Posts Tagged ‘weather’

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.

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How Reliable is the Bureau’s Heatwave Service?

January 24, 2019

The Bureau of Meteorology presents heatwave assessments and forecasts in the interest of public health and safety.  Their heatwave definition is not based on any arbitrary absolute temperature, but uses a straightforward algorithm to calculate “excess heat factors”.  From their FAQs:

“Heatwaves are calculated using the forecast maximum and minimum temperatures over the next three days, comparing this to actual temperatures over the previous thirty days, and then comparing these same three days to the ‘normal’ temperatures expected for that particular location. Using this calculation takes into account people’s ability to adapt to the heat. For example, the same high temperature will be felt differently by residents in Perth compared to those in Hobart, who are not used to the higher range of temperatures experienced in Perth.

This means that in any one location, temperatures that meet the criteria for a heatwave at the end of summer will generally be hotter, than the temperatures that meet the criteria for a heatwave at the beginning of summer.

……

The bulk of heatwaves at each location are of low intensity, with most people expected to have adequate capacity to cope with this level of heat.”

Back in 2015 I showed how this algorithm works perfectly for Melbourne, but fails to detect heatwaves in Marble Bar and instead finds heatwaves at Mawson in the Antarctic.  In light of the long period of very hot weather across most of western Queensland, what does the Heatwave Service show?

Here is their assessment of conditions in Queensland over the last three days….

Fig. 1: Heatwave assessment for 21-23 January 2019

heatwave assessment

Most of inland Queensland has been in a “Low-Intensity Heatwave”, with a couple of small areas near the southern border of “Severe Heatwave”.

And here is their forecast for the next three days..

Fig. 2:  Heatwave forecast for 24-26 January 2019

heatwave forecast

Much the same, with a bit more Severe Heatwave coming.

So what were temperatures really like in the previous three days? Here’s the map for the middle of that period, Tuesday 22nd:

Fig. 3:  Maximum temperatures for 22 January

max 22 jan 1 day

About half the state was above 39 degrees C, a large area was above 42C, and there were smaller areas of above 45C.

And in the past week:

Fig. 4:  Maximum temperatures for 7 days to 23 January

max 22 jan 1 week

Average maxima for roughly the same areas were the same, except there was a larger area averaging over 45C!

This follows December when a large slab of the state averaged from 39C to 42C for the month.

Fig. 5:  Maximum temperatures for December 2018

max 22 jan 1 month

I’m focusing on Birdsville, circled on the map below (and indicated on the maps above.)

Fig. 6:  Queensland forecast towns- Birdsville indicated

qld map

Here are the maxima for Birdsville for January:

Fig. 7:  Birdsville Maxima for January

birdsville jan max

And here’s the forecast for the next 7 days:

Fig. 7:  Birdsville 7 Day Forecast

birdsville forecast

Apart from the 6th, when it was a cool 38.8C, since Christmas Eve the temperature has been above 40C every day, and is forecast to stay above 40C until next Tuesday (and above 45C until Sunday).  Minima have been above 25C on all but three days since Christmas.

And that’s a “Low Intensity” heatwave, with “most people expected to have adequate capacity to cope with this level of heat.”

The Bureau’s unspoken message?  It might be a bit hot, but you’re supposed to be used to it.  Harden up!

Western Queensland residents are pretty tough, but surely a month of such heat deserves a higher level of description than “Low Intensity”- especially for the vulnerable like babies, old people, and visitors.

This is worse than laughable.  The Bureau’s heatwave service is a crock.  As I said in my 2015 post, a methodology that fails to detect heatwaves at Marble Bar (or Birdsville!), and creates them in Antarctica, is worse than useless- it is dangerous.

Tropical Cyclones and Global Warming: A Reality Check

September 15, 2018

Recently there was widespread media reporting of Queensland Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford’s release of “a plan designed to help first responders get ready for future weather extremes.”

In the ABC Online report, these quotes from Mr Crawford are emphasised:

“There are plenty of people out there who are climate change sceptics… but the consensus is our fire seasons are getting hotter and longer and our flood and cyclone seasons are certainly getting stronger and more frequent.”

“If we’re going to have cyclones happening in parts of Queensland that they don’t normally happen right now it means that we’re going to have to expand all the areas where we have response training, capability and everything like that,” Mr Crawford said.

Cyclone seasons getting stronger and more frequent?  Cyclones happening in parts of Queensland that they don’t normally happen right now?  Time for a reality check.

