Response to ‘Yes Minister’ report by Ron Sandland

FOLLOWING  are my initial comments in response to the release of the report by the Technical Advisory Forum on the Australian Climate Observations Reference Network (ACORN-SAT):

Dr Sandland chairs 'The Forum' that has so far refused to hold an open forum.

Dr Sandland chairs ‘The Forum’ that has so far refused to hold an open forum.

I NOTE that The Forum, chaired by Dr Ron Sandland formerly of the CSIRO, concurs with the Bureau that:

“There is a need to adjust the historical temperature record to account for site changes, changes in measurement practices and identifiable errors in measurement…  To this end, the Forum supports the need for the Bureau’s homogenisation process to incorporate both metadata-based adjustments and adjustments based on the statistical detection of atypical observations. In the opinion of the Forum members, unsolicited submissions received from the public did not offer a justification for contesting the overall need for homogenisation or the scientific integrity of the Bureau’s climate records.”

As a member of the public who made an unsolicited submission, I would like to clarify that at no time did I suggest there was no need for adjustments, rather I have queried why there are adjustments made when, in fact, there are no documented site changes, no changes in measurement practices, and no identifiable errors.  Yet adjustments are still made.

The Forum appears to have overlooked many examples of this provided in the public submissions, and published by The Australian newspaper late in 2014.  For example, the Forum has completely ignored the notorious example of Rutherglen, where a slight cooling trend was converted into a warming trend, despite an absence of any metadata providing justification.

The Forum has also made no comment on the actual choice of stations for inclusion in ACORN-SAT, nor how the selection of stations has changed in recent years.  For example, in his submission to the panel, retired chartered accountant Merrick Thomson showed how the choice of ACORN-SAT stations changed from 2012 to 2013 and, how this could generate a large increase in global warming.

The Forum has suggested that the Bureau consider pre-1910 data in its analysis of climatic trends.

“Recommendation 5: Further, the possible availability of pre-1910 data at south-eastern sites may allow for a comparative analysis to be performed for south-eastern Australia to assess whether the inclusion of pre-1910 data is worthwhile in attempting to understand current temperature patterns.”

This is currently listed as a low priority by The Forum, but its inclusion is nevertheless welcome, and was a key recommendation in my submission.  I also recommended that all temperature series start at the same date.  For example, I provided the example, in my submission, of the Bureau adding in the very hot town of Wilcannia only from 1957, when there is data available from the late 1800s.

I also welcome the recommendation that the Bureau:

“Address two key aspects of ACORN-SAT, namely: a) improving the clarity and accessibility of information provision—in particular, explaining the uncertainty that is inherent to both raw and homogenised datasets, and b) refining some of the Bureau’s data handling and statistical methods through appropriate statistical standardisation procedures, sensitivity analyses, and alternative data fitting approaches.”

I note that The Forum state in their report that:   “It is not currently possible to determine whether the improvements recommended by the Forum will result in an increased or decreased warming trend as reflected in the ACORN-SAT dataset.”

I would suggest that if the committee’s recommendations were properly implemented, and the Bureau abandoned some of its more creative accounting practices (e.g. adding in particularly hot locations for later years in the time series), then it would become apparent that there has been an overall trend of cooling over much of central and eastern Australia from 1880 to 1960, more dramatic warming than previously documented from 1960 through to about 2002, while more recently temperatures have plateaued, with some evidence of a cooling trend establishing in north eastern Australia since 2002.

I note The Forum intends to operate for another two years, and urge them to be honest to their title of “The Forum” and actually meet with some of those who have so far provided unsolicited public submissions.  Indeed, I urge Dr Sandland to immediately set up an open and transparent Forum process whereby these submissions can be presented allowing any accusations of scientific misconduct by the Bureau to be both defended and contested before the Australian public, and media.

The committee makes five recommendations, but puts emphasis on the importance of the first two components of the first recommendation.

