Formal Request to audit BOM and CSIRO Climate Data

A team of skeptical scientists, citizens, and an Australian Senator have lodged a formal request with the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) to have the BOM and CSIRO audited.

The BOM claim their adjustments are “neutral” yet Ken Stewart showed that the trend in the raw figures for our whole continent has been adjusted up by 40%. The stakes are high. Australians could have to pay something in the order of $870 million dollars thanks to the Kyoto protocol, and the first four years of the Emissions Trading Scheme was expected to cost Australian industry (and hence Australian shareholders and consumers) nearly $50 billion dollars.

Given the stakes, the Australian people deserve to know they are getting transparent, high quality data from the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM). The small cost of the audit is nothing in comparison with the money at stake for all Australians.

Jo Nova is part of the team, more details at her blog:  http://joannenova.com.au/2011/02/announcing-a-formal-request-for-the-auditor-general-to-audit-the-australian-bom/

45 Responses to Formal Request to audit BOM and CSIRO Climate Data

  1. Malcolm Hill February 16, 2011 at 10:15 am #

    One can’t help thinking that they have brought this on themselves by not responding to legitamate queries raised by qualified and capable people who have had perfectly legitamate reasons for asking.

    Its either its a case of being just too dam arrogant to respond to mere mortals, and/or there is nothing wrong with their work, or there are legitatmate problems with their records, which they are trying to keep under the table.

    It doesnt matter which way you look at it, the BOM management havent been terribly smart.

  2. val majkus February 16, 2011 at 11:13 am #

    I’ve put this comment on Jo Nova’s site
    I’m just wondering if the NAO (national audit office) approach is the way to go; I’ve been quickly scanning the Act and I can’t see that a performance audit by the NAO will achieve anything other than maybe a perusal of what BOM says about its adjustment methodology but that could have been ascertained through an FOI request, I’m probably mistaken as I would have thought the Senator would have some idea as to whether a request would be effective in the sense that it results in an outcome; I do say I know nothing much about the NAO and have never read the Act before so …. but it’s a very interesting development and whatever happens the work by Jo and the volunteers will not have been wasted because if no outcome is achieved or an unsatisfactory one then the type of action the NZCSC have taken against NIWA is still available

  3. JoNova February 16, 2011 at 1:19 pm #

    Thank you Jennifer. There is so much work to do isn’t there? We are just at the start of the ramp up toward Green Senate control. Yes, Val, it’s not clear that the ANAO will dive into this — but there is so much money at stake, these records need to be audited. If not the ANAO then who?

  4. Neville February 16, 2011 at 1:47 pm #

    Let’s hope that there can be an proper independent audit carried out and they don’t have to resort to legal action to recover data.

    If there is a problem with the record, Aussies could be funding a useless program to mitigate CC at an ongoing cost of billions pa all based on a false assumption.

  5. spangled drongo February 16, 2011 at 3:46 pm #

    If you observe your car’s thermometer as you drive from bushland to a bitumen road, a village, a town, a freeway, a metropolis and you realise it is the metropolis that usually houses the official thermometer, then you realise that an exacting audit by people who understand the science, is well overdue.

  6. spangled drongo February 16, 2011 at 4:03 pm #

    This is a great step in the right direction and thanks to all involved especially “our” cohers.

  7. spangled drongo February 16, 2011 at 6:27 pm #

    They could audit some of the RETs while they were at it.

    We need warming to save us from warming:

    http://www.nationalpost.com/Northern+Brunswick+wind+turbines+frozen+solid/4287063/story.html

  8. el gordo February 16, 2011 at 6:37 pm #

    It has been rumored that Lord Oxburgh and Muir Russell, Climategate celebrities, will be arriving in Sydney tomorrow. It sounds like they are here on business, to shore up BoM.

    I feel a whitewash coming on.

  9. rog February 17, 2011 at 5:28 am #

    This is just more silly nonsense from crackpot conspiracists. The NZ equivalent of the BOM was audited and peer reviewed and their records vindicated. The claims made by retired schoolteachers and other so called experts should be treated with the caution that they deserve.

  10. jennifer February 17, 2011 at 9:30 am #

    Rog,

    The evidence suggests the ‘conspiracists’ have a case. See also

    http://jennifermarohasy.com/blog/2009/03/confirmation-bias-at-the-australian-bureau-of-meteorology/

    and you if you read the climategate emails you would know that ‘Harry’ was appalled at the state of the BOM data.

    Cheers,

  11. cohenite February 17, 2011 at 10:32 am #

    rog, I don’t suppose it will be forthcoming but would you care to link to evidence for your claim that: “The NZ equivalent of the BOM was audited and peer reviewed and their records vindicated.”?

