Archive for February, 2019

ACORN-SAT 2: Eucla: The Devil in the detail

February 18, 2019

I’m having a break from looking at Acorn 2 data from Queensland.  I’ve been wondering:  what’s going on?  What’s beneath these changes?  In particular, I was struck by statements in the accompanying Research Paper that

In total, there were 966 adjustments applied in version 2 of the ACORN-SAT dataset, 463 for maximum temperature and 503 for minimum temperature.”

The Bureau is referring to breakpoints in the data where adjustments are applied to all previous years.  In the daily data, there are tens of thousands of adjustments at each station.

For example, in Eucla’s Tmax record, there are 34,145 daily datapoints; 34,144 in Acorn 1; and 33,858 in Acorn 2.  There are  10,190 instances where Acorn 1 makes no change to raw data, and 9,312 in Acorn 2.  Most of the instances of no adjustments are since 1995.  Before then almost every day has been adjusted.

And the devil is in the detail.

The following plots show how adjustments are applied to the range of raw maxima.  First Acorn 1.

Figure 1:  Acorn 1 adjustments as applied to raw maxima at Eucla

Ac1 raw adj

Figure 2:  Acorn 2 adjustments as applied to raw maxima

Ac2 raw adj

Acorn 2 removes the large negative adjustments for temperatures in the high 30s, and the spread is wider for very high temperatures.  So far so good.

Figure 3 shows where many of these adjustments are made.

Figure 3:  Acorn 2 and  raw maxima

Eucla 1913-2017

Between 1930 and 1995 many high temperature spikes are reduced by 5 degrees and more.

For example, here is November 1960.

Figure 4:  Raw, Acorn 1, and Acorn 2 in November 1960

Eucla Nov 1960

The Bureau can truthfully claim that there is a balance between positive and negative adjustments.

However, note how all temperatures over 35C have been reduced by five degrees.  This is common across these years.

Perhaps temperatures on very hot days at Eucla in the 1960s were exaggerated?  Perhaps they were not read accurately?

If this pattern of hot day reductions is generally followed at stations across large regions, e.g. southern Australia, the effect will be that climate analysis based on Acorn 2 will show that past extremes were generally not as high as nowadays.

And that can’t be a bad thing for the meme.

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ACORN-SAT 2.0: The Northern Territory- Alice in Wonderland

February 15, 2019

(UPDATE 17/02/2019:

I have corrected a glitch in trend calculations which are now as shown.  I have deleted all Diurnal Temperature Range plots and discussion as well.)

This is the second in a series of posts in which I directly compare the most recent version of Australia’s temperature record, ACORN-SAT 2, with that of the previous version, ACORN-SAT 1.  Daily data are directly downloaded from the Bureau of Meteorology. I do not analyse against raw data (available at Climate Data Online), except for particular examples, as I am interested in how different Acorn 2 is from Acorn 1.  The basis for the new version is in the Research Report.

See my previous post for Western Australia for a general introduction.

The Context – The Northern Territory

Figure 1 is a map of Australia showing all of the Bureau’s ACORN-SAT climate monitoring stations.  The Northern Territory is right in the Outback, from the monsoonal north to the desert centre. Most of it is savannah or desert, and there are vast distances between settlements and thermometers.

Figure 1:  Australian ACORN-SAT stations

map NT

There are five Acorn stations in the Northern Territory BOM database.  Differences between Acorn 1 and Acorn 2 are summarized in the following sections.

Trend changes

Trends in maximum temperature have changed a lot at individual stations, but on average there has been little change  (+1.29C to +1.27C per 100 years).  (Even though an average of such wildly different stations across such vast territory is meaningless.)

Figure 2:  Maxima trend changes from Acorn 1 to Acorn 2

NT max trend

The “average” change in minima is -33.3%  (+0.55C to +0.37C per 100 years).    This however is mainly due to Rabbit Flat’s short history with much missing data.

Figure 3:  Minima trend changes from Acorn 1 to Acorn 2

NT min trend

Largest temperature differences

In maxima, changes to Acorn 1 daily data were mostly small, except at Alice Springs which had adjustments ranging from -9.2C to +10.1C applied to individual daily figures, but only on a few days.  The +10.1C adjustment was to correct what could only have been a typographical error in Acorn 1, which recorded 26.8C instead of 36.8C on 28 January 1944.  The -9.2C is less easily explained and may be the opposite, Acorn 2 recording 24.1C instead perhaps of 34.1C on 6 March 1943.  Acorn 2 made many other large corrections around these dates, as Figure 4 shows.