I applaud the first component of the first recommendation of the committee that in full states:

“Expediting the Bureau’s current work on developing uncertainty measures in closer consultation with the statistical community. The Forum recommends the Bureau seek to better understand the sources of uncertainty and to include estimates of statistical variation such as standard errors in reporting estimated and predicted outcomes, including: quantifying the uncertainty for both raw and adjusted data; prioritising the provision of explicit standard errors or confidence intervals, which should further inform the Bureau’s understanding and reporting of trends in all temperature series maintained by the Bureau; examining the robustness of analyses to spatial variation; and articulating the effect of correcting for systematic errors on the standard error of resulting estimates.”

Of course, that such basic statistical information is not currently available is impossible to reconcile with the overall conclusion in the report that, “the analyses conducted by the Bureau reflect good practice in addressing the problem of how to adjust the raw temperature series for systematic errors.”   Then again, the executive summary of The Forum’s report appears to have been written by someone straight out of the BBC television series ‘Yes Minister’.

The second component of the first recommendation is also applauded, which reads in full:

“Developing a clearer articulation of the purpose for the ACORN-SAT exercise to enhance public understanding of the program, and communicating processes for developing and using ACORN-SAT in a way that is appropriately clear, broad and supported by graphics and data summaries. In particular, the central focus on the Australian annual mean temperature anomaly as the primary end point of the ACORN-SAT exercise should be reconsidered and a broader narrative around including regional effects should be developed.”

Indeed, it has become apparent over the years that the entire focus of the work of the small ACORN-SAT unit is not the provision of higher quality individual temperature series, but the remodeling of the raw data, and the compilation of a select few station, to suggest that it is getting hotter and hotter across the Australian landmass with such announcements made with great fanfare by the Bureau’s David Jones at the beginning of each year.

Recommendation No. 2, has several components including comment that:

“Releasing the Python computer code for ACORN-SAT as a downloadable link along with all supporting documentation and listing of the technical requirements for the software. The Bureau should also monitor and gather download statistics to gauge demand for this software.”

Of course, without access to this software it has been impossible to reproduce any of the adjustments made by the Bureau. Yet if the method is scientific, it should be reproducible.   For many years, the Bureau has erroneously claimed its methods are transparent.   It should be noted, however, that even with the provision of this software, it will be impossible to justify ACORN-SAT because it is unclear why the Bureau chooses some stations above others for its comparisons.  For example, despite endless requests for clarification, the Bureau has never explained why it uses the distant location of Hillston to make comparison, and then changes, to the raw temperature data for Rutherglen in north eastern Victoria.

Recommendation 2 also includes comment that:  “Publishing a brief, plain-language (as far as possible) description of the criteria for adjustment and the basis for adjustment itself.”    Of course this should have been available since the very first adjustment was made in the development of ACORN-SAT.  That such a document still does not exist is evidence that ACORN-SAT is poorly documented.  So, how could The Forum endorse the Bureau’s claims that it represents world’s best practice?

Dr Jennifer Marohasy
A Coruna, Spain
18th June, 2015


37 Responses to Response to ‘Yes Minister’ report by Ron Sandland

  1. JohnOh June 18, 2015 at 8:38 pm #

    I have more faith in my own ability to read synoptic charts than in their forecasts.
    The fact that rainfall data can be lost due to rain gauge failures, and temperatures need to be homogenised due to the BOM not even trusting its own figures, lead me to believe they have no idea of weather causes most times. Accuracy of weather forecasts or reports of its accuracy cannot be seen. Perhaps the honesty of its reports should be recognised in its ability to do just that…. What is their score for accuracy each week?

  2. Jacob Jonker June 18, 2015 at 9:56 pm #

    Modern science has become increasingly politicised and commercialised.The climate change bandwagon has opposition in politics as well as the corporate, academic and scientific communities, however.For the moment, the global warming wheeze is showing that scientists cannot always be trusted.