The Bureau of Meteorology has a useful resource in its Southern Hemisphere Tropical Cyclone Data Portal  which shows the tracks of all cyclones since the 1969-1970 season.  By clicking on each track you find details of each.   This is the 2017/18 season:

Fig. 1:  Cyclones of the 2017/18 season

Cyclone portal

I have used it to look at all cyclones that have crossed the coast of Australia (and I have included TC Nancy which came very close and whose impact was strongly felt without actually crossing the coast.)  I have counted the cyclones that crossed the coast in every month from October 1969 to now, allocating them to those parts of the northern coastline that they predominantly affected- the north-west, Northern Territory, Gulf of Carpentaria and northern Cape York, north-east Queensland, south-east Queensland (south of the Tropic of Capricorn), and New South Wales.

So here are some facts to annoy our Global Warming Enthusiast friends, and to demonstrate how ill-informed our Emergency Services Minister is.

Fig. 2: Total number of cyclones per season

All cyclones Aust

There has been a decrease in the number of cyclones over the past 48 years, a rate of five less in 100 years.  There has been little change in Western Australian cyclones:

Fig. 3: Total number of cyclones per season hitting North-West Australia

All cyclones NW

Whereas there has been a very noticeable decrease on the east coast (Queensland and NSW):

Fig. 4: Total number of cyclones per season hitting the east coast

All cyclones East coast

which is well illustrated by this plot of cyclones crossing the Queensland coast south of the Tropic of Capricorn:

Fig. 5: Total number of cyclones per season hitting south-east Queensland

All cyclones SEQ

And these images of cyclone tracks are instructive:

Fig. 6: Cyclones of south-east Queensland 1969-1992

SEQ cyclones to 92

Fig. 7: Cyclones of south-east Queensland 1992-2018

SEQ cyclones since 92

Oswald, Marcia and Debbie crossed the coast north of the Tropic of Capricorn and were rain depressions by the time they reached the south-east.

The difference is obvious.  No cyclone has crossed the coast south of Yeppoon since TC Fran in 1992.  26 years without a cyclone- people (and Mr Crawford) forget we had three in 1971.  If we do get another one no doubt it will be blamed on climate change.

So what connection is there between temperature and cyclones?

Fig. 8:  Australian tropical cyclones as a function of sea surface temperature

All cyclones Aust vs sst trop

As temperatures go up, cyclones go down!

Fig. 9:  Australian tropical cyclones as a function of Southern Oscillation Index

All cyclones Aust vs soi

The SOI is an indicator of El Nino, La Nina, or neutral conditions.  According to the BOM, consistently below -7 indicates El Nino, and above +7 indicates La Nina.  It is obvious that there have been very few cyclones in seasons with El Nino conditions, with the vast majority in neutral or La Nina conditions, and higher SOI indicates greater likelihood of cyclones crossing the coast.  This is not new, and the Bureau makes this clear.

Fig. 10:  Tropical cyclones in La Nina years

BOM map la Nina

Fig. 11:  Tropical cyclones in El Nino years

BOM map el nino

Future trends:

The Bureau discusses future trends at length at http://www.bom.gov.au/cyclone/climatology/trends.shtml

but seems to base its conclusions entirely on climate models:

There remains uncertainty in the future change in tropical cyclone frequency (the number of tropical cyclones in a given period) projected by climate models, with a general tendency for models to project fewer tropical cyclones in the Australia region in the future climate and a greater proportion of the high intensity storms (stronger wind speeds and heavier rainfall).

This is the BOM plot of severe and non-severe cyclones, which includes all tropical cyclones from 90E to 160E south of the Equator, many of which remained well offshore.

Fig. 12: Severe and non-severe tropical cyclones

BOM graph

Is there any evidence for cyclones becoming stronger, if fewer?  According to the BOM’s history of cyclones, no.  This graph plots the number of cyclones rated as severe by the Bureau (<970 hPa central pressure at peak intensity- low pressure is a good predictor of wind speed).  Interestingly, Marcia and Debbie are not listed as severe, but are described as severe in their reports, and definitely were, so I have included them in the tally.

Fig. 13: Severe land-falling tropical cyclones

Severe cyclones Aust

And showing how the proportion of severe tropical cyclones as a percentage of all land-falling cyclones has changed:

Fig. 14: Proportion of land-falling tropical cyclones rated as severe

Severe cyclones Aust %

Tropical cyclones in the past 48 years have decreased in number and intensity, and the proportion of severe tropical cyclones has also decreased, although it is entirely likely that this situation could reverse due to natural variability.

