DECR Review Series

Posts over the next few weeks will be updates on the status of reviews myself and others have initiated of the Drought Exceptional Circumstances Report (DECR), by the CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology (BoM).

It is prudent to subject your views to the rigors of peer review. It is the way to knowledge to search out feedback. So I thought why not share the opportunity with others, so can avail themselves of the wisdom of the leading experts, to learn and formulate their own opinion, not only about the DECR itself, the support for increasing drought due to anthropogenic global warming (AGW) from climate models, and the standard of scholarship in climate science.

This series is also a case study in the scientific review process, for examining such issues as the degree to which peers in climate science provide an objective assessment of submissions. I want to stress that, irrespective of differences of opinion, I am deeply grateful for feedback from experts who have spent many years studying the subject matter. It is for that reason, I always analyze the comments of the expert reviewers very carefully for accuracy, as I take on board every worthwhile recommendation.

Below for easy reference are some links to information, data and opinion to date:

The BoM Website listing of the report and selection of intermediate data, used in the analyses.

The Drought Exceptional Circumstances report as downloaded.

DECR: Under the high scenario, EC declarations would likely be triggered about twice as often and over twice the area in all regions.

The Press release from the client organization, DAFF.

Australia could experience drought twice as often and the events will be twice as severe within 20 to 30 years, according to a new Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO report.

The article.pdf, a first examination of the data by D Stockwell.

Therefore there is no credible basis for the claims of increasing frequency of Exceptional Circumstances declarations made in the report.

An online opinion piece, by Ian Castles

The recent CSIRO/BOM ‘Drought Exceptional Circumstances Report’ was accepted by government with no external scrutiny: public policy should be made based on this?

Another online opinion piece by Ian Castles.

On July 6, 2008 Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told viewers of the ABC Insiders TV program of the “very disturbing” findings of a study by CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology, including that “when it comes to exceptional or extreme drought, exceptionally high temperatures, the historical assumption that this occurred once every 20 years has now been revised down to between every one and two years.”

  • Geoff Sherrington

    My initial reaction to the DECR was that the frequency of disaster scenarios changed abruptly at the date of the paper. The texture of graphs is different before and after 2008. This is artificial and it raises immediate alarm about methodology. Do you notice how many other climate disasters are going to happen soon after publication? 2010 is a popular date for the apocalypse.

    How DO you create texture in projections, not just this one, but in the numerous global models also. Why, it even extends to CO2 air concentrations at the South Pole, with those little seasonal wiggles marching neatly along, depite a well mixed atmosphere and an estimated 2-4 year travel time from the trees of the Northern landmass to the Sth Pole.

    A prudent scientist making an extrapolation or projection would use a smooth dotted line and a few paragraphs qualifying the uncertainty. Such a scientist would NOT try to create Nature’s textures, because Nature has a way to turn around and bite your bum.

    Then, the DEC report notes in fair detail that several different types of “drought” are defined. David carefully noted he was dealing with only the “lack of rainfall” definition but one reviewer chastised him that there was more than one type of drought. No doubt more will be said on this later.

    Predictions – Melbourne in January 2009. It was a record hot month, right? 4 days in a row over 40C. Wrong. The average was the coldest January for 5 years. Try to find that intersting snippet on the BOM web pages. Plenty about breaking records, but you have to do a bit of ferreting to find the ordinary monthly result.

  • Geoff Sherrington

    My initial reaction to the DECR was that the frequency of disaster scenarios changed abruptly at the date of the paper. The texture of graphs is different before and after 2008. This is artificial and it raises immediate alarm about methodology. Do you notice how many other climate disasters are going to happen soon after publication? 2010 is a popular date for the apocalypse.

    How DO you create texture in projections, not just this one, but in the numerous global models also. Why, it even extends to CO2 air concentrations at the South Pole, with those little seasonal wiggles marching neatly along, depite a well mixed atmosphere and an estimated 2-4 year travel time from the trees of the Northern landmass to the Sth Pole.

    A prudent scientist making an extrapolation or projection would use a smooth dotted line and a few paragraphs qualifying the uncertainty. Such a scientist would NOT try to create Nature’s textures, because Nature has a way to turn around and bite your bum.

    Then, the DEC report notes in fair detail that several different types of “drought” are defined. David carefully noted he was dealing with only the “lack of rainfall” definition but one reviewer chastised him that there was more than one type of drought. No doubt more will be said on this later.

    Predictions – Melbourne in January 2009. It was a record hot month, right? 4 days in a row over 40C. Wrong. The average was the coldest January for 5 years. Try to find that intersting snippet on the BOM web pages. Plenty about breaking records, but you have to do a bit of ferreting to find the ordinary monthly result.

  • http://www.petergallagher.com.au Peter Gallagher

    @Geoff

    I’d be interested to know how you reach the conclusion in your final paragraph.

    The BOM data for Victoria and (as far as I can tell) Melbourne doesn’t seem to bear this out. See for example a data set corresponding to the grid for Victoria here: http://www.bom.gov.au/tmp/avetemp_355_1425_395_1505.txt

    This shows 2004 had a much colder January.

    Peter

  • http://www.petergallagher.com.au Peter Gallagher

    @Geoff

    I’d be interested to know how you reach the conclusion in your final paragraph.

    The BOM data for Victoria and (as far as I can tell) Melbourne doesn’t seem to bear this out. See for example a data set corresponding to the grid for Victoria here: http://www.bom.gov.au/tmp/avetemp_355_1425_395_1505.txt

    This shows 2004 had a much colder January.

    Peter

  • Geoff Sherrington

    Re Peter @ 2

    My apologies. Figures are for Melbourne Central 86071, January arithmetic average of minimum daily temperature. I counted back for the past 5 years, the 6th year is a bonus, but makes my comment wrong for the wrong reason:

    2000 15.3
    2001 17.8
    2002 14.8
    2003 15.6
    2004 14.3
    2005 15.9 Year 5
    2006 17.3 Year 4
    2007 17.1 Year 3
    2008 17.6 Year 2
    2009 15.7 Year 1 Lowest in 5 years.

    I can understand that you might have thought I meant the average of max and min, but I did not make my terms clear, nor did I calculate Tav.. So the statement, I think, still stands correct as shown in the table. But what the heck, it’s weather and not climate and my main point was allegedly selective reporting.

  • Geoff Sherrington

    Re Peter @ 2

    My apologies. Figures are for Melbourne Central 86071, January arithmetic average of minimum daily temperature. I counted back for the past 5 years, the 6th year is a bonus, but makes my comment wrong for the wrong reason:

    2000 15.3
    2001 17.8
    2002 14.8
    2003 15.6
    2004 14.3
    2005 15.9 Year 5
    2006 17.3 Year 4
    2007 17.1 Year 3
    2008 17.6 Year 2
    2009 15.7 Year 1 Lowest in 5 years.

    I can understand that you might have thought I meant the average of max and min, but I did not make my terms clear, nor did I calculate Tav.. So the statement, I think, still stands correct as shown in the table. But what the heck, it’s weather and not climate and my main point was allegedly selective reporting.

  • Geoff Sherrington

    I had a moment of spare time so I got the data for Melbourne Central average January temperatures (half of sum of Tmax and Tmin).

    2000 20.54
    2001 23.44
    2002 19.99
    2003 21.57
    2004 19.45
    2005 21.23 Year 5
    2006 22.49 Year 4
    2007 22.50 Year 3
    2008 22.75 Year 2
    2009 22.25 Year 1

    So my statement (based on average monthly) that January 2009 was the coldest for 5 years would be wrong and would be the coldest in 4 years. However, these are but small fluctuations and they have too many significant figures for the errors involved.

    I restate that those few who are linking AGW with these terrible fires are not on entirely solid ground. It might be possible to find a station like Healesville that contradicts this table, but then we start discussing angels on pins as we go looking for a counter-counter example. I don’t play that game.

    The “official” AGW contention that were shall see hot days more often and hotter, as the years pass, is also on non-solid ground. The 150 year trend around here is warming, some of it UHI, so I’d expect it to not suddenly reverse at the convenient time of bad fires. But I would expect it to reverse slowly at some time. Those who presume to guess when, are playing at being God. As for frequency, that’s little more than a sick joke by people who need the input of good statisticians and not spin doctors.

