April 28th 2012

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Articles from this issue:

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Same-sex marriage: attack on religious freedom and parents' rights

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Can the Greens survive Brown's departure?

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Craig Thomson affair discredits Labor government

EDITORIAL: Fretilin defeated in East Timor's presidential poll


CLIMATE CHANGE: Bureau's flawed forecasts undermine climate credibility

ENERGY: Government suppresses warning of energy crisis

SCHOOLS: Rediscovering the lost tools of learning

ILLICIT DRUGS: Drugs war needs a new approach

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Extent of China's leadership crisis becoming evident

UNITED NATIONS: Indispensable role of pro-life NGOs at UN forums

SOCIETY: Married parents the key to college success

HISTORY: Richard Dawkins: "Hitler was a Catholic"

ART & CIVILISATION: War on art: some thoughts on Damien Hirst

OPINION: Australia's shrinking food and manufacturing sectors


CINEMA: Gruesome possibilities for reality TV

BOOK REVIEW War in the classroom

BOOK REVIEW Was the White Star Line's CEO a coward?

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Bureau's flawed forecasts undermine climate credibility

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, April 28, 2012

For over 100 years, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) has played a vital role in providing accurate weather forecasts for people across Australia, and was rightly regarded as a national icon.

However, in recent years, it has been increasingly politicised in support of the Gillard Government’s climate change agenda, most recently in the State of the Climate 2012 report, jointly issued by the BoM and the CSIRO last month.

In line with successive reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the BoM-CSIRO report claimed that Australia is getting warmer, and human activity is directly responsible.

The heads of the two organisations summarised their joint findings in these terms: “Australia’s land and oceans have continued to warm in response to rising CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. This is the headline finding in the State of the Climate 2012, an updated summary of Australia’s long-term climate trends released by CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology today (March 14, 2012).

“The long-term warming trend has not changed. Each decade has been warmer than the previous decade since the 1950s. Global-average surface temperatures were the warmest on record in 2010 (slightly higher than 2005 and 1998). 2011 was the world’s 11th warmest year and the warmest year on record during a La Niña event. The world’s 13 warmest years on record have all occurred in the past 15 years.”

These conclusions have been challenged by many climate scientists, not least in the United States where some of the most prominent alarmists are based.

For example, Dr Roy Spencer, a meteorologist and climate scientist, runs a website which publishes monthly satellite data on global temperatures. It shows that there has been no net warming of the lower atmosphere for the past 14 years, since the El Niño high of 1998.

He wrote: “This website describes evidence from my group’s government-funded research that suggests global warming is mostly natural, and that the climate system is quite insensitive to humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions and aerosol pollution.” (URL: www.drroyspencer.com/global-warming-natural-or-manmade).

The BOM-CSIRO paper also made alarming predictions for the future. It declared: “Australian average temperatures are projected to rise by 0.6 to 1.5°C by 2030 when compared with the climate of 1980 to 1999. The warming is projected to be in the range of 1.0 to 5.0°C by 2070….”

Before anyone takes these predictions seriously, it may be useful to compare the Bureau’s recent quarterly weather forecasts with the actual outcomes, both of which appear on the Bureau’s web site, and can be downloaded.

Warwick Hughes, a former meteorologist, has posted these on his own website. They show that the Bureau’s weather predictions were worse than flipping a coin.

For the first three months of 2012, the Bureau forecast that most of eastern Australia, including all of Victoria and New South Wales, would exceed the median maximum temperature. It predicted that only a small part of south-western Australia, bordering the Indian Ocean, would have a significantly lower than average maximum temperatures.

What happened?

In fact, almost the exact opposite. Maximum temperatures across most of the continent were average or below average, particularly in the eastern states and in north-western WA.

The only area where temperatures were higher than average was along the south-west coast of WA, where the Bureau’s forecast was for lower temperatures.

The Bureau’s forecasts were astonishingly bad, particularly because it was well-known late last year that Australia was entering a La Niña phase, characterised by widespread cloud cover over eastern Australia, with higher rainfalls and floods.

The Bureau’s forecasts for minimum temperatures were, if anything, worse. It predicted that across all of northern Australia and Western Australia, minimum temperatures would be higher than average. In fact, the actual records show that minimum temperatures were up to 3°C cooler than average, except for a patch of the Simpson Desert and a coastal strip including Perth, in WA.

Its rainfall predictions were also wildly off the mark. It predicted that all of South Australia, more than half of Queensland and Victoria, and about half of New South Wales, would have below average rainfall.

In fact, all of New South Wales had above average rainfall, with significant parts receiving the highest rainfall on record. There were also record-breaking rainfall totals in Victoria and Western Australia, with above average rainfall across most of the continent.

The only area in which the Bureau had forecast higher than average rainfall, in Western Australia, suffered significantly lower than expected rainfall.

After describing the Bureau’s temperature and rainfall forecasts as a spectacular failure, Warwick Hughes observed, “And our gullible policy-makers and politicians are convinced the BoM can predict the future — what a sick joke.” 

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