NOTE: There’s an error here. I misidentified the Laverton airport in the Google Earth Map. My bad. But I will say when I typed in Laverton Airport, thats what GE gave me. There are two Laverton Airports in Australia as it turns out.
Willis located the correct one and has a guest post on it here
That’s what I get for posting on the run and not having enough time. Thanks Willis – Anthony
Yesterday I visited Tasmania’s Hobart weather station and found it surrounded by buildings and a collection of air conditioners. Today we have a complaint about another BoM weather station from a working scientist.
The discontinuity with a step shown above is a bit of a puzzle. Perhaps the station was moved or the airport upgraded or both?
A letter below from Marc Hendrickx to Australia’s Peter Garrett MP Minister for Environmental Protection has some interesting points. Why does GISS tag this station as having a nearby population of 2.5 million when it clearly does not? See below:
Looking at the town and airport from the air, it is obvious the number is wrong:
The aerial photos at Google Earth are not of high enough quality to determine where the weather station actually is, and all of the lat/lon published at GISS and NCDC are very coarse. Perhaps somebody knows someone who lives in Laverton who can go to the airport and help us location the station.
Here’s the letter:
23 June 2010
Berowra Hts NSW 2082
Hon Peter Garrett MP
Minister for Environmental Protection, Heritage and the Arts
PO BOX 6022
House of Representatives
Canberra ACT 2600
RE: Urban Heat Island effect Laverton, Victoria
I was recently contacted by a senior member of Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) staff Dr
David Jones in regard to a comment I published in the Journal Biology Letters1. My comment discussed problems with an earlier publication2 that claimed a link between changes in butterfly emergence times and dangerous man made global warming around the Melbourne area. Dr Jones is the head of BOM’s Climate Monitoring and prediction unit within the National Climate Centre. I am a working geologist with a MPhil and a PhD candidate at the University of Newcastle.
Dr Jones inquiries were restricted to discussion of the quality of weather station data used in the emergence study and my comment in which I called the quality of this data into question. In particular Dr Jones was concerned with assertions that BOM weather station Laverton (ID 87031) was potentially affected by the Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect. This effect has a significant impact on temperature and is derived from man-made changes in the energy balance in urban centres, to the point where sites that are affected are not useful for monitoring climate unless they are adjusted. The bias arises as a direct result of two different but associated processes. The first involves direct heating of the air surrounding an instrument from vehicle emissions, air-conditioning, industry etc. The second involves land surface changes that include changes over time due to human influence in albedo (change in vegetation for instance), thermal aerodynamic properties (buildings that change air flow around a site), hydrology (affects evaporation) and morphology of the surface.
BOM currently regards Laverton as a “High Quality” site and uses it as part of its climate
monitoring network. BOM currently does not adjust station records at Laverton for UHI.
The population around the Laverton station has changed significantly since the station was first opened. ABS statistics indicate a population increase from 7853 in 1933 to over 132,000 in 2008. It is also clear from aerial photographs that there has been significant urban development around the station since its inception, with significant growth in residential development over the last three decades.
In the course of my correspondence with Dr Jones it has become clear that no measurement has been made of the potential affect of UHI on Laverton’s temperature data. A study published in the Australian Meteorological Magazine3 used as evidence by Dr Jones merely assumed the station was “rural” but provided no proof to support this. Contradicting Dr Jones claims this study states: “It is possible that the measured Melbourne UHI is a slight underestimate, as measurements across the Urban-rural boundary were not continued far into the rural area.” I understand from Dr Jones that Laverton occurs near the end of the transect used in the study and hence lies inside the urban side of this boundary.
Additionally this study determined a quantitative relationship between UHI and population for south east Australia. Using the equation furnished in this paper and ABS statistics, the UHI at Laverton can be calculated at 5.18 degrees over and above rural temperatures. Clearly on this basis Laverton cannot be considered a ‘rural’ site.
An additional study4 quoted by both Dr Jones and myself used Laverton as a “proxy” for
rural conditions. This study states (p.1933-1934). “Using the mean value from these three
airport monitoring stations (includes Laverton 87031) has probably resulted in a slight
underestimation of the UHI magnitude because of their proximity to the CBD, and urban
modified surfaces such as buildings and roads/runways, along with the heat output from
anthropogenic activities”. The study does not attempt to quantify the effect. Dr Jones claims this study supports his assertion that Laverton is unaffected by UHI. It clearly does no such thing; it clearly implies the stations are indeed affected. It does not support Dr Jones’ claims.
The US and IPCC rely on NASA GISTEMP as one of its primary sources of world
temperature data. In contradiction to Dr Jones claims that Laverton is “rural” this premier
climate agency regards Laverton as an urban site with a population of 2.7 million for climate monitoring purposes5. In our discussion Dr Jones appeared unaware of this fact and suggested I contact NASA to determine why this might be the case. I find it astonishing that the head of BOM’s Climate Monitoring and Prediction unit would not be aware that NASA considers the Laverton site as urban for climate monitoring purposes. Even more astonishing is that on being informed of this he appears dis-interested in following this up further on behalf of the BOM, stating “I suggest you contact NASA GISS as to why they define a particular station as urban”. I would have thought this would have been a primary responsibility of Dr Jones and of the BOM. I would be happy to follow this up on BOM’s behalf in return for a fee for professional services.
Based on the evidence it is clear that Laverton experiences some UHI affect. In our
correspondence, Dr Jones moves from an early position of “no effect” to admitting the effect is “small”. However Dr Jones is not able to provide any supporting references or data to demonstrate how “small” this might be. It could in fact be quite significant. This is
remarkable given the importance of Laverton to BOM’s network of High Quality stations.
Based on correspondence with Dr Jones and the available published science literature it is
clear that BOM simply does not know how much UHI affects temperature at Laverton. I find this of great concern given the site is used as part of BOM’s climate monitoring network. A UHI of just 0.1 degree per decade at Laverton would significantly affect the station’s influence on regional trends. Indeed a UHI of just 0.1 degree per decade would mean Laverton would no longer be considered a “High Quality” site, ruling out its use for climate monitoring purposes.
Clearly further work is required to quantify the potential affect of UHI on temperature
measurements at Laverton. Indeed Dr Jones appears to agree stating “this strike (sic) me as a research project and not an operational activity – perhaps a nice Honours project.”
While this issue may seem a mute point, a disagreement between scientists, of little interest to you as the responsible Minister, I think you would agree that ensuring the accuracy of Australia’s network of meteorological instrumentation is of critical importance. If there are problems with BOM’s climate network it casts significant doubt on the ability of politicians to make responsible policy decisions. The apparent dis-interest in the issue shown by BOM is of concern and I bring it to your attention. As the Minister responsible, I request that you investigate further the issue of UHI at this key monitoring station. What is the affect of UHI on Laverton, and what is the impact of UHI on this key climate monitoring site?
A complete transcript of the email correspondence between Dr Jones and myself is available at your request, should you require it.
CC Greg Ayers Director of Meteorology
Opposition Spokesperson Hon Greg Hunt MP Media
3 Torok SJ, Morris CJG, Skinner C and Plummer N., 2001. Urban heat island features of SE Australian Towns.
Australian Meteorological Magazine 50, 1-13.
4 Morris CLG and Simmonds I., 2000. Associations between varying magnitudes of the urban heat island and
the synoptic climatology in Melbourne, Australia. International Journal of Climatology 20: 1931-1954
5 GISTEMP 2010. NASA GISS Surface Temperature Analysis – Station Data ‘Laverton’
GISTEMP ID 501948650000 (http://data.giss.nasa.gov/cgibin/
(accessed 18 March 2010).