Guest essay by Bob Fernley-Jones
Our taxpayer funded broadcaster here in Oz, the ABC, has recently aired a scary story in its “science” TV show Catalyst, entitled Climate Extremes. (For the brave, the video and web page plus comments is here). For extra emphasis on TV there were repeated shots of several heat stressed old ladies on hospital stretchers, stacks of coffins (caskets), and much thunder and lightning etcetera.
But hey, there was this more technical screenshot sequence that rather caught my eye at about 3 ½ minutes in:
The narration elucidated how these bell curves clarified why the weather had become more extreme in the past decade, and, being a tad curious I searched around for the source, but without success. My closest find is contained in a report by our Oz government funded Climate Commission entitled The Angry Summer. (2012/3 DJF) This august body is headed by Prof Tim Flannery and amongst its expert advisors is Prof David Karoly, about whom I guess many overseas readers have heard?
But, engineers like me tend to be suspicious, and one thing I puzzled on was that the change in global average T of 0.80 C took place over a period of ~160 years according to HadCRU, and that the Catalyst show implied that the alleged effects were concentrated into the last decade.
I also worried that Carl Gauss would probably writhe in his 18th century grave to see his statistical normal distribution curve applied to an extremely complex system by our modern wizards of CAGW. In reality, the real distribution must be very lopsided around the global average of 150 C, (288K). And, the absence of units and scale also seems to be a touch odd and I pondered if it might err into an exaggeration. Putting aside the great media reverence for our Climate Commission, it disturbed me enough to compile this stuff below:
I found that not all weather extreme bell curves are equal. For instance, David Karoly is senior co-author in a recent paper entitled; The human role in our ‘angry’ hot summer, which uses a different concept. It employs some modelling projections and is based on a regional sample of Australia only and summer only, (and maybe with distribution closer to normal?). Perhaps it could be fun for anyone who might wish to explore it. Karoly’s retracted Gergis et al SH hocky-stick paper and his conclusions on a biology paper of modelled 10-day early emergence of Melbourne butterflies based on Avalon Airport temperature history, etcetera, do not fill me with confidence though!
Above is an interesting variation in figure 1.9 on page 44 of the 2nd draft AR5 IPCC report. It is a combination of two other bell curves (a) and (b).
Strangely, the Climate Commission’s claim of their source as from AR4 (S. Solomon et al) is not found in the relevant chapter 3. (E.g. 3.8.2 Evidence for Changes in Variability or Extremes – not there)
Part 2:Some more economies in material facts and relevance:
Back to our recent TV show:
NARRATION: This past year in Australia, we’ve seen plenty of heat. At the Bureau of Meteorology, forecasters have been watching record after record tumble.
The first figure from our Climate Commission below left is compared with data from our BoM. Although the BoM have apparently discarded some hotter old records, still yet, NONE of the remaining State or Territory records were broken in the angry summer according to the current BoM table, (right, modified to fit):
But, back to our TV show again quoting a wise doctor of authority in CAGW:
Dr Karl Braganza [BoM]: January was the hottest month on record. The summer was the hottest on record [in Oz]…
The next two graphs give the BoM time-series records for January and summer monthly maximum average temperature data for the crucially important Murray-Darling (rivers) Basin (MDB) “food bowl”. There was nothing special about summer in that vast area covering substantial parts of four States; a map is available here. (BTW, Oz is roughly the same size as the contiguous USA). According to the BoM the volatility of monthly past extremes in the MDB was greater than in the last decade. The master link is here and it has drop-down menus that enable visit to other regions and seasons.
So what about the individual States and Territories of Oz? Well here they are (treating the Capital Territory or ACT as part of New South Wales or NSW) for the reportedly hottest month of January, but cut off short for compactness and to ease hotness comparison:
For more commentary on the earlier unbroken temperature records map above right see this, and here is another reference which includes UAH satellite data for Australia also showing the so-called “Angry Summer”, as rather ordinary.
The drop-down menus enable research of the BoM time-series variously by regions and seasons or months, and my conclusion is that monthly average temperature extremes were greater in the past, and so too was monthly volatility. It would take much space here to demonstrate that but the drop-down menus provide the capability for those that may be interested to research it.
Part 3:Breaking the mood with something almost amusing:
I’ve also submitted a wider ranging formal complaint to our taxpayer funded ABC, concerning the bias and other stuff in this story, (the ABC is required by statute to serve the public, and breached its own editorial policies). I closed the complaint off with this:
Ms [Anja] Taylor was the declared presenter, producer and researcher for this show. She presented almost entirely extreme views with an apparent lack of investigative journalism. With the exception of Dr Fischer’s input about the warming effect of dry soils, (which is not controversial if we ignore Prof David Karoly), all other topics were either demonstrably false or controversial. Not content with presenting scientific material facts and balance, (the Editorial Policies require impartiality), she adds inappropriate drama and irrelevance including these images: