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January 15th 2013 print

John McLean

Sins of omission and Climate Commission

Tim Flannery  & Co. know the world is melting and want you to believe it too. Maybe that is why so many salient facts and perspectives are missing from their latest epistle


Did you get your dose of snake oil last week? Yes, the snake oil from Australian Climate Clowns, sorry, commissioners about the current heat wave, in the form of its latest portentous report, "Off the Charts: Extreme Australian Summer Heat".


Snake oil was all that it was. Not once in all the reports from these highly paid men and women of, er, science have we seen any credible evidence to support the notion under which the Commission was created — that human activity has caused significant warming. The so-called evidence in these reports has amounted to nothing more than "because a big boy told me", that big boy being the discredited IPCC and the flawed climate models it uses.

This latest report features the usual baseless assertion, plus some other questionable claims on related matters.

The second sentence of the report begins, "As global temperature rises …" but that contradicts temperature dataset from the UK’s Hadley Centre and the Climate Research Unit (of Climategate infamy) at the University of East Anglia. That dataset shows no warming for 16 years, or to quote Phil Jones, the head of the CRU, "no statistically significant warming".

It’s not difficult to show. All one needs to do is download the global average anomalies from the CRU web page, load the data into Excel or another spreadsheet package, plot a graph from January, 1987, until now, add a trend line with its associated details and check the miniscule variation reported in those details.

Why haven’t the Climate Commissioners done this, you might reasonably ask. Maybe they have and don’t want to tell us that global temperature has not in fact risen since 1997, ten years before Labor was elected and even longer before the Climate Commissioners were given their positions.

Two paragraphs later we are told, "This document provides a summary of the influence of climate change on Australia’s temperature and extreme heat events." Even allowing for the ambiguous weasel words "climate change" it can’t be said that the report does this. It is merely a collection of anecdotes about high temperatures, a very brief assertion about their cause, talk of bushfires, more anecdotes about high temperatures and, finally, some comments on the impact of high temperatures on human health.

The report’s authors don’t seem to be aware that saying "hottest day since X" is an admission that temperatures have been higher in the past. They also don’t seem to be aware that newspaper reports of a major heatwave in 1896 mentioned special trains being run to transport people from inland to the coast and the high number of deaths  when,  incidentally,  Australia’s population was around 3.5 million, compared to today’s figure of just over 24 million. The authors also don’t mention that Green policies have in recent years have emasculated the old policies of  hazard-reduction burns, effectively ensured that fires will have plenty of fuel.

The report rests largely on a pair of sentences:

"Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere trap heat so the more greenhouse gases there are in the atmosphere, the more heat is trapped. The increase in temperature observed around the world is directly connected to the increase in greenhouse gases from human activities ( IPCC, 2011)."

The amount of warming isn’t quantified,  and mention of the inconvenient matter of atmospheric carbon dioxide increasing over the last 16 years while temperatures failed to follow suit is notable by its absence.

Some will read this nonsense and be gullible enough to believe what it says about the cause of the heatwave. Sensible people will seek out the Bureau of Meteorology’s reports and find that heatwaves some distance from Central Australia have the same cause as heatwaves in the past – the winds around high- and low-pressure systems directing streams of warm air to specific locations. If the high or low is slow-moving, the stream of hot air will persist.

The Bureau of Meteorology special statement [3] says:

"The current heatwave event commenced with a build up of extreme heat in the southwest of Western Australia from 25-30 December 2012 as a high in the Bight and a trough near the west coast directed hot easterly winds over the area. …

From 31 December the high pressure system began to shift eastward, bringing well above average temperatures across southern WA between the 30 December and 2 January. …

By 4 January the high pressure system had moved off eastern Australia, with northerly winds directing very hot air into southeast Australia, while southerly winds eased temperatures in WA. …

The area of intense heat moved northeast on the 5th as the high pressure system, now centred over the Tasman Sea, and a low pressure trough directed hot northerly winds into the Riverina and western NSW. …

"The area of intense heat lingered over eastern SA and the southern half of NSW until 8 January when the high pressure system in the Tasman Sea began to move eastward. …

"Western Australia saw a second wave of recording breaking heat on 8-10 January as a second high pressure system moved into the Great Australian Bight directing hot easterly winds in to the state."

Of the above six statements only two fail to mention the role winds played in these heatwaves.

The statement goes on to show that the maximum-temperature graphs, including the image copied into the Climate Commission report, are not a good reflection of the temperature anomaly, i.e. the variation from the long-term average. On days when heatwaves were being reported in various places there were always some locations around Australia experiencing below-average temperatures — this despite carbon dioxide being distributed relatively evenly throughout the atmosphere.

I think the Climate Commission has a lot of explaining to do, like how carbon dioxide emissions cause high- and low-pressure cells to move as they do and cause those winds; why the global average temperature hasn’t risen significantly in the last 16 years, despite the extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; and why no other country is experiencing a similar heatwave.

Somehow I think the Commission’s explanations will again be "because a big boy told me."

John McLean was co-author with Chris de Freitas and Bob Carter of a paper that became the centre of controversy when submitted to the Journal of Geophysical Research. Their experience with the censors of science can be read here.