Saturday, March 27, 2010

UPDATE: CSIRO shed a little light.

COMMENT: We put a number of questions to CSIRO regarding the joint BOM/CSIRO "State of the climate" report following what we considered to be a poor quality report on the release by the ABC (HERE). CSIRO have taken some time with a response and we thank them. Their answers appear below. We may take the time to comment on these at a later date. 

Thank you for your questions to Dr Megan Clark last week.  Dr Clark asked CSIRO Enquiries to coordinate the preparation of our response, which required input from a number of climate scientists from CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology.  Your questions have been addressed in order below. 

Response to emails dated 15/3/2010

Question 1: CSIRO State of the Climate ( claims to be sourced from peer reviewed articles, however the actual references are not cited. Can CSIRO provide the peer reviewed references it used in the preparation of this document such that it might be subject to independent scrutiny by independent scientists.

Answer: The CSIRO State of the Climate document is only available in summary form – it summarises key findings from peer-reviewed science papers. The following information provides links to the references and raw data for each section.

1. Temperature

Trend maps are available the Bureau of Meteorology web site here:

Time series charts and datasets are available here:

Information about the maps is available here:
and about the time series here:

These pages also contain references to various scientific papers written about the datasets as follows:

Della-Marta, P.M., Collins, D.A. and Braganza, K. 2004. Updating Australia's high-quality annual temperature dataset. Australian Meteorological Magazine53, 75-93.

Jones, D.A. and Trewin, B.C. 2000. The spatial structure of monthly temperature anomalies over Australia. Australian Meteorological Magazine49, 261-276.

Jones, D.A. and Trewin, B.C. 2002. On the adequacy of digitised historical Australian daily temperature data for climate monitoring.Australian Meteorological Magazine51, 237-250.

Torok, S.J. and Nicholls, N. 1996. A historical annual temperature dataset for Australia. Australian Meteorological Magazine45, 251-260.

Trewin, B.C. 2001. Extreme temperature events in Australia. PhD Thesis, School of Earth Sciences, University of Melbourne, Australia.

The temperature trend maps/time series are calculated from homogeneous or high-quality temperature datasets developed for monitoring long-term temperature trends and variability. These datasets are available for download here:
(Annual dataset is used for annual maps/time series, daily dataset is used for seasonal maps/time series)

For the Record hot day maximums and record cold day maximums, the number of records in each year is calculated using a 68-station subset of the high-quality daily temperature dataset which meets data completeness and homogeneity criteria.
See: Trewin, B.C. 2010. Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Journal, in press.

2. Rainfall

Trend maps are available on the Bureau of Meteorology web site here:

Time series charts and datasets are available here:

Information about the maps is available here:
and about the time series here:

These pages also contain references to scientific papers written about the datasets as follows:

Lavery, B., Kariko, A. and Nicholls, N. 1992. A historical rainfall data set for Australia. Australian Meteorological Magazine40, 33-39.

Lavery, B., Joung, G. and Nicholls, N. 1997. An extended high-quality historical rainfall dataset for Australia. Australian Meteorological Magazine46, 27-38.

The rainfall trend maps are calculated from a high-quality rainfall dataset developed specifically for monitoring long-term trends and variability in Australian rainfall. These datasets are available for download here:
(Monthly dataset is used for maps)

Rainfall time series are calculated using a high-resolution gridded dataset developed for the Australian Water Availability Project (AWAP). Time series based on this gridded dataset are very similar to those of the high-quality”rainfall station dataset used to produce the trend maps.

A scientific reference for the AWAP data is:

Jones, D.A., Wang, W., Fawcett, R 2009. High-quality spatial climate data-sets for Australia Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Journal., 58, 233.248.

3. Oceans

Trend maps are available on the Bureau of Meteorology site here:

Time series charts and datasets are available here:

Information about the maps is available here:
and about the time series here:

These pages also contain references to scientific papers written about the datasets.

The sea surface temperature time series are calculated from the NOAA Extended Reconstructed Sea Surface Temperature (NOAA_ERSST_V2) data provided by the NOAA/OAR/ESRL PSD, Boulder, Colorado, USA, from their Web site at A full description of the NOAA_ERSST_V2 data can be found in Smith and Reynolds (2003, 2004).

