Posts Tagged ‘ABC’

The Bureau Boss on Temperature Trends, Heatwaves, and Climate Change

March 31, 2015

On Sunday profile on ABC Radio on Sunday 29 March, the Director and CEO of the Bureau of Meteorology was interviewed.  The whole interview is here:

For a scientist who claims to be only interested in science and not in advocacy, he certainly sounds like a fervent Global Warming Enthusiast.

Here is the feedback I sent to the Bureau.


Dear Dr Vertessy

I was interested to listen to your interview on Sunday Profile on ABC Radio yesterday, 29 March 2015. I was particularly interested in your comments regarding public criticism of the Bureau’s adjustments to temperature data, and on the increasing frequency in heatwaves.

Several times you stated that the adjustments “make no difference at all” to temperature trends, that the raw temperature data “tell exactly the same story”, and that we see “the same result (in temperature trends) for the whole continent” as for raw data.

You also stated that heatwaves are becoming “one of our most serious natural disasters”.  They are “a bit of a silent killer- it’s the number one cause of death.”  You also said, “We are probably seeing of the order of five times as many very serious heatwaves today as we did in the middle of last century.”

I have some questions.

Q.1: Can you please supply me with a reference to your data that show that the number one cause of death is heatwave?  I was sure it was cardio-pulmonary disease usually associated with very cold weather, with mortality rates much higher in winter than summer.  Perhaps you meant heatwaves are the number one cause of death when compared with other natural disasters, which is debatable.  This was not at all clear and must surely have misled some listeners.

Q.2:  Can you please supply me with a reference to your data that show five times as many very serious heatwaves today compared with the middle of last century?  Could you also please tell me your criteria for a very serious heatwave.

For the next question I refer you to Table 1 on page 14 of On the sensitivity of Australian temperature trends and variability to analysis methods and observation networks  (CAWCR Technical Report No. 050), R.J.B. Fawcett, B.C. Trewin, K. Braganza, R.J Smalley, B. Jovanovic and D.A. Jones , March 2012 (hereafter CTR-050).  This shows that quadratic change in mean annual temperatures from 1911 to 2010 in adjusted data of the ACORN-SAT network (+0.94C) is 36% greater than in the ‘unadjusted’ data of the AWAP network (+0.69C). For maxima, the change is 38.9%, and for minima is 34.1%.  In this paper the authors claim that the rise in unadjusted data is “somewhat smaller” than in ACORN-SAT.

Q.3:  In what way can 38.9%, 36%, or 34.1% difference in quadratic change be interpreted as “no difference”, “exactly the same story”, or “the same result”? 

Perhaps you should have told your listeners that the similarity was only since 1955, and that before this, raw data show temperatures (especially maxima) were cooling, but then 60 years is not such a long climate record for making trend analyses, and this may be confusing to those who cannot understand more than a simple climate narrative.

In the Concluding Remarks of CTR-050, p.50, the authors state that “further work will be undertaken to characterise in more detail these changes, particularly at the monthly and seasonal level”.

Q.4:  When can we expect to see the results of this further work published on the ACORN-SAT website?  If it is available elsewhere please refer me to it.  I am particularly interested in any difference in quadratic change in summer maxima between AWAP and ACORN-SAT, as this is relevant to heatwave analysis.

I look forward to your reply.”

For an explanation for my interest in comparison with AWAP data, see my analysis of monthly and seasonal differences in trends between AWAP and Acorn from October last year.  My calculations indicate a 200% increase in trend in summer maxima.

One might think that if Australia wide there has been a five-fold increase in the number of very serious heatwaves, there should also be some discernible increase in the number of very hot days.

To illustrate my incredulity about this claim, here is the timeseries graph of very hot days (BOM definition: >40 degrees Celsius) straight from the Bureau’s website:

 Hot days graph BOM

The linear trend (for what it’s worth) shows an increase of 0.02 days per decade.  That’s 0.2 of a day per hundred years, or 2 days in 1,000 years.  Scarey hey.

I will be following up on the hot days and heatwaves analysis in coming posts.

