BoM the Terminator

They’ll be back?

the Terminator

The Terminator

But would NIWA want them back?

The original plan was that the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) would provide an external peer review of NIWA’s new official temperature record.

It couldn’t really be an independent review because there are many close ties between the organisations, but at least it would be better than no review at all — like the last time, when young Jim Salinger made up the first temperature graph. Not reviewed? Hell, that one wasn’t even published!

However, the review by the BoM didn’t go to plan, because they managed to get out of giving any positive endorsement of the new NZT7 [see “Tepid Support from BoM”]. You’d think NIWA’s friends might at least pretend to like the review! But all the BoM said was:

In general, the evidence provided by NIWA supports the homogeneity corrections that have been applied to the temperature record to create the ‘seven station’ series.

Wow! Talk about underwhelming support! How would they sound if they didn’t like it? “In general” supports the corrections? So some of the evidence doesn’t support them? Notice the glaring lack of mention of the methodology.

What a huge disappointment that must have been for NIWA — but there was more to come. The BoM also ripped out the props that NIWA’s little temperature graph relied on — the 11SS and the Ships Paper.

Eleven hastily cherry-picked data points

The “Eleven-station Series” (11SS) was devised in haste by James Renwick and Jim Salinger in December 2009 in an attempted rebuttal to our paper Are We Feeling Warmer Yet?. Although it yielded a helpful trend of 1.0°C/Century, its mendacity was crude and obvious. It wasn’t scientific on any level. Without a word of explanation or apology, it was dropped from the 169-page Review Report [see “A Dog that Didn’t Bark”].

Ships Paper

The second “line of evidence” regularly relied upon by NIWA was the Ships Paper – Folland and Salinger (1992) – which claimed that sea-surface temperatures and marine night-time air temperatures in New Zealand waters had warmed, with trends somewhat similar to the 7SS.

The Ships Paper, which was the subject of trenchant criticism by the NZ Climate Science Coalition, was unceremoniously dropped from the BoM-supported 7SS Review Report. It is not even referenced in the bibliography. Again, there is no explanation or apology.

NIWA and the BoM remain keen to find some corroboration of a warming trend in sea surface temperatures. Figures 2 and 4 of the 7SS Review Report summary turn to NOAA grid-squares – criticised in NIWA’s statement of defence as being “much larger… rather than [NIWA’s] specific localised sites.” But the Ships Paper is no longer seen as helpful.

It is interesting that the argument from the Ships Paper still appears on NIWA’s web page headed “NZ Temperature Record”. How long will that last?

Wellington altitude

When NIWA methodology was questioned in 2009 (see Are We Feeling Warmer Yet?), NIWA responded with its “Kelburn altitude example” setting out detailed triangulations of Kelburn/Wellington Aero/Thorndon temperatures, along with elevation lapse rates, etc. NIWA’s Minister, the Hon Wayne Mapp, was so impressed with this lucid explanation that he tabled it in the Parliament.

But, a few months later, it all abruptly disappeared from NIWA’s website — without explanation or apology. In the Review Report, the Wellington Aero comparison is conspicuous by its absence. Instead, comparisons with Auckland, Taihape, Christchurch and Masterton (places which are hundreds of kilometres apart) are averaged. Altitude is mentioned then discarded. It seems that the good Minister has unwittingly misled the Parliament. Was the advice he got from his department as unwitting?


NIWA’s website spin is that the Review Report merely documents the old 7SS, and the only new aspect is a review by the BoM.

If this is the case, then full credit should be given to the Bureau for identifying and correcting the scores of errors and misjudgements which permeated NIWA’s previous work. Most of the criticisms levelled by the Climate Conversation Group [for example here, here, here, here and here] have been vindicated. Very few aspects of the old 7SS have survived intact. See more detail in 7SS RIP.


For over 20 years, NIWA scientists have used the 7SS as the historical basis for the climate science advice it has offered successive governments, planning authorities and the Courts. While under attack during the past 12 months, they defended the series vociferously – employing leading PR consultants and lawyers – and the Institute’s top management laid its reputation firmly on the line over the accuracy of the 7SS.

NIWA’s credibility rested upon this graph, the 7SS — and its twin props, the 11SS and the Ships Paper. But they are gone. Where does this leave the testimony NIWA gave to environment hearings and court proceedings? What ramifications are there for the governmental advice they’ve tendered over the last 20 years?

We attacked the 7SS graph. NIWA hissed, scratched at our eyes and said the graph was perfect. Suddenly they discarded it.

They didn’t just change the 7SS, keeping the good parts. They threw the whole thing out, replacing it with a new one constructed throughout with new methods. It’s quite startling. There are new figures in every part. Except for the exact same warming trend — is that weird or what?

NIWA’s long-suffering supporters believed them, and they spent a lot of time in the press and in blogs defending NIWA and insulting the Coalition and the CCG up hill and down dale. But NIWA abruptly walked away from their precious 7SS “official NZ temperature graph.”

