Like cooking, journalisming has its best results when using seasonal ingredients. January wouldn’t be complete without the obligatory look at all the weather records that were broken the previous calendar year. Here’s the Sydney Morning Herald’s effort, under the tagline “extreme weather” (“climate change” seemingly out of favour recently, suggesting some bet hedging is going on).
Unfortunately, the climate team’s intern, Nicole Hasham, was given the task of assembling the maths salad and, as we will see, is really not as competent at the task as her senior colleague, Peter “weather is climate” Hannam.
Regurgitating Quoting a Bureau of Meteorology report, Nicole starts off poorly;
Where to start?
Well, perhaps the first point to make is that averages, by their very definition need some values above and some values below. It would be remarkable if no temperatures were experienced above average during a long enough timescale.
It seems somewhat depressing to have to explain this to a senior climatologist (now there’s a job title of our time) and an environment and energy correspondent. At least one of them will have studied statistics in high school, not that you’d be able to guess it from the statement above.
The second point, and it seems somewhat obvious, is that the climate has no concept of a state or territory.
Finally, does Nicole understand, or expect her readers to understand, what “second warmest on record for daily high temperatures” means?
Or perhaps the only important words she wants us to read are “second warmest“?
Next up is a bunch of rainfall maths salad;
Subsequently, the rain came along but just a little delayed.
To be fair to Nicole, she did
regurgitate quote the report on this. It probably proves something significant and negative in her mind though;
It’s almost as if, I dunno, the climate is a complex system that doesn’t drop a consistent volume of rain during a man made time interval known by the English noun, “month”.
This would be amusing if the Australian taxpayer weren’t picking up the bill for this so called “science”;
“Increasingly influenced by global warming”.
Really. Do tell us whose fault this is;
“Can only be explained by human influence”? Well, there’s the Scientific Method dispensed with in just 7 words. One can imagine the reception a researcher would get if they tried to apply for a grant to investigate the influence of solar cycles on global temperature.
Finally, we get to the chart that reveals Australia’s record-breaking run of rising temperatures;
That looks shocking, especially with all that red on the chart.
Let’s look a little closer at the scale and labels though….
The Y-axis is interesting; why set the zero point as the average of 1961 to 1990? Why not take the average of the entire time range? What would that chart look like? Sadly, we don’t know because, as far as I can tell, they haven’t published the data behind the chart. Here’s the link to the original report, where we learn that the chart is showing the anomaly; Anomaly is the departure from the long-term (1961–1990) average. We also discover that the chart above shows, “Mean temperature anomalies averaged over Australia“, again, calculated against the 1960-91 average for some unknown reason.
Wait, “averaged over Australia“? WHAT????
So, in summary, you took ALL of the mean temperatures recorded across the entire continent of Australia, averaged them and then compared that against a similar average between the years 1960-91 on a chart starting at 1900?
What insight, pray tell, was this exercise supposed to result in?
To answer my final question above, this chart that is supposed to reveal Australia’s record-breaking run of rising temperatures does nothing of the sort. What it shows is a sliced, diced, mixed together, re-diced and re-sliced set of data and then selectively colour-coded to scare people who don’t understand statistics.
By which, I mean Sydney Morning Herald environment correspondents. Well, either Nicole doesn’t understand statistics or she’s blatantly pushing a political agenda and pushing it with lies.
Which is it Nicole?
Let’s face it, this is the climate science equivalent of a collateral debt obligation, and we all know where that led.
UPDATE; I made an error regarding means vs. median in the original post. That sentence has been deleted.