Nothing short of a thorough government-funded review and audit, conducted by independent professionals, will do.
[… Doctoring data or throwing inquirers off the track to deliver an outcome is unscientific and unacceptable at any time. Yet in climate science there seems to be a culture of toleration. In 2009 John Theon, retired chief of NASA’s Climate Processes Research Program, testified to a US Senate inquiry that “scientists have manipulated the observed data to justify their model results”.
Fast forward to today. This newspaper’s environment editor, Graham Lloyd, published information that raises questions about the quality of Australia’s temperature records. In a series of articles, Lloyd published details about the Bureau of Meteorology’s data “homogenisation”, the practice that involves the mixing, matching and deletion of temperature records and that seemed to create its own discontinuities. The bureau claims to observe world best practice. Perhaps. But homogenisation practices globally are under challenge, so conformity provides little comfort. If temperature manipulation can happen somewhere, why not elsewhere?
In response to The Australian’s report, the BoM quietly released a “nothing to see here” summary of the impact of temperature adjustments at 112 locations around Australia with the list of reference stations used for comparison. The stated reasons for homogenisation seem arbitrary. Words like “merge”, “move” and “statistical”, provide little understanding of the thinking behind each decision or the reason stations were chosen. Colonial records are dismissed, notwithstanding the existence of Stevenson screens and the undoubted diligence of record keepers pre-1910. To the layman, the list of so-called “nearby” stations used to homogenise data raise questions of suitability. Is Bathurst jail really an appropriate site to include for homogenising Bourke’s records?
As a member of the World Meteorological Organisation, the BoM is inevitably caught up in global warming politics. After all it was the WMO that part established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and it remains an anthropogenic warming propagandist.
The BoM is a large and expensive agency, employing 1700 people and costing more than $300 million a year to run. The importance of its database and the reliability of its forecasts go well beyond direct operating costs and daily bulletins. As the bureau says, 10 per cent of Australia’s GDP is weather sensitive. This makes its input to public policy potentially valuable. But it must first dispel suspicions of a warming bias. The memory of Climategate and its casual approach to celsius conversion, lingers. It should explain why homogenisation consistently turns cooling trends to warming and why pre-1910 records were dropped and, with them, the extreme heatwaves of the Federation drought.
The record is error-ridden. Even to an amateur, the latest information dump prompts more questions than answers. The concerns about Rutherglen raised by Lloyd as to why a 0.35C cooling became a 1.73C warming still have no satisfactory explanation. No supporting documentary evidence, algorithms or methodology have been produced, leaving the unfortunate impression that temperature records were falsified. […]
Lending its name to clearly partial scholarship only increases concerns that the bureau puts climate change advocacy ahead of scientific rigour and transparency. Trust in our national climate records is critical. Yet the more we see, the more we question. Now is not the time for a tame review.For the sake of public policy and the BoM’s reputation, the air must be cleared.
Maurice Newman chairs the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council. These views are his own.