A few years ago, I reported that the Australian Bureau of Meteorology changed a minimum temperature at the official Goulburn weather station from a very chilly minus 10.4C to a chilly minus 10.0C on Sunday 2nd July 2017. After we protested, the Bureau removed the value altogether, and no value was recorded in the official archive as the minimum for that day for Goulburn. After we protested some more, what I incorrectly assumed was the real value of minus 10.4 was inserted into the online database. I now regret that value having been recorded in the official archive, because I now know it to be a fraud.
Then two weeks later, on Sunday 16th July 2017, I caught the Bureau doing the same thing at the Thredbo weather station in Australia’s snow fields – changing, then deleting, a very cold temperature.
I now know the temperature archive for Thredbo for July 2017 is also a lie – in fact it is a lie right back to May 2007 when an MSI1 card was installed limiting the temperature that could be recorded to minus 10.
For more than a decade, many weather stations across the Australian mainland and in Tasmania had limits set on how cold temperatures could be recorded. The archived data is what some of my friends now call Seinfeld data: when you see -10.0 or -10.4 in the Bureau archive or a blank during winter at any of the cold weather station, well the correct value could well have been -13.2 which is the temperature recorded at Thredbo on 28th August 2018, the winter after Lance and I had the cold day limit of minus 10.0 lifted.
Graham Lloyd first reported the story in The Australian newspaper, with a photograph of Lance Pidgeon and I making the front page, on 1st August 2017. That same evening I was on Sky TV with Alan Jones and eventually an internal ‘Review of the Bureau of Meteorology’s Automatic Weather Stations’ was called. A report by the same name was issued in September 2017, carefully worded, and so implying, everything was fine: that the Bureau was faithfully recording temperatures from its 695 Automatic Weather Stations spread across the land mass of Australia.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The Bureau operates an error prone network of automatic weather stations (AWS) that have never met International Organisation for Standardization 17025 or ISO 9001 requirements, nor does the Bureau operate its network of automatic weather stations in accordance with World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) recommendations.
I’ve been discussing these issues with my friend and electronics’ specialist Lance Pidgeon over the last couple of weeks, and he has written a list of ten myths about the Bureau’s automatic weather system. I plan to detail these in this new series about legacy electronics at the Bureau.
Lance will quote extensively from email exchanges published as part of Freedom of Information document 30/6150 that includes email exchanges between members of the committee appointed to review the operations of the Automatic Weather Stations following the botched recording from Goulburn and Thredbo back in July 2017. The emails between senior Bureau staff and technicians from the New Zealand MetService are public because of a Freedom of Information request initiated by former Institute of Public Affairs colleague, Evan Mulholland. Despite the odds, Evan persisted with this FOI request, with the relevant documentation now public.
In a key email, Bruce Hartley the Systems Engineering Manager at the New Zealand Met Service explains:
The equipment wasn’t faulty. The purchase specification required operation down to -10 ˚C, so the words need to be carefully written.
Bruce Hartley is referring to the need to carefully word the final report ‘Review of the Bureau of Meteorology’s Automatic Weather Stations’ because most of what the Bureau had communicated to the Australian public about temperatures as recorded at Goulburn and Thredbo to that point in time was a big lie.
I use the word ‘lie’ deliberately, and perhaps as George from Seinfeld used it when he infamously advised Jerry: Just remember, it’s not a lie, if you believe it.
I have come to understand that Bureau staff, especially the director Andrew Johnson, spend a lot of time trying to convince themselves that even if they can’t forecast the weather, they have a system that can reliably record temperatures and that the subsequence need for homogenisation, is not proof of further fudging – even if it is.
This will become more obvious as Lance explains the electronics, the focus of future posts in this series. There are at least 9 myths to follow.
Myth 1. The Bureau does not set limits on how low a cold temperature can be measured.
The Bureau had set a limit of minus 10 Celsius across its Australian automatic weather station (AWS) network including at locations likely to record temperatures below this value. We know from page 53 of the Bureau’s carefully worded internal review, Review of the Bureau of Meteorology’s Automatic Weather Stations, that this limit was in place at Thredbo for some 10 years from May 2007 until July 2017 and at Goulburn Airport from November 2002 until July 2017.
On page 4 of the same document the Bureau acknowledges lifting these limits for the locations of Tuggeranong, Mount Baw Baw, Butlers Gorge and Fingal in October 2017 by removing the MSI1 card which had a particular equipment configuration that created the artificial limit of variously minus 10.0C and minus 10.4C.
The Bureau is yet to explain how long the minus 10.0C/10.4C limits was in place at those locations.