  12. el gordo February 17, 2011 at 12:46 pm #

    I sense a troll without data or intellectual depth.

  13. sinesurfer February 17, 2011 at 1:50 pm #

    @cohenite Here: http://www.niwa.co.nz/our-science/climate/news/all/7-station-series-review

    Specifically: “The key result of the re-analysis is that the New Zealand-wide warming trend from the seven-station series is almost the same in the 2010 revised series as in the previous series. That is, the previous NIWA result is robust. In terms of the detail for individual sites, the 100-year trend has increased at some sites, and decreased at others, but it is still within the margin of error, and confirms the temperature rise of about 0.9 degrees over the last 100 years.”

    So yes, Rog is right about the outcome of the NZ case.

  14. cohenite February 17, 2011 at 4:46 pm #

    sinesurfer; you’re joking, surely? Here is the NIWA report:

    http://www.niwa.co.nz/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/108934/Report-on-the-Review-of-NIWAas-Seven-Station-Temperature-Series_v3.pdf

    Here is the first of no doubt many critiques of NIWA’s ‘peer review';

    http://www.climateconversation.wordshine.co.nz/2011/02/niwas-review-taking-a-hiding/#more-8892

    Here’s BoM’s description of their brief:

    “In this context ‘scientific review’ means a critical inspection/examination of the station reports taking into account the range of supporting evidence provided. The ideas, methods and conclusions of the papers are assessed for scientific error, internal consistency, clarity and scientific logic.

    The data and methodology provided in the reports from NIWA are taken as an accurate representation of the actual analyses undertaken. We are not in a position to question all of the underlying analyses and data that have contributed to the final results, such as methods used to compile raw data taken at stations. We do, however, perform some independent analyses as appropriate to the aims of the review as outlined above.”

    So, in short, NIWA gave them the data told them what we did and BoM thought that was fine; and here’s what NIWA said they did in the section headed ‘Brief History':

    “The concept of the seven-station temperature series was originally developed as part
    of Dr Salinger’s 1981 PhD thesis (Salinger, 1981). He recognised that, although the
    absolute temperatures varied markedly from point-to-point across the New Zealand
    landscape, the variations from year to year were much more spatially uniform, and
    only a few locations were actually required to form a robust estimate of the national
    temperature anomaly. In an appendix to that thesis, Salinger calculated adjustments
    for many sites across New Zealand, in order to correct for site moves or other
    inhomogeneities.
    During the early 1990s, the seven-station series was revised and updated as a research
    activity within climate research programmes undertaken by the NZ Meteorological
    Service and NIWA under contract to the Foundation for Research, Science and
    Technology. Station histories and site changes in the series were documented by
    Fouhy et al., 1992. The homogenisation procedures were described along with the
    resulting time series data for each station by Salinger et al., 1992. This latter
    document did not, however, provide any tables of adjustments.
    In February 2010, NIWA published the adjustments in use at that time (see web link
    above). We also placed a document on our website detailing the adjustments for site
    changes at Hokitika and the reasons for them. Because of the interest generated by
    this document, NIWA produced similar documents for the other six locations used in
    the “seven-station” temperature series. These documents were peer reviewed and
    published on the NIWA website.”

    When you connect to the link and chase down the reasons for the adjustments and the conclusions about the effect of the adjustments on the trend this is what you find:

    http://www.niwa.co.nz/our-science/climate/news/all/nz-temp-record/review/changes/technical-notes-on-seven-station-temperature-series-data

    Deplorable! This is their reason and justification for creating a 0.91C trend out of effectively no trend at all.

    This matter must go back to court. And rog wouldn’t know his head from a pineapple.

  15. sinesurfer February 17, 2011 at 5:07 pm #

    I don’t understand – the report you’ve linked to says BOM examined the analysis presented in the papers. Obviously they can’t examine the methods used to _collect_ the raw data because that’s already been done, and would probably be something really boring like “the reading from the thermometer was written down each day”. And their conclusion about the analysis is that the modifications are justified.

    As far as not having access to the raw data, well it seems to be publicly available here: http://cliflo.niwa.co.nz/

    The second link you pointed to contains 4 changes, one of which is a relabelling of one of the stations and two of which are additions of extra data which has been digitised recently. There is one called “Correction of value of Waingawa, April 2010″ which 404s when I try to see more details, but which I assume is ok to be corrected given it is recent data. It’s hardly an example of changing 50 year old data.

    Nothing deplorable there as far as I can see.

  16. el gordo February 17, 2011 at 5:22 pm #

    ‘The page you are looking for does not exist’. Very amusing, I can see them in the back room tweaking the data.

