Our paper is misinterpreted — have you read it?Richard Treadgold | February 27, 2010
The paper we published last November continues to attract attention. The sceptics like it since it seems to refute any warming in New Zealand and the warmists like it since it seems to present a loutish, unscientific punching bag.
The truth lies more moderately somewhere in between.
The sceptics shouldn’t look to our paper to refute local warming, because it doesn’t. It presents no evidence on the quality of the national temperature graph — it merely questions the data, expresses strong doubts about their accuracy and wonders what adjustments were made to them.
Salinger contradicts Wratt in writing
Those looking for a refutation of New Zealand warming actually need look no further than NIWA’s own graph of the New Zealand annual temperature series, which shows no significant warming since about 1950. Here’s a copy:
In confirmation of this, Dr Jim Salinger expressly claims that the NZ temperature increase over the last 50 years is only 0.3°C. In an email to Vincent Gray in 2006 he said:
A linear trend fitted to the data over the period 1950 – 2005 is equivalent to an increase of 0.4°C over that period (or 0.3°C fitting a trend to the last 50 years, 1955 – 2005).
That’s a far cry from 0.92°C over the last 100 years, which is what David Wratt last claimed. The first 50 years must have been scorching!
The warmists, ripping into us and our methods with gusto, shouldn’t waste their energy refuting the paper or our methods, for the scientifically justified statements are irrefutable. If they would pause to read our paper more carefully, they will find the parts they disagree with are just a vigorous expression of opinion, nothing more. All you can do with an opinion is to have another opinion — you can’t refute a mere opinion, only an assertion of fact.
The facts are mostly contained in the series of seven graphs showing the raw (monthly) data and the adjustments and of course our critics won’t argue with those, since they come straight from NIWA.
Ken, a frequent visitor here, has levelled some familiar accusations at our paper. For the sake of newcomers to the argument I’m putting my response here in a new post where more people will see it.
The quotes he pulls from our paper are accurate, but fail to tell the whole story. Let me show what the paper really says. You can check the paper for yourself. The relevant section begins:
We compared raw data for each station (from NIWA’s web site) with the adjusted official data … What did we find? First, the station histories are unremarkable. There are no reasons for any large corrections.
This makes it clear that we are looking at the data on NIWA’s web site, not passing judgement on whether corrections are ever required. Shortly after, it makes the point unmistakably:
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.
The statements about what we found in the station histories are simply true. They are not an expression of our beliefs regarding the temperature readings but an observation of the information made available by NIWA. The web site did indeed contain no indication that adjustments had even been made, much less what size they were, or why they were made.
It’s a distortion to claim, as Ken has done repeatedly, that the paper recognises no reason for adjusting the temperatures. Ken also says that we “went on to produce graphs ignoring the real site effects.”
No, Ken, we graphed the data provided by NIWA to show how it has been adjusted.
The first peer review of our temp record
Anyway, informed by the simple, undeniable facts that adjustments had been made but not declared by NIWA, we expressed opinions, saying “scientists created a warming effect”, “it’s a disgrace”, and so on. These opinions are strong, but they’re valid, and the facts we outline do not refute them. They were expressed vigorously but they weren’t lies and we have nothing to apologise for.
Why did we do it? We wanted the adjustments so the temperature record could have a jolly good peer review, the first one ever. We already knew that NIWA and Salinger had been refusing to disclose them for about thirty years, so we expected resistance. Most unscientific, true.
Why all the fuss about Wellington altitude adjustments?
NIWA’s first reaction to the publication of our paper was revealing. They took it as a challenge to the quality of the temperature record and said that warming was “unequivocal”. Then they said:
NIWA’s analysis of measured temperatures uses internationally accepted techniques, including making adjustments for changes such as movement of measurement sites. For example, in Wellington, early temperature measurements were made near sea level, but in 1928 the measurement site was moved from Thorndon (3 metres above sea level) to Kelburn (125 m above sea level). The Kelburn site is on average 0.8°C cooler than Thorndon, because of the extra height above sea level.
Such site differences are significant and must be accounted for when analysing long-term changes in temperature. The Climate Science Coalition has not done this.
You’ll note that they don’t actually say they made these corrections in the temperature record for Wellington. It sounds as though they do, but read it again — they don’t. From an analysis of the material they referred us to, especially Salinger’s [1981?] thesis, there is good reason to suspect that this is no accident.
Because I have heard on good authority that the adjustments to the NZ temperature record we have asked for are not in Salinger’s thesis. If this is confirmed, it would mean that the adjustments don’t exist in any of the citations given us by NIWA last December.
So their insistence that the NZ Climate Science Coalition “has” the adjustments was false and even they didn’t have them.
Why refer us to the wrong documents?
On the same good authority, Salinger’s thesis doesn’t mention Wellington. So why did David Wratt make that huge fuss about the altitude adjustments between Kelburn and the airport?
NIWA referred us to documents where we would find, they said, the methodology that would produce the adjustments, knowing that we hadn’t asked for the methodology, and knowing that the methodology is not so precisely defined that anyone could replicate anyone else’s results — there are just too many subjective decisions to make.
NIWA referred us to documents which contained the adjustments we asked for. Those documents did not contain them. NIWA acted falsely.
Those apologists for NIWA who complain about our paper smearing the reputations of their scientists should reflect on this: that these changes were made in secret, are still, today, undisclosed (Hokitika has apparently been fully described, but we have not finished checking it) and, by NIWA’s own admission, these changes introduce warming to raw data that show no warming and NIWA have refused requests for them from bona fide scientists for decades.
That really is a disgrace.
By any scientific standards, those adjustments should be double-checked — even triple-checked — fully described and disclosed to any competent scientist who asks for them.
It is unacceptable for these important adjustments to the national temperature record to be hidden from the New Zealand public, unacceptable to complain about being asked for them, unacceptable to criticise those who ask and inexcusable to actively obstruct them by giving false citations.
It is good news indeed that NIWA are reconstructing the schedule of adjustments. We can’t wait to see the rest of them.