Australian fires: Climate ‘truth bomb’?

Reposted from Dr. Judith Curry’s Climate Etc.

Posted on February 24, 2020 by curryja |

by Alan Longhurst

Recipe for Australia’s climate ‘truth bomb’:  dubious manipulations of the historical temperature record, ignorance of the climate dynamics of the Southern Hemisphere, and ignorance of Australia’s ecological and social history.

A correspondent of The Guardian newspaper writes that her personal ‘climate truth bomb’ hit her while she was picking ash from her glass at a wine tasting event – the Sydney Harbour bridge being dimly seen through the murk of bushfires. The truth came to her, she wrote, in the eloquent rage of Greta Thunberg and also in heat, smoke and fire.

Although anthropogenic climate change sells well, especially at The Guardian, their Sydney correspondent cannot be so ignorant about the climate of Australia or about bushfires as she pretends. Put briefly, bushfires in Australia and elsewhere have two main sources: from thunderstorms or from human activity, deliberate or otherwise – cigarette butts, sparks from brakes on railway trains, from incautious welding on farm machinery and from electric transmission lines. In California, where almost 2 million acres burned in 2018 and claimed many lives, the electricity supply company now closes down its transmission lines in windy conditions to prevent sparking and fires.

As she should have known, climate change or not, that ash in The Guardian correspondent’s wine was very probably caused by the direct action of an Australian citizen. In the current drought, 36% of fires have been judged to be accidental, 37% as suspicious, 13% as deliberate and only 6% as natural. And that pattern is not new: Australia has a serious arson problem. “In short, up to 85 bushfires begin every day because someone leaves their house and decides to start one,” said Dr. P. Reid of the Australian Center for Research in Bushfires and Arson

The geography of the Australian continent is a special case, fire-wise. It has very flat terrain without major mountain ranges, and no major gulfs to allow marine weather to penetrate inland. The pattern of rainfall is driven by the wind systems over the surrounding oceans: Pacific, Indian, Southern. The strength of the SE Trades across the breadth of the Pacific Ocean, and the moisture they transport, are paramount for rainfall in Queensland. But periodically the trades fail during Niño events and so rainfall is intermittent and decade-long dry periods are the rule rather than the exception, especially in the eastern part of the continent.

In New South Wales and Victoria, rainfall variability is also influenced by the dynamics of the Antarctic Ocean, with blocking highs developing over the ocean; in western Australia, the dynamics of the Indian Ocean are important in carrying moisture   to the continent.   But, overall, the ‘canonical driver of Australian rainfall’ is the alternating state of the SE Trades, according to Risbey and his colleagues. So periodic droughts, more frequent in the east, are the inevitable consequence of Australian geography.

The indigenous vegetation and fauna was evolved to deal with these conditions and the pre-settlement human population had, likewise, evolved a lifestyle that placed sufficiently modest demands on the environment that their survival was assured. This included lighting seasonal ‘cool’ fires that prevented the build-up of dead vegetation and produced a mosaic of burned and unburned land: this technique has now been reintroduced in the Kimberly region and ‘right across the North’ [link]

But the wave of settlement during the 19th century by European pastoralists, who did not understand their new environment, changed all that very fundamentally: ‘sheep were cheap, water was available and graziers relied on saltbush and scrub to provide quality feed when overgrazing had destroyed the perennial grass [link] Rabbits, naively introduced in 1859, were in plague numbers over most of southeast Australia by the end of the century – busily digging out the roots of native vegetation, and ring-barking shrubs.   After logging, the regenerating eucalypt woodlands lacked (and much still lacks) a closed canopy, a condition which encourages dry, shrubby ground cover and the propagation of fire.

In short, settlement was disastrous for the original drought-adapted environment of the interior of Australia and it was not long before the inevitable occurred, even without the help of rabbits.   Since reliable records began to be kept, a ‘severe’ drought has been recorded on average every 18 years, since that of 1803 which caused crop failures in New South Wales: each was accompanied by widespread bushfires.

The years 1871, 1895-1902, 1926, 1928, 1931, 1939, 1982 and 2009 each have their own Black day-of-the-week and notable high temperatures: the Black Friday fire of February 1931 burned 5 million ha. or 25% of the state of Victoria, claiming 12 lives, plus a million sheep and many cattle.

Images of dead stock and advancing dust-storms abound from those years, local newspapers headlined maximum temperatures and wrote of hardship and abandoned farms; trains were immobilised by dust storms having updrafts so strong that they emitted ball lightning.   Conditions during the Federation drought of 1895-1903 were very severe indeed, and a land surveyor recorded that he feared the heat would cause the mercury bulb of his thermometer to burst.

Today, it is widely believed in Australia that the drought and fire-storms of 2019 were the consequence of CO2-driven anomalously high air temperature; long forgotten is the fact that very high temperatures were reliably recorded during earlier droughts. During the Millennium drought of south-eastern regions from 1996 to 2010, the highest temperature recorded at Melbourne was 46.4oC in February 2009 – but on Black Thursday of 1851 Melbourne recorded 117oF (47oC) and on Black Friday of 1939 the same place recorded 45oC.

These are conditions sufficiently similar to those of the recent drought as not to make a great deal of difference to those enduring them: that is a strong statement, but it is supported by the Australian network of meteorological observations, which has a spatial coverage second only to that of the USA – and includes stations having continuous data since the 1880s. Observations were established in the early years of the Federation along with the telegraph network, and Australia boasts one of the very longest continuous records globally: observations in Adelaide began in 1856, but you will find the early data have been expunged from the currently-used Australian archives.

Note:  The GHCN data is used in this text to avoid the consequences of the post-hoc adjusting of the observations by NOAA, NASA and by the Australian BOM, discussed below.

Until recently, these observations were made at West Terrace which is a large well-grassed city park with botanic gardens, open to the four winds. The station was moved 3.5 km in 1979.

