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Posts Tagged NIWA

National Business Review: last bastion of climate denial in NZ pushes de Freitas tosh Gareth Renowden Nov 18

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The National Business Review — New Zealand’s biggest-selling business weekly — provides a happy media home for climate deniers of all stripes. Columnists like former ACT Party leader Rodney Hide and right wing spin doctor Matthew Hooton1 are given free rein to rant and rave about climate issues, but occasionally editor Nevil Gibson offers its august platform to others so that they can spout fatuous piffle. Last week’s issue featured an opinion column by Chris de Freitas, in which he waxes lyrical about his recent paper on the NZ temperature record — the shonky one that claims to find warming to be only one third of what real experts calculate.

The NBR hides most of its material behind a paywall, so I can’t link directly to the text — but the less scrupulous chaps at the NZ Climate “Science” Coalition2 are happy to host a pdf lifted from the NBR site.

As you might expect, de Freitas doesn’t restrict himself to narrow concepts of truth and factual accuracy. He mentions the cranks’ court case…

The High Court ruled against the trust and ordered it to repay court costs.

… but neglects to point out that the trust has since failed to pay those costs. It has of course been put into receivership, thus allowing the trustees to escape the $90,000-worth of financial consequences of losing their crackpot case.

de Freitas also misrepresents the membership of the trust.

The trust was suspected of hosting global warming sceptics, which was clearly not the case, as the group was not asserting climate warming does not exist. Rather it represented the view of those who are sceptical of alarmist claims that dangerous human-caused global warming is taking place.

The trustees were Bryan Leyland, Terry Dunleavy and Doug Edmeades, with Barry Brill acting as their lawyer. Leyland, Dunleavy and Brill are men with long track records as “global warming sceptics” — not least Leyland, who is on record predicting imminent global cooling.

The rest of de Freitas’s op-ed repeats the misdirections that can be found in the text of his paper, mostly dealt with in my first post on the matter a couple of weeks ago, but there are two I can’t let pass:

The newly published work aimed to apply the method set out by Rhoades and Salinger exactly as they describe, without adjusting it in any way.

dFDB 2014 chooses to interpret the methods suggested by Rhoades and Salinger in a very particular way — one that has the effect of reducing the apparent warming trend. If those methods are properly applied, as in Mullan 2012, the warming reappears3.

de Freitas also attempts to justify the whole farrago:

National temperature trends are widely used for a large number of societal design and planning purposes and it is important that they should be as reliable as modern methods allow.

This is transparent nonsense. Historical temperature trends are interesting, but they play no useful part in future planning. To plan in the face of rapid climate change, we need good regional projections for temperature changes, sea level rise and increases in weather extremes. Those will come from climate models, not temperature records.

de Freitas’s paper is nothing more than a political exercise — a part of the climate cranks long running campaign against NIWA. It’s dressed up as an academic paper — but like the Emperor’s new clothes, the finery is only visible to the cranks themselves.

The NBR, meanwhile, confirms its position as the last bastion of climate denial opinion. As I’ve said before, it could be argued that the business community gets the journalism it deserves. It would appear New Zealand’s business community continues to be in deep, deep trouble.

  1. Hooton’s last column on climate matters appeared two weeks ago, and managed to be a spectacular home goal. But then he’s no stranger to those.
  2. Let’s not forget that they are quite happy to register a charitable trust to bring a court case against NIWA, and then fold it so that the trustees can escape the financial consequences of their actions, so the fact that they are happy to disrespect the NBR’s paywall should come as no surprise.
  3. There will be more on this in future posts at HT on the dFDB 2014 paper and the desperate attempts by the authors to justify their conclusions.

Danger Dedekind! Heartbreak Ahead (still wrong, still digging, NZ still warming fast) Gareth Renowden Nov 05

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Over last weekend, my post criticising the new paper by Chris de Freitas, Manfred “Bob” Dedekind and Barry Brill that claims warming in New Zealand’s temperature records is only one third of that calculated by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) attracted a flurry of attempted ripostes at Richard Treadgold’s Climate Conversation blog. One — by Bob Dedekind — sets out to be a rebuttal of my original post. Sadly for Bob and his co-authors, he has only managed to dig himself into an even deeper hole.

For the sake of the record, therefore, I have taken the time and trouble to deal with each of his points in detail. The results of my researches do not make pretty reading for De Freitas, Dedekind, Brill, or the editorial team, reviewers and publishers of Environmental Modelling and Assessment.

Pal review

Dedekind kicks off his attempt to deal with my criticisms by repeating the silly claim — made on the basis of a very selective parsing of some emails stolen from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in 2009 — that climate scientists had colluded to get an innocent Chris de Freitas fired from his position as an editor at Climate Research in 2003.

Unfortunately for Dedekind, the truth of the matter — extensively documented by John Mashey in his 2011 Pal Review document — is that de Freitas spent years abusing his position at the journal by ushering poor papers by his climate sceptic mates, notably Patrick Michaels, through to publication by subjecting them to weak or inadequate peer review. CdF’s behaviour eventually led to a mass resignation by other editors, and ultimately his own resignation. Here are the main points uncovered by Mashey’s diligent research:

  • From 1990 to 1996, Climate Research published no papers by any of the following sceptic “pals”:

    Sallie Baliunas, Robert Balling, John Christy, Robert Davis, David Douglass, Vincent Gray, Sherwood Idso, PJ Knappenberger, Ross McKitrick, Pat Michaels, Eric Posmentier, Arthur Robinson, Willie Soon, and Gerd-Rainer Weber.