  3. Glen Michel June 18, 2015 at 10:08 pm #

    Not really satisfying.It remains in the realm of obscurantism.Life will go on nonetheless.

  4. Siliggy June 18, 2015 at 10:16 pm #

    You say “For example, in his submission to the panel, retired chartered accountant Merrick Thomson showed how the choice of ACORN-SAT stations changed from 2012 to 2013 and, how this could generate a large increase in global warming.”

    Am considering the opposite effect of leaving an old hot record out as I explain is missing here.

    So after reading this below perhaps I should ask em to quote to supply the daily data and explain what difference it would make to AWAP as opposed to ACORN.
    “It is thus recommended that the Bureau limits the amount
    of assistance it provides end-users and includes a statement on the ACORN-SAT website that while
    reasonable assistance may be provided by the Bureau, extensive assistance could not be provided
    without an appropriate at-cost charge.”

  5. B. C Tranter June 18, 2015 at 10:56 pm #

    Clearly the forum has not investigated BOM reasons for selectiing sites like Rutherglen for homogenisation, nor for altering negative temperature trends to positive.There are certainly no obvious reasons. Indeed,the utter lack of transparency in scientific and statistical methodologies employed by the BOM compromises public confidence and makes a mockery of the report’s claims to ‘best practice ‘. To ensure that all major issues are addressed I would strongly endorse Jennifer’s suggestion that key critics of the process be invited to an open forum for public debate

  6. Fred June 18, 2015 at 11:01 pm #

    The Russian science says we are into the next ice age.

  7. John W Barnes June 18, 2015 at 11:05 pm #

    A very dignified response by you, Jennifer.

    Yes it seems that your “unsolicited comments” have not been accorded the appropriate respectful acknowledgement. Sadly this should make the public even more suspicious of a *should be” respected “important scientific body” like the BOM.

    Keep on keeping young lady (from a semi retired Chemical Engineer living on the shores next to Abbott Point & who sees a duplicitous “save the reef” campaign all about “stopping coa” based an alarmist campaugn not acknowledging upwards of a15 year pause in GW”). You have exposed something I never thought I would see. A very questionable lack of credibility in such an important public scientific organization.

  8. Oliver K. Manuel June 18, 2015 at 11:16 pm #

    The current AGW scare is a continuation of the irrational response almost 500 years ago to the report by Copernicus in 1543 that the Earth and the other planets all orbit a giant fountain of energy at the gravitational center of the solar system.

    Precise measurements and observations on the Sun and other parts of the solar system have revealed that this fountain of energy is the creator, destroyer and sustainer of every atom, life and planet in the solar system [1].

    The fountain of energy at the core of the Sun is neutron repulsion, the source of energy in the cores of

    1. Atoms heavier than 150 amu, like Uranium
    2. Some planets like Jupiter
    3. Ordinary stars like the Sun
    4. Galaxies like the Milky Way
    5. The expanding Universe

    We cannot control, but need not ignore nor fear, the pulsar at the core of the Sun that created and sustains every atom, life and world in the solar system today.


    1a. “Solar Energy,” Adv. Astron. (submitted 1 Sept 2104; published privately 17 Mar 2015)

    1b. “Supplement for Teachers” (published 30 Mar 2015)

    1c. “Intro: Science for Teachers” (published 23 May 2015)

  9. Neville June 18, 2015 at 11:17 pm #

    Thanks for your efforts over many years Jennifer, but I think there will still be a hard road ahead. Jo Nova has a post on this report as well.

  10. Bill Williams June 18, 2015 at 11:28 pm #

    Thanks for staying on this, Jennifer, although it seems a disappointing outcome. It seems that Dr Sandiland has done his best to support those seeking to rewrite our climate history. They should have been publicly admonished by Dr Sandiland’s Forum but they haven’t even been criticised for anything substantive. The criticism seems to be limited to something like: “ACORN-SAT have done nothing wrong other than not properly explain their work”.
    The criticism they deserved is that this group has set about adjusting Australia’s climatic history by cherry picking, deleting and adjusting records as necessary to support a global warming hypothesis. In doing so they have totally neglected any duty of care to maintain scientific objectivity.