Observations were obtained with mercury thermometers in Gleisher frames or Stevenson screens up to about 1910, although in some outback locations there was probably some improvisation: Stevenson screens became standard after 1910 right up to the progressive introduction of electronic sensors in the 1990s. A comparison showed that Stevenson temperatures were 0.5-1.00C warmer during daytime than in the better-ventilated Gleisher frames: night temperatures were identical in both, winter daytime differences being about half of those of summer. [link]

There has been much reluctance to accept the validity of data from the period prior to 1910, when Stevenson screens came to be used everywhere, and this example from NASA Goddard (copied about two years ago) shows an astonishing solution: adjust the earliest homogenised (black line) observations by -3oC and progressively decrease this offset until the adjusted data become compatible with the unadjusted observations (grey line).

Fortunately, perhaps because of the support given by many other rural data to the original observations, NASA seems to have come to its senses since then, and now in 2020 (right plot) offers a more sensible interpretation that accepts the original data as having been correct.   But this now contradicts the interpretation of the Alice Springs observations by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) in their much-criticised ACORN-SAT archive (to be discussed later).

The problematic air temperature data

A common feature of the reporting of the recent drought has been an insistence that air temperatures have been anomalously high because of CO2-forced warming of the lower atmosphere; however, the original observations – prior to processing by some US and UK agencies – do not always concur.

Australia, like all nations, submits its observations annually to WMO for archiving, whence they are obtained by the US/NOAA National Climatic Data Centre and incorporated into a Global Historical Climate Network (GHCN); they become accessible also from US/NASA Goddard as the GISTEMP (global) data set and from the Hadley Centre of the UK Meteorological Office as the CRUTEM data set.   Unfortunately there has been much informal grumbling that homogenisation of individual data with neighbours, and adjustment for instrument moves were not being performed rationally either by Goddard or the CRU. The processed data have a warming trend consistently stronger than in the original data submitted by nations, and as originally archived as the GHCN.   The GHCN, GISTEMP and CRUTEM data have become the workhorses of climate change studies, and much hangs on their being correct.

To address this issue, Ross McKitrick compared all raw and adjusted GHCN data in grid-cells in which both adjusted and unadjusted data were present and found that for all years up to about 1980, the adjustments resulted in a temperature cooler than the observations, but in later years corrections tended to be in the opposite sense (delta T 0C, y-axis in left image below). The unavoidable consequence is that ‘a portion of the warming trend shown in global records derived from the adjusted GHCN archive results from the adjustments and not from the underlying data’.

These adjustments collectively increase the 20th century warming by 0.3-0.40C over the observations. This finding was confirmed independently and published informally by others (right, above) [link] The left-hand figure above results because the code used at NCDC/GHCN and at NASA/GISS to correct for terminal warming caused by urban or similar effects should be designed to cool the terminal, urbanised section of the record – but, instead of doing this, the code warms the earlier segments so as to bring the the record into proper alignment.   This inversion of the appropriate correction is not only counter-intuitive but it enables the final temperature due to urban effects to be treated subsequently as “normal”. [link]

Fortunately, the original observations as submitted by national agencies to WMO are archived by NOAA’s National Climate Data Center at U. Alabama and these have suffered only very light post-accession processing: they are the closest we can now get to the original observations and are a solid foundation for regional climate analysis: these data are available without fuss at the KNMI site as the GHCN.all file and are used in what follows.

This finding is consistent with a computation of the degree to which the pattern of trends in a homogenised, gridded data set is independent of socio-economic factors: this hypothesis is rejected (P = 7.1 x 10-14) across a grid of all land-based grid cells. This means “that extraneous (non-climatic) signals contaminate gridded climate data”, the consequence of which is that the estimated 1980-2002 global mean temperature trend must be reduced by about half, if it is used to monitor natural or CO2 induced climate change. [link]

The contiguous USA is the only large region which is covered with a satisfactorily dense network of stations, satisfactorily managed: here are the annual mean surface temperatures from the unedited GNCN archive: it offers very little support for the standard plot of the evolution of surface temperature. If we had similar data at global and secular scale there would be much less debate about the nature of climate evolution.

Fortunately, Australia has a coverage of rural data second only to the USA and these may be used to demonstrate the consequences of the fact that most Australians live on, on near the coastline, while few live in the interior of the continent. The relatively lightly-edited GHCN-all data from KNMI show temperature trends from all Australian stations within each of two rectangles: (1) 20o-29.5oN 125o-145oE representing inland regions, and (2) 10oS-40oS 105oE-155oE that includes all of Australia and thus all Australian cities and large towns with very few exceptions.

The effect of the growth of the urban, coastal population, that started seriously around 1900 after the gold rush, is very clear: an almost linear warming trend in which nights once again warm faster than days. In the rural regions, air temperatures exhibit no response to increasing CO2 contamination.

Though excellent, the Australian archives have not attracted as much attention in relation to analysis of climate change as one would have expected, although one study of a file of mostly inland, rural data found that a long cooling trend from the early years was replaced later in the century by warming “that is more pronounced where irrigation development for large-scale rice cultivation has occurred.   Neither the cooling nor the magnitude of the recent warming can be explained by anthropogenic global warming theory’ [link]. The much-discussed temperature series from the Rutherglen agricultural research station in New South Wales conforms to this pattern, although the surrounding flat terrain of the Murray River valley is intensively planted in vineyards.

Here, the natural terrain has gone long ago – but the air temperature of the place conforms to the general pattern. Summer maximum temperatures were higher during the 1930s than today, and heavy bushfires in the surrounding region occurred on 13 January 1939 which became one of the series of ‘Black’ days of the week discussed earlier: that summer was 2.2oC hotter than any of the ten most recent summers at the same place.[link] Here are the GHCN-all data for Rutherglen.

But the original data have now been heavily revised by BoM.   In particular, the series was broken at the 1939 maximum – which has disappeared – and a progressive warming has been imposed on the whole, based on homogenised data from other stations. The break was imposed because at that time the instruments had been moved ‘from one paddock to another’.

The original Rutherglen data resemble those of a cluster of 34 very rural GISTEMP stations in Queensland and NSW, chosen several years ago and selected for their length and continuity of record.