Figure 4:  Daily changes in maxima from Acorn 1 to Acorn 2 at Alice Springs

max diff alice

Minima adjustments ranged from -11.5C to +11C also at Alice, and there were many other large adjustments as well.  At the other stations the range was much less, though still substantial changes (-3.6C to +4.6C) to Acorn 1.  Here is Alice Springs again:

Figure 5:  Daily changes in minima from Acorn 1 to Acorn 2 at Alice Springs

min diff alice

(Remember, these are adjustments to Acorn 1, which was supposed to be “world’s best practice” seven years ago.  How did Blair Trewin get it so wrong the first time?  Has world’s best practice changed so much in seven years?)

Record temperatures

A new record maximum was established at Darwin, whose record on 18 October 1982 (unchanged from raw to Acorn 1) increased from 38.9C to 39.5C in Acorn 2.

Figure 6:  Three versions of maxima at Darwin 18 October 1982

Darwin max 1982

A slightly higher record was also set at Victoria River Downs.

A new record low temperature on 21 June 1925 was also established at Alice Springs, where the Acorn 1 temperature of -6.7C was reduced to -9.4C.   (The temperature in the Post Office raw data was -5.6C.)  New lows were established at Darwin and Tennant Creek as well, but on nothing like the same scale.

Apparently the adjustments made to raw data in Acorn 1 weren’t big enough.

Quality Control: especially minimum temperatures higher than maximum.

In Acorn 1, 3 out of the 5 stations had at least one example of minimum higher than maximum.  Blair Trewin claims he has “fixed” this problem (which he concedes was “physically unrealistic”) by adjusting temperatures in Acorn 2 so that the maximum and minimum are the same, so that DTR for the day is zero.  In his words:

A procedure was therefore adopted under which, if a day had a negative diurnal range in the adjusted data, the maximum and minimum temperatures were each corrected to the mean of the original adjusted maximum and adjusted minimum, creating no change in the daily mean.

But that is not how he “corrected” the worst NT examples in Acorn 1 (minimum 4.8C above maximum at Alice Springs, and a 3.9C difference at Tennant Creek).  Here is a plot of the raw data and changes made by Acorn 1 and Acorn 2 at Alice Springs for 11 to 21 June 1932.

Figure 7:  Alice Springs Post Office data for 11-21 June 1932

Alice june 32 min2

Acorn 1 made no change to raw maxima, but was supposed to cool raw minima (the purple line) substantially  (the blue line).  Unfortunately, it is likely that instead of 8.1C, 18.1C was entered, human error resulting in garbage.  Acorn 2 has fixed this, but not by making minima and maxima equal to the Acorn 1 mean (15.7C), and neither is the DTR zero.  Instead there were more arbitrary adjustments.

(At Tennant Creek, to correct negative DTR of -3.9C,  minimum and maximum were both set to 22.9C, which is one degree less than the Acorn 1 mean of 23.9C).

 “Square wave” pattern in adjustments

The peculiar repeating pattern of adjustments to Perth in Acorn 1 also occurs at Darwin, but the pattern is even more bizarre.

Figure 8:  Darwin Acorn 1 daily maxima differences (pre-World War 2)

sq wave Darwin acorn 1

In every month, every day of the month was adjusted in Acorn 1 by exactly the same amount, which is the reason only 1917 is visible- the others are exactly the same.  Blair Trewin has taken notice of the criticism, and adjusted Acorn 2 with a little more intelligence, but the monthly pattern is still visible.  Adjustments are still applied month by month, especially in the Dry months.

Figure 9:  Darwin Acorn 2 daily maxima differences 

sq wave Darwin acorn 2

Conclusion:

There are no additional stations, so the network is still extremely sparse.

There is a very small amount of additional digitized data.

The average trend in maxima for NT has not changed very much, even though there is a large range across individual stations.  There was a reduction in the minima trend of -33.3%, mainly from the large impact of Rabbit Flat’s poor data.

Alice Springs had large differences between Acorn 1 and Acorn 2 daily data of over 11 degrees Celsius.

New record maximum and minimum temperatures have been set.

The issue of instances of minima being higher than maxima caused by too vigorous adjustments or human error has been “fixed” by arbitrary adjustments, and not as described in the research paper.

The bizarre “square wave” pattern in adjustments in Darwin has been largely rectified, at least in the Wet months.