  11. Scott June 19, 2015 at 12:53 am #

    Thank you so much for your efforts to uncover the truth about temperature adjustments.
    Here in the USA, similar efforts have begun to expose the pure political manipulation of the terrestrial data set.
    I am of the opinion that when this is all finally uncovered and exposed, it will make Climategate seem like child’s play.
    This investigation – if scientists such as yourself – can get to the bottom of, will truly expose one of the great cover ups in history.
    It will take decades for the scientific process to be rehabilitated, but it must be done.

  12. jorgekafkazar June 19, 2015 at 2:00 am #

    Why should they make their methodology available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?


  13. Peter C June 19, 2015 at 2:21 am #

    I also made a submission to the Forum, including the observation that the Bureau appeared to have deleted some observational data on wind speeds from the public record relating to the weather stations at Middle Percy Island and Yepoon during the time of Cyclone Marcia. This was partly based on recovered data from Dr Jennifer Marohasy and partly from my own visits to the BOM website during the period of the cyclone.

    The Forum appears not to have responded to that.

  14. Peter Carabot June 19, 2015 at 4:41 am #

    Obviously the “Great Unwashed” are not allowed to question the motives or the reasoning of the Pubic Service employee. What do we know or understand of this complex subject??? Usually if I ask a question or a clarification from one of My employee I DO get an answer, Aren’t we, the taxpayers, their employers?
    There is a massive cover up!

  15. hunter June 19, 2015 at 5:48 am #

    Once again the academics stonewall and obfuscate and toss up bull dust to distract from legitimate questions and concerns. Their own actions in this call into question not only their ability, but their character as well. The failure of the climate obsessed to “close the deal” stems directly from their refusal to answer normal criticism and questions.
    People with real answers actually reply to questions. Apparently the Forum does not have answers. Only dodges.

  16. Ian Thomson June 19, 2015 at 7:12 am #

    I wonder if somebody could persuade one of these “experts” to drive , on a summer day, from Rutherglen to Hillston or Amberly to Longreach, at the speed limit and with no a/c. Perhaps they then might understand the difference between real geography and computer modeled nonsense.
    I suspect they watch too much TV weather forecasting, where the weather girl stands in front of the State and points at the capital city, then spins around to a sort of bulging bubble map, where Bourke appears next to Bathurst.
    Keep at ’em mate.

  17. Colin Barton June 19, 2015 at 7:12 am #

    The findings of the report are as predictable and as consistent as in a
    like-minded-associate peer-review paper on AGW.
    Keep plugging away Jennifer – real scientific methodology must prevail ultimately, over the the politicized versions, if science is to retain any credibility.
    Not in the least bit surprised at the outcome.

  18. cohenite June 19, 2015 at 7:42 am #

    “Indeed, it has become apparent over the years that the entire focus of the work of the small ACORN-SAT unit is not the provision of higher quality individual temperature series, but the remodeling of the raw data, and the compilation of a select few station, to suggest that it is getting hotter and hotter across the Australian landmass with such announcements made with great fanfare by the Bureau’s David Jones at the beginning of each year.”

    Says it all really.

    Good analysis. Conclusion: the BOM is an ideologically driven bureaucracy. But we knew that.

    I wonder how much the forum members are paid.

  19. Lawrie Ayres June 19, 2015 at 9:04 am #

    If Mr. Sandland was really looking for a way to satisfy the Bureau’s critics he would have included some of those critics in his forum. He is doing a BoM approved whitewash and throwing the odd prawnhead to the plebs. It stinks.