The Government’s Response

The Queensland Government is concerned cyclones may strike further south than they currently do.  They have records of cyclones going back 150 years.  Many, many of them have affected south-east Queensland and NSW.

The worst natural disaster in recorded Australian history was in March 1899 when TC Mahina (the Bathurst Bay cyclone) killed 307 people.

Here are some other significant tropical cyclones recorded by the Bureau:

February 1893 a cyclone crossed near Yeppoon.  This led to the Brisbane River floods.

January 1918. The Mackay cyclone, which caused many deaths.  There was a large storm surge and a barometric pressure reading of 932.6 hPa in a private barometer, and less than 944.8 hPa at the Post Office as the flange on the instrument prevented the needle from going lower.  Inland rainfall caused the highest recorded flood in the Fitzroy River.

March 1918. The Innisfail cyclone.  The pressure dropped to 926 hPa at Mourilyan Sugar Mill.  There was a large storm surge.  Almost all buildings in the town were destroyed or badly damaged.

March 1949.  A cyclone struck Rockhampton and Gladstone.

1967 TC Dinah affected southern Queensland and NSW.  The pressure dropped to 944.8 hPa at Sandy Cape.

In Queensland, counting only those cyclones that have actually crossed the coast, not just approached, here is a list of tropical cyclones since 1970 (see Figure 6) that have struck south of the Tropic of Capricorn (Rockhampton or Yeppoon.)

February 1971 TC Dora

February 1972 TC Daisy

March 1972 TC Emily

January 1974 TC Wanda

March 1974 TC Zoe

February 1976 TC Beth

March 1976 TC Dawn

February 1981 TC Cliff

March 1992 TC Fran

TC Nancy (January 1990) came close but did not actually cross the coast.

TC Marcia in February 2015 crossed the coast near Shoalwater Bay before moving south over Rockhampton.

There is also an impressive list of cyclones which have caused deaths and wind, wave, and flooding damage in NSW.   These include cyclones from 1892.  Included are:

March 1939, TC crossed the coast at Cape Byron.

January 1950   The Sydney cyclone of 1950, when the pressure dropped to 988 hPa in Sydney.

February 1954, TC crossed the coast at Tweed Heads, where the pressure dropped to 973 hPa.

February 1957 TC crossed the coast south of Port Macquarie.

January 1967 TC Dinah caused a large storm surge in the Tweed River.

February 1967 TC Barbara crossed the coast near Lismore.

March 1974 TC Zoe crossed the coast just north of the border and travelled through northern NSW.

January 1990  TC Nancy did not cross the coast but passed about 50km east of Cape Byron.

The Reality

Contrary to Minister Crawford’s claim, and the media’s breathless and uncritical reporting, tropical cyclones in the past 48 years have decreased in number and intensity, and the proportion of severe tropical cyclones has also decreased.  Predictions of future trends are purely speculative.  The current 26 year lull in tropical cyclones hitting the south of Queensland and northern NSW is unusual.  In the past it was normal for cyclones to strike much further south than they do now.  We should not become complacent.

TC Debbie

March 29, 2017

TC Debbie hit the Whitsunday coast and areas to the south and inland yesterday.  As I spent nearly half my life in places not far from Mackay and have many friends in the region, I was very interested to see what was happening.   I began checking online from 5 a.m. Tuesday morning.

Here is some initial analysis of TC Debbie.  Firstly, here is the table of cyclone intensities as found at http://www.bom.gov.au/cyclone/faq/index.shtml#definitions .

Fig. 1:  Cyclone Intensity

TC Intensity

I began checking online from 5 a.m. Tuesday morning.

Fig. 2:  0500 forecast cyclone track map.

Debbie 5am

How accurate was the Bureau’s forecast?  Here is the forecast 22 hours later, at 0300 Wednesday morning.

Fig. 3:  Wednesday 0300 forecast cyclone track map.

Ex TC Debbie

The track forecast was pretty good.

The next images show Debbie’s progress across the Whitsunday Islands until the eyewall crossed the coast near Airlie Beach.

Fig. 4:  0720 Eyewall about to hit Hamilton Island

radar 720am debbie hayman is eye

Fig. 5:  0910  Hamilton Island near the eyewall, Hayman Island in the eye

radar 910am debbie hamilton eyewall

Fig. 6:  10.30  Hamilton Island near the eyewall, Hayman Island in the eye, and the eyewall about to pass over Airlie Beach

radar 1030am debbie hamilton eyewall

And four and a half hours later, the worst is over at Hamilton and Hayman Island and the eye is collapsing over Proserpine.

