Australia’s Wacky Weather Stations: Final Summary

(Updated 17/01/2020)

Australia, being a wealthy, modern, western nation with a very well-resourced Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), might be expected to have weather stations that set a high standard of siting and reliability.

Unfortunately, that is far from the case.  This pie chart shows the percentage of weather stations that comply with siting specifications, don’t meet those specifications, or are “marginal”- not fully compliant but not as bad as some.

Nearly half do not comply with siting guidelines as outlined in Observation Specification No. 2013.1 (drafted in January 1997).

Less than a third comply and may be relied on (assuming that the screen and the immediate area around it is kept well maintained with a few centimetres of natural grass, and the surrounding environment does not change).

The marginal stations may or may not be reliable.

In Australia it is apparently quite OK to have thermometers beside houses, in bitumen carparks, in a vegetable garden surrounded by a corrugated iron fence, beside incinerators, behind 6 metre prison walls, beside piles of human excrement, in the middle of a dirt road, on the roof of a wharf shed, beside a multi-lane highway, shaded by trees, or in screens that are covered in spider webs, invaded by mud wasps, or used by cattle as a back-scratcher.  The area around the screens can be dusty bare dirt, overgrown with grass and weeds, or sprayed out to bare ground.

This map, thanks to Lance Pidgeon, shows the locations of weather stations audited.

As you can see, removing non-compliant and marginal sites leaves very large gaps.

Australia’s climate analysis is based on 112 stations in the ACORN-SAT network.  I surveyed 111 Acorn stations.  (Wittenoom stopped reporting in July 2019 and is now apparently closed).  Here is a pie chart of Acorn station compliance:

Again, thanks to Lance, this is a map of Australian Acorn stations….

…and this map shows the layout of the Acorn network with non-compliant stations removed, leaving marginal and compliant sites.

Only New South Wales has a decent density of compliant sites.  There are huge gaps in Queensland, Western Australia, and South Australia.  No wonder the Bureau is desperately defending their realm!

Here are the non-compliant Acorn sites.

Adelaide (Kent Town)Mackay
Albany AirportMarble Bar
BarcaldineMarree Airport
BridgetownMelbourne (Olympic Park)
Cape BordaMildura
Cape BrunyMiles
Cape LeeuwinMorawa Airport
Cape MoretonMoruya Heads
Cape OtwayNuriootpa
Charters TowersPoint Perpendicular
Coffs Harbour AirportRichmond (Qld)
Cunderdin AirportRobe
Geraldton AirportScone Airport
Halls CreekSydney – Observatory Hill
KerangWilcannia Airport
KyancuttaWilsons Promontory
Larapuna (Eddystone Point)Woomera


Of 666 weather stations I was able to identify and survey, nearly half (328) did not comply with siting specifications.

Less than a third (209) fully comply (assuming that the screens and surroundings are well maintained).

Another 129 are marginal- not fully compliant but not as bad as the non-compliant sites.

48 of the 111 remaining Acorn stations are not compliant, and a further 22 are marginal.

The Bureau of Meteorology starts its climate analysis using Acorn from 1910.  Reasons given are that the network, especially in remote areas, and also Western Australia and Tasmania,  was extremely sparse before this, and except in Queensland and South Australia (where Clement Wragge had instituted Stevenson screens and standardised practises by the mid-1890s) temperature observations and instrument siting were non-standard.  Temperature records before 1910 are not recognised by the Bureau.  For example, the hottest temperature recorded, 53.1C at Cloncurry on 16 January 1889 is discounted as it was not recorded in a Stevenson screen; and the temperature of 51.6C in Bourke on 3 January 1909 is discounted, even though it was in a Stevenson screen.  How can we be any more confident in current temperatures recorded at non-compliant sites?

With only 209 stations of the 666 surveyed fully complying with specifications, doubt must be raised not only about the modern network coverage but also the reliability and comparability of modern and historical temperature records.

The next step:

Over some time, I will be comparing data from several pairs of compliant and non-compliant stations to see if siting has any detectable effect on temperatures recorded.

Appendix:- Background and details of survey: 

In July 2019 I commenced a 6 month long survey of 666 weather stations that currently report temperatures to the Latest Weather Observations pages for each state (also to Climate Data Online and to international weather and climate agencies).  Many are used to make adjustments to Acorn stations. Of the 753 stations listed (and these change from time to time) I was able to identify and examine 666. 

I did not include offshore island territories or islands far distant from the mainland (e.g. Willis island) but islands close to the coast were included.  Other stations not included were those in the National Tidal Centre network, which are located on wharves and breakwaters and have beehive screens instead of Stevenson screens; Lucas Heights nuclear facility; a number of recent defence stations that were impossible to locate; stations in areas where satellite imagery has poor resolution, and a number of sites that have not yet been included in the BOM metadata and thus have no site plans and can’t be located- a good example is Wellcamp Airport in southern Queensland. (See below for the full list.)

The process I used is outlined  in my post “How to check for yourself”.  I also made use of information and photographs supplied by colleagues with local knowledge.

There are 328 examples of stations that are not compliant with specifications, listed by state here.

This is an example of a compliant station:  Amberley AMO  40004 which is an Acorn station.

Google satellite image: 

This is an example of a marginal station:  Nullo Mountain 62100

Google satellite image: 

It has patches of rougher/ longer vegetation nearby and a large tree about 20 metres away.

(And the more I look at marginal sites the more I find that I should really have classified more as not compliant.)