Each place was examined in satellite imagery to check the nature of the terrain immediately surrounding it, and its relative isolation; several potential candidates for inclusion were rejected on the grounds of excessive development of building around the likely placement of the instruments. Most are very small communities, so conditions are dominated by the surrounding outback environment, which is subject to very long dry spells. Land-use change has been small, many of the sites being in flat grassland with some cattle and scattered small trees and dry rocky terrain, some including a few small fields of cereals: at just three there was irrigated farming: only one is within 50 km of the coast.

Here, as in the rural-dominated USA network, the influence of urbanisation is small, and consequently there is no progressive 20th century warming. The outlying data points in the following plot, both warm and cool, are dominated by those places with some irrigation-fed farming, using rainwater accumulated behind a small earth dam; here the original bush environment has been degraded more than elsewhere. The curious jump around 1980 has been observed in other data: it awaits explanation; the vertical line indicates standardisation to Stevenson screens.

This pattern – and that of Rutherglen – is supported by yet another multi-station selection of unadjusted GHCN data, this time of a rectangle in NSW and Victoria; the pattern recalls the very long record from Adelaide, which is located in the same region. This provides further confirmation that the end of the 19th century was at least a warm as today in New South Wales in the original observations.

So the evidence is good that the climate of the vast inland regions of Australia changed very slowly during the 20th century, cooling progressively from the warm end of the 19th century and then gently warming again from the 1970s until the present time – which probably remains cooler than in 1900. Note

But all that remains hidden from most climatologists (and from The Guardian’s correspondent) because of progressive adjustment of the temperature data by NOAA, NASA and the BoM. This supposedly corrects the data for the progressive transformation of the site and, in so doing, replaces the rather stable climate of Alice Springs as recorded by the observers (solid symbols) into a secular warming trend (open symbols). This is now assumed to be correct, and is more acceptable because it supports modeled results of CO2 pollution of the atmosphere.

We can be sure that progressive warming here is a product of progressive adjusting of the data at NOAA and NASA, and not of CO2 pollution, because we have very good information concerning instrument moves.

At Alice Springs, the Stevenson screen has been located at four sites since 1890: (1) the telegraph office in open bush country, (2) the post office in town, (3) at a first airport site and (4) at a second airport site, where it remains. But, unfortunately for the adjusted 2018 data, the four segments of the original data match perfectly, indicate no progressive warming, and resemble the pattern from six appropriate rural stations: Giles, Tennant Creek, Urandangi, Boulia, Oodonata and Hall’s Creek. [link]

All this should have become a major scandal, but it appears to be of no concern to today’s climatologists, who almost unanimously accept the CRUTEM and GISTEMP archives as being correct. But the ‘adjustment’ of the original observations by NASA Goddard and the CRU is akin to the action of a museum systematist who squashes a beetle specimen underfoot because it upsets the nice tidy classification of its genus or family on which he (or she) is the sole expert.

It is now about 70 years since I learned my how profession functioned, and became involved myself in peer-reviewed science, but until recently I had not encountered anything that I personally judged to be off-colour – not so much as a squashed beetle.

Yet the imposition of warming trends, where there were none in the original data, by meteorological agencies in the USA and Britain is squashed beetles in spades and has become an essential support of the feeding frenzy that has gripped oceanographic (and other) research institutes everywhere, and in which I participated thoughtlessly in the 1990s. [link]

It is not very surprising then if the products of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) were used – whether fortuitously or not – to support the political initiative of a Labour government that in 2012 introduced a cap-and-trade carbon tax which turned out to be as short-lived as the government itself. This editing of Australian data has generated a consistent, continental warming trend throughout the 20th century that is not present in the original data   submitted by Australia to WMO in the past, and which now reside in the GHCN-all archive.

The latest version, ACORN 2, of 112 selected stations, reports the BoM, “shows that Australia has warmed by approximately one degree since 1910. The warming has occurred mostly since 1950. The frequency of daily temperature extremes has also changed since 1910. The number of weather stations recording very warm night-time temperatures and the frequency with which these occur has increased since the mid 1970s. The rate of very hot daytime temperatures has been increasing since the 1990s”.

In the technical description of ACORN-SAT on the BOM site, I can find no explanation of the abrupt change in slope around 1950, nor does there appear to be any such change in the state of the relevant drivers of Australian climate: ENSO index, Indian Ocean dipole, or in the Antarctic Ocean. Concerning this change of slope, IPCC reviewers cite CO2-forcing as sole the source of increasing temperature and consequent drought. [link] In any event, for reasons that must seem good to them, the BoM has removed all reference to years earlier than 1910 from the ACORN-SAT data. This is unfortunate, because it is perfectly clear from the historical record that devastating droughts and bushfires are not novel, CO2-forced events, but have been suffered – and were recorded – by settlers in Australia since the earliest days.

There has been some formal agitation for an official audit of the revision of its archived data held by the BOM [link], although this seems unlikely to be implemented.   Fortunately, however, help is at hand, because six concerned individuals, the WA Climate group, has performed such an audit and posted the results in a series of consultable documents:

  • – ACORN 2 influence on Australian temperature trends
  • – ACORN 2 changes to Australian temperature history
  • – Australian very hot days show no extreme climate change
  • – Average temperature trends across Western Australia (all 32 stations)
  • – GISS raw and BOM High Quality adjusted temperature comparisons
  • – Australia raw temperature trend audit of BoM HQ static
  • – September 2016 coldest in SW Australia since 1897

The first of these offers, for each state, a review of the data of every station in the BoM archive, including analyses of rates of change per decade (back as far as data exist), a detailed catalogue of changes made at the observing site, plots of annual average maximum and minimum temperatures (with associated Excel spreadsheets) and so on.   One of the Queensland stations is Bourke, also included in my selection of rural sites discussed above.

For this place, I discover that “Bourke 48013 has annual max temps back to 1878: 1878-1909 = 28.62C” and that “1989-1998 raw max averaged 27.33C and post AWS 2000-2009 averaged 28.27C”, and finally that ”Observations were originally made within the Bourke township (048013). This site had trees and buildings nearby and the lawn around the screen was regularly watered. There was a small site move within the Post Office yard in May 1937, and the screen was replaced in November 1964. A site (048239) was established on the southern side of the airport near the terminal building on 11 November 1994. Observations continued there until January 1999. The current site began operations in December 1998, 700 m north of the previous airport location but with only a minimal overlap. These data are used in ACORN-SAT from 1 January 1999.”