How Hot Is It at Longreach? (Hotter than the ABC can remember)

March 2, 2015

Today on ABC Radio’s Country Hour, there was an interview by Lydia Burton with a grazier from the Longreach district in Central Western Queensland, which has been having some pretty hot weather this summer, as has most of Western Queensland.

Peter Whip is from Royston near Longreach and says over the last 50 years he has noticed an increase in the amount of days over 35 degrees and that is a real concern for all landholders.

“In the last couple of years we have had some really long hot dry spells when the feed quality has been terrible and we have seen cattle conditions slip really quickly.

“That is certainly something that is changing over time and….it is something that in 20 years time it will be a significant impact.”

The gist of the segment was that cattle were struggling in the heat, with so many days above 35 degrees Celsius, and especially with days over 40 degrees, let alone 45 degrees.

As I have said before, I have close links to agriculture.  My parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents were farmers; one brother still farms, another is retired, and my brother-in-law is a farmer also.  As well, several nephews and nieces are on the land or in agri-business.  I have great sympathy for those on the land at all times, especially in drought conditions.

However, is there any evidence that Longreach is having an unusually hot spell, or that Longreach is getting hotter, or that it will get hotter in the future?  And how could an intrepid rural reporter check the facts against one grazier’s anecdote?

The very simplest check would be on Longreach’s mean maximum temperatures.  From November to February, the mean monthly maximum is never below 35 C, so we might expect many days to be well above 35 C.  Longreach Aero’s highest ever maximum was back on 28 January, 1990, at 47.3 C.

Let’s have a look at the number of days above 35 C, 40 C, and 45 C.  I’ll do this for 180 day periods, which will capture days in a single summer, but not two.  I use the official ACORN dataset, plus daily data right up to yesterday, 1st March, straight from the Bureau of Meteorology, so there can be no accusation of cherry picking or of using “unreliable” raw data.

Fig. 1:  Number of days in summer above 35 C at Longreach.

longreach 35

And for the last 50 years….

Fig. 2:  Number of days in summer above 35 C at Longreach since the summer of 1964 -65.

longreach 35 since 6465

What about the length of heatwaves?  The next plot shows the number of days in a row where the temperature has exceeded 35 C.

Fig. 3:  Number of consecutive days above 35 C at Longreach.

longreach 35 consec

Mr Whip may be a little mistaken.  Since 1965, and since 1910, there appears to be no trend in the number of days above 35 C in Longreach, and there is no trend in the length of heatwaves.

But the ABC is always talking about extremes- what about days over 40 C?

Fig. 4:  Number of days in summer above 40 C at Longreach.

longreach 40


Fig. 5:  Number of days in summer above 45 C at Longreach.

longreach 45

Oops again.

Now Lydia Burton is a good rural reporter, I frequently listen to her on the Country Hour and the Rural Report, but if only she had checked the facts, she could have saved her listeners a lot of angst.  Instead, “our” ABC continues to peddle nonsense about dangerous climate change.

It’s no wonder that people have lost faith in the ABC.

Extreme La Nina events – an alternative view

January 28, 2015

Yesterday the ABC hyped up their climate alarmism to another new level with their uncritical and unabashed reporting of a claim by the CSIRO that Extreme La Niña events … will almost double in frequency as the climate warms”.

“Lead author Dr Wenju Cai, chief scientist at Australia’s CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere Flagship, says their work shows La Niña events will occur every 13 years compared with a past frequency of one every 23 years.”

This is the paper:

Increased frequency of extreme La Niña events under greenhouse warming, by Wenju Cai et al., published yesterday.

Time for a reality check.

The authors say they used climate data from 1900 to 2005, and 21 climate models to predict conditions for 2006-2099, and that an extreme La Nina is defined by Central Pacific sea surface temperature anomalies of more than 1.5C below normal.  They claim that an increase in severe El Ninos will lead to an increase in following extreme La Ninas.

In the paywalled article I suspect the Central Pacific region they use is actually the Nino 4 region.  In this analysis I use data from the Nino3.4 region, which is the overlap between Nino 3 and Nino 4, covering Latitudes 5 degrees South- 5 North and Longitudes 170 degrees West- 120 West.  This is the most common data region used.   I downloaded data from and calculated monthly anomalies from the 1961-1990 means.  There are data from 1870, however I chose to use data from 1876 to match Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) data.