These are the marginal stations (Acorn marked *):

Adelaide AirportMiddle Point
BatchelorMoomba Airport
Batemans BayMortlake
Bathurst *Moss Vale
Boulia *Mount Boyce
Bourke *Mount Bundey North (Defence)
Bowen Airport AWSMount Crawford
Bradshaw-Angallari Valley (Defence)Mount Ginini
BrisbaneMount Ive
Brisbane Airport *Mount Magnet Airport
BulmanMount Moornapa
Burketown Airport *Mudgee
Cape GrimNambour
Cape SorellNeptune Island
Central Arnhem PlateauNew May Downs
CerberusNgayawili (Elcho Island)
CharltonNgukurr AWS
CombienbarNhill Aerodrome *
CootamundraNullo Mountain
Cowley Beach (Defence)Oakey
Cultana (Defence)Oodnadatta *
Darwin Airport *Orbost *
DerbyPalmerville *
Devonport AirportParramatta
Dum In MirriePearce
DwellingupPort Augusta
Eildon Fire TowerPort Fairy
ElliottPortland Airport
Esperance AirportRedland (Alexandra Hills)
Essendon AirportRhyll
Eucla *Sheffield
Forrest *Shepparton
Fowlers GapSt George *
Gabo Island *Stawell
GelantipyStenhouse Bay
Grafton AirportSwan Hill
Grove *Sweers Island
Hamilton IslandSydney Olympic Park
Horn Island *Tabulam
Hume ReservoirTarcoola *
Hunters HillTaree Airport
Jervis Bay AirfieldTemora
JervoisTennant Creek *
kunanyi / Mount WellingtonTerrey Hills
Kununurra AirportThargomindah *
Lake JuliusThe Monument
Lake Macquarie – CooranbongTibooburra Airport *
Lake St ClairTocal
Lancelin (Defence)Townsville Air Weapons Range (Defence)
Launceston Airport *Trepell
Laverton (WA)Tunnack
Legendre IslandTurretfield
Leigh CreekVictor Harbor
Leonora AirportWadeye (Port Keats)
LostockWhite Cliffs AWS
Low Head *Windorah
Luncheon HillWoolbrook
Mackay AirportYanakie
McArthur River MineYoung
Melbourne Airport

These are the stations listed in Latest Weather Observations that I did not use (plus offshore island territories). You are welcome to try- let me know if you have any success.

Adele IslandMelville Water
Arlington ReefMiddle Percy Island
Banana BankMount Buller
Barrow IslandMount Bundey South (Defence)
Bedout IslandMount Hope
Bradshaw-Koolendong ValleyMount Hotham Airport
BrewonMount Keith
Broome PortMount Read
Browse IslandMulurulu
Bulga DownsNoona
Burnie PortNorth Head
Busselton JettyNorth Island
Canungra (Defence)Oberon
Cape FergusonOcean Reef
Cape WesselOuter Harbor (Black Pole)
Christmas CreekPaynes Find
Colpoys PointPoint Avoid
CoondewannaPort Kembla Harbour
Croker Island AirportPortland Harbour
Darwin HarbourPuckapunyal-Lyon Hill (Defence)
Degrussa AerodromeRosslyn Bay Harbour
DoonganRowley Shoals
Edi UpperSellicks Hill
Esperance HarbourSmithville
Evans HeadSolomon Airport
Fawkner BeaconSouth Channel Island
Fort DenisonSpitfire Channel
Fortescue Dave ForrestSpring Bay
FrankstonSt Kilda Harbour RMYS
GluepotSwan Island
Gooseberry HillSydney Harbour
Hay PointThevenard Island
Heron IslandThursday Island
Hillarys Point Boat HarbourTownsville – Fanning River (Defence)
Hindmarsh IslandTroughton Island
Inner BeaconUrandangi
Kingfish BVaranus Island
KurnellWarburto Point
Little BayWarburton
Low Rocky PointWellcamp Airport
Lucas Heights (ANSTO)West Roebuck
Maatsuyker IslandYampi Sound (Defence)
Maitland Airport


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7 Responses to “Australia’s Wacky Weather Stations: Final Summary”

  1. Bill In Oz Says:

    Well Ken this is getting toward the macro BOM weather station level now.

    I know it has been a huge commitment of time & energy by you over the past 6 months. I think an apology from BOM is warranted. But
    I don’t think that the BOM will thank you ever or apologise for this stuff up.

    They are far too committed to the Global Warming scare campaign despite it being based only on this GI=GO stuff.

    So I will thank you in lieu of the BOM.

    And y the ay it’s been a real pleasure to be able to assist you along the way with this huge task !


  2. Graeme No.3 Says:

    I too would like to add my appreciation of your hard work. I’m sorry that I didn’t follow it more closely.
    It may seem that your work was in vain but I feel that in the future it will become a powerful force in Australia abandoning the GlobalWarming scam.
    Well done.

    I have e-mailed a link to Graham Lloyd at The Australian. It might bring a little (deserved) publicity.

  3. geeaye Says:

    I might have missed this but you will be asked (rightly). How did you choose your sites?

  4. David Coad Says:

    Brilliant. A massive amount of time and effort went it this summary. I have always questioned the ability of NOAA, NASA, BOM to accurately measure surface temperatures and provide a continental and global average to one-tenth of a degree and error to 0.05 Deg C. This would require high quality data and it all starts with the site compliance and instrument calibration. Well done.

  5. Australia’s Wacky Weather Station Comparison 4: Penrith (NSW) | kenskingdom Says:

    […] surveying 666 weather stations across Australia and finding nearly half (49.25%) are not compliant with Bureau of Meteorology siting […]

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