Fig. 7:  1510  Debbie weakening near Proserpine

radar 310pm eye breakup

Note the “gap” in the image in the northwest sector.  The Bowen radar failed and the Mackay radar was blocked by high mountains to the west.

What about forecasts of the cyclone’s intensity?

The next figures show plots of wind gusts, pressure, temperature, and rain at Hamilton Island, Proserpine, and Bowen, the closest stations to the cyclone’s track.

Fig. 8:  Wind gusts at Hamilton Island

wind hamilton

The black line shows the period from just before 8.00 a.m. until about 2.30 p.m. during which Hamilton Island was close to the eyewall, the area of maximum wind strength.   For nine hours from before 6.00 a.m. until nearly 3.00 p.m. wind gusts were of Category 3 strength.  From 8.00 a.m. until 12.30 p.m. gusts approached or exceeded 225 km/hr, bordering on category 4, and between 10.35 and 10.30 reached 263 km/hr three times at least- and the Bureau had forecast winds up to 270 km/hr.  While the station at Hamilton Island is too high to be completely reliable, these data are indicative that winds at 10 metres were at cat 4 level for some time.

Fig. 9:  Air Pressure at Hamilton Island

pressure hamilton

The red line shows the period from just before 8.00 a.m. until about 2.30 p.m. during which Hamilton Island was near the eyewall, the area of maximum wind strength.    From 2.00 a.m. until 5.00 p.m.  pressure was below 985 hPa (Cat, 2) and from 10.00 a.m. until 1.30 p.m. was below 970 hPa (Cat.3) but did not reach 955 hPa (Cat. 4).  Remember however that Hamilton Island was some 50 km from the centre of the eye, so 955 hPa is quite possible for central pressure.

On the basis of wind gusts and pressure at Hamilton Island, I believe Debbie was a strong Category 3, weak Category 4 system.

Fig. 10:  Air temperature at Hamilton Island

T hamilton

Note the sudden jump in temperature from 8.12 a.m.- 3 degrees in 3 minutes- coinciding with a wind gust of 212 km/hr, and kept climbing to unbelievable values.  (Compare with Proserpine below.)  It is likely that the AWS probe malfunctioned, and failed altogether at 12.00 noon.

Fig. 11:  Rain at Hamilton Island

rain hamilton

Rain measurement is unlikely to be accurate in such ferocious winds.  Note how rainfall levelled off from 11.00 a.m until 2.00 p.m., then increased after 3.00 p.m.

Fig. 12:  Wind gusts at Proserpine

wind proserpine

Proserpine Airport is some 20 km inland, 41 km west of Hamilton Island and 56 km from Bowen.  As the cyclone arrived over land it began losing strength and the eye began to shrink.  From 10.00 a.m. until 2.00 p.m. gusts were at Category 2 strength and at 1.00 p.m. reached the magic 165 km/hr of Cat 3 strength.  They were very probably much stronger in the town itself 9.1 km north.

Fig. 13:  Pressure at Proserpine Airport

pressure proserpine

From 12.30 p.m. until 5.00 p.m. the pressure at the airport, some 20-30 km from the centre, was below the Category 3 value of 970 hPa.

Wind gust and pressure data indicate Debbie was very likely still Category 3 as it passed over Proserpine town.

Fig. 14:  Air temperature at Proserpine

T proserpine

Fairly stable temperature with only about 1.5C range all day.

Fig. 15:  Rain at Proserpine

rain proserpine

Steady rain all day, fairly typical of cyclonic conditions.  At Strathdickie not far from Proserpine, 193mm fell in one hour that morning, and at Dalrymple Heights about 50km south 814mm fell in 24 hours.

Fig. 16:  Wind gusts at Bowen

wind bowen

For four and a half hours wind gusts reached Category 2 strength, and were above 100 km/hr from 9.00 a.m. to 8.00 p.m.

Fig. 17:  Pressure at Bowen

pressure bowen

Pressure was at Category 2 levels from 9.00 a.m.

Fig. 18:  Air temperature at Bowen

T bowen

Winds were west south west most of the day, but as Debbie passed and winds turned northwest (over the ocean), the temperature climbed.

Fig. 19:  Rain at Bowen

rain bowen

Steady rain all day: 12 inches in 12 hours.

