In the space of six days, Rupert Murdoch’s The Australian newspaper has published five news stories and an opinion piece attacking the credibility of the Australian government’s weather and climate agency, the Bureau of Meteorology.
I’ve covered the guts of the early stories over on my Planet Oz blog for The Guardian.
But the core of it is that Dr Jennifer Marohasy, a former Institute of Public Affairs free market think tankerer, is claiming that the BoM has, in her words, “corrupted the official temperature record so it more closely accords with the theory of anthropogenic global warming”.
Marohasy is a researcher at Central Queensland University with her work funded by another climate change “sceptic”.
She has has not published her analysis in any journal, yet The Australian’s Graham Lloyd has deemed the claims of a climate science sceptic on blogs worthy enough of five news pieces.
I just want to deal with his latest story here, that comments on the BoM’s process of transparency. The story includes this bit:
The bureau has been under fire for not making publicly available the methodology used for homogenisation. Michael Asten from the School of Earth Atmosphere and Environment at Monash University said confidence in BOM’s data would increase “if and when BOM publishes or supplies its homogenisation algorithms, a step which would be quite consistent with existing requirements of the better peer-reviewed journals.’’ BOM said its methods had been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals but did not say where or in what form.
This claim is – oh what’s the word – bolloxxs (sorry kids).
Here is a page on the BoM’s website which goes to great lengths to provide information on how the agency deals with the data from its hundreds of temperature stations.
What’s more, it appears neither Lloyd or Asten are prepared to actually look at the peer reviewed literature where the “homogenisation algorithms” are hidden away in plain sight – or at least in the sight of anyone interested enough to want to look for it.
Here, in the peer reviewed journal International Journal of Climatology, is a paper from BoM’s Blair Trewin discussing the methodology and the mathematical tools (algorithms) that the bureau has used as part of their method to construct their high quality data set, the ACORN–SAT.
If you really don’t believe me, here is grab passage on the right from the actual paper in question. You likely won’t understand it, but this matters not.
It’s the details of the algorithm in a journal, linked to from the BoM website, that some people apparently can’t see.
I argued in my Guardian post that Marohasy and, by extension, Graham Lloyd were spreading little more than a conspiracy theory.
I say this because it’s important to dwell for a few seconds on what evidence you would need to back up a claim that BoM “corrupted the official temperature record so it more closely accords with the theory of anthropogenic global warming”.
For her claim to be true, she needs evidence that lots of scientists have got together – perhaps under a tree or in a secret bunker somewhere – and hatched a plan to throw away all of their scientific integrity and just fiddle the numbers.
Marohasy has no evidence for this happening whatsoever and so is left with innuendo.
Marohasy, who also has a regular column in the rural The Land newspaper, gave an interview with ABC Goulburn Murray where she discussed her claims. But part way through the interview the line goes dead. She called back and continued the interview, continuing her claims of a “cover up”.
Marohasy has written about this on her blog.
I was cut-off, before I got to explain too much. I waited, assuming the line had dropped out. But after no one phoned me back I rang back myself. I phoned ABC Goulburn Murray and was put on hold. Guess whom Bronwen (O’Shea) was now interviewing? Answer: the infamous John Cook, a faux sceptic from the University of Queensland. Mr Cook was telling Bronwen that the temperature record for Rutherglen had to be corrected because it was different from everywhere else.
Now for those that don’t know, John Cook is the founder of the Skeptical Science website and the Climate Communication Fellow at the University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute. Another sceptic blogger JoNova also commented on the ABC interview with Cook. “We’re looking forward to seeing John Cook explain that on his blog,” she wrote. One commenter said:
The plug would have been pulled by the Producer (the person who sits in the glass box and fiddles with the knobs and sliders), who obviously panicked when the interview, based on the Producer’s questions, did not go according to plan. Making the second mistake, of asking John Cook to say anything sensible, was the icing on the cake, that hopefully will cost the Producer their job (although I doubt it).
On Marohasy’s blog, another commenter wondered:
John Cook gets media dispensation everywhere. One can’t imagine why; his consensus paper is drivel; and did he really say this: “Mr Cook was telling Bronwen that the temperature record for Rutherglen had to be corrected because it was different from everywhere else.” One can only hope it is different from everywhere else; that’s the point; even the AGW scientists [sic] admit to great regional variation; or at least they use to; who knows what they are saying. One also wonders whether Cook rang in and Jennifer was shunted to give way to this VIP [sic] or whether the ABC rang him?
Another commenter suggested a complaint to the Australian Press Council was in order, claiming: “This is fr**d and the lies Cook tells need to be called out. This is not acceptable from tax pay funded public servants.”
Well, I was keen to know if John Cook had been looking at the issue of temperature records. I called him to ask about his ABC interview. The conversation went something like this.
Me: How was the interview on ABC Goulburn Murray?
Cook: What interview…?
John Cook was not interviewed by ABC Goulburn Murray and he has apparently never met or spoken to the host in question, Bronwen O’Shea.
Cook even offered an alibi! He was with his mum and before anyone asks, no I’ve not called John Cook’s mum to verify that the person she was with that morning was actually John Cook, her son.
Just to be doubly sure, I asked the ABC for a response. I was told that they did not interview John Cook, but they did have a talkback caller who came on the line after the phone dropped out and this was “David from Sandy Creek” which… well… sort of sounds like John Cook… but not much! The caller did suggest that people go to the Skeptical Science website, which is like showing a red rag to a bull for climate science deniers (Marohasy has now corrected her post after I had pointed out that John Cook wasn’t where she thought he was).
Cook is the bête noire of denilaists due to his research showing 97 per cent of climate science papers agree it’s caused by humans.
Cook apparently looms so large in the minds of some sceptics that they hear him when he’s not even there.
The sixth story in The Australian comes from Maurice Newman, the Prime Minister’s top business advisor, headlined Groupthink reigns in climate research. Newman’s piece is the usual bilge but it does include this specific claim about the United States, where Newman hints that the national Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also fiddles its temperature data.
Now, 1998 is the hottest on record in the US.
The hottest year for continental United States was 2012, smashing the previous hottest year – 1998 – by a whole degree fahrenheit. You’re shocked by these errors aren’t you? Shocked I say.