  • de Freitas became an editor at CR in 1997 and then accepted 14 papers in the period up to 2003 from authors with whom he had close ties via US far right lobby groups and climate denial organisations.
  • Papers from the “pals” accounted for half of his editorial workload.
  • de Freitas acted as editor on seven papers by Patrick Michaels, half of Michaels’ publication record over the period. Mashey describes Michaels as “king of the pals”.
  • After de Freitas resigned his editorial role in 2003, publications from the pals stopped appearing in Climate Research.

Given de Freitas’ track record, it is unsurprising that I queried the peer review process at Environmental Modelling and Assessment. Dedekind may choose to live in a parallel universe where white is in fact black, but the rest of us will accept the colours we see at face value.

Source of 7SS

One of the straightforward falsehoods in dFDB 2014 that I pointed out in my original post is this, from the abstract:

Current New Zealand century-long climatology based on 1981 methods produces a trend of 0.91 °C per century. Our analysis, which uses updated measurement techniques and corrects for shelter-contaminated data, produces a trend of 0.28 °C per century.

Dedekind fulminates:

Suffice it to say that there is zero evidence to show that the pre-2010 7SS was ever based on a correct application of RS93, apart from the assertions of some at NIWA.

Let me pose a question. What does Dedekind think Rhoades and Salinger were doing in their 1993 paper? Indulging in a purely theoretical exercise? In fact, they developed their techniques by working on what became the Seven Station Series (7SS), and from 1992 onwards the 7SS was compiled using RS93 methods properly applied.

At least one of the authors of dFDB 2014 should be aware of that simple fact. During the discovery process before the High Court proceedings, Barry Brill and Vincent Gray examined a set of storage boxes at NIWA — dubbed the “Salinger recall storage boxes” — that contained (amongst other things) all of Jim Salinger’s original calculations for the 1992 reworking of the 7SS.

Perhaps Brill and Gray didn’t look at Salinger’s calculations, or if they did, didn’t realise what they showed.

Two other critical references that prove that between 1992 and 2009 the 7SS was based on RS93 properly applied, are given below in the section on “Periods for comparison”.

Ignoring NIWA’s work

Here Dedekind goes completely off the rails:

Difficult to untangle the confusion apparent on this one. Firstly, the current 7SS uses the old technique, based on Salinger’s 1981 thesis. We applied a new technique (RS93) to it for the first time.

As I’ve just shown, that simply isn’t true, and Dedekind and his co-authors should be aware of that fact because they were given access to the “Salinger recall storage boxes” and should have read and understood the papers referring to the RS93 method’s application to the 7SS post 1992.

Further proof that dFDB 2014’s authors should have known that the latest 7SS does not use “old” techniques comes from the “Technical Notes” behind each station report prepared by NIWA’s scientists. These are not secret, but they are very technical and NIWA has judged them not suitable for putting on its website — but they were all supplied to Barry Brill in July 20111. The Technical Notes are basically just tables of intermediate calculations with very little contextual explanation, but they show without any doubt that:

  • Shifts to maximum and minimum temperatures were calculated by NIWA for the 2010 Review;
  • The statistical significance of all shifts was calculated too. The significance tests were done relative to each comparison (reference) site, rather than evaluating an overall significance level after combining sites as RS93 did.

The Technical Notes were also supplied to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology climate team in 2010 as part of the peer review process and BOM’s scientists would have had no trouble understanding them. The same may not be true for the authors of dFDB 2014.

Dedekind should, therefore, be well aware that NIWA did not use “old” techniques for the new 7SS, and that they calculated adjustments for maximum and minimum temperatures as well as mean temperatures. If Dedekind has not seen these Technical Notes, then he should ask his co-author Barry Brill why these inconvenient truths were withheld from him.

Workings or SI

I shall bow to the views of Steve McIntyre (yes, that Steve) at Bishop Hill2 on dFDB 2014’s lacklustre support for anyone wishing to reproduce their results:

I strongly recommend that the authors provide turnkey code showing their results.

[…]

Some readers, if not most readers, are only semi-interested in the controversy, but insufficiently interested to try to code the results and figure out how to access the data from NIWA. The authors should place the NIWA versions as used in their own FTP location and provide the code by which they obtained their results. The advantage of placing the code online is that interested readers can see exactly what was done without having to parse and interpret the methodology in the article – though clear methodology is equally important in seeing what was done.

Nor is it a sufficient reply for the authors to complain about their own prior mistreatment by NIWA. Most of the climate community will be sympathetic to NIWA and unsympathetic to the authors. So they need to go the extra mile.

Quite so. Extraordinary claims — and lets be clear, dFDB 2014’s assertion that warming in NZ is one third of that previously calculated by experts is an extraordinary claim — require extraordinary proof.

Periods for comparison

Dedekind makes the following statements:

Any assertion that makes the claim that RS93 does not use one or two year periods is false. Any assertion that RS93 uses four year periods is false.

Of course, it’s more than likely that Gareth’s vision is somewhat blurry on this point. Perhaps he is confused whether it’s two years before and after a change or four years in total? Who knows? But if he wants to wriggle out via that tunnel, then he should be aware that he would be confirming the two-year approach.

As for the claim that no professional working in the field would use a shorter period, then is Gareth now claiming that Dr Jim Salinger (the co-author of RS93) is not a professional, since he clearly uses it in section 2.4 of RS93? What about Dr David Rhoades? Should we write and tell them that?

Just to be clear, when I said in the original post that the use of one or two year periods is not adequate, I was using the RS93 terminology of k=1 and k=2; that is, k=2 means 2 years before and after a site change (so 4 years in total, but a 2-year difference series which is tested for significance against another 2-year difference series).

