Archive for April, 2022

Is Climate Change Threatening the Solomon Islands?

April 23, 2022

Since the first talk of an agreement between China and the Solomon Islands to establish a Chinese presence there, accusations have flown thick and fast between the Australian government and their opponents.

One of the points of contention is whether Australia’s supposed lack of urgency in addressing climate change has led to distrust of Australia by Pacific island nations, thus encouraging them to seek help from China.  Considering China’s record and plans for emissions, that is hardly likely.  However, The Guardian thinks so, saying two days ago:

There might not be a direct link between Australia’s climate policy and the security deal – Morrison certainly thinks there isn’t, dismissing such a connection as “nonsense” today – but it is without doubt that Australia’s climate policy has contributed to the dimming of Australia’s reputation in the region, especially given Australia claims to be family.

So is climate change – specifically sea level rise- threatening the Solomons?

Time for a reality check.  Here is a map courtesy of Google, showing where the tide gauge in the Solomons is in relation to Australia.

Figure 1:  Solomons tide gauge location

Not that far away.

Over the last 28 years since the BOM began monitoring sea level at Honiara, sea level has definitely risen.  Figure 2 shows monthly anomalies of mean tidal data.

Figure 2:  Monthly mean sea level, Honiara

Oh no!  Climate change!

Figure 3 shows inverted mean barometric pressure anomalies plotted with mean sea level.

Figure 3:  Monthly sea level and barometric pressure (inverted)

Hmm.  As air pressure falls, sea level rises, and vice versa.  Figure 4 shows 12 month means (from July to June, which covers most ENSO events):

Figure 4:  12 month means of monthly sea level and inverted barometric pressure

Still not a close match, but let’s include the effect of the trade winds (data from NOAA).

12 month means of trade wind anomalies, scaled down by a factor of 10 show a much better match:

Figure 5:  12 month means of monthly sea level and scaled trade winds index

Now we see the connection, and cause of the apparent trend in sea level- the combination of air pressure and trade winds.  Barometric pressure has been decreasing, and trade wind strength has increased.  These are symptoms of the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO).  When atmospheric pressure is unusually high (as in very big El Ninos), sea levels are lower, mainly because the normal trade winds slacken and less water than normal is pushed westwards across the Pacific.  As trade winds strengthen, more water is pushed westwards and sea level rises.  (This also affects the eastern coast of Australia, and strengthens the East Australian current as well.) 

When we get the next big El Nino (cue droughts, bushfires, and wailing and gnashing of teeth) it is likely that the sea level trend will mysteriously flatten.

Sorry, guys, unless climate change predicts fewer and weaker El Ninos, climate change is not to blame: and certainly not the Australian government.

It’s all about the money.

Gladstone Rejects Domestic Hydrogen

April 20, 2022

Gladstone Regional Council in Central Queensland has rejected a proposal to distribute a blend of 10% hydrogen and LNG from the Gladstone hydrogen park to residential and commercial customers.

The council received 100 submissions regarding the project.  All but one were against it, citing safety concerns.

The Australian Gas Infrastructure Group has been distributing a blend with 5% hydrogen through plastic pipes at Mitchell Park in South Australia since 2021 and is planning another hydrogen park to supply Albury-Wodonga in 2024.

Colorants and odorants are added to the blend.  The Gladstone plant was only to operate in daylight hours when solar power is relatively abundant.  Water was to be sourced from the Gladstone water supply.

With residents not convinced by safety assurances (the blend was to have twice the concentration of hydrogen as the South Australian scheme), it’s back to the drawing board for AGIG.

The future of Australia’s hydrogen industry is by no means assured.

Listen to the ABC Radio news item from 1:18.

More Problems With Australia’s Temperature Record: Part 3

April 13, 2022

We have seen in Parts 1 and 2 that every extra year of annual data can decrease the temperature trend at a weather station by from -0.02 to -0.03℃ per decade, and that less than half (47% actually) of Australia’s weather stations used for climate analysis have data from 1910, and three of them have insufficient data to calculate trends.

Figure 1 shows a map of non-urban Acorn stations with enough data to calculate trends, at 1910.  The others I have blanked out.

Figure 1: Acorn stations with data for 1910

The network is very sparse.  To estimate a national temperature for 1910 enormous weighting must be given to the values of a few remote stations like Alice Springs, Boulia and Kalgoorlie, so we hope they got the adjustments right!  Unfortunately, in 2015 I found adjustments at Kalgoorlie and Alice Springs were very problemmatic.

The Bureau explains the process of calculating average temperatures here.