While no stations were directly in the cyclone’s path, nearby station data indicate that Debbie was a large Category 3 to Category 4 tropical cyclone when it hit the coast and brought very strong winds, very heavy rainfall, and widespread destruction.  It is still lingering as a tropical low 300 km inland, bringing more strong winds and very heavy rain, and will head south over the next couple of days.  The clean up begins.  We await the report from James Cook University engineers who will provide their assessment of damage and wind loadings in a few weeks’ time.

Give credit where credit is due: the Bureau of Meteorology got this one pretty right.

How Temperature Is “Measured” in Australia: Part 1

March 1, 2017

By Ken Stewart, ably assisted by Chris Gillham, Phillip Goode, Ian Hill, Lance Pidgeon, Bill Johnston, Geoff Sherrington, Bob Fernley-Jones, and Anthony Cox.

The Bureau of Meteorology maintains the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI), one of the most useful climate and weather records in the world.  In About SOI,  the Bureau says:

 Daily or weekly values of the SOI do not convey much in the way of useful information about the current state of the climate, and accordingly the Bureau of Meteorology does not issue them. Daily values in particular can fluctuate markedly because of daily weather patterns, and should not be used for climate purposes.

It is a pity that the BOM doesn’t follow this approach with temperature, and in fact goes to the opposite extreme.

Record temperatures, maximum and minimum temperatures, and monthly, seasonal, and annual analyses are based not on daily values but on ONE SECOND VALUES.

The Bureau reports daily maximum and minimum temperatures at Climate Data Online,   but also gives a daily summary for each site in more detail on the State summary observations page , and a continuous 72 hour record of 30 minute observations (examples below), issued every 30 minutes, with the page automatically refreshed every 10 minutes, also handily graphed .  These last two pages have the previous 72 hours of readings, after which they disappear for good.  However, the State summary page, also refreshed every 10 minutes, is for the current calendar day only.

This screenshot shows part of the Queensland observations page for February 26, showing the stations in the North Tropical Coast and Tablelands district.

Fig. 1:  District summary page

mareeba-example

Note especially the High Temp of 30.5C at 01:26pm.  Clicking on the station name at the left takes us to the Latest Weather Observations for Mareeba page:

Fig. 2:  Latest Observations for Mareeba

mareeba detail example.jpg

Notice that temperature recordings are shown every 30 minutes, on the hour and half hour.

In Figure 1 I have circled the Low Temp and High Temp for Mareeba.  Except in unusual circumstances, High Temp and Low Temp values become the maximum and minimum temperatures and are listed on the Climate Data Online page, and for stations that are part of the ACORN network, become part of the official climate record.  It is most important that these High Temp and Low Temp values, the highest and lowest recorded temperatures of each day, should be accurate and trustworthy.

But frequently they are higher or lower than the half hourly observations, as in the Mareeba example (0.6C higher), and I wanted to know why.  In this post I show some recent examples, with the explanation from the Bureau.

Perhaps the difference between the Latest Weather Observations and maximum temperature reported at Climate Data Online is due to brief spikes in temperature in between the reported temperatures of the latest observations, such as in this example from Amberley RAAF on February 12.

Fig. 3:  Amberley RAAF temperatures, 12 February 2017

amberley-12-feb

A probable cause would be that the Automatic Weather Station probe is extremely sensitive to sudden changes in temperature as breezes blow warmer or cooler air around or a cloud passes over the sun.

However, this may not be the whole story.

Occasionally the report time for the High Temp or Low Temp is exactly on the hour or half hour, and therefore can be directly compared with the temperature shown for that time at the station’s page.

These progressive Low and/or High Temps on the half hour or hour occur and can be observed throughout the day at various times, as well as at the end of the reporting period.

For example, here is a mid-afternoon screenshot of the Queensland- Wide Bay and Burnett district summary for Wednesday 15th February.  I have highlighted the High Temp value for Maryborough at 1:00pm.

Fig. 4:  District summary at 2:00pm for Maryborough 15 February 2017

obs-mboro-15th

In the Latest Observations for Maryborough, I have highlighted the 1:00pm reading.

Fig. 5: Latest Observations at Maryborough at 01:00pm on 15 February

obs-mboro-15th-detail

The difference is +1.5 degrees.  Here I have graphed the results.

Fig. 6:  Maryborough 15 February

mboro-15th-graph

That’s a 1.5 degree difference at the exact same minute.

Here is a screenshot of Latest Observations values at Hervey Bay Airport on Wednesday 22 February.  Low Temp for the morning of 23.2C was reached at 6.00 a.m.