Dedekind claims that NIWA never considered k=4. He is wrong, and should know he is wrong, because he has certainly had sight of the following documents:

  • Page 3 in the 1992 NZ Met Service Salinger et al report (single page scan here). The final paragraph clearly states k=2 and k=4 were used. The full paper (pdf here) was available to the NZCSET, but was not amongst the “exhibits” supplied to support their evidence to the High Court. One wonders why not…?
  • Top of page 1508 in Peterson et al 1998: “Homogeneity adjustments of in situ atmospheric climate data: a review”, International J. Climatology, 18: 1493-1517 (pdf here). Clearly states k=1, 2 and 4 were considered. The paper is cited in dFDB 2014. Perhaps the authors didn’t read it.

Direct evidence that calculations based on k=4 were made is also in the “Salinger recall storage boxes” inspected by Brill and Gray.

Minimum and maximum temperatures

As I pointed out in my original post, dFDB 2014’s failure to consider maximum and minimum temperature adjustments is the paper’s most critical flaw. Dedekind — as is becoming all too clear — is simply wrong when he states:

If this is the most critical flaw in our analysis, then why, in NIWA’s Review of the 7SS, did they not do this? Why did they use the mean, as we did? We followed their lead, after all.

By the way, nothing in anything we’ve done precludes NIWA doing their own RS93 analysis. Why have they not done this yet?

As I’ve already shown above Dedekind should be aware that NIWA did consider max and min temperatures — which is essential if you are only going to apply adjustments if they achieve statistical significance. The evidence is there in the Technical Notes supplied to his co-author Barry Brill two years before dFDB 2014 was submitted to EMA. It’s even in the 7SS Review document NIWA produced explaining the process they used to create the latest 7SS. The Review may emphasise the mean temperature shifts but NIWA obviously had to have calculated the max and min shifts for the Review to mention them at all. Mullan (2012) also considers max and min temperatures when applying RS93, and shows why it is important to do so.

Missing data

Dedekind takes issue with my comments on his infilling of missing temperature data for May 1920 in Masterton:

We use the average anomaly from surrounding reference sites to calculate our missing anomaly. So if Gareth wants to criticise our paper’s technique, he criticises NIWA at the same time.

Estimating anomalies is certainly the correct approach in place of using climatology. But it doesn’t appear Dedekind has done this for Masterton in dFDB 2014. Table 3 in the paper shows no adjustment made for the 1920 site move, but if you apply RS93 k=2 — their preferred method — this would change to -0.3ºC and have to be applied because it meets their statistical significance test. Unfortunately this would lead to a doubling of the current NZCSC trend for Masterton and therefore might not be ideologically acceptable.

The 11SS

Dedekind tries hand wave away the 11SS as having been “thoroughly debunked elsewhere”, but doesn’t link to any debunking. The fact is that the raw station data from rural sites with long records that require no adjustments show strong warming. In other words, the warming seen in the 7SS is not an artefact of site changes or urban warming. That is an important matter, and should have been addressed in dFDB 2014.

Mullan 2012

In my original post, I noted that Brett Mullan’s 2012 paper Applying the Rhoades and Salinger Method to New Zealand’s “Seven Stations” Temperature series (Weather & Climate, 32(1), 24-38) deals with the correct application of the methodology described in Rhoades and Salinger’s 1993 paper. It is not cited in dFDB 2014 — itself a sign of shoddy scholarship in a paper claiming to make the first use of that methodology with respect to the 7SS. In his attempted rebuttal to my post Dedekind makes this odd statement:

“Mullan (2012) is far from a refutation of RS93.”

Well, no, since it is entirely about the proper application of Rhoades and Salinger’s methodology — but it is a direct problem for what dFDB 2014 calls RS93 — a misapplication of that methodology.

At the very least, dFDB 2014 should have addressed the existence of Mullan’s paper, and explained why the application of RS93 in that paper is not preferable to their interpretation of it. Making no reference to the paper is a sign of either not knowing the basic literature of the field in which you are attempting to publish (one of academe’s greatest sins), or it’s a sign of trying to avoid uncomfortable issues. In either case, it is a clear example of how the peer review process at EMA failed. Knowledgeable reviewers would have insisted that the authors address the issues raised in Mullan 2012.

Sea surface temperatures (SST)

Dedekind makes much of the fact that the paper does refer to one paper on SSTs around New Zealand — but skips over the essential point: that the SST evidence confirms that warming is occurring faster than they calculate. A hand wave from the authors to “there is low confidence in the data in the crucial pre-1949 period” is hardly a serious argument — especially given the strong warming shown in the raw station data, and corroborating warming seen on offshore islands and in the loss of ice in the Southern Alps.

Parting shot

Dedekind closes with a little snipe at me for pointing out that he had no publication record. Perhaps I should have added “relevant” or “in the field” to the sentence in my original post, but in making an appraisal of his expertise I was greatly assisted by Justice Venning’s judgement on the matter in NIWA v Cranks:

Mr Dedekind’s general expertise in basic statistical techniques does not extend to any particular specialised experience or qualifications in the specific field of applying statistical techniques in the field of climate science. To that extent, where Mr Dedekind purports to comment or give opinions as to NIWA’s application of statistical techniques in those fields, his evidence is of little assistance to the Court.

Dedekind and Treadgold’s reaction to my criticism of dFDB 2014 — and their whole approach to NIWA and the NZ temperature record — demonstrates just how divorced from reality the climate crank position has become over the five years of their attack on NIWA. Their whole campaign only makes sense in a strange world where New Zealand’s climate scientists have been conspiring to create the impression of warming where none exists. Remember Treadgold’s impassioned bleat when he launched their effort in November 2009?

We have discovered that the warming in New Zealand over the past 156 years was indeed man-made, but it had nothing to do with emissions of CO2—it was created by man-made adjustments of the temperature. It’s a disgrace.

Now that dFDB 2014 has been published, and the NZCSC’s partial and political misapplication of climate statistics has been revealed, the enormous mismatch between the little fantasy world they’ve lived in for the last five years and the harsh reality of a world that’s warming fast has become all too obvious. Such is the nature of cognitive dissonance, however, that we cannot expect reason to prevail in their camp. The deluded will continue in their delusion, and continue to try to twist the world to match their own expectations. And they will continue to fail, miserably.

