NZ sceptics lie about temp records, try to smear top scientist

By Gareth Renowden 26/11/2009


homer.jpgThe cranks in the NZ Climate “Science” Coalition have sunk to new lows in a desperate attempt to cash in on the far-right driven furore about the Hadley CRU data theft. Here’s an extract from a press release which was doing the rounds of NZ’s newsrooms this morning:

New Zealand may have its own ’Climategate’, including manipulation of temperature readings, according to a combined research project undertaken by members of the Climate Conversation Group and the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition. The researchers claim that temperature readings from seven weather stations throughout New Zealand have been adjusted to show a higher degree of warming than is justified by a study of the original raw data.

The author of the press release and the “research project” into NZ’s long term temperature record is blogger Richard Treadgold, not unknown to readers of Hot Topic. Unfortunately for him, and for the credibility of any of the members of the NZ Climate “Science” Coalition, Treadgold’s approach to the issue is ignorant, his results meaningless, and he can have no excuse for not knowing he was wrong. Worse, Treadgold, Dunleavy and the rest of the NZ CSC seem determined to smear NZ’s best-known and most respected climatologist, Jim Salinger (who did much of the early work on NZ’s temperature record), based on little more than straightforward lies. Their press release continues:

’NIWA’s official graph (done originally by Dr Jim Salinger, who features also in the emails leaked from the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia) shows considerable warming, which they give as 0.92°C per century, saying this is consistent with global warming over the 20th century. But the actual temperature readings taken from the thermometers show an almost flat trend for 150 years.

’These figures all come from NIWA. So, why are they so different from each other? Because NIWA has adjusted the earliest temperature readings downwards by up to 1.3°C, which has the effect of introducing a false ‘warming’ as the graph then ‘climbs’ to the present day. It’s a disgrace. So far, neither Dr Salinger nor NIWA has revealed why they did this,’ said Mr Treadgold.

The real disgrace is that this analysis has been conducted by a team seemingly hell bent on ignoring the facts, preferring instead to make up their own.

Let’s check out the NZ CSC/Treadgold “research project” [PDF]. They begin by showing a graph of NIWA’s long term temp record:

They then compare it to a graph based on the uncorrected data series. Here’s how they did it:

To get the original New Zealand temperature readings, you register on NIWA’s web site, download what you want and make your own graph. We did that, but the result looked nothing like the official graph. Instead, we were surprised to get this:

Treadgold.jpg

Straight away you can see there’s no slope–either up or down. The temperatures are remarkably constant way back to the 1850s. Of course, the temperature still varies from year to year, but the trend stays level–statistically insignificant at 0.06°C per century since 1850.
Putting these two graphs side by side, you can see huge differences. What is going on?

Have the readings in the official NIWA graph been adjusted?
It is relatively easy to find out. We compared raw data for each station (from NIWA’s web site) with the adjusted official data, which we obtained from one of Dr Salinger’s colleagues. Requests for this information from Dr Salinger himself over the years, by different scientists, have long gone unanswered, but now we might discover the truth.

What did we find? First, the station histories are unremarkable. There are no reasons for any large corrections. But we were astonished to find that strong adjustments have indeed been made.

Did you miss it? The big lie? There are no reasons for any large corrections. That’s it, there. And it’s a lie because the NZ CSC has known for at least three years why adjustments have been made to certain stations.

Let’s take Wellington as an example. Look closely at the Treadgold/NZ CSC graph on p6 of their pdf. Look at the blue line (the unadjusted temperatures) between 1920 and 1940. Now look at this graph, prepared by NIWA’s Brett Mullan back in 2006, the last time the NZ CSC were agitating about the NZ temperature record:

Wellie1.jpg

Pretty similar, eh? Big drop in the late ’20s. Now look at Mullan’s second graph:

Wellie2.jpg

Look again at Treadgold’s graph. He makes no distinction between the blue and green lines — he just joins them up. Temps before the mid-20s were recorded at Thorndon, near sea level, but then the recording station moved to Kelburn at 125 m above sea level. It’s pretty basic meteorology that temperatures fall as you move above sea level, so the two stations are not directly comparable. Treadgold affects not to know this… But there’s no need to throw out all the old data, you can apply a correction. Here’s how NIWA (and Salinger) went about it:

Wellie3.jpg

Enter the Wellington airport series. Like Thorndon, the station is very near sea level, and warmer at all times than Kelburn although the “ups and downs” of the record are the same. It’s a relatively easy matter to work out the difference: 0.79ºC. So if you lower both the airport and Thorndon series by that amount, you get:

Wellie4.jpg

And it’s a very good long term record, with a pretty distinct upward tilt. This sort of correction is commonplace, and not remotely controversial amongst meteorologists and climatologists who are trying to build long term records from disparate data series. Apart from station moves, changes of thermometer and alterations in the environment around the recording station can all have an affect on temperature data, and are commonly corrected for.

So what was Treadgold saying again?

The shocking truth is that the oldest readings have been cranked way down and later readings artificially lifted to give a false impression of warming, as documented below. There is nothing in the station histories to warrant these adjustments and to date Dr Salinger and NIWA have not revealed why they did this.

Nothing in the station histories? It’s all there for anyone who can be bothered to look, or to ask politely. But Treadgold and the NZ CSC have no excuse, because the NZ CSC were told about this information at least three years ago, the last time they tried to make a fuss about “adjusted data”. In other words, Treadgold and whoever in the NZ CSC helped him with the data are being more than economical with the truth, they are lying through their teeth. But they keep on digging.

One station, Hokitika, had its early temperatures reduced by a huge 1.3°C, creating strong warming from a mild cooling, yet there’s no apparent reason for it.

Yes there is. Another station move.

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.

The real disgrace here is that the NZ CSC and Richard Treadgold have published a piece of incompetent research and are either too ignorant to notice or are deliberately attempting to mislead the press and public. They have pushed it to the media and the more credulous blogs, and attempted to smear a respected scientist.

This is disgusting behaviour, a sad travesty of the science that Dunleavy, Leyland, McShane, Gray and their “scientific advisor” Chris De Freitas so loudly claim to hold dear. What’s worse is that De Freitas, at the very least complicit in this arrogantly erroneous document, claims to be a respectable scientist. It’s hard to imagine a more blatant academic faux pas

None of these cranks should be accorded any respect in future. By their words shall we know them, and their words show them to be ignorant, bullying fools. De Freitas should withdraw and apologise, or resign from his post at Auckland University, and if Treadgold, Dunleavy, McShane, Leyland,or any other member of the NZ CSC want to partake in public debate on the subject of climate science, they should expect derision to be heaped on them and their views.

[Update: NIWA’s official response is here, and their page describing the Wellington corrections here.]
[Update 2: Added date Mullan’s graphs were first prepared, altered “at least two years” to three.]
[Update 3: Paul Gorman reports in The Press.]
[Update 4: NIWA release more info 2/12.]