, and calculated a centred 31 day running mean to give a benchmark value for each day of the year.  This value is used to flag days hot enough, and if there are three or more in a row, there’s your ‘heatwave’.  Rough and ready, and probably a very different method to Dr Perkins’, but values for heatwave benchmarks should be similar- if anything, a little low.  Results are graphed below.

Fig.1: Seasonal count of heatwave days, showing that yes, the number of heatwave days has increased.

hw days seas bris

Fig.2: Spring count of heatwave days (Benchmark ranges from 24.8 to 30.1 C)

 hw days spring bris

Fig.3: Length of spring heatwaves

spr hw length bris

Fig.4: Temperatures of spring heatwaves

spring temps daily bm brisbane

Fig.5: Number of heatwaves in spring

 cnt spr heatwaves bris

So yes, by this definition it is correct to say in spring Brisbane has slightly more heatwaves, which have more heatwave days, are slightly longer, and very slightly warmer, if you trust linear trends as an analysis tool for such non-linear data- (without the linear trend line and equation, it is difficult to see any trend in heatwave days, duration, or temperature).

However, the results for other seasons are also revealing.

Fig.6: Temperatures of summer heatwaves  (Benchmark ranges from 30.1 to 30.9C)

summer temps daily bm brisbane

Fig.7: Temperatures of winter ‘heatwaves’ (Benchmark ranges from 22.4 to 24.7 C)

 winter temps daily bm brisbane

Fig.8: Temperatures of autumn ‘heatwaves’ (Benchmark ranges from 24.3 to 30.2 C)

autumn temps daily bm brisbane

Winter, summer, and spring all have slightly more and warmer heatwave days (summer heatwaves are 0.2 degree warmer after 65 years, winter ‘heatwaves’ will be half a degree warmer in 900 years!), but autumn is declining in all areas- length, temperature, and number.   Funny that Dr Perkins didn’t mention Brisbane autumns.

And the most important thing about Brisbane heatwaves is not included in Dr Perkins definition- humidity.

ACORN updated, but not improved. Result: the same bogus data.

March 14, 2015

Early this month the ACORN-SAT dataset was updated to 31 December 2014.  A quick check shows that despite much public criticism, nothing has changed since March 2012 when it was first released.  There have been no corrections.

There are still thousands of days of missing data.

There are still gross errors.

Adjustments remain, and so still have the effect of making many individual sites LESS comparable with neighbours, and of making national trends much greater than those for raw data.

However, in this post I am merely focussing on one of the many erroneous features in Acorn, that of the instances of minimum temperatures exceeding maximum temperatures.

Why bring this up again, as it was first spotted in 2012?  Because it is more evidence of unjustified adjustments, and Acorn’s authors have done nothing about it.

Although a specific check for errors in recording raw maxima and minima was conducted before homogenising, this check could not have been done with the homogenised data. It might be claimed that this feature is normal and due to a cold change arriving after 9.00 a.m.  This would be especially evident in winter at high altitudes such as at Cabramurra, with 212 occurrences.  If so, it would have been evident in the raw data.  However, a check of 22 of the sites, comprising 84% of the instances (803 of 954) reveals there are NO instances of maximum less than minimum in the raw data for Cabramurra, or anywhere else.  All instances occur in the adjusted data.

Fig. 1: Min > Max in Acorn (803 of 954 instances)

 minmax Aust

 Fig. 2: The same test for raw data at the same sites as Fig. 1

minmax Aust raw

 Further, despite the Bureau being aware of the problem since at least 1 July 2013 when Blair Trewin, lead author of ACORN, assured readers of the blog Open Mind (sic) at https://tamino.wordpress.com/2013/06/29/a-clue-for-willis/#more-6693 that “in the next version of the data set (later this year), in cases where the adjusted max < adjusted min, we’ll set both the max and min equal to the mean of the two” (which merely hides the fault caused by adjustments), the problem still exists- 212 occurrences are still in the ACORN record for Cabramurra, and there are 954 in total.  Trewin has done nothing about it- mainly because he would have to redo the whole dataset to do it properly.  The problem exists because adjustments have been too vigorous and too erratic.  The algorithm produces bogus data.  Merely averaging maxima and minima on those 954 days hides the underlying problem.