[The Marvelettes, Danger! Heartbreak Dead Ahead.]

  1. Hint: If anyone wants copies of these Technical Notes, all they have to do is ask. If you want them quickly, ask a NIWA climate scientist, and don’t mention the Official Information Act. I asked, and as an example you can download the Notes for the Dunedin adjustments here [File updated 9-30am, 6/11 with improved formatting.]. If you don’t mind waiting, then ask for them under the OIA — the request will go straight to the lawyers (it’s the legal requirement for Crown Research Institutes).
  2. Comment on Nov 2, 2014 at 12:58 PM.

NZ cranks finally publish an NZ temperature series – but their paper’s stuffed with errors Gareth Renowden Oct 31

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You can’t teach old dogs new tricks, it seems — certainly not if they’re gnawing a much loved old bone at the time. The lads from the NZ Climate Science Coalition — yes, the same boys who tried to sue NIWA over the New Zealand temperature record and lost, and who then folded a trust to avoid paying court-ordered costs — have finally found a learned journal gullible enough to accept and publish their shonky reworking of NZ’s temperature record. Earlier this month Environmental Modelling and Assessment published A Reanalysis of Long-Term Surface Air Temperature Trends in New Zealand by CR de Freitas & MO Dedekind & BE Brill (DOI 10.1007/s10666-014-9429-z).

My attention was drawn to dFDB 2014 by an NZCSC press release, and yesterday Richard Treadgold, the man who kicked off the whole sad affair five years ago, posted a disingenuous and misleading article about the paper at his blog. As you might expect given the authors, the paper does not call for an upward revision in the amount of warming NZ has experienced over the last century. The abstract concludes with the following:

Current New Zealand century-long climatology based on 1981 methods produces a trend of 0.91 °C per century. Our analysis, which uses updated measurement techniques and corrects for shelter-contaminated data, produces a trend of 0.28 °C per century.

As you might also expect, given the authors and their respective track records, the paper is riddled with schoolboy howlers and outright misrepresentations. It would probably never have seen the light of day without the assistance of Chris “Pal Reviewde Freitas and his undoubted ability to steer tosh to publication.

Here’s a partial list of the errors, misdirections, misrepresentations and shoddy scholarship in the paper, and in the approach taken by de Freitas, Dedekind and Brill (dFDB 2014).

dFDB 2014 repeats the old canard that NIWA’s Seven Station Series (7SS) before the 2010 review was based on the adjustments made in Jim Salinger’s 1981 thesis. This was a key claim in the NZ Climate Science Education Trust‘s evidence to the High Court and so transparently at odds with written reports and papers from 1992 onwards that it was easy for NIWA to refute. As one close observer of the case told me:

Judges may not understand maths, but they are pretty good at English, and take a dim view of litigants who wilfully and perversely misrepresent simple English sentences.

dFDB 2014 derives a warming rate of +0.28ºC per century, by claiming to apply a method published by Rhoades and Salinger in 1993 (RS93). It claims to create a new benchmark record by reapplying an old technique — essentially ignoring all the work done by NIWA in deriving the current 7SS. Unfortunately, the paper is based on a misapplication of the very method it claims to rely on, and includes numerous errors.

The paper as published contains no workings or supplemental material that would allow reproduction of their results, but it appears to be essentially identical to an “audit’ of NIWA’s Seven Station Series conducted by the NZCSC, and which was offered as evidence in their trust’s attempt to sue NIWA.

As such it contains mistakes that were pointed out in NIWA’s evidence to the High Court — evidence which was extensive, thorough and damning, but is not (yet) available in the public domain.

dFDB 2014 claims that RS93 mandates the use of one year and two year periods of comparison data when making adjustments for a station change, but RS93 makes no such claim. RS93 uses four year periods for comparison, in order to ensure statistical significance for changes — and no professional working in the field would use a shorter period.

The choice to limit themselves to one and two year comparisons seems to have been deliberately made in order to limit the number of adjustments made in the reconstructed series. Limiting the comparison periods makes it harder for adjustments to reach statistical significance, leading dFDB 2014 to reject adjustments even in cases where the station records show site moves or changes!

The effect of that is to reduce the warming trend because, as Treadgold’s first venture into this field showed, a naive reconstruction of the raw data shows not much warming.

But perhaps the most critical flaw in dFDB 2014 — one that should have been sufficient to prevent publication in any self-respecting journal operating a credible peer review process — is that their method ignores any assessment of maximum and minimum temperatures in the adjustment process. This was pointed out to the authors in NIWA’s evidence in the High Court. One of these adjustments will almost always be larger than that for the mean, and if that change is significant, then the temperature record will need to be adjusted at that point – it doesn’t matter if the mean temperature adjustment is statistically significant or not.

Silly mistakes in the application of their version of RS93 appeared in the “audit”, were pointed out in NIWA’s evidence to the High Court, but appear to be uncorrected in dFDB 2014. For example, in the “audit”, they infill a month of missing data (May 1920 in the Masterton series) by choosing an unrealistically warm temperature based on an average of years around the adjustment date. This ignores the fact that May 1920 was one of the coldest Mays on record, at all sites involved in the adjustment calculation.

The dFDB 2014 infill has the effect of reducing the statistical significance enough to reject an adjustment — despite the station record clearly showing that an adjustment is required! Any other approach — skipping the month, making a reasonable estimate based on surrounding stations, or even leaving the unrealistically warm guess at the start of the new series but looking at three years instead of limiting it (wrongly) to two years would make an adjustment necessary.