Yet Bourke, like all the rest of the ACORN stations, has been truncated at 1910 and what happened in the previous decades – for which we have good evidence of great heat and withering droughts – seems now to be of no concern to the BoM. Others have pointed to errors in observer’s records that have not been corrected, e.g. minimum daily temperatures that are higher than maximum, or significant rounding-up errors in transcription of observers logs.[link]

Finally, BoM failed to comment on the fact that the warming trend is largely restricted to night temperatures although this is characteristically associated with urbanisation; this is a very weak point in their argument, because the influence of urbanisation is not restricted to the passive radiative effects of buildings, but also to the consequences of the heat of combustion generated in situ by transportation, heating, and industry: this is a major, but habitually overlooked, factor in urban heat islands everywhere. [link]

So, what was the direct cause of the 2019 drought and firestorms?

Finally, what was the probable cause of the conditions that led to the 2019 drought and fire storms? Do we have to invoke anthropogenic CO2 as has been widely done, or is there a more parsimonious explanation?

In fact, conditions were ripe for a catastrophic fire season in 2019. The strong Niño of 2016 and the weaker event of 2019 had created a significant rainfall deficit: in 2018, rainfall over southeastern Australian mainland was in the lowest 10% of historical observations, particularly from April onwards.  New South Wales was deep in drought by August 2018 and remained so until May 2019, when more than half of Queensland was also declared to be in drought. The BoM declared the drought to be worse than the Federation Drought, the WWII drought and the Millennium drought, but presented no evidence for that doubtful statement.

But that may not have been the most important factor in the fires. Fire reduction burning had been done in only 1% of the Victoria woodlands when at least 10% was required, according to the foresters, and previously agreed to by government. But the expert advisory committee described the governments reaction to their advice as “a farce, conveniently ambiguous and deceptive to the point of arrogance”.   Consequently, there were dangerous fuel loads in in Victorian bush-lands and the members of the forest fire advisory group accused the Victoria government “of tacitly neglecting its commitments to fuel reduction to appease the green lobby”.

If you want to see the resultant conditions for yourself, take a drive on Google Earth up any small road in the hills of NSW or Victoria…you will see scorched trees, a thick layer of dead leaves and abundant underbush.

Given the rainfall deficit together with such conditions in the bushlands, accidents are inevitable and, together with the propensity of some people to arson, one needs to look no further for the cause of the unstoppable fires. Today, as I write this, the BBC is reporting that a volunteer firefighter of 19 has been arrested for seven counts of alleged arson in an area south of Sydney, NSW. And another arsonist finds himself charged with manslaughter.

* * * * * * * * *

So there is really no need to complicate things by the insertion of CO2 forcing into this rather sad story – which William of Occam suggested we shouldn’t do unless it was really essential.

But that means that if Graham Redfearn, who also writes for The Guardian, happens to see this text, I shall find myself accused of being another amateur of ‘conspiracy theories’ concerning the ‘corruption’ of archived temperature data by government agencies, along with Jennifer Marohasy and others. Redfearn suggests that scientists should accept the reasons put forward by the BoM for their revisions of the temperature archive and, of course, as a journalist he is entitled to express that opinion.

But investigative journalist he proves not to be, for he has obviously not read any of the material quoted here concerning the unfortunate revision of international archives of temperature data by some US and UK government agencies. The BoM is, of course, entitled to do what it think fit with its own data, although I happen to think they have not got it right.

Failure to understand the climatic and other causes of the Australian bush fires leads to failure of implementing sensible policies to ameliorate the situation.

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Ian Bryce
February 24, 2020 6:23 pm

The Melbourne temperatures flat-lined until 1958, then they started to rise, probably due to UHI. They are now about 2.5C above that line. I suspect that the BOM have been using that as a model for adjusting temperatures, even though the rural stations are hundreds of kilometres away from that site.

Robert B
Reply to  Ian Bryce
February 25, 2020 12:43 am

The site that the temperatures were taken from were moved from within the botanic gardens to a city street. It has a park across from it but the area behind it has built up significantly.

I had a quick Google to find the details but came across this paper instead “Outdoor human thermal comfort in Melbourne’s botanic gardens”. Kind of tells you how much hotter that 47 in 1851 was than the 46.5 in a modern urban setting.

Komrade KUma
Reply to  Robert B
February 25, 2020 3:37 am

Years ago I read about research conducted by Melbourne Uversity which determined that the Melbourne UHI was about 5˚C. In Sydney there is not uncommonly a 10˚C difference between the ocean side suburbs ( such as Bondi or Manly) and the Western Suburbs of as much as 10˚C. It was recently reported that two streets in Western Sydney had about 5˚ç difference in temperature due to the fact that one was tree lined and the other pretty much bare.

CO2 has gone up from say 250 to 400 ppm it is said or 60%. By what % do you reckon the amount of steel, concrete and bitumen has gone up in the same time? 600%. 6000%? The whole temperature rise thing is either a fanciful bit of unscientific nonsense or just a scam based on a system that is completely unfit for purpose.

Zig Zag Wanderer
February 24, 2020 6:38 pm

Global Warming is definitely man-made. Just not in the way alarmists claim, but by data manipulation.

Reply to  Zig Zag Wanderer
February 25, 2020 12:54 am

I get what you are saying, Zig Zag, but there is an element of the warming being man-made i.e. data manipulation, concrete jungles, deforestation etc.

IMHO. stating it’s “data manipulation” without qualifying plays into the hands of the watermelons.

Reply to  Zig Zag Wanderer
February 25, 2020 2:52 pm

When the fires were raging the media was breathless about the temperature is some small Australian town. They said it was 50C, an all time record,unprecedented… blah. blah.

So I checked on the Weather Channel website. 25C. How these people lie.

