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

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:

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.


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.


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24 Responses to “The Bureau Boss on Temperature Trends, Heatwaves, and Climate Change”

  1. omanuel Says:

    Climategate emails first revealed the worldwide government deceit that started with good intentions to save the world from annihilation in 1945:

    A WARNING by a Nobel Prize winner in 1922, followed by CHAOS and FEAR in 1945 [1] convinced world leaders of diverse economic and political persuasions:


    Thus was humanity isolated from the Creator, Destroyer and Sustainer of every atom life and world [2].

    1. Aston’s WARNING (12 Dec 1922); CHAOS and FEAR (Aug 1945)

    2. “Teacher’s Supplement to Solar Energy,”

    Click to access Supplement.pdf

    • kenskingdom Says:

      Gday omanuel,
      As you will find from reading “About” I am not a fan of religion, especially creationism, however I am a fan of free speech within reason so your comment has come out of moderation. I am also not a fan of conspiracy theories and will not enter into any further discussion about your comment.

      • omanuel Says:

        Thank you for allowing me to post. Do suspect we share many values?

        1. Humility is a companion of truth.

        2. Arrogance hides fear and uncertainty.

        3. Dogmatic scientists and dogmatic religionists are identical twins (frightened cowards behaving as social bullies) hiding under different cloaks of respectability.

  2. Shane Says:

    Hi Ken, off topic, however I would love to have a debate about creation vs evolution. It’s a goody. Can pull evolution to shreds using physics laws and stats every day of the week. Anyways I enjoy your posts.


  3. DaveR Says:

    It is inconceivable that the head of BOM could have made the statements referred to above. Either he is unaware of the significant problems in the ACORN-SAT data, and even what that data says, or he is deliberately misleading listeners. It is inconceivable he is also not aware of::

    1. the exclusion of the 19thC temperature records for “quality reasons”

    2. the predominantly downward adjustments to the early 20thC temperatures, way below actual measurements at the time, resulting in a significant increase to the 20thC warming trend in the ACORN-SAT data.

    3. the often incoherent temperature adjustment methodology in direct contradiction with surrounding peer station trends;

    4. the secrecy surrounding the actual adjustment process for most temperature stations.

    The statement that 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” (notwithstanding the supression of the temperature data from before 1905) is just laughable, and not born out by any published analysis of Australian temperature data.

    People in such high positions must be taken to task for their deliberate misrepresentation of the temperature data, and what can only amount to political advocacy.

  4. Ian G Says:

    Vertessy claims that heat waves 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” seems to lack any basis in fact.
    The greatest number of deaths from heat waves were in 1896 and 1939 (+400 in each), followed by 2009 with 370. All other deaths attributed to heat waves (i.e. over 100) happened before 1960.
    I believe that the definition for a heatwave is (or was) 3 consecutive days with a 5C temp over the average for that period.
    In Bourke in Jan 1939, there were 17 days over 40C. 11 days met the above criteria and then a further 3 days heatwave a few days later. So does this count as one heatwave or two?
    And does an eleven day heatwave equal a three day heatwave, therefore being given the same status?
    The longest heatwave on record was in 1923-24 at Marble Bar – still hasn’t been beaten.

    • kenskingdom Says:

      Heatwave definitions are hard to pin down. BOM definition of a very hot day is 40C, and a hot day at 35C. They also include high night time temperature for a heatwave. Sarah Perkins looks at 3 days in a row in the top 10% for those days at that location. Acorn documentation at CTR-050 looks at the incidence of very hot days, using as criterion the top 5% for that day at that location. I would prefer to look at the count of heatwave days rather than length or number of heatwaves. Top 5% I can handle because it is transferable across locations. I also think humidity should be included.

      • Ian G Says:

        I think you have a valid point, Ken, although I would still include the length of a heatwave for comparative purposes.
        I recently checked temps for Sydney and found there were more +35C days from 1921-1950 than from 1981-2010 (112 v 92) with +40C being one more in the earlier period (11 v 10).
        Also Melbourne had one more day of +35C 100 years ago; 1888 – 1912 (38 days) against 1998 – 2012 (37 days). I was accused of ‘cherry picking’ even though the point of the post I was objecting to claimed +35C days had increased.
        Melbourne’s longest heatwave was in 1908 (5 days of +40C).
        Surely they can look up their own data.

  5. Peter Carabot Says:

    A green buffoon….or just totally ignorant of what goes on behind his back???

    • DaveR Says:

      Peter, its tempting to think the head of the BOM is ignorant of his own data, but its unlikely. My argument is that its more likely he knows all these issues well, but is deliberately misleading the public. I believe people at this level must be aggressively challenged and publicly forced to retract their comments, to have any chance of reversing the unquestioning press acceptance of this garbage.

    • wyoskeptic Says:

      One thing to bear in mind when talking about the abilities / capabilities of those in charge of governmental agencies or the like is the old Peter Principle: In any organization there is a tendency to promote individuals to their greatest level of incompetency. With most governmental organizations I have been involved with, I would say that the promotion tendency is PAST the greatest level of incompetency. Far past.

      I also would point out that what makes a boss a decent boss is not necessarily the same as what would make decent workers. I have worked a couple of different places where if I could have, I would have taken away the Administration level computer accesses my bosses had. Decent people, yes. Good to work for yes. But letting them loose in the computer system only meant working overtime for me to straighten things back out again.

      When it comes to a lot of government agencies, what it takes to get appointed to the position means more than what they know once they get there. There are those who could be good directors who know absolutely nothing about weather, for example. The difference would be whether or not they admit it.

  6. climanrecon Says:

    I believe that errors in ACORN-SAT are relatively minor and inconsequential, the main problem is the distorted picture that the BoM paints of todays climate relative to that of the past.

    For example, I’ve yet to see any significant trend in summer daytime temperatures, but annual means get quoted and people are left to assume that summers are getting hotter.

  7. New Claim: Two-Thirds Of Australia’s Warming Due To “Adjustments” | The Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF) Says:

    […] and indeed still claims the adjustments make no difference to the trend when clearly they do. Ken Stewart heard Dr Vertussy, the Director of the Bureau of Met (BoM), claim on radio last week that the adjustments […]

  8. goldminor Says:

    @ climarecon…what I have noticed over the last year ay different weather sources such as Intellicast, Accuweather, and similar is that it has been the evening temperatures which are higher than normal almost everywhere one looks at temp sites around the globe. Intellicast has a nice “past observations” link where this can be readily seen. In this regard this could simply be the UHI effect. Many of the collecting sites are listed as airports.

  9. Mareeba Property Management Says:

    Ken I think that you might have to rephrase your Questions. It has been 12 days since you asked Dr Vertessy (Doctor of what by the way?) to answer your queries,
    I think that they might be a bit to technical, you might have to use simple English.

  10. siliggy Says:

    Since these climate types are always correct and anyone who disagrees gets called the D word I think a letter to the ABS asking them if they are Ds for their mistakes could be in order.
    I wonder if the ABS will retract the errors?

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