Smith, T.M. and Reynolds, R.W. 2003. Extended Reconstruction of Global Sea Surface Temperatures Based on COADS Data (1854-1997). Journal of Climate16, 1495-1510.

Smith, T.M. and Reynolds, R.W. 2004. Improved extended reconstruction of SST (1854-1997). Journal of Climate17, 2466-2477.

See also:

Reference: Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre. 2008. Position Analysis: CO2 and climate change: ocean impacts and adaptation issues. Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems CRC, Hobart, Australia.

Church J. A., White N. J., Hunter J. R., McInnes K. L., Cowell P. J. & O'Farrell S. P. (2008) Sea Level Rise and the Vulnerability of Coastal Environments In: Newman P. (ed). 2008. Transitions: Transitioning to a Resilient City. CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne, Australia. Pp. 191-210.

Church, J., White, N.J., Hunter, J.R. and Lambeck, K. (2008) Briefing: A Post-IPCC Update on Sea Level Rise Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems CRC, Hobart pp5

Church, J. A. and N.J. White (2006), A 20th century acceleration in global sea level rise, Geophysical Research Letters, 33, L01602, doi:10.1029/2005GL024826

Church, J.A., N.J. White, T. Aarup, W.S. Wilson, P.L. Woodworth, C.M. Domingues, J.R. Hunter & K. Lambeck (2008), Understanding global sea levels: past, present and future. Sustainability Science, Special Feature: Original Article, doi:10.1007/s11625-008-0042-4;

Deng, X, DA Griffin, K. Ridgway, J.A. Church, W.E. Featherstone, N. White and M. Cahill (2009). Satellite altimetry for geodetic, oceanographic and climate studies in the Australian region, in: Vignudelli S.K.A. and Cipollini P. (eds.), Coastal Altimetry, Springer, Berlin

4. Carbon dioxide emissions and concentrations

Le Quéré, C., Raupach, M.R., Canadell, J.G., Marland, G., Bopp, L., Ciais, P., Conway, T.J., Doney, S.C., Feely, R., Foster, P., Friedlingstein, P., Gurney, K., Houghton, R.A., House, J.I., Huntingford, C., Levy, P., Lomas, M.R., Majkut, J., Metzl, N., Ometto, J., Peters, G.P., Prentice, I.C., Randerson, J.T., Running, S.W., Sarmiento, J.L., Schuster, U., Sitch, S., Takahashi, T., Viovy, N., van der Werf, G.R., Woodward, F. I. (2009). Trends in the sources and sinks of carbon dioxide. Nature Geoscience 2 (doi:10.1038/ngeo689)

Raupach, M.R., Marland, G., Ciais, P., Le Quere, C., Canadell, J.G., Klepper, G. and Field C.B. (2007). Global and regional drivers of accelerating CO2 emissions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 104, 10288-10293, doi:10.1073/pnas.0700609104. (

Canadell, J.G., Le Quéré, C., Raupach, M.R., Field, C.B., Buitenhuis, E.T., Ciais, P., Conway, T.J., Gillett, N.P., Houghton, R.A., Marland, G. (2007). Contributions to accelerating atmospheric CO2 growth from economic activity, carbon intensity, and efficiency of natural sinks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America104, 18866-18870, doi:10.1073/pnas.0702737104. (

The Human perturbation of the carbon cycle. UNESCO/Scope/UNEP Policy Brief Number 10, November 2009.

MacFarling Meure, C., Etheridge, D., Trudinger, C., Steele, P., Langenfelds, R., van Ommen, T., Smith A. and Elkins J. W. (2006). Law Dome CO2, CH4 and N2O ice core records extended to 2000 years BP, Geophysical Research Letters, 33(14), 10.1029/2006GL026152.