    We cannot trust the ‘adjusted’, because it’s dodgy, but I’m happy with the unadjusted.

    http://wattsupwiththat.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/7ss_unadjusted_niwa.png

  17. sinesurfer February 17, 2011 at 5:41 pm #

    That’s exactly the same _raw_ dataset that’s available on the NIWA website I linked to above, only it’s linked from Anthony Watts’ site.

    It’s hardly like NIWA is trying to hide the raw stuff from you. If you don’t like their adjustments then you’re welcome to interpret the data how you please. You just need to convince others that your interpretation carries some weight.

    I’m not trying to say that a data audit is necessarily a bad thing, nor that scientific bodies should be taken at their word per se, I just fail to see how the AG is going to audit scientific reasoning, and how the result of such an audit is going to be any different than the NIWA case.

  18. cohenite February 17, 2011 at 6:24 pm #

    Ok sinesurfer, you tell us why and how the raw data was adjusted.

  19. sinesurfer February 17, 2011 at 7:03 pm #

    The burden of proof is not on me cohenite.

    You are the one who claimed that NIWA had done something despicable in their interpretation of the raw temperature data. I have asked you to outline what you think they did wrong, and you provided me with some links that didn’t back up what you were saying.

    What specifically is wrong with NIWA’s interpretation of their dataset?

  20. Luke February 17, 2011 at 7:36 pm #

    Ah it’s just the harassment tactic by the usual suspects. Email hacking will be next.

    Should slow BoM and CSIRO down a while they answer this latest slew of b/s.

    Of course drongo sceptics could have published their own analysis by now (and not E&E pls).

    But as we know sceptics don’t publish (well apart from E&E).

    We all wrote another letter begging the AG to audit the sceptics including magazines under Cohenite’s bed. He said he’d love to but it was out of scope. He’s passed their names to ASIO though for surveillance. See that van across the street? Was it there yesterday?

    Who’s Cory anyway – some rightist hack.

  21. rog February 17, 2011 at 7:42 pm #

    Conduits, you earlier asked me for some evidence and then showed the evidence. Which makes me think you are not being genuine.

  22. rog February 17, 2011 at 7:43 pm #

    That should be Cohenite.

  23. el gordo February 17, 2011 at 7:51 pm #

    ‘What specifically is wrong with NIWA’s interpretation of their dataset?’ I honestly don’t know, but I’m learning.

    http://www.climateconversation.wordshine.co.nz/2011/01/7ss-–-r-i-p/

    Cory is the sorta guy who will one day go down to the lower house and become leader of an agrarian revolution.

  24. cohenite February 17, 2011 at 7:56 pm #

    Right, we’ve got the 3 stooges present so let’s recap; rog says NIWA’s temperature record has been vindicated; following sinesurfer’s advice I went on a search of NIWA’s BoM peer reviewed ‘vindication’ [which streches the meaning of ‘vindication’ to pointlessness] and sundry NIWA links where the alleged basis and method of their adjustments is described and found some of luke’s braincells and a bad odour; here is the issue in a pretty picture, before and after adjustments:

    http://climatescience.org.nz/images/PDFs/app3.graph.pdf

    The only problem is there is no description of HOW or WHY the adjustments were made; and all we have in response is the “burden of proof” is on me; well, consider it unburdened.

  25. el gordo February 17, 2011 at 8:35 pm #

    The NZ Temperature Record was reviewed by Brett Mullan, then peer-reviewed internally by David Wratt and James Renwick, and externally by BoM.

    NIWA gave BoM the Report to peer review, but did they? Thick as thieves.

    The work would then supposedly be submitted “as a paper to a scientific journal where it would be subject to the normal independent peer-review process.”

    Anybody seen that yet? Are you there, Rog?

  26. Luke February 17, 2011 at 10:09 pm #

    Oh boring – who cares about Hobbits anyway. Stop stuffing around Cohenite – get Stewy and Stockers going on your best effort Aussie sceptics data set. And no tricks eh !

  27. rog February 18, 2011 at 5:05 am #

    Ah, the NZ branch of the flat earth society are being offered up as “evidence”.

    And what is their evidence?

  28. sinesurfer February 18, 2011 at 7:07 am #

    Thanks for that graph Cohenite. Could you link to the report that it came out of? I can’t find it on that site but maybe my google-fu is failing me! :)

    My only concern here is that you still haven’t said why the adjustments were wrong! You’ve given me a graph which shows that there is a fairly large adjustment, but that could still be scientifically correct. We’re not arguing about whether an adjustment occured, but whether it was needed (my view) or a morally repugnant tinkering with raw data (your view).