Throughout dFDB 2014, the analytical choices made by the NZCSC team have the effect of reducing the warming trend, and thus minimising the appearance of the very real warming NZ has experienced over the last century. Very convenient choices given their ideological stance on climate change, a cynic might note.

Quite apart from the methodological issues — which are undoubtedly huge — dFDB 2014 makes no reference to the Eleven Station Series (11SS) derived by NIWA from temperature sites that need no adjustments, presumably because it tracks warming at the expected level1 — that is, three times faster than dFDB 2014 finds.

One might speculate that if they had chosen to “audit” the 11SS — which has a strong warming trend in the raw station data2 — they would have been desperate to find adjustments to reduce that trend.

dFDB 2014 fails to acknowledge the existence of or address the issues raised by NIWA scientist Brett Mullan’s 2012 paper in Weather & Climate (the journal of the Meteorological Society of NZ), Applying the Rhoades and Salinger Method to New Zealand’s “Seven Stations” Temperature series (Weather & Climate, 32(1), 24-38), despite it dealing in detail with the method they claim to apply. Perhaps this is because it points out most of the egregious mistakes they made in their “audit”.

dFDB 2014 also fails to make any reference to sea surface temperature records around the country and station records from offshore islands which also support warming at the expected level — as does the well-documented reduction in ice volume in the Southern Alps.

Beyond any doubt, dFDB 2014 is a model of shoddy scholarship. How on earth did it get accepted for publication by Environmental Modelling and Assessment? An earlier version of dFDB 2014 was submitted to a much more relevant journal, Theoretical and Applied Climatology, but was sent back to the authors for substantial revision at least twice before being rejected. One can surmise that in that case peer review was an uncomfortable process for de Freitas, Dedekind and Brill because the peers being consulted were professional climatologists who understand the nitty-gritty of station adjustments.

At EMA, de Freitas seems to have found a more compliant editor and friendlier reviewers — so friendly that they were happy to allow an obviously and critically flawed paper through to publication. A few simple checks by the editors and reviewers should have raised warning flags.

They should have noted that de Freitas presents himself as lead and corresponding author, yet has no publishing track record in climate records and their homogenisation. He acts as front man for Dedekind and Brill — two men with no relevant academic affiliations or any publication track record — effectively prostituting his position at Auckland University to usher yet another rubbish paper through to publication3. If that wasn’t enough, then competent reviewers should have noted the obvious critical flaws and demanded changes.

As an example of ideologically-driven data torture, A Reanalysis of Long-Term Surface Air Temperature Trends in New Zealand is hardly unusual in the world of climate denial. What makes it stand apart is that such a poorly put together and politically-inspired effort has made its way into the peer-reviewed literature. That is a sign of a gross editorial failure by Environmental Modelling and Assessment, and it should be immediately withdrawn. Meanwhile, the NZ temperature record will continue to show what it always has – substantial and highly significant warming over the last 100 years.

  1. The level demonstrated by NIWA’s re-working of the benchmark Seven Station Series, 0.91ºC per century since 1909
  2. A powerful argument why there should also be one in any homogenised 7SS.
  3. See “Pal Review“, and the Maclean, De Freitas & Carter saga for other examples of de Freitas playing fast and loose with the accepted conventions of scientific peer review.

New Zealand’s Southern Alps have lost a third of their ice Gareth Renowden Jul 29

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This article by Jim Salinger, University of Auckland; Blair Fitzharris, University of Otago, and Trevor Chinn, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, was first published at The Conversation. The photo at left shows the calving face of the Tasman Glacier in Dec 2013.

A third of the permanent snow and ice of New Zealand’s Southern Alps has now disappeared, according to our new research based on National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research aerial surveys. Since 1977, the Southern Alps’ ice volume has shrunk by 18.4 km3 or 34%, and those ice losses have been accelerating rapidly in the past 15 years.

The story of the Southern Alps’s disappearing ice has been very dramatic – and when lined up with rapid glacier retreats in many parts of the world, raises serious questions about future sea level rise and coastal climate impacts.

The Southern Alps’ total ice volume (solid line) and annual gains or losses (bars) from 1976 to 2014 in km3 of water equivalent, as calculated from the end-of-summer-snowline monitoring programme.

Glaciers are large-scale, highly sensitive climate instruments, which in an ideal world we would pick up and weigh once a year, because their fluctuations provide one of the clearest signals of climate change.

A glacier is simply the surplus ice that collects above the permanent snowline where the losses to summer melting are less than the gains from winter accumulation. A glacier flows downhill and crosses the permanent snowline from the area of snow gain to the zone of ice loss. The altitude of this permanent snowline is the equilibrium line: it marks the altitude at which snow gain (accumulation) is exactly balanced by melt (ablation) and is represented by the end-of-summer snowline.

Tasman Lake, photographed in March 2011. (Trevor Chinn)

In 1977, one of us (Trevor Chinn) commenced aerial photography to measure the annual end-of-summer snowline for 50 index glaciers throughout the Southern Alps.

These annual end-of-summer surveys have been continued by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA). We then use the NIWA results to calculate the annual glacier mass balance and hence volume changes of small to medium sized glaciers in the Southern Alps. Small to medium glaciers respond quickly to annual variability of weather and climate, and are in balance with the current climate.

Not so the twelve largest glaciers: the Tasman, Godley, Murchison, Classen, Mueller, Hooker, Ramsay, Volta/Therma, La Perouse, Balfour, Grey, and Maud glaciers. These have a thick layer of insulating rocks on top of the ice lower down the glaciers trunk. Their response to new snow at the top is subdued, and take many decades to respond.

Up until the 1970s, their surfaces lowered like sinking lids maintaining their original areas. Thereafter, glacial lakes have formed and they have undergone rapid retreat and ice loss.