February 24, 2020 6:43 pm

Maybe the essence of it all is that agw climate change sees control burns in terms of their CO2 emissions and that makes control burns a bad thing and everything else just follows from that. Pls see

And please check out the “what firefighters say” link at the end.

Reply to  chaamjamal
February 24, 2020 8:21 pm

So, instead of anthropic limited burns, there will be natural massive burns, which are forced by anthropogenic activity, which instead of anthropic limited burns, … Yeah, a real Ouroboros problem, and a prime investment opportunity in laundered, socially inoculated, renewable greenbacks (or local currency).

Reply to  n.n
February 25, 2020 2:26 am

They do not want to stop massive natural burns, they are essential to promoting their agenda.

The pseudo “green” eco-fascists have ZERO interest in the well-being of the planet until they have beaten everyone into total political submission. Until that time they NEED all the melting , drought, flooding and burning they can muster.

February 24, 2020 6:51 pm

The reason the heat and strong winds were there is normal around that time of the year. Apart from the high fuel loads, high pressure systems and often blocking highs which prevent them from moving east, cause the air mass to travel north and inland over Queensland and into the Northern Territory before heading south. It so happens that in late December the sun is at it’s most southerly limit of travel and this high level of solar radiation heats the airmass over that inland areas including the Simpson Desert and the vast rocky outcrops and low mountain ranges. From long experience of flying over these areas at both low and high level and landing at outback towns I can say it is quite usual to get temperatures around 45 C during the day and there is not much out there to produce CO 2. The forecasts and knowledge of the BOM is disgraceful – a friend contacting them for an aviation forecast in Brisbane recently was told they are not allowed to look outside anymore – all done off models, not the real world outside.

February 24, 2020 6:53 pm

When do we think anthropogenic CO2 became a factor? I’ve seen 1950 as the date.

The trouble with adjusting early 20th century temperatures downward is that it creates more warming prior to 1950. That warming, presumably, would be natural and not the result of human caused CO2. The early 20th century warming looks the same as the late 20th century warming. Why would anyone think the late 20th century warming is anything but natural?

IMHO, the adjusters are hoist with their own petard.

Reply to  commieBob
February 24, 2020 7:10 pm

Not sure what you mean. Wouldn’t adjusting pre 1950 temperatures down make pre 1950 temperatures lower?

Reply to  Alex
February 24, 2020 8:54 pm

Adjust temperatures downward… following a chronological path to an early 20th century limit. The semantic structure, while awkward, does make sense in context, and the knowledge that there was a local maximum in the early 20th century, and an uncertain inflection point in the late 20th century.

The early 20th century warming looks the same as the late 20th century warming.

The very model of a stadium wave, well within known natural limits.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Alex
February 25, 2020 1:16 pm

That’s the point, Alex. Then late 20th century looks warmer.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Jeff Alberts
February 25, 2020 2:16 pm

Sorry, Alex, I misread what Commie wrote. I think he got it backwards, as you indicate.

Reply to  Jeff Alberts
February 25, 2020 5:32 pm

If it naturally warmed 0.5 deg in the early 20th century and it warmed another 0.5 deg in the late 20th century, why is the late 20th century warming not just a continuation of the natural trend?

The alarmists do not know what the expected normal climate change is. If they don’t know that, they can’t claim that the late 20th century warming validates their theory.

Smart Rock
Reply to  commieBob
February 24, 2020 7:45 pm

commieBob – they are hoist by their own petard, with the logical impasse that you have noted, and with many other failings of consensus science, well known to those who hang out here. But they don’t care, the general public doesn’t know about it because the media neither know nor care. The climate juggernaut goes on regardless.

February 24, 2020 7:29 pm

Australian government is going ahead with royal commission.

Reply to  Waza
February 24, 2020 7:39 pm

Apparently our summers are getting longer so we will put into place, legislation that will change the date of spring equinox to 2 weeks later and the autumn equinox 2 weeks earlier. We will thereby shorten summer by 4 weeks. Problem solved.

Reply to  Alex
February 25, 2020 4:22 am

thing is we really dont have the nth hem very distinct seasons anyway
the aborigines counted it as around 8 I gather
Victorias weather is very mild this summer with just those few stinking days from the west/nth winds from inland

February 24, 2020 7:29 pm

The Indian Ocean is a major contributor to the droughts and flooding rains in Australia, not the least because our weather comes from the West. The identification of the IOD has helped tremendously in understanding not only of Australia’s weather but of that of all countries bordering the IO, not the least being Indonesia where can be found a great deal of correlation between the cycles of extreme weather events both there and in Australia.
The attached report on forest fires in Indonesia and the connection to drought conditions there provides some historical perspective that goes back further than the official Australian records. It should be kept in mind that this report was compiled in 1999 which was about the time the IOD was first identified by Japanese researchers so it may be that what was in the report being attributed to ENSO may , if the report was to be revised, find that the IOD may have been more of a driving force than ENSO.

Reply to  kalsel3294
February 24, 2020 8:46 pm

Over the course of my ~70 years living in different parts of Australia, I lived through 7 significant periods of drought, and 7 significant widespread floods.

Average 1 drought + 1 flood every decade.

Was it ever thus? And what’s going to change?

Reply to  kalsel3294
February 25, 2020 5:32 am

a strong positive indian ocean dipole has preceded all our major fire seasons except 2009

Reply to  paul
February 25, 2020 10:54 pm

Agree with Paul butadd that to its credit the Bureau of Meteorology had released videos of its staff explaining the effects of the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) and the Southern Ocean Annualar mode (SAM) as the main drivers of the weather encountered in 2019-2020in Australia plus related fires
The IOD video in particular was released in November 2019 yet has been completely ignored by the MSM in particular the former Fairfax press ( Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne Age), plus the left wing Guardian and the National publicly owned broadcaster the ABC
where climate change hysteria is all the go

February 24, 2020 7:32 pm

Thanks for posting this article by Alan Longhurst which very completely and in detail, demolishes the hysterical claims linking CO2 and spurious manipulations of the temperature record and fire history of Australia by the Alarmists and promulgated by their Media outlets like the ABC, BBC, and Guardian.
Australia remains as ever, the ‘land of sweeping plains, of ragged mountain ranges of droughts and flooding rains.”