Here is one example, the worst I have found, (circled in Fig. 1), from Alice Springs, 15 June 1932.

Fig. 3: Raw vs Acorn at Alice Springs

Alice june32

Notice there are NO adjustments in Acorn to raw maxima, but Acorn minima mostly runs along one or two degrees less than raw- except on 1 and 2 June and most notably on 15 June, when Acorn minima shoots to 4.8 degrees above the maxima for the day!  This is caused by an adjustment of 6.4 degrees to the raw temperature.  The Bureau lists the following sites as neighbours used for this adjustment:  Boulia, Tibooburra, and Tennant Creek.  Ignore for the moment that these are all hundreds of kilometres from The Alice, just visually compare their data.

Fig. 4:  Alice vs ‘neighbours’

Alice june32 v neighbours

Tennant Creek and Boulia, hundreds of kilometres north and northeast, are usually several degrees warmer than The Alice, except when Acorn makes those huge adjustments.  Which is the outlier?

This Alice Springs instance is a rogue adjustment due to a leading “1” being inserted; 18.1 entered instead of 8.1.  This is not uncommon in Acorn and crops up repeatedly.

While this is annoying and farcical, it can be easily explained and easily fixed.  The real problem is with data that is not so grossly erroneous, such as at Cabramurra.  This graph shows raw minima and maxima for May and June 1962.  Note that often maximum is not much above minimum: there is little room for error.

Fig. 5: Cabramurra raw

raw Cabramurra

But see what happens with adjustments.

Fig. 6: Cabramurra raw and adjusted

raw vs adjusted Cabramurra

Maxima have been adjusted down, minima up, without any thought for the consequences, so four times in May and June 1962 minima exceed maxima.  Merely averaging maxima and minima for those days will hide the symptom of the underlying disease.  The adjustments cannot be justified because they result in nonsense data.  Exactly how do you explain negative Diurnal Temperature Range?

The problem of a tiny percentage of the record featuring this error is not minor:  it indicates that many adjustments are too great, and also that no quality assurance checks have been performed, and therefore many other types of errors are likely to exist.  And they do.

Now how is it that my laptop can find these errors, whereas the Bureau’s supercomputer can’t?

Here is the full list of sites and instances of bogus data:

Station, Number of days with minimum temperature exceeding the maximum temperature.
Adelaide, 1. Albany, 2. Alice Springs, 36. Birdsville, 1. Bourke, 12. Burketown, 6. Cabramurra, 212. Cairns, 2. Canberra, 4. Cape Borda, 4. Cape Leeuwin, 2. Cape Otway Lighthouse, 63. Charleville, 30. Charters Towers, 8. Dubbo, 8. Esperance, 1. Eucla, 5. Forrest, 1. Gabo Island, 1. Gayndah, 3. Georgetown, 15. Giles, 3. Grove, 1. Halls Creek, 21. Hobart, 7. Inverell, 11. Kalgoorlie-Boulder, 11. Kalumburu, 1. Katanning, 1. Kerang, 1. Kyancutta, 2. Larapuna (Eddystone Point), 4. Longreach, 24. Low Head, 39. Mackay, 61. Marble Bar, 11. Marree, 2. Meekatharra, 12. Melbourne Regional Office, 7. Merredin, 1. Mildura, 1. Miles, 5. Morawa, 7. Moree, 3. Mount Gambier, 12. Nhill, 4. Normanton, 3. Nowra, 2. Orbost, 48. Palmerville, 1. Port Hedland, 2. Port Lincoln, 8. Rabbit Flat, 3. Richmond (NSW), 1. Richmond (Qld), 9. Robe, 2. St George, 2. Sydney, 12. Tarcoola, 4. Tennant Creek, 40. Thargomindah, 5. Tibooburra, 15. Wagga Wagga, 1. Walgett, 3. Wilcannia, 1. Wilsons Promontory, 79. Wittenoom, 4. Wyalong, 2. Yamba, 1.

(From Willis Eschenbach at http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/06/28/australia-and-acorn-sat/ . Butlers Gorge has a further 37 days.)

Here is a plot of their occurrence- the big lump after 1960 is due to Cabramurra.

Fig. 7: Running 365 day count of min > max (803 of 954)

count incl cabramurra


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