  • Geoff Sherrington

    I had a moment of spare time so I got the data for Melbourne Central average January temperatures (half of sum of Tmax and Tmin).

    2000 20.54
    2001 23.44
    2002 19.99
    2003 21.57
    2004 19.45
    2005 21.23 Year 5
    2006 22.49 Year 4
    2007 22.50 Year 3
    2008 22.75 Year 2
    2009 22.25 Year 1

    So my statement (based on average monthly) that January 2009 was the coldest for 5 years would be wrong and would be the coldest in 4 years. However, these are but small fluctuations and they have too many significant figures for the errors involved.

    I restate that those few who are linking AGW with these terrible fires are not on entirely solid ground. It might be possible to find a station like Healesville that contradicts this table, but then we start discussing angels on pins as we go looking for a counter-counter example. I don’t play that game.

    The “official” AGW contention that were shall see hot days more often and hotter, as the years pass, is also on non-solid ground. The 150 year trend around here is warming, some of it UHI, so I’d expect it to not suddenly reverse at the convenient time of bad fires. But I would expect it to reverse slowly at some time. Those who presume to guess when, are playing at being God. As for frequency, that’s little more than a sick joke by people who need the input of good statisticians and not spin doctors.

  • http://www.petergallagher.com.au Peter Gallagher

    Geoff, thanks for following up.

    The Melbourne station is ‘not high quality’, as you know, because it’s in the rain shadow of a building but even more because it’s surrounded by big roads with heavy traffic. Heat Island Central.

    But the Melbourne ‘regional grid’ (144.50: 145.50E 37.50: 39.50S) doesn’t show 2009 as the coolest year in the past five either. 2005 is cooler (and 2004 cooler still).

    I agree that the ‘official AGW’ views are not supported by this weather data.

    Peter

  • http://www.petergallagher.com.au Peter Gallagher

    Geoff, thanks for following up.

    The Melbourne station is ‘not high quality’, as you know, because it’s in the rain shadow of a building but even more because it’s surrounded by big roads with heavy traffic. Heat Island Central.

    But the Melbourne ‘regional grid’ (144.50: 145.50E 37.50: 39.50S) doesn’t show 2009 as the coolest year in the past five either. 2005 is cooler (and 2004 cooler still).

    I agree that the ‘official AGW’ views are not supported by this weather data.

    Peter

  • Geoff Sherrington

    At the risk of a bridge too far, I refer to the fires in the context of David’s rejected criticism of Drought and Exceptional Circumstances (Hennessy et al 2008).

    The fires were severe on that Saturday because of a confluence of events in the course of a day. Yes, it was correct that the dangers were forecast several days before. But they would not have been forecast to the day, or even at all, on a monthly, annual, decadal or century timescale.

    Most climate models attempt to do the latter, to some degree. I agree with David that there is little skill demonstrated in the DECR. My opinion is that it fails because we are dealing with events that are on a “sub-grid” scale if I could borrow a term from spatial analysis and use it for temporal. It is the Navier-Stokes problem with GCMs – to solve even approximately, you need grid cell dimensions so small that the biggest supercomputer ever could never do it. You need to be able to predict the confluence of all of the rare events that cause the feature and that is just not possible on annual scales or longer.

    Not even if you are into crystal pyramids.

  • Geoff Sherrington

    At the risk of a bridge too far, I refer to the fires in the context of David’s rejected criticism of Drought and Exceptional Circumstances (Hennessy et al 2008).

    The fires were severe on that Saturday because of a confluence of events in the course of a day. Yes, it was correct that the dangers were forecast several days before. But they would not have been forecast to the day, or even at all, on a monthly, annual, decadal or century timescale.

    Most climate models attempt to do the latter, to some degree. I agree with David that there is little skill demonstrated in the DECR. My opinion is that it fails because we are dealing with events that are on a “sub-grid” scale if I could borrow a term from spatial analysis and use it for temporal. It is the Navier-Stokes problem with GCMs – to solve even approximately, you need grid cell dimensions so small that the biggest supercomputer ever could never do it. You need to be able to predict the confluence of all of the rare events that cause the feature and that is just not possible on annual scales or longer.

    Not even if you are into crystal pyramids.

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