With only five Acorn stations in the Territory, each one has a large impact on the climate record.  Alice Springs, which is said to contribute 7 to 10 percent of the national climate signal, has had extremely large adjustments made to Acorn 1.  VRD and Rabbit Flat, stations with short histories and incomplete data, also have a large impact on the national climate signal.

The size of the adjustments (made by comparison with stations up to 1,300 km away) only seven years after the “world’s best practice” dataset was launched, is incredible, and demands explanation.

Otherwise, it would appear that the temperature record of the Northern Territory, especially at The Alice,but also at other stations, has fallen down a rabbit hole, and appears to be out of a chapter from Alice in Wonderland.

Next: Queensland.

 

ACORN-SAT 2.0: Western Australia- A State of Confusion

February 14, 2019

(UPDATE 17/02/2019:

I have corrected a glitch in trend calculations which are now as shown.  I have deleted all Diurnal Temperature Range plots and discussion as well.)

This is the first in a series of posts in which I directly compare the most recent version of Australia’s temperature record, ACORN-SAT 2, with that of the previous version, ACORN-SAT 1.  Daily data are directly downloaded from the Bureau of Meteorology. I do not analyse against raw data (available at Climate Data Online), except for particular examples, as I am interested in how different Acorn 2 is from Acorn 1.  The basis for the new version is in the Research Report.

I start with Western Australia, and must thank Chris Gillham for his outstanding work and for allowing me to use data from stations he has used for his annual analysis.

Introduction:

The Bureau of Meteorology has released its latest revision of the Australian temperature record back to 1910.  Previous versions of our historic temperatures included “High Quality”, which I revealed in 2010 to have major flaws, not least being the strong warming bias; and ACORN-SAT 1, released in March 2012, proudly touted as being “World’s Best Practice”, which I (along with others) found to have very many severe problems.  (If you like, check these posts, here, here, here, and here.  There are many others.)

Stung by the public and media criticism which this generated, the Bureau set up a supposedly independent Technical Advisory Forum, which met on one day per year for three years and basically rubber-stamped Acorn.  They did, however, make some recommendations, particularly about transparency.  In the light of this recommendation, this latest release without any publicity at all is perplexing.

Nearly all of Australia’s climate analysis and modelling is based on the previous version, Acorn 1, including monthly, seasonal, and annual means, extremes, and trends.  Sometime in the near future, this will be based on Acorn 2 data.

As this an upgrade to an existing dataset, we might expect there would be a few small tweaks of maybe a few tenths of a degree in some records and any changes to temperature trends would be fairly small.  Perhaps there might be some extra stations in remote areas to improve the density of the sparse network, perhaps some records starting earlier because of newly digitized data, hopefully a sensible fix for the dreadful situation of many daily minimum temperatures being higher than the maximum.

Not so.

No wonder the Bureau has released Acorn 2 so quietly- it is a confusing mess, and completely alters Acorn 1.  Trends are vastly different, some temperatures altered by more than 10 degrees Celsius, and new records established.

The Context – Western Australia

Figure 1 is a map of Australia showing all of the Bureau’s ACORN-SAT climate monitoring stations.  Western Australia occupies the western third of the continent.  Most of it is desert, and there are vast distances between settlements and thermometers.

Figure 1:  Australian ACORN-SAT stations

Acorn map WA

There are 25 Acorn stations in the Western Australian BOM database.  One (Kalumburu 001019) has the latest version data for minima but not for maxima, so complete analysis is not possible.  Differences between Acorn 1 and Acorn 2 are summarized in the following sections.

Trend changes

Trends in maximum temperature have increased by an average of +0.25 degrees Celsius per 100 years (from +1.17C to 1.42C), which is an increase of 21.7% over the trend produced by Acorn 1.  (Click on each graphic to enlarge.)

Figure 2:  Maxima trend changes from Acorn 1 to Acorn 2

WA Max trend chart

The largest increase in trend is at Wittenoom.

Trends in minimum temperature have increased by an average of nearly +0.22 degrees Celsius per 100 years (from +1.04C to +1.27C), which is an increase of 21.53%.

Figure 3:  Minima trend changes from Acorn 1 to Acorn 2

WA Min trend chart

The largest increase  (+1.06C per 100 years- from +0.55C to +1.61C).  The largest decrease in trend was at Halls Creek: -1.31C per 100 years.

Largest temperature differences

In maxima, changes to Acorn 1 daily data were often very large.  Wandering gets the gong for greatest adjustments, ranging from -10.9C to +10.9C applied to individual daily figures, but only on a few days.  Eucla has many large changes made to Acorn 1 data.