It is also yet to assure the Australian public that it has removed the MSI1 card that created the limit from the rest of the network.
To be clear, the original ‘full range’ design specification of the Almos MSI1, as per Technical Report A2671 was -10 to +55.
As Bruce Hartley of the New Zealand Metservice explained to the Bureau in 2017:
The equipment wasn’t faulty. The purchase specification required operation down to -10 ˚C, so the words need to be carefully written.
To be clear, temperatures may have reached much lower than minus 10.4C at Goulburn on 2nd July 2017 and at Thredbo on 16th July 2017. We will never know because the MSI1 cards limited recording of temperatures to 10.0C/10.4C.
It is the case that after the limits were lifted ‘temperatures plunged’ at Thredbo, to quote from an article by Graham Lloyd published in The Australian on August 4, 2017:
Recorded temperatures at the Bureau of Meteorology’s Thredbo Top automatic weather station have dropped below -10C in the past week, after action was taken to make the facility ‘fit for purpose’.
A record of the Thredbo Top station for 3am on Wednesday shows a temperature reading of -10.6C. This compares with the BoM’s monthly highlights for June and July, both showing a low of -9.6C.
The BoM said it had taken immediate action to replace the Thredbo station after concerns were raised that very low temperatures were not making it onto the official record. Controversy has dogged the bureau’s automatic weather station network since Goulburn man Lance Pigeon saw a -10.4C reading on the BoM’s website on July 2 automatically adjust to -10C, then disappear.
Later independent monitoring of the Thredbo Top station by scientist Jennifer Marohasy showed a recording of -10.6C vanish from the record.
BoM initially claimed the adjustments were part of its quality control procedures. But bureau chief executive Andrew Johnson later told Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg that investigations had found a number of cold weather stations were not “fit for purpose” and would be replaced.
The BoM has admitted that, in addition to Goulburn and Thredbo Top, stations at Tuggeranong in the ACT, Butlers Gorge and Fingal in Tasmania and Mount Baw Baw in Victoria would be replaced.
It angers me that we will never know how cold it really got at Goulburn on the morning of Sunday 2nd July 2017 or at Thredbo on morning of Sunday 16th July 2017 because the Bureau did indeed have limits set on how cold temperatures could be recorded. That information is lost forever.
In fact, the Bureau continues to operate a legacy system of outdated electronics and computing software developed in the 1990s with inherent biases, that mostly hype maximum temperatures. This combined with setting a cold limit of minus 10.0/10.4C means that university researchers relying on Bureau data have been able to claim that ‘record hot days are now 12 times more likely in Australia than days of record-breaking cold’ – Peter Hannam from the Sydney Morning Herald quoting Sophie Lewis and Andrew King from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science. This fits the human-caused global warming narrative that is a reliable source of funding for academics, catastrophe stories for mainstream media, and government subsidies that prop-up renewable energy industries.
If the temperature recording system at the Bureau was overhauled, all of this would be put at risk.
Reliable temperature records would likely show only a modest increase in temperatures from the 1960s and that most of the record hot days occurred during the first half of the twentieth century. Furthermore, there would be no decline in cold days.
And until the Bureau reopens the Charlotte Pass weather station which holds the record of minus 23.0C for the lowest daily minimum temperature ever recorded in Australia, set on 29 June 1994, the chances of a new record minimum cold day are reduced. The Charlotte Pass weather station was closed on 31st March 2015. The Bureau would never close any of its hot weather stations, like Oodnadatta or Onslow. But it does have an aversion to new cold day records. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology is a disgrace.
It is all incredibly sad for those of us who care about the integrity of Australia’s historical temperate data and for accurately assessing climate variability and change.
The feature image includes Lance Pidgeon and I at the Goulburn Airport on the morning of the 31st July 2017.
Eventually I get to discuss Goulburn and Thredbo in this interview with Alan Jones:
So, was the “management / analysis” software deliberately written with those limitations?
Or, maybe it was, unusually for these times, “STRAIGHT”, but the OPERATORS can fool around with “parameters” on the fly?
WAY too much “political science” for my liking.
Trofim Lysenko: Urgent call on the red courtesy phone!!
This winter just gone at Thredbo gets interesting. At Thredbo village the temperature got down to -9.7 ON July 20. This is very cold for that site. Not abnormal for the AWS site to be a full degree colder than this one. Perhaps -10.7?
On July 20 the temperature at Perisher went down to -11.7.
On July 20 the temperature from Thredbo AWS is gone, again.
Another one of those innocent coincidences, right?
Siliggy = Lance Pidgeon.