Fig. 7:  Hervey Bay, 06:00am  22 February 2017

hervey-bay-22nd

Note that at 6.00am, just after sunrise, the Latest Observations page shows that the temperature was 25.3 degrees.  The daily Low Temp was reported as 23.2 degrees at 6.00am – 2.1 degrees cooler.  This graph will show the discrepancy more plainly.

Fig. 8:  Hervey Bay temperatures 22 February

hervey-bay-22nd-graph

What possible influence would cause a dawn temperature to drop 2.1 degrees?

I sent a query to the Bureau about Hervey Bay, and the explanation from the Bureau’s officer was enlightening:

Firstly, we receive AWS data every minute. There are 3 temperature values:
1. Most recent one second measurement
2. Highest one second measurement (for the previous 60 secs)
3. Lowest one second measurement (for the previous 60 secs)

Relating this to the 30 minute observations page: For an observation taken at 0600, the values are for the one minute 0559-0600.

I’ve looked at the data for Hervey Bay at 0600 on the 22nd February.
25.3, 25.4, 23.2 .

The temperature reported each half hour on the station Latest Observations page is the instantaneous temperature at that exact second, in this case 06:00:00, and the High Temp or Low Temp for the day is the highest or lowest one second temperature out of every minute for the whole day so far.  There is no filtering or averaging.

The explanation for the large discrepancy was that “Sometimes the initial heating from the sun causes cooler air closer to the ground to mix up to the temperature probe (1.2m above ground).”

However, in Figure 7 above it can be seen that the wind was south east at 17 km/hr, gusting to 26 km/hr, and had been like that all night, over flat ground at the airport, so an unmixed cooler surface layer mixing up to the probe seems very unlikely.

You will also note that the temperatures in the final second of every half hour period from 12.30 to 6.30 ranged from 25C to 25.5C, yet in some second in the final minute before 6.00 a.m. it was at 23.2C.  I have shown these values in the graph below.

Fig. 9:  Hervey Bay 05:59 to 06:00am

hervey-bay-22nd-at-6am

The orange row shows the highest temperature for this last minute at 25.4C at some unknown second, the blue row the lowest temperature for this minute (and for the morning) at 23.2C at some unknown second, and the spot temperature of 25.3C at exactly 06:00:00am.  The black lines show the upper and lower values of half hourly readings between 12:30 and 06:30: the high temp and 06:00am readings are within this range.

23.2C looks a lot like instrument error, and not subject to any filtering.

Further, there are only two possibilities:  either from a low of 23.2C, the temperature rose 2.2 degrees to 25.4C, then down to 25.3C; or else from a high of 25.4C it fell 2.2 degrees to 23.2C, then rose 2.1 degrees to 25.3C, all in the 60 seconds or less prior to 06:00:00 a.m.

How often does random instrument error affect the High and Low Temps reported at the other 526 stations?  Like Thargomindah, where on February 12 the High Temp was 2.3 degrees to 2.5 degrees higher than the temperatures 15 minutes before and after?

Fig. 10:  Thargomindah temperatures 12 February 2017

thargomindah-12-feb

Or was this due to a sudden rise and fall caused by a puff of wind, even a whirl-wind?

Who knows?  The Bureau certainly doesn’t.

 

In Part 2, I will look at patterns arising from analysis of 200 High and Low Temps occurring in the same minute as the half hourly values, and implications this has for our climate record.

Unprecedented South Australian Weather!

January 22, 2017

(and it has been like that for 178 years!)

There were more blackouts in South Australia a couple of days ago following a wild storm.  In a report in the Adelaide Advertiser, SA Power Networks spokesperson Paul Roberts is quoted:

“This is just another example of the unprecedented weather in the last six months,” Mr Roberts said, referring to bouts of wild weather that have hit power supplies hard this summer and the preceding spring.

21mm of rain was measured at the Kent Town gauge.

Just how “unprecedented” is Adelaide’s weather over the past few months?  I couldn’t find any records for the number of severe storms, so for a proxy I have made do with rainfall data from West Terrace and Kent Town in Adelaide.  The overlap period has very similar rainfall recordings so I joined the two series to give a record starting on 1 January 1839.  That’s 178 years of data.

When thinking about “unprecedented”, we need to check amount, intensity, and frequency.

Firstly, a few plots to give some context.  How unprecedented was Thursday’s storm?

Fig. 1: Rainfall for the first 21 days of January compared with Days 1 – 21 of every year

adelaide-rain-21-jan

Note Thursday’s rainfall had less rain than four previous occasions on this day alone, and 20 or so in previous Januarys.