Figure 4:  Daily changes in maxima from Acorn 1 to Acorn 2 at Eucla

Diff Tmax Eucla

Minima adjustments ranged from -10.8C at Esperance to +7.8C at Halls Creek for a few adjustments, but at most stations the range was much less, though still substantial changes to Acorn 1.  Here is Perth:

Figure 5:  Daily changes in minima from Acorn 1 to Acorn 2 at Perth

Diff Tmin Perth

(Remember, these are adjustments to Acorn 1, which was supposed to be “world’s best practice” seven years ago.  How did Blair Trewin get it so wrong the first time?  Has world’s best practice changed so much in seven years?)

Record temperatures

A new record maximum was established at Carnarvon, whose already homogenized record increased from 48.5C to 51C.  This is now the record for all of Australia, apparently (although I have 87 more stations to check).   Additional large adjustments are the cause:

Figure 6:  Three versions of maxima at Carnarvon 23 January 1953

Carnarvon Max

The previous “record”, held by Albany in the cool south, after much ridicule was reduced from 51.2C to 49.5C.  New records were also established at Bridgetown, Dalwallinu, Eucla, Kalgoorlie, Katanning, Marble Bar, Merredin, Perth, and Port Hedland.

New record low temperatures were established at Bridgetown, Cape Leeuwin, Cunderdin, Dalwallinu, Esperance, Eucla, Forrest, Geraldton, Halls Creek, Kalgoorlie, Learmonth, Marble Bar, Meekatharra, Perth, and Wittenoom.

Apparently the adjustments made to raw data in Acorn 1 weren’t good enough.

Quality Control: especially minimum temperatures higher than maximum.

In Acorn 1, 16 out of 25 stations had at least one example of minimum higher than maximum.  Blair Trewin has “fixed” this problem (which he concedes was “physically unrealistic”) by adjusting temperatures in Acorn 2 so that the maximum and minimum are the same, so that DTR for the day is zero.  In his words:

A procedure was therefore adopted under which, if a day had a negative diurnal range in the adjusted data, the maximum and minimum temperatures were each corrected to the mean of the original adjusted maximum and adjusted minimum, creating no change in the daily mean.

But that is not how he “corrected” the worst Western Australian example in Acorn 1 (minimum 2.1C above maximum) at Kalgoorlie.  Here is a plot of the raw data for 14th to 18th November 1914.

Figure 7:  Kalgoorlie Post Office data for 14-18 November 1914

Kalgoorlie raw

The 16th was a cold rainy day, with only 0.1C separating minimum (15.5C) and maximum (15.6C).  But temperatures in 1914 were read from a Fahrenheit thermometer.  Both 60F and 60.1F convert to 15.6C; 15.5C is 59.9F.  It is likely the temperature ranged from just under 60F to just over 60F.

Acorn 1 adjustments were made with brute force rather than finesse.  The maximum was reduced by 1.3C to 14.3C, and the minimum was raised by 0.9C to 16.4C, resulting in nonsense.

Figure 8:  Kalgoorlie Post Office and Acorn 1 data for 14-18 November 1914

Kalgoorlie Ac1

In Fahrenheit, 57.7F maximum and 61.5F minimum.

The solution in Acorn 2?  Even more brutal adjustments- and not to the mean of the Acorn 1 adjustments (which would have been 15.35C):

Figure 9:  Kalgoorlie Post Office and Acorn 2 data for 14-18 November 1914

Kalgoorlie Ac2

The Acorn 1 minima is decreased (by 3.4C) to 13C, and Acorn 1 maxima decreased by another 1.3C to 13C (or 55.4F), making it 2.6C below the raw temperature as read in 1914.  Now there is no problem with minimum exceeding maximum, but at the cost of raw data tortured beyond recognition.

“Square wave” pattern in adjustments

Bob Fernley-Jones first noticed a peculiar repeating pattern of adjustments to Perth in Acorn 1 monthly data.  I can replicate this in dailies.

Figure 10:  Perth Acorn 1 daily maxima differences 1983-1986

sq wave perth acorn 1

This pattern is still visible in Acorn 2, but is much reduced.  Adjustments are still applied month by month, but they are not as rigid.

Figure 11:  Perth Acorn 2 daily maxima differences 1983-1986

sq wave perth acorn 2

This is how it was changed:

Figure 12:  Perth Acorn 2 minus Acorn 1 daily maxima differences 1983-1986

sq wave perth acorn 2- acorn1

A new square wave- almost a mirror image of Figure 11.  It is good to see that the Bureau has taken notice of criticisms!