    My reading of the analysis that NIWA undertook of their temperature series data was to remove any heat island effects, and changes in monitoring location in the temperature series. This seems entirely reasonable, as you have to compare apples with apples.

    Secondly, the reanalysis came up with exactly the same results, even with a materially different set of assumptions about these corrections. If this was in one of my physics experiments I would conclude that the analysis is not very sensitive to the set of corrections chosen and that the result was fairly robust.

  29. cohenite February 18, 2011 at 7:37 am #

    The source of the data in the graph is here:

    http://www.climateconversation.wordshine.co.nz/docs/awfw/are-we-feeling-warmer-yet.htm

    There is no doubt that major adjustments occurred; these adjustments, as is plain, were not to do with UHI, but involved almost ubquitous cooling of the early data with Dunedin being the only exception in the 7 station series; that cooling automatically increased the warming trend; there is no explanantion for this. A relook at the NIWA’s Defence is instructive:

    http://nzclimatescience.net/images/PDFs/statement_of_defence.pdf

    Section 8 which, denies that the adjusted record is a public data base but that the raw data is, is the sort of Defence which is loved by all prosecutors; but I’ll let you guys figure out why.

  30. Andrew Barnham February 18, 2011 at 8:50 am #

    Hi Sinesurfer

    I cannot comment on specifics of NIWA but I have spent alot of time myself working through the BOM datasets and I have developed a view of the issue of adjustments based on this particular dataset.

    Firstly the adjustment methodology is arbitrary and subjective. It is not based on some well heeled and objective statistical process. The results vary dramatically depending on who does the adjusting. For example when GISS adjust world temperatures the trend result at the end is much the same. But when BOM do it, the result difference is at least a 20% positive bias on the result; and as much as a 40% bias depending on what study and precise data sets you look at. Yet senior BOM spokes people are on public record saying no such bias exists. But it is right there in the data. Did they even bother to check their own data when they made such statements?

    Additional this bias is exactly the opposite of what one would intuitively expect; because temperature stations tend to cluster towards population centres and as such are subject to the problem that proximity to an environment that is increasingly urbanised becomes increasingly warmer as a consequence. Our intuition tells us that the raw record should show a warming that in part is caused by urbanisation, and that this signal needs to be removed in order to arrive at a proper estimate of CO2 AGW warming. Since the process of adjustments does the opposite, burden of analysis is on the adjusters to provide a full account of this. But they can’t, because they do not even acknowledge that their process injects bias in the first place.

    The methodology is poorly documented in literature. There are over 2,800 adjustments made to BOM dataset in the original analysis. Adjustments are assigned meta data in form of a 1-4 character code that provides some clue as to reason for the adjustment (i.e. switched location of the station, in some cases over 80km away (but distance change is not encoded). Or recorded urbanisation around the station; i.e. construction of a new building). But the workings of discovering adjustment points are not documented, the basis of magnitude adjustments is not documented. Book keeping supporting these activities is non-existent beyond a vague letter code.

    The clincher for me in all this is that the reason why all these adjustments are even necessary is that the preferred method of statistical analysis of temperature records demands it, and the method is so sensitive to poor data that the method requires alot of manual and subjective data manipulation and requires alot raw temperature record information to be ignored. But other techniques exist that circumvent these problems; that eliminate the need to apply the adjustments that are applied and that permit integration of partial data records.

    It is like they are not really trying to understand what the raw data implies. The data is ‘tortured’, unnecessarily, the techniques are crude and simplistic (I replicated their results myself in a few evenings across a 2 week period, and statistical analysis is not even my principal professional competency).

    I want more from these institutions. I want to see that they know how to handle and respect data properly. I want an impeccable and comprehensive log of work; and if 2800 adjustments are required then each one should be meticulously documented. I want confidence that this institution that we charge with responsibility to assist in verifying the CAGW hypothesis is using the up-most in state-of-the-art to ensure best possible outcomes. As someone who enjoys analysing large volumes of data, the result of the analysis is secondary to me, what I care about is a comprehensive, skilful high quality analysis that I can trust (in any analysis I came across in my professional duties, not just this public interest issue). No such thing exists yet in my opinion. If CAGW turns out to be a real problem, then so be it. The best thing that such institutions can do to ensure that they have contributed to addressing the issue of CAGW, if it is indeed an issue, is to perform their duties to the highest standards humanly possible.

  31. el gordo February 18, 2011 at 11:15 am #

    Geoff Sherrington, commenting at Watts, is up to speed on all this.

    ‘The prime purpose is to see if the numbers are a proper reflection of the original records. Since, in an awkward way, increased temperatures equate to increased $ proposals, the audit should be seen as similar to a financial audit. It’s counting, it’s not about attributing motives.’

