Saturday, July 10, 2010

Half truths in hot weather story

Update-ABC response below
ABC environmental reporter Sarah Clark interviews a senior BOM climatologist at the weather bureau's National Climate Centre as part of a scary weather story titled “2010 on track to be hottest year” and ends up promulgating a few half truths. We provide the missing half below.

Half truth: “We actually got into the low 50s for parts of the Middle East and Pakistan a couple of weeks back”
Truth: Parts of the Middle East and Pakistan record temperatures into the low 50’s pretty much every year.

Half truth: Beijing the other day just fell short of 41.
Truth: The recorded temperature was 40.3 (104.5F). Note that this "record" is based on Beijing’s official temperature records commencing in 1951.

The Melbourne Argus reports on earlier heatwaves to affect Beijing (then known as Peking) in the following manner:
LONDON, Aug. 15. (1909)
Intense heat is being experienced in Peking, the capital of China, Tientsin, and  other places.
In Peking the thermometer has registered 115deg. in the shade. Many deaths have been reported.

Intense Heat in Peking
PEKING, July 26 (1927).
Peking is sweltering in the fiercest heatwave for many years, the temperature  reaching a maximum of 114 deg. Hundreds of native Chinese are succumbing.

The Sydney Morning Herald of 25 July 1900 also offers “some interesting details”:

Mr W. H. Davis, R. N. , the naval inspector of machinery at Garden Island, is one of the very few residents of Sydney who have been in Piking the Chinese capital, and perhaps no one in the colony has travelled over so much of Northern China and Siberia as this gentleman has. He was altogether four years in China on her Majesty's business, during which time he resided for 12 months in Peking and neighbourhood. He travelled up through Manchauria passing over the Great Wall and beyond the Russian frontier into Siberia; and on  other occasions he visited the interior and southern provinces of the Flowery Land    
On being seen by a " Herald " reporter last evening, Mr Davis said - ' Those of your readers who regard Peking us a fairly central city of China and I think that is the general impression-will not be surprised to learn that during July and August    the temperature ranges between 105 and 115    degrees Fahrenheit, and stays there night and day.  Even when a slight fall comes with the night in the capital, in Tientain, and the  level plain between the two cities swelter in the heat of a moist noonday. My personal experience  was of a temperature of 112, unvarying night and  day for seven weeks. (

115 deg F would be 46.1C. Seems official records have a while to catch up with historical records.

Half truth: We're seeing 40s right up and down the US eastern seaboard.
Note 40 C is 104 F
Truth: Perhaps 40 at just one location!

America sizzles as heat wave hits East Coast Hindustan Times 7 July
America is sizzling with temperatures breaking records in atleast four cities as the season's first heat wave swept across much of the East Coast reminding Indians of summer back home. New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Providence, Rhode Island, broke records on Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.
In New York's Central Park, it was 103 degrees Fahrenheit (39.44 C) at 4.45 p.m., topping the previous high of 101 degrees Fahrenheit (38.33 C) in 1999. Baltimore Washington International Airport hit a sizzling 105 (40.55 C)degrees.
Temperatures topped 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.77 C) in many other places, with the weatherman warning of the heat wave continuing through Wednesday night for most of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, as well as south-western Michigan and eastern Kentucky.
Power cuts in Connecticut, rail service disruptions in Washington and warnings to conserve electricity in New York City marked the second day of the Northeast heat wave.
In the national capital of Washington, temperatures crossed into triple digits by noon on Tuesday reaching 101 degrees Fahrenheit (38.33 C) at Reagan National Airport.
The sizzling weather has fallen a few degrees short of all-time record highs in the capital region. The temperature has crossed the 100-degree mark (37.77 C) six times in the last decade. The record for Tuesday was set in 1999, according to AccuWeather: a crispy 103 (39.44 C) degrees Fahrenheit.

Blistering Heat Wave Settles Over East Coast NPR 6 July.
The heat is on. Sweltering weather gripped the U.S. from coast to coast over the holiday weekend, leaving residents in the Northeast bracing for triple-digit temperatures expected to last several days and strain utility grids.
The mercury could reach as high as 102 degrees in parts of the mid-Atlantic on Tuesday, meteorologists said. 

NYC Temperatures Falling Short of 90, Streak May End. Bloomberg 8 July
New York broke daily temperature records and reached above 100 degrees for two days in a row for the first time since 1999. Central Park posted 100 degrees yesterday and 103 the day before, the peak of the heat wave.

Half Truth: We have seen an increase in heatwaves in Australia in the last 30 to 50 years
Truth: And what about the 30-50 years prior?

EXCESSIVE HEAT.  The Brisbane Courier... Friday 11 February 1887

HEAT WAVES IN THE WESTERN DISTRICT. The Sydney Morning Herald... Wednesday 29 January 1896

SUNSTROKE AT GUNDAGAI.  The Sydney Morning Herald... Tuesday 2 February 1897

THE HEAT WAVE. The Sydney Morning Herald... Thursday 30 December 1897

EXCESSIVE HEAT IN MELBOURNE. The Brisbane Courier... Wednesday 12 January 1898

GREAT HEAT IN ADELAIDE.  The Argus Friday 1 March 1901

A HEAT-WAVE IN QUEENSLAND. The West Australian (Perth,... Monday 5 January 1903

THE WEATHER. SEVERE HEAT AND GREAT STORMS INLAND. The Sydney Morning Herald... Saturday 12 December 1903