In the end, NIWA showed their duplicity. “Believe us — help defend the honest scientists we really are. There’s nothing wrong with this genuine, scientific graph. You’ll find the adjustments in that thesis.”

But the adjustments were not in the thesis, or anywhere else they cited. The methodology is not published as they claimed. The graph was not scientific. Perhaps the scientists were honest, but they didn’t speak openly; they prevaricated, obfuscated and delayed. They cited incorrect sources. Crucially, they could not replicate the seven-station series.

Then, without warning, NIWA ditched their scientific, genuine, trustworthy graph. Their supporters are left high and dry, the thing they toiled to defend suddenly tossed on the rubbish heap.

So will they eventually walk away from their latest creation?

Who would take a chance on NIWA now?

Views: 81

7 Thoughts on “BoM the Terminator

  1. Doug Proctor on 29/01/2011 at 2:34 pm said:

    Richard –

    What now do you say about the new graph/information, if it shows the same trend? Could we have graph comparisons?

    Unfortunately, it sounds as if you et al can’t disagree with the new conclusion (same as the old one). True?

    • What now do you say about the new graph/information, if it shows the same trend?

      The same as we said about the previous graph: be very sure that those adjustments are well justified, because the adjustments ARE the warming. NIWA never justified the old adjustments, but created the new series instead.

      Unfortunately, it sounds as if you et al can’t disagree with the new conclusion (same as the old one). True?

      Well, yes, we cannot disagree. But nor can we agree, for we must study the report first. With the old report, we never officially agreed or disagreed, because the science of it was inadequate. NIWA made adjustments, and we asked what they were and why they were made, but we could hardly judge them before we got an answer.

      Now, we start again. You don’t seem to realise that NIWA have discarded the old series! Why did they do that, do you think? It certainly wasn’t because we disagreed with their conclusion of warming!

    • Doug Proctor on 01/02/2011 at 2:52 pm said:

      NIWA have discarded their old series yet still maintain the result was more-than-less correct by electing to not defend the adjustments done by Salinger, while keeping the option of supporting other adjustments that result in the same warming. The reverse of planting evidence on a “known” criminal: throw away the bloody glove you made and bring out a witness nobody has heard of before. The play starts anew.

      The New Zealand data series, like that of many stations around the world, is curiously defended not individually but as a merged group, when there is nothing specific to point to. Somehow the statistical approach is given more credence than the actual data.

      I’ve been struggling with the certainty issues and appearance of errors. Somehow error is perceived as lower with the group – true when errors are random and equally up and down. We’re “bracketing” the real answer. Yet NIWA adjustments are consistently in one direction. No bracketing. When adjustments are consistently in one direction, the possible error is in the style of adjustment, not in a statistical grouping. Each one would have the same potential for error, and, if anything, the error would be compounded as randomness has been removed in principle.

    • Clarence on 02/02/2011 at 3:23 pm said:


      I think this is a key point. The method used by NIWA is almost 100% subjective, so they would have no problem using whatever variables they might need to achieve the desired 0.91°C/century trend. But how much certainty attaches to that contrivance? Surely, statistical uncertainty must increase with the subjectivity of the method – and, if so, the uncertainty in this case must be reaching towards infinity.

      This problem was foreseen at the beginning of the Review, and Minister Mapp assured Parliament last February that confidence intervals would be measured and published. This work is still in train.

      On another blog, a NIWA supporter argued that certainty was increased by measuring the same thing many times and then taking an average. But others pointed out that every datapoint in a temperature series is measuring a different thing, and that averaging the numerous non-linear results added nothing to accuracy.

    • Australis on 02/02/2011 at 3:07 pm said:

      The graph comparisons appear in “7SS–R.I.P.” above. As that article points out, the new NZT7 covers a different period, using different Normals, and an entire series of different adjustments.

      The incredible aspect is that NIWA (and BOM?) discarded 51 out of the 52 adjustments used for the 7SS graph.

      But perhaps it is even more incredible that this raft of new adjustments came up with an identical average trend for 1909-2009 as did the discarded adjustments. Talk about “two wrongs don’t make a right”. Here, 51 wrong moves in the 7SS resulted in the right trend!!

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  3. Clarence on 06/06/2011 at 6:34 am said:

    Pity they dropped the ships paper. Its “data” was subject to the most imaginative ‘homogenisation’ ever attempted in a scientific paper, especially for the period prior to the second world war.

    At sea the surface temperatures have been measured using canvas, wooden and metal buckets sampling water at different depths, hauling it up the side of ships of different heights and exposed to different winds while doing so, including that from ships travelling at different speeds. Samples were taken in conditions ranging from snowstorms to heat waves, in different currents, with thermometers read by differing untrained crew often using lantern light.

    After the war, sea surface temperatures were measured by hull mounted devices, not only varying in depth according to vessel but according to load on that vessel.

    More recently they have been measured by different types of buoys, recording temperatures at potentially different depths and subjected to different conversion methods to convert raw data to temperature.

    But Follard & Salinger still got it right – to tenths of a degree!

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