Here are the results:

Fig.1: Nino 3.4 anomalies.  Note 1900 & 2005 limits, and +/- 1.5C thresholds.


By screening for events of +/- 1.5 or more, we remove the clutter and identify extreme events:

Fig.2: Nino 3.4 data exceeding +/- 1.5C

extreme enso events

The paper claims that the incidence of extreme La Ninas will increase from one per 23 years to one per 13 years.  While there are more extreme La Ninas in the last 45 years, I count seven La Ninas from 1900 to 1999, which is one per 14 years.  There were three very high El Nino peaks since 1970, but there are clusters of extreme El Ninos in the first and last thirds of the record.  So possibly the claim for increased La Nina frequency was for an increase in the frequency of abrupt swings from El Nino to La Nina.

Fig.3:  12 monthly change in Nino 3.4 anomalies. +/- 3C is the threshold for swings from extreme El Nino to extreme La Nina.

12m enso chg

Fig.4: Removing the clutter, change exceeding +/- 3C.

extreme enso change

There we have it.  The extreme changes since 1900 have all been in the last 45 years.  Is this due to Greenhouse warming or natural climate change? Could it have anything to do with the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation? Or is it an artefact of my arbitrary choice of extreme threshold?

More importantly, does the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) tell the same story?

SOI data are from the BOM website.

Fig.5:  12 month running mean of the SOI inverted.  Threshold is +/- 8.  Note the historical rises and falls.

 12m soi

Fig.6: Nino 3.4 and 12 month inverted SOI match fairly well, although SOI values lag by up to 2 years.

soi v nino34

Fig.7:  El Nino and La Nina conditions per SOI criteria (+/- 8).  An extreme ENSO event might be +/- 16, although I have not seen that mentioned anywhere.

12m soi tests

Again note the clusters of El Ninos, and the spread of La Ninas, in small groups with large gaps between.

Fig.8:  12 month SOI change exceeding +/- 16.  Horizontal lines indicate the threshold for an annual swing of +/- 24 units, which is associated with some dramatic weather events.

extreme  soi change

I left all of the changes >16, to show the historical spread.  Note there were three extreme La Nina (< -24) changes from 1876- 1916, and three from 1960- 2000, and four from 1973- 2014.  There is no unusual trend.

How does this correspond with the observed rainfall record, especially for South East Australia, which is predicted to receive more extremes of rain and drought due to greenhouse warming?

Fig. 9:  Number of months of severe deficiency.

SE Oz severe droughts

Fig. 10:  Number of very wet months.

SE Oz ext wets

Not very alarming.

Queensland is especially susceptible to ENSO events.

Fig. 11:  The match for Queensland wet years is better.

Qld ext wets

Fig. 12:  But not for droughts!

Qld ext dry

Where are the extreme El Ninos?  Call me underwhelmed.

Depending on the index used, the criteria used, and the length of the record used, you can say we’ve had an increase in extreme ENSO swings, or no noticeable change other than a long period (70 to 90 years?) cycle of more and less extreme changes.

My money’s on the latter, but Time will tell.

BOM Admits “Inaccuracy”!

January 21, 2015

At last- 15 days after their widely publicised initial claims (through Mr Jeff Sabburg) that in 2014 Queensland had rain deficiencies not seen since the 1927-1929 drought, and that 37.3% of the State had the lowest rainfall on record- the Bureau has replied to my complaint.

After the Bureau’s initial perfunctory response on Monday 12 January, I asked for straight answers to whether the claims were correct, and would the Bureau correct them in a Media Release.

This morning, 21 January, I received this email:

Dear Ken,
Further to our correspondence we can confirm that media statements made to the ABC by a Bureau employee on 6 January 2014 did not accurately reflect the relative severity of the current Queensland rainfall deficiencies. Unfortunately the Bureau spokesperson misinterpreted some of the information. We have advised the ABC of the inaccuracy and asked them for an opportunity to update the story, if possible.
Climate Analysis Section

So the answers to those questions were “No”, “No”, and “No, a media release would be too embarrassing and out of the question, so we’ll just advise the ABC and trust this will be buried as old news”.