Figure 2 shows the BOM map of trends from 1910 to 2020:

Figure 2:  Australian Tmean trends 1910-2020

Note that there a few “bullseyes” which surround stations whose temperature trends are out of phase with areas around them- e.g. Boulia is warmer, Marble Bar is cooler. 

Now here is a paradox.  As the years go by and more stations have data available, the area weighting for each station will decrease, however trends at the newer stations will show increased warming compared with the older ones.  However they will also have more variability.  This will result in oddities as I shall show, and reveals something of the difficulties with the BOM methods.

 Figure 2 is a plot of mean temperature from 1970 to 2020.

Figure 2:  Australian Tmean 1970-2020

The Acorn 2 trend is now +0.23℃ per decade or +2.3℃ per 100 years- a full degree more than the trend from 1910.

Now let’s look at the trend map for 1970 to2020:

Figure 3:  Australian Tmean trends 1970-2020

Note the little “bullseye” around Victoria River Downs, the little “balloon” around Halls Creek to the south-west of VRD, and the little surge to the south-southwest of VRD of 0.05 to 0.1℃ per decade.  Note also that north-eastern Arnhem Land, with no stations, has a warmer pocket.  Figure 4 is the BOM data for VRD.

Figure 4: Annual mean temperature at Victoria River Downs

VRD opened in 1965 and has too much data missing for BOM to calculate a trend.  The area weighting algorithm still gives it a cooling trend of between minus 0.05 and 0℃ per decade (Figure 3).  Que?

With more than 27% of data missing I wouldn’t calculate a trend either, but with only six of 43 years missing I can calculate a trend from 1978:

Figure 5: Annual mean temperature at Victoria River Downs

The trend is -0.09℃ per decade, which is a bit more cooling than the trend map (Figure 3) shows.  Now let’s look at trends from 1980 to 2020.

Figure 6:  Australian Tmean trends 1980-2020

There are more bullseyes, and I have shown temperature trends for some- Carnarvon, Meekatharra, Forrest, Thargomindah, and Gayndah.  But remember Figure 3’s little surge to the SSW?   It now has its own bullseye, and that is Rabbit Flat.

Figure 7: Annual mean temperature at Rabbit Flat

Rabbit Flat opened in 1970 and has a trend of +0.08℃ per decade, which agrees with the trend map in Figure 3.  Now from 1980:

Figure 8: Annual mean temperature at Rabbit Flat

What a difference a few years make in a short timeseries.  The trend of -0.06℃ per decade also agrees with the 1980-2020 trend map.

However, just 328km away Halls Creek shows a warming trend of +0.17C per decade from 1980 – 2020:

Figure 9: Annual mean temperature at Halls Creek 1980-2020

But from 1970 to 2020 Halls Ck is warmer still at +0.19C per decade:

Figure 10: Annual mean temperature at Halls Creek 1970-2020

And at Tennant Creek 441km away the 1970-2020 trend is +0.19C per decade:

Figure 11: Annual mean temperature at Tennant Creek 1970-2020

From 1980 it is +0.06C per decade.

Figure 12: Annual mean temperature at Tennant Creek 1980-2020

Temperatures are trending in different directions and wildly different rates at the closest stations: they can’t all be right!

The method of drawing trend maps is to use anomalies of temperatures of all years of all stations whether or not an individual trend can be calculated, then calculate a gridded average, and from that calculate trends, then spread those trends hundreds of kilometres in every direction- even across the Gulf of Carpentaria from Horn Island to Arnhem Land, as seen in Figures 3 and 6- averaged with the trends propagated by other stations.  If a site has data missing, the grid is infilled with the weighted data from other sites.  

In recent decades this causes great variability because of the short records, which leads to grave doubts about the reliability of some records.  Further back in time, there is less variability because there are more stations, and the longer records smooth and decrease the trends- however the weighting has to be much greater because of the large areas with no data at all for many years. 

The problem is: we can have either a long record, or an accurate record, but not both.

This leads to the obvious conclusion:

The official temperature record since 1910 is just a guesstimate.

More Problems With Australia’s Temperature Record: Part 2

April 10, 2022

My colleague Chris Gillham at WAClimate uses 58 long term weather stations for his analyses.

And with good reason.  Here’s why.

Figure 1 is a screenshot of the annual mean temperature record at a typical Acorn station, Longreach (Qld) with the linear trend shown.

Figure 1: Annual mean temperature at Longreach

The linear trend is +0.12℃ per decade.  Nine (9) of the 111 years of data from 1910 to 2020 are missing, leaving 102 years.