  32. toby robertson February 18, 2011 at 2:44 pm #

    Ive been away for a while if all posts are now delayed i apologise for attempting to post the same post.
    If the adjustments have been made for the UHI, can somebody please explain to me why in 1910 when the UHI effect would have been less/ minimal that temperatures have been adjusted down, but now when the UHI effect is presumably higher the adjustment is much smaller? Why isnt the original raw data from 1910 left alone and then the more modern data adjusted down to account for the urban heating. I am assuming ive missed something obvious, but to me the obvious is the adjustments are for something other than UHI?

  33. el gordo February 19, 2011 at 7:36 am #

    Toby

    To make the late 20th century readings look higher (ie hockey stick) they adjusted the earlier figures down to create a strong upward curve.

    I cannot confirm this, but that’s the general gist of the argument.

  34. toby robertson February 19, 2011 at 9:40 am #

    Thx EG, I understand the argument….just not the reasoning. It makes no sense to me to have the early data adjusted by so much when there would have been little UHI effect, and only a little when there is presumably much more of an effect as cities/ towns get bigger!?
    Perhaps someone who believes the adjustments are reaonable ould hazard an explanation?

  35. el gordo February 19, 2011 at 10:54 am #

    Toby

    Luke or Gavin may say something in defense of unwarranted adjustments, or perhaps Rog will give us an insight.

    We have to wait for the audit.

  36. Luke February 19, 2011 at 11:17 am #

    Well lads – just hope you’re right. Do an audit and if it backfires – the sceptics will have nowhere to hide.

    Bring it on !

  37. el gordo February 19, 2011 at 11:37 am #

    And here is what the Deltoidians think of it.

    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2011/02/the_war_on_the_bureau_of_meteo.php#comments

  38. toby robertson February 19, 2011 at 1:41 pm #

    Luke can you explain why the early data is changed by more than the modern data if the adjustments are for UHI? It makes no sense to me at all, but maybe im missing something obvious to you?

  39. el gordo February 19, 2011 at 1:47 pm #

    O/T

    The penny has dropped, our chief scientist resigns.

    http://www.itwire.com/science-news/energy/45277-australias-first-chief-scientist-resigns

    Rumor has it that she spat the dummy on AGW.

  40. Luke February 19, 2011 at 4:36 pm #

    Toby – who knows – why not ask BoM instead of imaging the worst.

  41. Malcolm Hill February 20, 2011 at 8:33 am #

    http://www.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/6706648/debunking-the-antarctica-myths.thtml

    I wonder if this is an example of the ethical standard that Peer Review is built upon, and which the BOM will rely, to justify the way its temperature record seems to have been adjusted in the ” right” direction.

    This one goes into the steadily accumulating file of examples of how Peer Review is an inappropriate process for assessing and ranking science…and probably should also be referred to Audit Authorities..given the enormous public funds this so called science consumes

    No doubt the ethically challenged would fight it all the way…using their normal methods

  42. toby robertson February 20, 2011 at 10:08 am #

    Well having read this http://www.niwa.co.nz/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/108934/Report-on-the-Review-of-NIWAas-Seven-Station-Temperature-Series_v3.pdf
    i feel more sceptical of the integrity of their data not less.
    It reads like an excuse, quite pathetic really.

  43. val majkus February 21, 2011 at 6:26 pm #

    Ken Stewart has a new post:
    Official reply to my queries at last!
    the latest update
    By kenskingdom
    Here is the complete text of the reply to my letter of 26 October 2010 to Tony Burke MP, the Minister responsible for the Bureau of Meteorology amongst other things. Dr Ayers also included a hard copy of the Jones et al. paper referenced below.

    I also include below for the public record previous correspondence with BOM.

    http://kenskingdom.wordpress.com/2011/02/21/official-reply-to-my-queries-at-last/

    any comments?

  44. Malcolm Hill February 21, 2011 at 9:22 pm #

    Uncanny the way you have a response just days after the intiation of the reference to the ANOA…. but nearly 4months + …. since your letter to the Minister.

    Since when were Phd Theses in the same class as Peer Reviewed papers.

    I note that the only other journal being quoted as a repository for PR papers from BOM staff etc is the same Australian magazine, using the same so called independant process, servicing a small population of contribuors and evaluators.

    Undeclared conflicts of interest being highly likely, and similiar to the recent Steig case in the USA over the Antarctic temp records, and as revealed in the Spectator.

  45. toby robertson February 22, 2011 at 3:39 pm #

    It reads straight from the dept of doublespeak. winston would have been proud ( originally until he developed critical thinking!)

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