Fig. 2: Rainfall for each day of 2016 compared with each day of every year:

adelaide-rain-2016

Note the December storm had extreme rain (for Adelaide) but not a record.

Amount and intensity has been higher in many previous years.  141.5mm was recorded on 7 February 1925.

Fig. 3: 7 day average rainfall over the years:

adelaide-rain-2016-7d-avg

The topmost dot shows the maximum 7 day average for each year.  2016 got to 13.4mm on 4 October- multiply by 7 to get the weekly total rain.  Note there were many wet and dry periods all through the record.

21mm of rain fell in a severe storm on Thursday, so I arbitrarily chose 20mm as my criterion for heavy rainfall in one day as a probable indicator of stormy weather.  I am the first to admit that 20mm might fall steadily all day and not be at all associated with wild winds, and wild winds can occur without any rain, but bear with me.

Fig. 4: Rain over 20mm throughout the year:

adelaide-rain-2016-above-20

There seems to be no increase in amount or intensity of rain at any time of the year.

Fig. 5: Frequency:

adelaide-rain-2016-cnt-above-20

Note 2016 had 7 days with above 20mm in 24 hours.  That’s the most since… 2000, when there were 8 days- and many previous years had 7 or 8 days, and 1889 had 9.  So no increase in frequency.

However, Mr Roberts was referring to the last six months, spring and summer.  So let’s look at rain events over 20mm from July to December, firstly amounts recorded:

Fig. 6: July to December Rain over 20mm:

adelaide-rain-above-20-last-6m

Nothing unusual about 2016.

Fig. 7:  Frequency of heavy rain July – December:

adelaide-rain-2016-cnt-above-20-last-6m

1973, 1978, and 1992 had the same or more days with over 20mm.

I now restrict the count to spring and summer only:

Fig. 8:  Spring and Summer frequency:

adelaide-rain-2016-cnt-above-20-last-4m

Not unprecedented: 1992 had one more.  Add in last Thursday’s event to make them equal.

Conclusion

Adelaide has a long climate record, showing daily rainfall has varied greatly over the years.  There is no recent increase in amount, intensity, or frequency for the whole year, or for the last six months or four months.  Spring and summer rainfall in 2016 was not unprecedented, and to the extent that spring and summer falls over 20mm are a proxy for storms, there is no evidence for an increase in wild weather.  This is normal.  Get used to it, Mr Roberts, and make sure the electricity network can cope.

 

Putting Temperature in Context: Pt 2

December 14, 2016

To show how handy my Excel worksheet is, here’s one I did in the last 15 minutes.

Apparently Sydney has had its warmest December minimum on record at 27.1 C.  The record before that was Christmas Day, 1868 at 26.3C.

The following seven plots show this in context.

Fig. 1:  The annual range in Sydney’s minima:

whole-yr-sydney-min

Extremes in minima can occur any time between October and March.

Fig. 2:  The first 2 weeks of December

14d-sydney-min

Plainly, a new record was set this morning, but apart from Day 340 the other days are within the normal range.

Fig. 3:  7 day mean of Tmin in this period

7d-avg-sydney-min

Extreme, but a number of previous years had warmer averages.

Fig. 4:  Consecutive days above 20C Tmin.

days-over-20-sydney

But there have been longer periods of warm minima in the past.

Now let’s look at the same metric, but for all of December.

Fig. 5:  All Decembers (including leap years).

december-sydney-min

A record for December, with 1868 in second place.

Fig. 6:  7 day mean of Tmin for Decembers

7d-avg-sydney-min-december

Seven day periods of warm nights are not new.  The horizontal black line shows the average to this morning (20.6C) is matched or exceeded by a dozen other Decembers.  (Of course this December isn’t half way through yet.)  Also note what appears to be a step change about 1970.

Fig. 7:  Consecutive days above 20C Tmin in December.

days-over-20-sydney-december

I doubt if 15 December will be as warm as today, but could still be over 20C.

This is weather, not global warming.

 

When Tmax and Tmin Are Poor at Describing Weather

October 25, 2016

Last Sunday was a miserable day in Rockhampton- overcast with drizzling rain and cold all day.  Mean maximum for October is 29.7 degrees, so the maximum reported by the Bureau of 20.4 was 9.5 degrees below average, as expected.  However, that does not tell you anything like the whole story.