The Rolleston index glacier in the Southern Alps of New Zealand, showing the accumulation area where fresh clean snow gain occurs above the end-of-summer snowline, and the area of melting ice below. Here, a negative balance year in 2009 shows a higher end-of-summer snowline revealing underlying old snow. (Trevor Chinn)

To come up with our calculations, we have used the snowline survey data plus earlier topographic maps and a GPS survey of the ice levels of the largest glaciers to calculate total ice-volume changes for the Southern Alps up until 2014.

Over that time, ice volume had decreased 34%, from 54.5 km3 to 36.1 km3 in water equivalents. Of that reduction, 40% was from the 12 largest glaciers, and 60% from the small- to medium-sized glaciers.

These New Zealand results mirror trends from mountain glaciers globally. From 1961 to 2005, the thickness of “small” glaciers worldwide decreased approximately 12 metres, the equivalent of more than 9,000 km3 of water.

Global Glacier Thickness Change: This shows average annual and cumulative glacier thickness change of mountain glaciers of the world, measured in vertical metres, for the period 1961 to 2005.(Mark Dyurgerov, Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado, Boulder)

Martin Hoelzle and associates at the World Glacier Monitoring Service have estimated estimate the 1890s extent of ice volume in New Zealand’s Southern Alps was 170 km3, compared to 36.1 km3 now. That disappearance of 75-80% of Southern Alps ice is graphic evidence of the local effects of global warming.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2013

Further large losses of ice in the Southern Alps have been projected by glaciologists Valentina Radic and Regine Hock, suggesting that only 7-12 km3 will remain by the end of the 21st century. This is based on regional warming projections of 1.5°C to 2.5°C. This represents a likely decimation of ice cover of the Southern Alps over two centuries because of global warming.

And where does all this melted glacier ice go? Into the oceans, thus making an important contribution to sea level rise, which poses a serious risk to low-lying islands in the Pacific, and low-lying coastal cities from Miami in the US to Christchurch in NZ.

In 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated mountain glacier melt has contributed about 6 to 7 centimetres of sea level rise since 1900, and project a further 10 to 20 cm from this source by 2100.

The disappearing ice story calls for robust effective climate policy to moderate effects on our landscape and coasts, otherwise future generations will have little of New Zealand/Aotearoa’s “long white cloud” alpine ice left to enjoy.

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Record winter warmth in NZ: June 2014 breaks 140 year record Gareth Renowden Jul 01

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NZ7SSJune14

Hot off the press — or to be precise, Jim Salinger’s laptop: June 2014 was the warmest June in New Zealand since 1870, 2ºC above the 1971-2000 average, as measured by the long term “seven stations series” originally devised by Salinger and maintained by NIWA. On the larger 24 station series the month tied with 2003 at 2.1ºC above the 1971-2000 average. Many stations recorded warmest ever Junes, including Dunedin with 8.7ºC, +1.7°C above average, Invercargill with 7.8ºC (+2.2°C), Kaitaia (14.5, +1.7), Tauranga Aero (13.1, +2.4), Masterton Aero (9.8, +2.3), and Hokitika Aero (+10.4, +2.4). Jim points out that NZ warming is most clearly seen in the winter months (and expressed in the snow and ice record) but often escapes notice because a warm winter month is still “cool” compared with the seasons around it.

[Update 3/7: The Australian Bureau of Meteorology reports that the 12 months ending in June were the warmest July/June since records began (The Age. Jim Salinger tells me that in New Zealand July 13 to June 14 was the 3rd warmest in the long term record.]

Brill’s bills still unpaid, but Barry’s off to Vegas Gareth Renowden Jun 19

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The attempt by a small group of climate cranks to bring a legal case against the New Zealand temperature record will leave the taxpayer to pick up a bill likely to run into hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to Radio NZ News yesterday. Efforts by the National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) to recover court-ordered costs of $90,000 from the NZ Climate Science Education Trust (CSET) are virtually certain to fail according to the official liquidator, leaving the bill to be met by taxpayers. The Trust has no assets, and the prospects of any pay out are rated “unlikely”. But despite initiating the legal case and orchestrating the trust’s attempts to avoid meeting its liabilities, Barry Brill, the retired lawyer and former National Party politician who chairs the NZ Climate “Science” Coalition, is flying off to Las Vegas to speak at the latest climate crank networking event organised by far-right US lobby group the Heartland Institute.

The latest report from the official liquidator (pdf) makes it obvious that the CSET was formed with the express intention of bringing the court action and as a cover to protect the litigants from the financial consequences of failure. It also raises serious questions about the way that the case was funded. The evidence is damning:

  • The CSET’s statement of claim against NIWA was filed with the High Court on July 5th, 2010.
  • The CSET’s deed of trust is dated July 30th – more than three weeks after the case was filed in its name.
  • The CSET was not officially registered as a trust until August 10th, 2010.
  • The CSET did nothing except bring an action against NIWA.

In addition, according to the liquidator’s report, the CSET had no assets, did not receive or disburse any monies, and did not keep any financial records. But CSET trustee Bryan Leyland told the Sunday Star Times in January:

We spent a large amount of money on the court case, there were some expensive legal technicalities.” Funding had come “from a number of sources, which are confidential”.

The statements made to the liquidator tell a different story:

The trustees were questioned about how the charitable trust funded the legal proceedings against NIWA. They advised that all legal advice and representation was provided on a pro bono basis and Mr Brill paid for the court fees personally.

Leyland’s comments to the SST are clearly not compatible with the statements made to the official liquidator. If a “large amount of money” was spent on the case, but legal representation was provided pro bono, where was the money spent and why was it not channeled through the trust and properly recorded in the CSET’s accounts? Either Leyland was misleading the Sunday Star Times, or he was misleading the official liquidator.