Reply to  nicholas tesdorf
February 27, 2020 3:34 am

rugged, not ragged.

Robert Doyle
February 24, 2020 7:51 pm

If century old measurements were so inaccurate as to be discarded, how do we know the globe is warming?

The documented reference is gone. Therefore, definition of “warming” is impossible.

Reply to  Robert Doyle
February 24, 2020 8:20 pm

Good point Robert Doyle. Lot of references to “since pre industrial times” but no real answer to what that reference temperature is exactly.

Some details here

Reply to  Robert Doyle
February 24, 2020 8:51 pm

Equally, if pre-1910 thermometer readings are too unreliable to use in climate tracking, how come temps from thousand-year old tree ring proxies are regarded as gospel in producing Mann’s “hockey stick” construct?

Clarky of Oz
Reply to  Robert Doyle
February 24, 2020 9:19 pm

Phrased that way, the argument for warming falls flat on it’s face. The human induced CO2 component of that warming becomes even harder to justify.

Reply to  Robert Doyle
February 24, 2020 10:05 pm

GISTEMP uses pre 1910 Australian temperature records.
Disallowing pre 1910 records was only done to discredit the significant evidence of 19th century extreme events

February 24, 2020 8:07 pm

According to the irascible Mr Twain, untruths can be classified into three broad categories: Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics. Adjusted statistics should be placed in the second category.

Tom Abbott
February 24, 2020 8:45 pm

From the article: “Yet the imposition of warming trends, where there were none in the original data, by meteorological agencies in the USA and Britain is squashed beetles in spades and has become an essential support of the feeding frenzy that has gripped oceanographic (and other) research institutes everywhere, and in which I participated thoughtlessly in the 1990s.”

These doctored/adjusted surface temperature charts are the *only* “support” the Human-caused climate change claims have. I think the author makes a pretty good case that the adjusted temperature charts are bogus, and fabricated.

From the article: “This editing of Australian data has generated a consistent, continental warming trend throughout the 20th century that is not present in the original data submitted by Australia to WMO in the past, and which now reside in the GHCN-all archive.”

“A warming trend that is not present in the original data”. This is the case with all the edited surface temperature charts. This is how the Data Manipulators try to fool the public into believing CO2 is a danger to them.

If we go by the original, unmodified data, we see that all regional surface temperature charts from around the world show that it was just as warm in the 20th Century as it is in the 21st Century.

What this means is that CO2 is *not* the control knob of the Earth’s atmosphere. It’s not any warmer today than in the recent past yet CO2 levels have increased over that time period, so CO2 is not a significant factor.

CAGW (Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming) is dead if we go by the original, unmodified surface temperature data. Somebody ought to tell the alarmists, and the politicians, and especially the poor children who they are scaring to death with their CAGW Lies.

Tom Abbott
February 24, 2020 8:55 pm

I think the BOM discards everything before the year 1910 because 1910 was a very cold year globally, so if they want to create a warming trend, then they start at the coldest part of the temperature record.

Starting in 1910 also disregards all the much warmer temperatures that occurred before 1910.

The only problem for these Data Manipulators is they left the original data available. Or rather, I should say I hope this becomes a problem for them. A big problem for them. Just as big a problem as they have caused by lying to the whole world about CO2 (for whatever reason).

Reply to  Tom Abbott
February 24, 2020 10:09 pm

Even 1908 was relatively hot.
But it the extreme heatwaves in the late 1880s which they are also trying to nullify.

Anthony Banton
Reply to  Tom Abbott
February 25, 2020 3:47 am

Splendid double standards on show here … a site where it’s proprietor “bangs” on about the unreliability of current temperature measurements.
At least they are all taken in Stevenson screens!
And what would the venom be here if the practices in place before 1910 in Australia were in use now!

The simple answer is temps taken in Oz before 1910 are simply unreliable.
Even a Glaisher screen records 1C higher than a Stevenson.

This from ….

“Meteorologist Clement Wragge, in an 1886 report (Wragge, C. L. 1886. Meteorological Inspection and Proposals for a New Meteorological Organisation, Report to the Colonial Secretary, Brisbane, presented to the Queensland Parliament, 14 pp.), pointed out that some thermometers:

… are hung under verandahs and over wooden floors; others are placed against stone walls and fences. Such exposures (not to mention the several remarkable instances of thermometers being placed and observed indoors) give results which are not only not intercomparable and so valueless to meteorology, but which are affected by artificial and secondary conditions, giving misleading values.

Wragge convinced the Queensland government to introduce the Stevenson Screen as the standard method for housing thermometers, but failed to convince meteorologists in the other Australian colonies. So for much of the country, temperatures continued to be recorded on what was known as a Greenwich (or Glaisher) Stand, or even just mounted on a wall, leaving the thermometers exposed to radiation from the ground and their surrounds.

Even where Stevenson Screens were used, they were often poorly maintained. In 1907, the newly appointed Commonwealth Meteorologist Henry Hunt complained that many of the screens in use at the time had warped and cracked, potentially allowing direct sunlight occasionally to fall on the thermometers.

Hunt’s appointment led to the rapid standardisation of thermometer exposure in well-constructed Stevenson Screens, although a few stations continued to use non-standard thermometer exposures for some years.”

Reply to  Anthony Banton
February 25, 2020 12:36 pm

” pointed out that some thermometers”
So most of the quite possible reliable thermometer readings were thrown out the window just because ”some” readings ”might” be dubious??

Anthony Banton
Reply to  aussiecol
February 26, 2020 8:15 am


As it cannot be known which, if any, are correct.
Like I’ve said. How about denizens here apply their own standards and ‘chuck out’ any temp measurements that are suspect and cannot be attributed to any known factor, rather than adjust them.

Reply to  Anthony Banton
February 25, 2020 5:14 pm

If Wragge got Queensland to introduce Stevenson screen in 1886 then the BOM should use QLD data from 1886.
QLD at 1.8m sq km is bigger than most countries and it’s data should be in play.
Brisbane record 1902 for Max temp and min rainfall.