I note a record minimum of minus 12.8C on the 8th July 2002 at Glen Innes NSW. Being in a depression it “collects” cold air. I’m wondering if they have parallel measurement in place. Inverell, which is 85 km to the west had a reputation for cold minima, but the readings were taken close to the MacIntyre river and was relocated.
That being said, Walcha and nearby Woolbrook are the coldest places I know of with a temperature of minus 14.5C in 1996 I believe. I hope they’re still recorded.
Serge Wright says
Not sure if this is possible from a BOM perspective, but it would be good to install some BOM approved AWS stations in cold locations for the purpose of recording low readings. I would be happy to help fund this initiative and I’m sure other people would want to chip in. We would need the BOM to accept these sites into their database and therefore they would need to be built to BOM specs under the guidance of BOM staff.
In terms of locations, the old Charlott Pass site is a worthy place, but another good site is down at Bullocks Flat. I do recall a few years ago recording an early morning temperature at Bullocks Flat of -12 C on my car thermometer when the temperature at Perisher was a mild -3 C and thinking this would be a perfect BOM site with extreme temperature inversions.
Don Gaddes says
It will be interesting to follow what transpires this coming Winter in Australia, as the current Wet/Normal Period (between Dry Cycles) takes further effect. Wet/Normal will mean more precipitation,(Snow) and colder temperatures than Winter 2022, where the Dry Cycle and attendant higher temperatures reached Australia in mid-June,( from the start of the Cycle over 170 degrees East, South Island of New Zealand in early May.)
Note, significant snow fell over the Australian Alps, only for the first two weeks in June 2022.
Further volcanism effects could exacerbate the extremes of cold and Wet in 2023, and onward to early 2026, when the next Regional Dry Cycle will reach Australia.
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology is a member of the World Meteorological
For them to meet the WMO standards they need to meet this:
Guide to Instruments and Methods of Observation Volume I –Measurement of Meteorological Variables 2021 edition. ANNEX 1.A. OPERATIONAL MEASUREMENT UNCERTAINTY REQUIREMENTS AND INSTRUMENT PERFORMANCE REQUIREMENTS 1.1 Air temperature. Range Minus 80 to plus 60 degrees.
Annex 1.A. is a cut and paste in of an older document from earlier standards with a different page orientation. It was Annex 1.D in the 2008 version. If they really did meet these standards this problem with low measurements not being able to be recorded could not have happened.
Frank Vardanega says
The pseudo-science practised by the BOM is promoting massive distrust among the general public. You are providing a great service to good science. Keep it up.
Peter Etherington-Smith says
Jennifer, I can only commend the painstaking effort over so many years for what might appear a thankless task. It is not thankless and I am sure there are many like me who would thank you. By piecing together these deceptions from around the world, coupled with the growing debunking of the faux science by such as Happer, Wijngaarden, Lindzen, Vinos et al. and the voodoo economics, it becomes more difficult for politicians to ignore reality and continue living in fantasy. Nevertheless, when that realization will come with sufficient force is hard to tell, those of weak and venal character can be surprisingly stubborn.
Richard Bennett says
The BOM and its employees can no longer be classed as a reliable partner in the WMO and must be cancelled from any conferences on global climate and any data/reports that they publish must be classed as misinformation.
Much thanks to Charles Rotter and Anthony Watts for reposting here: https://wattsupwiththat.com/2023/02/12/legacy-electronics-botch-temperature-recordings-across-australia-part-1/
Willis Eschenbach says
Jennifer, in addition to thanks to Charles and Anthony, the world owes you a very big thank you for your tireless work.
These revelations are a huge scandal, which means that of course, it won’t get much publicity in Oz other than from folks like yourself.
Keep on keeping on, my very best to you and yours,
Paul Deering says
Jennifer, Has anyone thought to put up their own sensor right next say … the Alice Springs sensor … for comparison to the official record?
Thanks Paul. A few years ago I went to a huge effort (over nearly a year) working with George Snow first, then one of his managers, to get a weather station in at Canberra airport next to the Bureau’s. The owner of this private airport was initially really keen on the idea. But then the politicking started, and they got cold feet I think and the contract and the cost became absurdly prohibited. And at the time I was too intimidated to tell the story. I need to write it all down. And so much more. :-).
Every time the bureau gets wind of anything I’m doing, it goes to great lengths to close me down. Most recently causing a diplomatic incident should QUT continue to support my project with the Indonesian Bureau of Meteorology (BMKG). You know we live in a very totalitarian country. Most people just don’t realise it.
Jennifer. Thank you for your meticulous work on a dry subject.
I know we’ve gone way past Mercury thermometers but my GP insists on using them, insisting they’re the original standard measure.