Here is the temperature graph from the Bureau for the period midday Saturday to midday Tuesday.  The solid horizontal line shows the duration of Sunday 23rd, and the thin black vertical lines show 9.00 a.m., which is the time when the daily minimum and the previous day’s maximum are recorded.   Temperatures at recording times are circled.

rocky-temp-23-oct

On fine, clear days, minima usually occur around sunrise and maxima in the early afternoon: you can see this on the 22nd, 24th, and (almost) on the 25th.  Sunday 23rd was wet.  As you can see the temperature was falling fairly steadily from Saturday afternoon until Monday morning.   The maximum for Sunday was 22.7 at midnight, and the coldest temperature on Sunday was 14.3 from 7.30 p.m. to 9.00 p.m. on Sunday night- not the 17.6 at 9.00 a.m.   The official maximum for Sunday of 20.4 degrees was actually the temperature at 9.00 a.m. on Monday!

So what was the Diurnal Temperature Range?  Was 20.6 (or 22.7) a good representation of how high the temperature “rose”?  The temperature in the early afternoon varied between 15 and 16.4, and this was about 14 degrees below normal for this time of the year (and two to three degrees below the official lowest maximum of 18.1 on 10th October 1982).

Which is one reason I don’t take a lot of notice of claims of hottest or coldest extremes.

Was 2013 the Hottest Year on Record? Update!

January 6, 2014

Update:  Warwick Hughes has reminded me of his post on 5 December at http://www.warwickhughes.com/blog/?p=2496 where he shows a distinct drift in UAH data compared with RSS, and in later posts he confirms this in southern Africa and the USA.  Warwick says:

"I have checked UAH against CRUT4 and GHCN CAMS for all Australia and it
looks like there was a drift in UAH 2005-2006.

Until UAH resolves the issue, I think their ranking of Australian hot
years is not worth repeating."

That may help explain the large divergence in recent years.  

I will leave this post as is, with the caveat that it is based on available UAH and Acorn data.

Yes.

On Friday, 2 January, the BOM released its Climate Statement claiming 2013 as the hottest year on record.

The UAH dataset for lower troposphere temperatures has also been just released.

I have compared BOM monthly data with UAH by converting the BOM anomalies to the same reference period as UAH (1981-2010).

Here is the result:  UAH vs BOM 1978-2013 (12 month running means)uah v bom

It is plain to see that in the satellite era, Australian surface temperatures (as calculated by the BOM) reached a record last year.

For the 12 month periods to December, UAH agrees that 2013 was the hottest, just ahead of 1998 and 2009.

According to UAH, the 12 months period to October 2013 was just edged out by the 12 months to June 2010.

So, the BOM is right in saying 2013 was the hottest on their 104 year (and very much adjusted) record.

While the two datasets match reasonably well in most years, especially 1996-1999, they diverge markedly in recent extreme years.  It appears that the BOM area averaging algorithm accentuates extremes, probably because of the scarcity of observing sites in the remote inland, where warming and cooling are much greater.  Alice Springs, for example, being hundreds of kilometres from the nearest neighbouring site, contributes 7 – 10% of the national warming signal.

As well, the satellites’ remote sensors do not necessarily match the atmospheric conditions at ground level, depending on different seasonal conditions.  However, to quote Dr John Christy, “the temperature of the lower troposphere (TLT) more accurately represents what the bulk atmosphere is doing – which is the quantity that is most directly related to greenhouse gas impacts.”

So- if you are interested in the weather, how hot it is locally, consult the BOM- the old Weather Bureau.  If you are interested in whether the climate is changing due to greenhouses gases, consult the satellite data.

And yes, the weather has been hot (and still is where I live).

No Warming in North Australia for 31 Years

December 23, 2013

I’m nearly a year late with this, but I’ve only just noticed.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology’s official temperature records, for all of the Northern Australian region- the half of the continent north of 26 degrees South- the minimum temperatures are steadfastly refusing to rise.  From 1982 to 2012, the linear trendline for minima is on the decreasing side of dead flat.

Acorn tmin Nth Oz 82-12

This is longer than the 3o years regarded as the minimum period for analysing climate trends, and in spite of the massive increase in amount of CO2 emissions.  Note that 1982 and 2011-2012 were almost equally cooler than normal.

Remember  that one of the fingerprints of greenhouse warming is that minima should be increasing more than maxima.

Here is the 365 day running mean of daily minima anomalies of all Acorn sites in Northern Australia (more about this next year) up to early December this year:

tmin nth aust 1910-13a

Rather than a smoothly rising trend, the record is characterised by 10 to 15 year rapid rises and falls, responding to events in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

This is a diagram of Australia’s climate regions:summer1213  regions

After New Year I will post about minima for other regions and Australia as a whole.

Merry Christmas to all.