Etheridge, D. M., Steele, L. P., Langenfelds, R. L., Francey, R. J., Barnola, J. M., and Morgan, V. I. (1996). Natural and anthropogenic changes in atmospheric CO2 over the last 1000 years from air in Antarctic ice and firn. Journal of Geophysical Research - Atmospheres, 101 (D2): 4115-4128;

Petit, J. R. et al. Climate and atmospheric history of the past 420,000 years from the Vostok ice core, Antarctica. Nature 399, 429–436 (1999);

Luthi, D. et al., High-resolution carbon dioxide concentration record 650,000–800,000 years before present, Nature Vol 453, 379-382, 15 May 2008

See also:
Key greenhouse and ozone depleting gases (

5. Australia’s future climate

CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology (2007): Climate change in Australia. Technical Report, 140 pp.

See also:
Cai W and Cowan T, (2006) SAM and regional rainfall in IPCC AR4 models: can anthropogenic forcing account for southwest Western Australian winter rainfall reduction? Geophysical Research Letters33, L24708.

Question 2:  The charts showing temperature, rainfall and hot and cold day maximums do not show data prior to 1960. BMR claims to have been observing and reporting on weather in Australia for over 100 years. Why did it not use its complete set of records in depicting changes in these parameters? Does omitting an earlier period of warming between 1910 and 1940 for which BMR has records affect the resulting charts? What would be the effect of including this data on the charts?  Can CSIRO provide updated charts showing the effect of including the full set of records?

Answer: The plots provided in the Climate Snapshot cover the last 50 years because this is the period in recent memory of most Australians and for which we have the most comprehensive information. Most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations (IPCC 2007). It is also worth noting that the period 1961-90 is regarded internationally as the standard reference period and the Snapshot brings us forward to today. The Bureau has always stressed that the full record is available for people to look at and analyse and has recently published the full record in the Annual Climate Summary 2009, the major Bureau publication released in March 2010.

Question 3: Climate models for eastern Australian show conflicting results with both an increase and decrease in projected rainfall. Why has the CSIRO focused on model results that show a decrease for this report? For a summary of model results that show a range of projections see: "Assessment of rainfall simulations from global climate models and implications for climate change impact on runoff studies" by CSIRO scientists F.H.S. Chiew, D.G.C. Kirono, D. Kent and J. Vaze

Answer: The statement about a likely decrease in rainfall in southern areas is based on information published in Climate change in Australia (CSIRO & BoM, 2007). The 150-page technical report can be downloaded from and an 8-page brochure can be downloaded from  The rainfall projections are based on results from 23 climate models. Page 5 of the brochure summarises the rainfall projections. Figure 4 shows the 50th percentile rainfall change in colour, with stippling indicating the regions where at least 2/3rds of the 23 models agree on a decrease in rainfall. This is why we say a likely decrease in southern areas rather than a certain decrease.

Question 4: Assuming current rates of sea level rise (3mm.year) continue providing a net increase of 300 mm for the 21st century can CSIRO comment on why this constitutes a cause for major concern?

Answer: Oceanographers do not simply extrapolate observed trends in sea level to make projections for the 21st century. They use models based on the laws of physics and driven by different IPCC emission scenarios to estimate the range of future sea level rise. See The IPCC (2007) estimated a rise of 18-59 cm by the year 2100, with a possible additional contribution from ice sheets of 10-20 cm to make a total of 19 to 79cm. The IPCC noted that further ice sheet contributions may increase the upper limit of sea-level rise. Note that a number of peer-reviewed papers published since 2007 have indicated the possibility of a larger sea-level rise, consistent with the IPCC concern of larger ice sheet contributions: see S. Rahmstorf, 2007 (A semi-empirical approach to projecting future sea-level rise. Science, 315, 368-370), R. Horton, C. Herweijer, C. Rosenzweig, J. Liu, V. Gornitz, and A. C. Ruane 2008 (Sea level rise projections for current generation CGCMs based on the semi-empirical method, Geophys. Res. Lett., 35, L02715, doi:10.1029/2007GL032486), and M. Vermeer and S. Rahmstorf, 2009 (Global sea level linked to global temperature. PNAS, doi:10.1073/pnas.0907765106).

Increased coastal erosion and the increased frequency of extreme events (coastal flooding) are major causes for concern.  See the following reference: Church, J.A., J.R. Hunter, K.L. McInnes and N.J. White (2006), Sea level rise around the Australian coastline and the changing frequency of extreme sea level events. Australian Meteorological Magazine, 55, 253-260.