It’s worth recalling that Brill’s original presentation of the CSET’s arguments was so bad that the trust had to call in a barrister — Terry Sissons — to lick their arguments into shape, and present the case in the High Court. Did Sissons represent the CSET pro bono? On the face of it, that seems unlikely. If he did not, was he paid by Brill, the trustees or a third party, and why was that not recorded by the Trust as expenditure on their activities?

It is clear that Brill and the trustees have serious questions to answer regarding the management and funding of their legal action, and their misuse and mismanagement of a charitable trust.

Meanwhile, Brill is off to the Heartland Institute’s 9th “conference” on climate change. Readers with long memories may recall that the last time Brill addressed the world’s assembled cranks1 he was pushing legal action against national temperature records as something that should be tried all over the world.

Brill’s travel expenses are likely to have been funded by Heartland — who have a history of funding NZ climate crank organisations. He is set to appear on a panel2 discussing “international perspectives on climate change”, along with potty peer Christopher Monckton and Sebastian Luning from Germany.

I think we can safely assume that Brill will not be describing the failure of his much vaunted legal action, or passing the hat round in order to help the New Zealand taxpayer meet the costs of his stupid, self-serving and politically-motivated legal action.

  1. In Washington in 2011, see footnote 2 here.
  2. From 4pm to 5pm on Tuesday , July 8, full schedule here.

Herald gives de Freitas platform to smear climate science Bryan Walker May 01

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Climate change denier and Auckland University geographer Chris de Freitas seems to have fast access to the dialogue pages of the NZ Herald. His latest effort this week is a long ramble ostensibly around the possibility of an El Niño this year, but at its centre contains a nasty slur on the honesty of climate scientists. He confuses, presumably deliberately, predictions of a weather event in the short term with the longer term predictions of climate change.

The short term prediction relates to the possibility of an El Niño event this year. He claims NIWA’s reported 50% chance of an El Niño is not a prediction at all, but more akin to tossing a coin. This observation doesn’t stand up. NIWA doesn’t say every year that there’s a 50% chance of an El Niño. They were drawing attention to current developments which point in the direction of an El Niño.

Nevertheless de Freitas presumably sees his observation as a useful build-up to his planned attack. His next step is to comment on how incredibly complex climate systems are, and to quote no less an authority than Albert Einstein who said of the weather that prediction for even a few days ahead is impossible. Incidentally I’ve never seen a climate scientist claiming to predict the weather next week. But in de Freitas’ mind this leads to a climax:

The problem is complicated by the fact that the public usually fear the worst, and fear sells. So, if the period for which the prediction is made is beyond the end of the climate scientist’s lifetime, such as with long-term predictions of human-caused climate change, or “global warming”, any scary prediction will attract attention and hopefully also research funds or job promotion.

There follows a comment which perhaps is intended to qualify, but is vague and undeveloped and certainly does not undo the damaging assertion which precedes it:

Many experts passionately declare they believe future climate will be dramatically different due to human action. However, the challenge in climate science is correctly attributing cause.

He then returns to El Niño and after some reflection on how difficult it is to predict El Niño events advises preparedness to adapt to drought and flood. Without any recognition of irony he concludes:

The emphasis needs to be on dealing with the social, political and economic impediments that prevent effective flood-risk or drought-risk reduction.

The Herald has hosted a sloppy article which despicably insinuates that climate scientists are deliberately overstating the risks of climate change in order to attract attention and increase their funding and job prospects. It’s a familiar claim in the denial industry, but surely not one that our leading newspaper should allow in the face of the overwhelming scientific judgment that the the findings of climate science are  authentic.

I can think of no journalistic standard to justify opening a responsible newspaper’s opinion pages to a propagandistic accusation which casually defames the integrity of thousands of climate scientists.

Gareth adds: NIWA’s stated probability of an El Niño event looks conservative, as the Herald article to which de Freitas responds points out. For a regularly updated outlook, I recommend the Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s web site here. BOM’s current expectation (issued on April 22nd) notes:

The likelihood of El Niño remains high, with all climate models surveyed by the Bureau now indicating El Niño is likely to occur in 2014. Six of the seven models suggest El Niño thresholds may be exceeded as early as July.

Kevin Trenberth, in a video interview with Peter Sinclair, suggests that the only question now left to answer is how big the coming El Niño event will be. Skeptical Science looks at that question here, and NIWA has a useful explanation of what impacts El Niño events are likely to have on weather in New Zealand.

El Niño events are also associated with spikes in global temperature as ocean heat is released to the atmosphere and heat transfer to the deep ocean is slowed. The earlier this event gets going, the bigger the impact on this year’s temperatures will be, but it is likely that the biggest impact on global average temperature will be in 2015. Joe Romm has more on that at Climate Progress.

Climate modelling on your PC: weather@home comes to NZ and Australia Gareth Renowden Mar 27

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Climateprediction

That’s a climate model running on my iMac, thanks to BOINC, Climateprediction.net, and the new New Zealand and Australia modelling experiment launched yesterday. In this guest post, Dr Suzanne Rosier of NIWA explains what it’s all about…

A new citizen science experiment in which scientists will address possible links between climate change and extreme weather in Australia and New Zealand was launched on Wednesday. ANZ runs as part of the highly successful climateprediction.net project based at the University of Oxford, which makes state-of-the-art climate models available for anyone with a PC and an Internet connection to download and run on their computer. The global model contains within it a much more detailed model of the Australia/New Zealand region, detailed enough to model weather events properly, and the ‘2-in-1’ model needs to be run many thousands of times if scientists are to have a chance of capturing the very rarest weather events. This takes a huge amount of computing power – and you can help by volunteering your computer.