  20. Robert LePage June 19, 2015 at 10:06 am #

    All that is needed to sort this out is to move the 3rd deckchair from the left, forward about 10mm. This will of course prove that the Sahara is covered in ice and the arctic ice is now increasing so fast it will be half a kilometre high by next Tuesday.
    This will make it impossible for the Titanic to hit an iceberg ever again.

  21. Don Aitkin June 19, 2015 at 10:18 am #

    Well done, Jen. It is a disappointing outcome, yet did we expect anything more? I’ll provide a link to your statement in my post on Monday.

  22. Virginia June 19, 2015 at 10:37 am #

    Great work Jen. It is comforting to know that some people are prepared to input their own time and expertise to question what the so-called scientific experts are doing. I fail to see how it can be right to change historic records in order to achieve the desired outcomes.

  23. spangled drongo June 19, 2015 at 10:48 am #

    Thanks, Jen, for all your great work.

    The penny will drop for many one day but I feel the catastrophic climate religion will always live on. The myth, money and catastrophe suit too many for too many reasons.

  24. David Wall June 19, 2015 at 11:30 am #

    Your response is spot on .It seems absurd not to include records before 1910 ,when BOM is supposedly trying to show the trend in temperatures . You are right ,they have been taking lessons from Sir Humphrey .
    Regarding faith in the reported temperatures ,I noticed a couple of weeks ago that Toowoomba’s minimum temperature was reported as 5 degrees while at Highfields 12 KM to the north we had a heavy frost on the ground.

  25. John Robertson June 19, 2015 at 6:54 pm #

    An excellent reply Jennifer. Thank you.

    You are right and Sir Humphrey Appleby, as usual, is wrong. It will be a hard slog but eventually you will be vindicated and applauded all round.

  26. jennifer June 20, 2015 at 2:39 am #

    Two stories in The Australian, yesterday quoting David Stockwell here…

    And today quoting me…

    There is opportunity to leave comment at the thread under the second story, so make the most of it! Jen

  27. Christopher Game June 20, 2015 at 5:38 pm #

    Considering that the obfuscatory defences of the bureaucracy are very strong and have been well mobilized, can we say this is a good start? I guess you will keep it up, and eventually a good result may come of it? The problem needs a vast amount of honest and very highly skilled labour, but how can we trust the BoM to do it, no matter how well they may be supervised?

  28. David Stockwell June 21, 2015 at 4:54 pm #

    I think there are a lot criticisms of the BoM if one were to go through and list them. For example, regarding the alteration of the past record, the report says that a better approach would be sensitivity analysis. The inference is clearly the BoM have been remiss in not providing htis. Elsewhere the lack of error bars is given stick too. Its put in the form of suggestions, but every suggestion is a criticism. I rarely read the Executive Summaries either as they are just BS.

  29. David Stockwell June 21, 2015 at 4:57 pm #

    Christopher, one ot the recommendations was for the BoM to open up to the local and international collaborators and the statistical community. Surely its a good start to expose these guys to independent statisticians’ review. Its what we have been asking for with the hockey stick and got virtually nothing. Compared to those whitewashes this report is much better.

  30. davefromweewaa June 22, 2015 at 9:50 pm #

    Hi Jennifer,
    Good to see you are still at it.
    “Worlds best practice” has to be the weasel phrase of the of the new millennium!
    It’s always code for dodgy doings and I’d hate to see what second best or worst looked like!
    Keep at them Jennifer, truth will prevail.

  31. davefromweewaa June 23, 2015 at 7:18 am #

    It must be nigh on impossible to find a public servant to review the BOM without a conflict of interest. My thought is they would all have investments in renewable energy even if only through their superannuation. If that is the case they are unlikely to find there is no need for renewables because the warming isn’t at all alarming, are they?
    Call me cynical, but everyone knows it’s only a rort if you’re not in it!

  32. Lawrence D Fields June 30, 2015 at 12:07 am #

    Hey, Sandland! Can you say: Straw man?

    BTW Jennifer, I loved your Mark Steyn moment in the Pell thread.


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