Keith Minto
February 24, 2020 9:00 pm

I could find no reference to “Gleisher frames”. It would be interesting to see how they differ from Stevenson screens.

Anthony Banton
Reply to  Keith Minto
February 25, 2020 4:02 am

Around 1C….

“So did the different ways of exposing the thermometers seriously bias the 19th-century observations, relative to modern readings? The answer is yes, and we have Charles Todd (of overland telegraph fame) to thank for answering this question.

In 1887, Todd set up what must be one of the longest-running scientific experiments ever, when he installed thermometers in a Stevenson Screen and on a Glaisher Stand at Adelaide Observatory (as seen in the illustration here). Observations were taken in both exposures until 1948.

The results of this 61-year experiment show that summer daytime temperatures measured using the Glaisher Stand are, on average, 1C warmer than in the Stevenson Screen. And this was at a well-maintained station – if a Glaisher Stand is not used properly, direct sunshine can fall on the thermometers, dramatically increasing the warm bias (and this was probably what happened at some stations, given that we know equipment was not always well maintained).

So, for much of Australia, temperatures recorded before Hunt’s insistence on standardising weather stations in about 1908 would be biased towards warmer temperatures, relative to modern observations. The poor maintenance noted by Hunt in 1907 would also lead to biased temperature recordings compared with a modern, well-maintained site.

Anthony Banton
Reply to  Anthony Banton
February 25, 2020 4:10 am

But lets not apply Anthony’s standards of exposure for climate temperature measurement shall we when that gives warming is taken at the beginning of a data record.
Tis verboten late in the record however.

Keith Minto
February 24, 2020 9:10 pm

With the correct spelling I found

February 24, 2020 9:40 pm

Australia seems to have very high OLR readings as well taken from climate4you

which tends to suggest CO2 doesn’t seem to be very effective at blocking OLR over Australia which further suggests CO2 wasn’t the culprit in the bushfires.

a happy little debunker
February 24, 2020 9:55 pm

My local digital weather station (not a part of Acorn1 or Acorn2) gets daily ‘adjustments’ upwards of between 0.6C degrees & 8C degrees – depending on the local high quality digital station of Hobart (where quite different local conditions exist).

Of course these daily adjustments are also feed back into the BOM’s homogenisation process ensuring that each year is the hottest evah.

The only thing I trust the BOM to forecast is the sunrise and sunset.

February 24, 2020 10:17 pm

When I checked the SATv2 adjustments of Kalumburu (coastal North WA) I noticed that they had adjusted DAILY temperatures in 1941 using stations (2 inland, 1 coastal) up to 775km away, which only operated for a brief (say 15 year) period from the late 1950s. So not only telelocated temperatures, but they time travelled too!

The BOM has still not carried out the recommendations of the expert panel it got to “approve” its SATv2 hocus pocus, including the “earth shattering” idea of placement of 2 digital thermometers per site, so they routinely have 10 days of total data loss when their single digital thermometer breaks (which sadly happens often), and they rarely run the old and the new thermometers to allow a sensible calibration of prior recordings, instead they swap them out on the same day.

This is not a scientific organisation.

4 Eyes
Reply to  harry
February 25, 2020 2:52 am

BOM, and the CSIRO, are treated as infallible scientific gods here in Oz. How dare you challenge their methods.

February 24, 2020 11:01 pm

The moment you add homogeney to weather/climate data 100% of the data becomes anecdotal and thus not data.

February 24, 2020 11:50 pm

Funny how Brigid Delaney’s “truth bomb” is short on truth and mostly just bomb. Leftists think that emotions are truth and facts are irrelevant. Strange.

Stephen w
Reply to  stinkerp
February 25, 2020 2:50 am

She should have called it an anecdote bomb.
Takes more then a piece of ash in a wine glass to determine cause and effect.

Reply to  Stephen w
February 25, 2020 4:30 am

and was it ciggy ash?
If Id been there I could have made sure it was;-)
free butt for no extra

Doc Chuck
Reply to  ozspeaksup
February 25, 2020 10:35 am

C’mon guys, show some due respect. The woman found a bit of ash in her glass of wine — and it apparently can’t have originated this time in the nearby ‘barbie’! As Sydney correspondent for a major English language house organ, can’t we all acknowledge that she deserved so much better than that form of libation at the garden party? But alas you then heartlessly change the subject from centering on that bomb marring her dainty afternoon and have the cheek to so fully review the actual historical, geological, and meteorological context of her charming milieu with all the attendant lethal firestorms. Isn’t that just like a man?!

February 24, 2020 11:52 pm
Don Vickers
February 25, 2020 3:58 am


Lies Damn Lies and Statistics was originally from Benjamin Disraile and entered into parliamentary records 2 years before Mark Twain borrowed them ( a case of ,I wish I had said that, to which Twain was reportedly to answer ” don’t worry you probably will” )

February 25, 2020 4:39 am

I believe that it is poor strategy to cast doubt on temperature history, thereby muddying the water, in connection with the recent bush fires.

The lesson from the bush fires is clear and obvious, without mentioning AGW. The recent weather conditions set a precedent, nobody can argue that they might not recur, therefore the previous state of the vegetation and nearby human/animal conditions cannot be allowed to recur, i.e. there was something wrong with it. That conclusion does not refer to AGW, don’t allow the greenies to invoke it.

February 25, 2020 5:54 am

It won’t be the science that brings them undone but their unscientific prescriptions and they’re on borrowed time with a please explain when the lights go out –
So much for recharging all the cyber fire trucks and treclic water bombers whenever. We’re the climate changers and we’re here to help. Yeah right!

Gary Pearse
February 25, 2020 7:48 am

 “the series was broken at the 1939 maximum – which has disappeared – and a progressive warming imposed….

“…The break was imposed because at that time the instruments had been moved ‘from one paddock to another’.”