The model runs in the background on your machine, taking up any processing power that happens to be spare, but not interfering with your work. When your computer has finished crunching the results are automatically uploaded to a server at the University of Tasmania. If you take part in the project you also have the option to see how the model you are running on your machine is progressing. Many thousands of generous volunteers have already taken part in climateprediction.net, running global models, and , running regional models for other parts of the world. This is your chance to get involved and help scientists to gain a better understanding of what is happening to weather in Australia and New Zealand region as the climate changes.

The experiment launched today will produce many thousands of different simulations of how the weather in 2013 might have been, both with and without anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. This will enable scientists to put some hard numbers on how the risks of extreme weather events might — or might not — be changing as a result of the human contribution to global climate change. Scientists at NIWA will focus initially on the severe North Island drought of January to March 2013, but later the record-breaking warmth of last year’s winter will also come under scrutiny. Extreme rainfall events, such as that in Golden Bay and Nelson in December 2011 and the recent floods in Christchurch, will also be investigated as the ANZ experiment continues.
The more people who participate, the more science can be done. Please go to ‘weatherathome.net’ – sign up, and start crunching numbers.

Gareth adds: Suzanne does an excellent job of introducing the project in this video:

Read more about the project at Climateprediction.net, The Conversation, and NIWA. If anyone’s interested in running an NZ climate team, let me know. For some background to the difficult statistics of extreme weather events, I highly recommend this recent article by Stefan Rahmstorf at RealClimate. The ANZ models will run (via BOINC, the framework for distributed processing developed at Berkeley and used in a wide variety of distributed computing projects such as or ) on most recent releases of Windows, Mac OSX and Linux.

Lost in the flood Gareth Renowden Mar 09

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CantyfloodsNASAEO

This morning’s NASA Earth Observatory image of the day shows the impact of last week’s heavy rain in Christchurch and Banks Peninsula on the sea around. The light blue colours show sediment washed off the land. If you visit the EO page, they provide a helpful reference image: the region snapped from space in late February, when there’s no sign of any sediment at all.

The heavy rain brought flooding to many parts of Christchurch, as NASA notes:

Christchurch’s flood control infrastructure has been under increasing pressure in recent years because a series of earthquakes struck the area in 2010 and 2011. According to University of Canterbury researchers, the quakes caused land in some areas to drop, while narrowing and uplifting certain river channels. The result is an increased risk of flooding.

This rainfall map from NIWA shows rainfall over the last 15 days (right) compared with the average for the same period (left) and the anomaly (centre). The rain event is immediately obvious as the blue thumb sticking out of the South Island east coast:

CantyfloodsNIWA15day

The Weather Underground’s Christopher Burt provides numbers for the storm:

The powerful storm pounded the Christchurch area between March 3-5 with wind gusts up to 119 km/h (74 mph) and rainfall of 151.6 mm (5.97”) as officially measured at Christchurch’s weather station. Of this amount 100 mm (3.94”) fell in just a single 24-hour period on March 4-5. The suburb of Lyttelton received 160 mm (6.30”) in 24 hours and other suburbs reported storm totals of 170 mm (6.70”). The normal monthly rainfall for Christchurch in March is just 45 mm (1.77”).

For a selection of pictures, see these galleries at Stuff.co.nz: Christchurch, Lyttleton and Banks Peninsula.

The severe flooding in parts of Christchurch – notably the “Flockton Basin” – was caused or made worse by a number of factors. The earthquake sequence caused ground levels to fall by up to half a metre in parts of the eastern suburbs and along the Avon River (see map here), raised and narrowed river and stream beds and damaged or destroyed storm water infrastructure. Add to that a heavy rainfall event that would have taxed the drainage system in pre-quake times, not to mention the tail end of a sequence of high spring tides causing water to back up in the estuary, and you have all the makings of a historic flood event.

Local and national politicians have rushed to promise action to address the flooding, but Christchurch’s problems will not be solved by a crash programme to defend homes that now flood every time there’s a rainstorm. Continuing sea level rise and increasing rainfall intensities — both already observed and projected to get much worse — suggest that serious consideration should be given to managed retreat in some areas, rather than rebuild and defend. How high should you make a stop bank when you expect sea level in a hundred years time to be a metre higher than now?

Christchurch is facing the sort of problems that all coastal cities are going to have to confront over coming decades, brought forward by the earthquake sequence that caused so much death and destruction. Unfortunately for the citizens of the city, the earthquake recovery programme is being overseen by Gerry Brownlee, a cabinet minister who is on the record as a climate sceptic. If he fails to consider the big picture, and neglects to plan for a future when the waters have risen far above today’s levels, then Christchurch will be even deeper trouble every time it rains old women and sticks1.

[Brooce, at his best.]

  1. Mae hi’n bwrw hen wragedd a ffyn – It’s raining old ladies and sticks: Welsh idiom.

Memo to Brill and his NZ climate cranks: pay up or shut up Gareth Renowden Feb 04

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I suppose it had to happen. Jim Salinger’s excellent summary of the strange case of the climate cranks and their attempt to sue the New Zealand temperature record has attracted a response from deep inside La La Land. Barry Brill, chairman of the NZ Climate “Science” Coalition and litigant in chief, has posted a piece of piss-poor propaganda trying to make their actions seem reasonable. He fails spectacularly, as you might expect — but he also fails to mention the most salient fact of all.

Brill is the ex-lawyer who put the losing court case together. He, together with the trustees of the NZ Climate Science Education Trust — Terry Dunleavy, Bryan Leyland and Doug Edmeades — are in default of the costs awarded against them by the judge. It’s a cool $89,000, and if Brill et al don’t pay up, the NZ taxpayer will have to foot their bill. As one of those taxpayers, I object strenuously to funding their absurd political posturing.

Brill, Leyland, Dunleavy et al would do well to remember that in the “court of public opinion” people who welch on their debts and try to avoid the consequences of their actions are regarded as mountebanks and charlatans. They should shut up until they’ve paid up.

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