UAH, ACORN and Rainfall: Something’s Wrong

Tom Quirk had an interesting article posted by Jo Nova this week, at

questioning the large number of adjustments coincident with the changeover to automatic weather stations in the 1990s, which appear to have had a large impact on the correlation between BOM’s monthly ACORN mean temperatures and UAH’s Lower Troposphere data for the Australian region.

However, using a different comparison something very strange appears.

For me, his killer plot was this one, showing a huge drop in centred running 13 month correlations between UAH and BOM mean anomalies:

Figure 1: Tom’s plot of monthly correlations:

Tom Q correl plot

Using the same methodology, but with maxima instead of mean temperature anomalies (as tropospheric data better reflect daytime temperatures when there is deep convective overturning), I have replicated his findings.  Note that BOM maxima and rainfall are converted to anomalies from 1981 to 2010, the same as UAH.

Figure 2 is my plot of the running centred 13 month correlations between BOM maxima anomalies and UAH Australian region anomalies for all months of data from December 1978 to February 2018.

Figure 2:  Centred running 13 month correlation between BOM maxima and UAH:

BOM max v uah correl

There are some differences, but like Tom, I find a distinctly low, in fact, negative, correlation in the mid-nineties, centred on April 1996.

However, as I showed in my post “Why are surface and satellite temperatures different?”  in 2015, most of the difference between UAH and BOM maxima can be explained by rainfall variation alone.

Figure 3 is a plot of the monthly difference between UAH and BOM data plotted against rainfall anomalies (also calculated from 1981-2010 means).

Figure 3:

Diff v rain plot

R-squared of 0.54 means a correlation coefficient of 0.73.

This is how the correlation varies over time:

Figure 4:

Diff v rain correl

I have a problem.

There is a major drop in July 1995, but other big ones- October 1998, July 2003, December 2009, September 2015, and the most recent figure, August 2017.   Correlations are much more variable from 1995.  What can be the reason for these poor correlations?

There is also a general decrease in correlation over the years since 1978.

What’s wrong?  Surely rain gauges can’t be faulty?

Has there been a drift in accuracy of the UAH data?

Or has there been a drift in accuracy of BOM temperature measurement?

Any suggestions would be most welcome.

Post Script:

The major drops may occur at about the same time as major ENSO changes, though not always.  This graph plots the above correlations and 13 month centred averages of the SOI (scaled down) together.

Figure 5:

SOI and correlations

The SOI has not been lagged in this plot.  Perhaps the major changes in trade winds, monsoons, and the sub-tropical ridge affect tropospheric temperatures differently from surface temperatures at these times.  But that doesn’t explain the gradual decrease over time.




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2 Responses to “UAH, ACORN and Rainfall: Something’s Wrong”

  1. Geoff Sherrington Says:

    One wonders if general climate models should either regard factors like rainfall as a forcing, por to use a temperature for their calculations that has been adjusted for rainfall effects.
    Also still concerned by the BOM Trewin correlation with distance graphs for paired observations of temperature that show correlation out past 1000 km, justifying their use of paired comparisons for adjustments relative to other stations when data are missing and suspect. Geoff.

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