Australia’s official climate record is based on 112 sites like Longreach.  Of those, 8 are not used for seasonal and annual analyses because they are affected by Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect.  Five (5) of the non-urban stations have more than 20% of their data missing, so the BOM does not calculate trends for them. Of those remaining, only 50 started in 1910, and another 8 before 1915.  What is the effect of different length records on our understanding of how temperatures have changed over the years?

Figure 2 is a plot of the trends of mean temperatures per decade as a factor of the number of years of annual temperature data on record at those 107 Acorn stations with enough data to calculate trends.

Figure 2:  Trend as a factor of amount of data

Stations with  longer data records have lower trends.  The trends at stations with shorter records vary wildly, with some obvious outliers. 

At those stations with UHI effect, the relationship is even stronger.

Figure 3:  Trend as a factor of amount of data at sites with UHI

These sites are in larger towns and cities, possibly with better maintenance and observation practices (although not necessarily better siting).

The slope of the trendlines in the above two figures show that for every additional year of data, temperature trend decreases by about -0.02 to -0.03℃ per decade. In 100 years that could make a difference of as much as three degrees Celsius 0.3C at a well maintained site.

Figure 4 is a map of trends across Australia from 1910 to 2020.  I have shown the years of available data at each site (locations only approximate) and I have circled in blue those 5 sites that have insufficient data.

 Figure 4:  Years of data contributing to 1910 to 2020 trend map

Trends in different regions vary from less than 0.1C per decade to up to 0.3C per decade.  As you can see there is a large variation in the amount of available data in each different coloured band.  That’s for 1910 to 2020.  Note that there are only three (3) non-urban stations with no missing years- Carnarvon, Esperance, and Mt Gambier- which I have circled in red.  There are some big gaps.

In Part 3 I will look at some individual stations and how trends vary in the 51 years from 1970 to 2020.

More Problems With Australia’s Temperature Record: Part 1

April 8, 2022

Since 2010 I have been documenting problems with different versions of Australia’s official temperature record as produced by the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM).  Since the High Quality (HQ) dataset was quietly withdrawn in 2012 we have seen regularly updated versions of the Australian Climate Observation Reference Network- Surface Air Temperature (ACORN-SAT or Acorn).  We are now up to Version 2.2.  In this Part I shall show the effect of these changes on temperature trends.  In Part 2 I will show how record length affects trends, and in Part 3 I will look at the record since 1970 at some individual stations.

Figure 1 is from the BOM Climate Change Time Series page.

Figure 1:  Australian Official Temperature Record 1910 to 2021

The linear trend is shown as +0.13℃ per decade, or 1.3C per 100 years.  My colleague Chris Gillham of WAClimate has provided me with archived Acorn 1 annual mean temperature data to 2013 which allows this comparison:

Figure 2:  TMean: Acorn 1 and Acorn 2

The result of introducing Acorn 2 has been a much steeper trend:  Acorn 1 trend to 2013 was 0.9℃ per decade.  The trend has now become 0.13℃ per decade. (The extra 9 years have added an extra 0.017C per decade to the trend.)

Figure 3 shows when and how large the changes were:

Figure 3:  Difference between Acorn 1 and Acorn 2

Acorn2 is cooler than Acorn 1 before 1971 and warmer in all but three years since.  Since these were based on the same raw temperatures (with some small additions of digitised data and a couple of changes to stations) the changes were brought about entirely by adjustments to the data.

I calculated running trends from every year to 2013 for both datasets.  As trends shorter than 30 years become less reliable I truncated the running trends at 1984.  Figure 4 compares thre trends to 2013 of Acorn 1 and Acorn 2.

Figure 4:  Acorn 1 and Acorn 2 running trends per decade to 2013

The weather fluctuations of the mid-1970s to 1980s played havoc with trends.

Figure 5 shows the difference between the trends.

Figure 5:  Difference between Acorn 1 and Acorn 2 Trends

The difference ranges from +0.024C per decade for 1910 to 2013, to +0.039C for 1950 to 2013.  Having increased warming by from 0.25C to 0.4C per 100 years (just by making different adjustments) Acorn 2’s trend is much more alarming than Acorn 1’s.


This is from the BOM’s explanation for Acorn:  

“A panel of world-leading experts convened in Melbourne in 2011 to review the methods used in developing the dataset. It ranked the Bureau’s procedures and data analysis as amongst the best in the world. ‘The Panel is convinced that, as the world’s first national-scale homogenised dataset of daily temperatures, the ACORNSAT dataset will be of great national and international value. We encourage the Bureau to consider the dataset an important long-term national asset.’” ACORN-SAT International Peer Review Panel Report, 2011.

 Acorn 1.0 was apparently such an important long-term asset that it was quickly superseded by Acorn 2 with a much more alarming trend.