I have pointed out on several occasions that ‘station moves’ are always invoked when you criticise adjustments. I bought into this initially, but have grown highly suspicious that this is being used for the fiddling purpose itself. The above fluffy example ‘one paddock to another’ on flat terrain is a powerful ‘tell’ for a poker player. Is it too much to think that a perfectly good, well-located thermometer that is an embarrassment to climateers WOULD BE moved to to ‘justify’ ham-handed adjustment? Mosher and Stokes both quick-draw this weapon whenever there is questioning of a temperature record.

Here is another way to corroborate the general correctness of an unadjusted record like that of the USA. The temperature pattern of the raw records is almost identical in , Canada, Greenland, Iceand, South Africa, Uruguay, Bolivia, etc, and from this article, Australia’s record appears to also be 1930s. Here is the long record from Capetown, South Africa as an example:

comment image

This may be the best way to statistically corroborate the old records validity and incidentally to establish that the climate is globally coherent. The NOAA/NASA argument about little warming in the USA because it is only 3%of the global surface is shown to be bunk, as is trying to sell MWP and LIA as only European.

February 25, 2020 8:05 am

Good tour of Australia. It is almost like being there, even on the bridge as seen through the heat, smoke, fire and ash.

Good mentioning the eloquent Greta and the heat smoke and fire.

February 25, 2020 8:31 am

“It has very flat terrain without major mountain ranges, and no major gulfs to allow marine weather to penetrate inland. ”

Maybe Australia should excavate some large gulfs, and use the removed earth to build some elevated ‘mountain ranges’. Could work. Probably cheaper than the ‘climate change action’ some would like.

Bob from Calgary
February 25, 2020 8:55 am

Thanks for this. I think though that granting that “the BoM has the right to do what it likes with its own data” is off the mark. This is public data and an asset which deserves better treatment. Misuse of public funds directly (theoretically) leads to varying levels of consequences such as dismissal or even charges.

February 25, 2020 10:25 am

The irony of this latest summer season In Melbourne is that it has been the coolest I can remember for a long time. We have had virtually no heat wave conditions ( ie 3 or more days in a row of excessive heat ( 30 degrees) and plenty of weather under 20 degrees. Yet when this summer ends the BOM will tell us it was one of the hottest summers ever if not the hottest. It frustrates me that so many people just take the BOM s word as gospel rather than trusting their own senses and memories. I keep hoping that a whistleblower will emerge from one of these corrupt organisations but my suspicions are that they employ mostly younger people whose institutionalised indoctrination and confirmation bias will fail to see any of the obvious wrongdoing and manipulation that is taking place. I suspect that if one removes these random adjustments there would be virtually no warming at all.

Reply to  Zigmaster
February 25, 2020 3:20 pm

One bloke from the BOM was giving a report the other day wearing a nose ring and other assorted facial accessories while he slobbered through his report on TV
Don’t judge a book by it’s cover? I say bullsh*t. Judge away.

David Wojick
February 25, 2020 1:52 pm

Jo Nova has a wealth of data and analysis as well.
See my

Reply to  David Wojick
February 27, 2020 12:28 pm

I didn’t bother to read the entire article, but after reading about the causes of fires I guess there’s one reason that’s not presented here. In addition to human and thunderstorm causes there seems to be a third one: In Australia some plant litter exhibits similar self combustion properties like linseed oil has. The hotter air and the more plant litter on the ground the more propable it gets. I don’t know how often it happens, but this third mechanism seems to be available there.

Clarky of Oz
February 25, 2020 3:45 pm

“If you want to see the resultant conditions for yourself, take a drive on Google Earth up any small road in the hills of NSW or Victoria…you will see scorched trees, a thick layer of dead leaves and abundant underbush.”

Google Earth is live?????

My local image is precisely 12 months and 10 days old. How the hell is that going to tell anyone anything?

February 25, 2020 3:58 pm

Here in Australia, 50% of the population is either born overseas or is a first generation Australian. This means 50% of people do not have any grandparents or family stories of life in the country. There are no stories of floods and fires and droughts that they can relate to. Television coverage of the fires showed homes surrounded by bush and eucalypts, people did not live in such vulnerable places 50 years ago because they knew the dangers of living in the Australian bush. Unfortunately this is knowledge that has to be relearnt. Given the paucity of Australian history in education and a hyper extremist media, these new Australians are vulnerable to every catastrophe warning .

February 25, 2020 5:26 pm

I feel honoured that the author has extensively cited my website, although a couple of small corrections …

The WA Climate Group (?) of six individuals is one individual – me.

The article link is broken and should be

The bullets in the article indeed point to some interesting links on my site (follow the home page list), including the decrease in very hot days at the 60 long-term ACORN stations (those open in 1910). Dig into my very hot day analyses and you’ll find a section on the temp and rainfall history of ACORN stations within the NSW and southern Queensland drought zones.

From article: “The curious jump around 1980 has been observed in other data: it awaits explanation”

Might I suggest an unreferenced page on my site: “Metrication influence on Australian temperature trends” at

The evidence is strong that 1972 metrication saw an abrupt decline in temperature rounding whereby observers in the Fahrenheit days would write X.0F, with a likelihood that an unknown majority truncated down rather than rounded evenly up and down.

BoM studies show 51% of all temperatures recorded across Australia from 1957 to 1971 were rounded, and the bureau acknowledges there was an artificial warming shift as of 1972. However, the BoM has chosen not to ACORN-adjust for this because the mid 1970s in Australia had the highest rainfall and cloud cover since records began. Record rainfall and cloud cover makes the temperature increase. Go figure.

The heavy rainfall and cloud cover unfortunately started in 1972 and partly masked the immediate influence of metrication / reduced temperature rounding. A PDO shift occurred in the late 1970s which maintained and increased the warming, but Australia was already halfway there thanks to metrication.

The article graphic re Queensland and NSW typically shows the “curious” increase in Australian temps, but it’s important to recognise that from 1972 to the late ’80s Australia was drenched and had record cloud cover.

Patrick MJD
February 26, 2020 3:46 am

WOW! Not a single post from alarmist Nick Stokes.

John Kelly
March 1, 2020 11:06 am

A sensational article, thanks Alan.

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