THE EASTERN HEAT WAVE. The West Australian (Perth,... Monday 2 January 1905

THE HEAT-WAVE REACHES QUEENSLAND. The West Australian (Perth,... Wednesday 4 January 1905

THE WEATHER IN VICTORIA. ANOTHER HEAT-WAVE The West Australian (Perth,... Tuesday 10 January 1905

THE VICTORIAN HEAT-WAVE. FURTHER EXTRAORDINARY TEMPERATURES. Melbourne, January 11. The West Australian (Perth,... Thursday 12 January 1905

HEAT-WAVE IN VICTORIA. SOME EXTRAORDINARY RECORDS. Melbourne, January 16. The West Australian (Perth,... Friday 17 January 1908


The Argus (Melbourne,... Wednesday 18 February 1914


The Sydney Morning Herald... Wednesday 27 January 1915


The Mercury (Hobart,... Friday 22 December 1916

SATURDAY'S HEAT. Bushfires in Suburbs. MANY COLLAPSES. Beaches Crowded.

The Sydney Morning Herald... Monday 24 February 1930
ADELAIDE HEATWAVE Northern Territory Times... Friday 22 January 1932

Heatwave The Sydney Morning Herald... Saturday 29 December 1945

Four Dead, In Vic. Heatwave The Sydney Morning Herald... Monday 31 January 1949

HOW SYDNEY COUNTERED HEATWAVE The Sydney Morning Herald... Tuesday 18 December 1945

Another heatwave on way The Argus (Melbourne,... Monday 16 January 1950

HEATWAVE ACROSS THE STATE The Sydney Morning Herald... Friday 16 November 1951
HEATWAVE AT END BUREAU SAYS The Sydney Morning Herald... Saturday 26 January 1952

TITLE TENNIS IN HEATWAVE The Sydney Morning Herald... Tuesday 13 January 1953

DRESSED FOR THE HEATWAVE The Sydney Morning Herald... Thursday 28 January 1954

Gratifyingly the ABC story ends with a statement we can agree on "It's a pretty complex story out there; lots of extremes in the weather."
We whole heartedly agree, there always has been and always will be.

Here's ABC's response received 1/9/2010

Thank you for your email of 10 July regarding the ABC News Online story “2010 on track to be hottest year”.

Your concerns of inaccuracy have been considered by Audience and Consumer Affairs, a unit separate to and independent from ABC program areas.

With regard to your concerns about the accuracy of statements made by Dr David Jones, a senior climatologist at the weather bureau's National Climate Centre, the ABC does not consider opinions or the views of a specialist commentator to constitute factual content; therefore, it is not subject to the accuracy provisions outlined in the ABC’s Editorial Policies.  However, while there is no obligation to fact check opinion, it is expected that the specialist commentator or expert is properly qualified to speak to the subject at hand, and that their views are clearly attributed. 

On review, Audience and Consumer Affairs is satisfied that Dr Jones is appropriately credentialed to comment on temperature trends, and that the views he expressed were properly attributed.  While noting the points you make, we are satisfied that there was sufficient context in the story, and that it is in keeping with the ABC’s standards for accuracy.

Nonetheless, your comments are noted.  The ABC’s Editorial Policies are available online at:
Yours sincerely
Audience and Consumer Affairs


  1. It is amazing how our media report the BoM as a reliable authority - when so often the BoM promulgates utter twaddle. Take their latest 3 month Rainfall Outlook - an abject failure like the previous four.
    I think Andrew Bolt is the only journalist I have noted who has drawn attention to the unreliability of BoM Outlook predictions.

  2. Perhaps the ABC should also have reported this story about the coldest day on the Darling Downs, Qld, in a 100 yrs.

    Looks like we have to go the UK for real news!


  3. Dr Michael Cejnar has left a new comment on your post "Half truths in hot weather story":

    I read your article in the Australian today - It was spot on.
    I too have been distressed about the unashamed bias at ABC in climate (and left politics) and have written several letters of complaint, and corresponded with Robin Williams after his shameful "Shills of Oil" attack on us Deniers.

    I think keeping up the pressure as you do is valid and effective and I possibly am detecting a hint of give at ABC - for example, the Drum publishing a few sceptics such as David Stockwell recently

    I look forward to your future posts, which must be hard while doing your PhD; perhaps we need a "Friends of ABC Watch" effort. If I can help in any way - please let me know.

    One more thing, Marc

    As a geologist, you may shed some light on this.
    In the August publication by AAS of "The Science of Climate Change. Questions & Answers", the first 4 references I checked were invalid.

    Their Box 8 ""Do volcanoes emit more CO2 than human activities?" caught my eye because Plimer I think suggests they do emit quite a bit of CO2 - I wondered how this was quantified.
    All four given references are totally unrelated.

    References 117, 127, 128 refer to regional climate simulations only and not physical sciences, they do not refer to CO2 generation by volcanoes. They refer only to volcanoes in the context of volcanic forcings via aerosols from eruptions.

    Reference 99 does talk of CO2 sources and sinks, but mentions volcanoes again only in the context of aerosols.

    I thought maybe reference numbering went astray and searched any other references for CO2 emissions by volcanoes and had no luck.

    I find this incomprehensible - they can't possibly be this sloppy - they would have to have given this to their secretary to find references with the word Volcano in them.

    I have all the references and can email this to you if you have any interest in verifying this and maybe corresponding with them, given your greater authority in this area.

    Best regards
    Michael Cejnar


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