I will therefore contact other media outlets (e.g. the Queensland Country Life which also ran the story), with a reminder to ABC Queensland Editor Genevieve Hussey, hoping that people across Queensland are made aware that the drought conditions (terrible as they were and still are for many) were not as bad as reported.

While this is a satisfying outcome for me, it is over two weeks since these “inaccuracies” were widely reported across Queensland in the three media that rural people mostly turn to: ABC Radio Country Hour, ABC TV 7.00 p.m. News, and the Queensland Country Life.  I cannot believe that no one in the Bureau saw these reports and did anything about the falsehood, but I’m not surprised.

If you make a mistake, own up quickly, or trust will dry up faster than the rain.


Not the third hottest year either

January 11, 2015

According to the Bureau’s surface temperature record, 2014 was the 3rd hottest year on record.  The satellite derived Lower Troposphere data from UAH (University of Alabama- Huntsville) show a different picture.

uah aust 2014

If rankings are important to you, 2014 at +0.40C was in equal seventh place with 2006, and cooler than 1980, and warmer than 1988 by 0.01C.

2013 0.71 1
2009 0.64 2
1998 0.63 3
2005 0.51 4
2007 0.50 5
1980 0.49 6
2014 0.40 7
2006 0.40 8
1988 0.39 9
2002 0.23 10
1991 0.22 11
2010 0.22 12
1996 0.17 13
2008 0.16 14
2012 0.14 15
2011 0.10 16
1990 0.09 17
2004 0.02 18
1981 -0.01 19
1995 -0.04 20
2003 -0.05 21
1982 -0.12 22
1979 -0.13 23
1999 -0.15 24
1985 -0.22 25
1989 -0.22 26
1987 -0.22 27
1997 -0.22 28
2000 -0.24 29
2001 -0.29 30
1986 -0.29 31
1993 -0.29 32
1983 -0.36 33
1994 -0.38 34
1992 -0.56 35
1984 -0.62 36

But don’t expect to find this reported by the ABC.

ABC reply to my complaint

January 8, 2015

I was expecting to wait four  weeks, but I received a reply to my complaint about the “worst drought in 80 years” news item in less than 24 hours.  Here it is:

Dear Ken,
Thank you for taking the time to email us regarding a story on the 7pm television news.

The information in our report was based on an interview with climatologist Mr Jeff Sabburg from the Bureau of Meteorology. He was also interviewed by the ABC Country Hour the same day as the annual climate statement was released and said:

“In terms of rainfall deficiencies the comparison is we haven’t seen this across Queensland at least since the 1927- 1929 depression drought. These heat waves we’re getting a number of days in a row above 30- 40 degrees Celsius and then not getting reprieve at night time that’s certainly contributing to the point where there’s nothing much to evaporate away.”

In the 2014 climate statement it also states:

Prolonged rainfall deficiencies continued for inland and south-eastern Queensland and north-eastern New South Wales.

Rainfall was below to very much below average across the South West Land Division and coastal Gascoyne in Western Australia, the majority of Victoria, southeast South Australia, all of Tasmania and a large area covering northeast New South Wales and southeast Queensland.

The story was written based on this information provided.

Thank you for your feedback.


Genevieve Hussey
Queensland News Editor

Journalists obviously do not have the time (or, probably, the ability) to check data for themselves.  If they did, they would have seen that this claim is absolutely without foundation, as I showed in yesterday’s post.  However, such a claim must surely have raised some query, some (dare I say) skepticism, as basically Jeff Sabburg has claimed last year saw the worst drought in living memory.  Surely someone at the ABC can remember as far back as 11 or 12 years ago when rainfall deficiencies were demonstrably worse than they have been last year.

The ball now is in the court of the Bureau of Meteorology, who also received feedback from me.

But thanks to Genevieve Hussey for the unexpectedly swift response.

And because I respect and admire any journalists ready to criticise blind faith, whether it be Islam, Christianity, or Global Warming, despite threats,