Question 5. In regard to Ocean acidification. Given that ph levels will remain above a neutral point of 7. Is it not more correct to say that oceans may become "less alkaline" rather than "more acidic".

Answer: The acidity of ocean water as detailed in Stumm W. and Morgan J. J., (1970) Aquatic Chemistry, John Wiley and Sons, is different than the meaning here which is about acid-base status of a substance. Stumm and Morgan is a major reference used in ocean chemistry and they express acidity as the proton condition relative to a reference proton level. Based on your use of pH 7 as a distinction between acid and base, you could say the pH of the seawater is decreasing due to carbon dioxide uptake and this does result in a less basic solution. However, it is also correct to say the acidity of seawater is increasing (ie tending to more acidic conditions) as a result of carbon dioxide uptake and storage by the ocean. The use of "less alkaline" in the statement can also lead to confusion because carbon dioxide uptake by the ocean does not change ocean alkalinity, but it does increase the total dissolved carbon dioxide concentration and it decreases pH. The ocean waters are indeed experiencing lower pH, greater acidity, and less basic conditions. All are compatible statements and trying to choose one over the other is like trying to decide if something is warmer or less cold. The issue is the carbon dioxide uptake is changing ocean chemistry, including ocean pH, and that may have a serious implications for marine ecosystems. 

Question 6:  CSIRO points out the obvious in indicating that climate change is real. The real issues to Australian society surrounds whether anthropogenic change will be dangerous. As recent peer reviewed publications (eg Lindzen, R. S., and Y.-S. Choi, 2009- On the determination of climate feedbacks from ERBE data, Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L16705, doi:10.1029/) indicate that IPCC climate models have overstated the climate's sensitivity to CO2 increases. Can the CSIRO comment on the certainty behind predictions of future impacts of climate on human populations?

Answer: The uncertainty in model climate sensitivity is discussed in detail in IPCC (2007) Working Group 1 Chapter 8 section 8.6. Regarding model reliability, see IPCC (2007) Working Group 1 FAQ 8.1 and

Question 7:  Dr Clarke describes the Australian dataset as "robust" , however in allegedly leaked documents from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia a programmer named "Harry" describes the Australian temperature dataset in the following way.
"I am very sorry to report that the rest of the databases seem to be in nearly as poor a state as Australia was. There are hundreds if not thousands of pairs of dummy stations, one with no WMO and one with, usually overlapping and with the same station name and very similar coordinates. I know it could be old and new stations, but why such large overlaps if that’s the case? Aarrggghhh! There truly is no end in sight… So, we can have a proper result, but only by including a load of garbage!"
"getting seriously fed up with the state of the Australian data"
Why does CRU programmer "Harry" describe the Australian temperature database as "poor" and compare it to garbage? Doesn't this contradict your assertion that the data is robust?

Answer: In 2006 the Bureau of Meteorology provided the CRU with an update of all Bureau of Meteorology monthly temperature data (mean monthly maximum and minimum temperature) and pan evaporation. At the time the Bureau of Meteorology also established a monthly data feed to CRU to ensure all data for Australia were made available for their real-time analyses. This greatly improved the data holdings that CRU had for the Australian region and the quality of their holdings.

The comments about Bureau data relate to the CRU programmers experience in reconciling the new data with their old data holdings. A particular issue related to the locational and metadata which were very different. The comments do not relate to the quality of the Bureau data.

The Bureau uses high-quality data primarily recorded at its Reference Climate Station Network. The stations used in the analyses come from rural and regional sites chosen for their long and reliable records. The associated temperature data therefore show very little or no urban warming. You can explore the data the Bureau of Meteorology uses to described Australia's annual temperatures at The sites used are the rural sites. While the Bureau has urban sites in the Reference Climate Station Network (to monitor climate in major urban centres) they are not used in products such as monitoring long-term trends in temperatures.

- - - - End of CSIRO Response - - - - - -


  1. In other words they have no real answers and it is simply spin. The basis for most of their claims is selective use of BOM adjusted data. Hardly what you would call robust. The rest of their fraud is based on models that they control - garbage in, garbage out.

  2. I echo twawki's comment, but who is going to bring the CSIRO to account?


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