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

(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


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.


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9 Responses to “ACORN-SAT 2.0: The Northern Territory- Alice in Wonderland”

  1. John in Oz Says:

    Thanks for your work, but this will be totally ignored by those who consider facts to be of no importance (greenies, politicians, etc)

  2. siliggy Says:

    It is fairly obvious the the BoM mathematics is perverted by a signal they are not accounting for. The signal seems to disturb the monthly average based calculations around February each year then take the rest of the year to settle down. Calendar months do not arrive at a regular rate there is a frequency/phase deviation because months have a different number of days. A lunar cycle of 29.5 days can fit in all months except February and the known lunar effects on rainfall and temperature etc are said to be stronger in the tropics. I remember sending you an email “Reason for square wave sequence found” in January. I think the changes in Stevenson screen wood thermal delay times and recording errors may vary with the atmospheric tides.
    Everyone knows the sea levels vary with the tides. Why should water in the air be any different?

  3. Andrew Says:

    “The Future is Certain; It’s the Past Which is Unpredictable”

  4. DaveR Says:

    When the basis for the ACORN-1 adjustments were difficult to justify and constantly failed detailed analysis by non-BOM scientists, what hope for this new ACORN-2 series? And when the results of ACORN-2 produce an increased AGW signal, who can be but sceptical of the motives behind this new, secretly developed series? I doubt if they are scientific.

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