Conclusion:

Comparison of Acorn2 versus Acorn 1 data for Western Australia does not encourage confidence in the Bureau’s methods:-

There are no additional stations, so the network is still extremely sparse.

There is a very small amount of additional digitized data.

The average trend in maxima for WA has been increased by 21.7%, and in minima by 21.5%.

Differences between Acorn 1 and Acorn 2 daily data can be up to nearly 11 degrees Celsius.

New record maximum temperatures have been set.

The issue of instances of minima being higher than maxima caused by too vigorous adjustments has been “fixed” by further vigorous adjustments.

The “square wave” pattern in adjustments in Perth has been largely rectified.  The square wave is now in the difference between Acorn 1 and Acorn 2.

It beggars belief that a dataset that was proudly described as “world’s best practice” just seven years ago has needed to be adjusted by so much.  Has “best practice” changed so much?  How was Acorn 1 so wrong?  How can we be sure that the new version is better, and will itself not be changed again in a few years?

There are now four versions of WA temperature:  Raw; High Quality (no longer available); Acorn 1; and Acorn 2.  All are different.

The record for Western Australia reveals a state, not of excitement, but of confusion.

 

Next: the Northern Territory.

Townsville Rainfall In Context

February 11, 2019

The rain event which caused massive floods in Townsville (and fearful stock losses in the north-west) has now ended.  There have been some who have made further political capital out of this disaster by linking it to climate change.

According to Independent Australia, a “progressive journal”,

The City of Townsville, with some 20% of its suburban zones under water today (6 February 2019), might now be a model for the world — for possible climate change impacts and handling them. 

These days, the very heavy falls have been happening more frequently — for example, in 2007, 2009 and then in 2010.

Time for a reality check.

This has indeed been a record breaking event for Townsville.  A few graphs will illustrate.  Townsville airport has had its wettest 14 day period since 1941, averaging over 100mm per day.

Fig. 1:  14 day rainfall

Tville 14d rainfall

It has also broken the record for rainfall over 31 days:

Fig. 2:  31 day rainfall

Tville 31d rainfall

And with the wet season far from over, it is very likely to break the 121 day rainfall record.

Fig. 3:  121 day rainfall

Tville 121d rainfall

Townsville’s rain is very seasonal.  Annual rainfall averages about 1127mm, and half of that falls in January and February, with another quarter in December and March, so a plot of 121 day rainfall captures the relative strength of wet seasons over the years.  There doesn’t appear to be any recent increase in wet season strength.  What is interesting is there are periods of wetter and drier years, which is more plainly seen in a plot of decadal rainfall.

 Fig. 4:  Decadal rainfall at Townsville

Tville decadal rainfall

Rainfall appears to be in a decreasing trend.

But what about the claim for greater frequency of very heavy rain events?  Heavy rain events are usually short and intense, so three day rainfall will also show relative frequency and intensity.

Fig. 5:  Three day rainfall

Tville 3d rainfall

The “Night of Noah” in 1998 is obvious, and there was another intense event in 1953.  But there is NO trend.  (The calculated trend is zero.)  Intense events are not more frequent.  Similarly, the number of days per year recording 100mm of rain shows zero trend, even though there have been eight already this year.

Fig. 6:  Count of days per year with over 100mm of rain

Tville days over 100mm

There is no climate change signal in Townsville’s rain record.

Now, to show how different locations can lead to completely different interpretations of trends in climate, I turn to two locations in wetter parts of the tropics that I have some knowledge of.  I lived for many years not far from Pleystowe and Sarina Sugar Mills near Mackay, which are about 30 km apart.  Sarina appears to have an increasing trend in rainfall:

Fig. 7:  Decadal rainfall at Sarina

Sarina decadal rainfall

While Pleystowe shows no trend.

Fig. 8:  Decadal rainfall at Pleystowe

Pleystowe decadal rainfall

Notice the similar patterns of wetter and drier periods in Townsville, Pleystowe, and Sarina.

And incidentally, the most intense and highest rainfall events in these locations occurred many years ago, in 1990-91, the 1970s, the 1950s, and 1918.  As with the recent Townsville flood, these occurred when the monsoon trough, with embedded decaying cyclones, lingered overhead for many days or even weeks.

The Townsville flood was not due to climate change, but to a frequent North Queensland phenomenon- an intense monsoon trough stuck in one place for too long.  This was an unusually intense and long lasting example, but such events are not more frequent or more intense.