Open Mind

Fire Down Below

February 8, 2009 · 95 Comments

Since it’s winter, the blogosphere has been assaulted with endless reports of “It was so cold last night!” and “The snowfall has been massive” and “5th-coldest winter in Michigan ever!” These are often followed by “Global warming is bull” and “Al Gore is a big fat liar.”

Such posts reveal ignorance about what global warming is: it’s about the long-term trend, not the short-term events. They also reveal the narrowest possible perspective (one might even say, no perspective at all) because your own backyard is not the globe. I actually commented on one such post (about the x-th coldest winter in location y) by pointing out that at the very moment of the post, southern Australia was sweltering through its worst heat wave ever. Despite the comment being nothing more than a matter-of-fact report on actual facts, the blogger decided not to let it appear. I guess a more global perspective didn’t fit into his world-view.


Southern Australia has indeed suffered its worst heat wave ever, especially in the states of Victoria and South Australia. The high temperatures combined with dry conditions have led to dangerous wildfires, which have destroyed many homes and in some cases nearly wiped out entire towns. Citizens have reported seeing trees actually explode in the midst of the fires.

The city of Melbourne recorded its highest temperature ever on Saturday, a blistering 46.4 deg.C (that’s 115.5 deg.F). The Bureau of Meteorology provides a high-quality data set of daily temperature in many Australian locations, including Melbourne since 1855. In the 150 years of record, daily high temperature in Melbourne has exceeded 110 deg.F (43.33 deg.C) only fourteen times, an average of less than once per decade. Four of them occured this year.

Before you comment here that Australia’s heat wave is only a short-term event, not a long-term trend — go tell it to one of those blogs complaining about the x-th coldest winter in location y.

Meanwhile, let’s take a look at the long-term trend for Melbourne, Australia. I downloaded the daily mean, and daily maximum, temperature data for Melbourne from May 1st, 1855 to the present. I then computed anomaly to remove the annual cycle, with these results:

mean

max

The red lines are a lowess smooth of the data. We can get an idea of the long-term trend (not the short-term events) by looking more closely at the lowess smooths: the smoothed mean temperature anomaly is in black while the smoothed max temperature anomaly is in red:

lowess

Over the last century, both the daily mean and daily max temperatures in Melbourne have increased by 1.5 deg.C or more.

Of course heat waves are weather events, and as climate changes we’ll still have weather. Melbourne can expect to get more heat waves and cold spells in the future. But because of global warming, they can also expect that the heat waves will be hotter and last longer. If you polled the citizens of southern Australia today, do you think they’d say that global warming is a good thing?

Categories: Global Warming
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95 responses so far ↓

  • Michael Haubeer // February 8, 2009 at 10:34 pm

    How much of this trend could be UHI, or site change issues?

    For UHI Melbourne had a period of very slow urban growth around the 90s, which seems to be a period of fast temperature rise.

    Would the signature of UHI temp changes be different to that of genuine climate change? I’d imagine UHI would increase high max temps alot more than other temps - concrete in the sun compared to concret under cool cloudy conditions, or concrete radiating away heat at night?

    [Response: Note that the mean temperature shows significant increase before max temperature, indicating that it's the nighttime low that increase first. Note also that daily max doesn't really "take off" until about 1990 -- I doubt that Melbourne wasn't urbanized until the 1990s.]

  • Former Skeptic // February 8, 2009 at 10:40 pm

    Thanks for the work on the temp datasets.

    Agree on using the Victoria/SA examples to show the folly of deniers claiming that the recent cold snap incidences “refutes AGW”. Generally the reaction I get is similar - silence, followed by repeated cognitive dissonance of the stark reality.

  • Alan Woods // February 8, 2009 at 10:48 pm

    It’s pretty grim here in Melbourne today.

    But my question is about the data quality. Is that data you’re showing corrected for in-homogeneities and the like? The reason I ask is that if we view data for Melbourne on the GISS site there is a big difference between the raw and adjusted versions (although it only goes up to 1992).

    [Response: From the BOM website:

    Several high-quality (or homogenised) observational datasets have been developed to identify, monitor and attribute changes in the Australian climate. These datasets have been produced using a variety of quality control and correction techniques. Where necessary, data series have been adjusted for discontinuities caused by changes in location, exposure, instruments or observation practice. Scientific papers describing the homogeneity process have been published for each dataset and these references are listed in the information pages available at: http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/change/datasets/datasets.shtml

    ]

  • Sekerob // February 8, 2009 at 11:21 pm

    Snowfall massive? Not so I saw this morning at Rutgers: http://climate.rutgers.edu/snowcover/png/monthlyanom/nhland01.png

    [Response: The blog posts I see are inevitably about massive snowfall in somebody's home town.]

  • John Mashey // February 8, 2009 at 11:34 pm

    1) Well, “ever” is a strong term :-)

    2) It’s not just Australia. Central/Eastern US got less heat and more snow than usual, and we’d much rather have those out here in California.

    As it is, the pleasure of many cyclists wearing shorts and short-sleeves in January inteh SFBay Area (not usual) will be seriously outweighed by Summer’s likely water rationing, dying orchards, etc.

    The Sierra snowpack situation is grim, and Steven Chu actually understands the problem, unlike some others.

  • Brian Rookard // February 8, 2009 at 11:45 pm

    I think that your comments make an erroneous assumption - that global warming means hotter heat waves.

    Global warming is based on an increasing average global temperature. But it is not true that an increasing average temperature results from higher summer temperatures.

    For example - for starters, the average of 20 and 10 is 15.

    The average of 22 and 10 is 16. In this case, the “higher” number drifted upward, dragging the average with it.

    But the average of 20 and 12 is also 16. And in this situation, the lower number drifted upward.

    Averages can go up by higher highs, higher lows, or both!

    The global average temperature can very well be drifting upward because of milder winters (and not necessarily hotter summers). One must be careful in analyzing the numbers - and I haven’t seen (or am not aware of) any analysis of the global data which makes the distinction as to whether the temperature is sliding upwards because of milder winters, or hotter summers, or some combination of both.

    I live in Michigan, and when I look at the Detroit GISS data, and admittedly, this is by my eye-crometer, it very fairly appears that winter temperatures have drifted upward slightly over the last 100 years, while the hottest month (July) has an average that has not budged much (if at all).

    My $0.02 urging against sweeping statements like you have made in the original post.

  • apolytongp // February 8, 2009 at 11:53 pm

    I actually see the fault a lot from both sides. We can argue about who does it more or worst and I’ll concede my side does. But sheer amount from each side is still silly. and the whole, “this is not from AGW, but here’s an example of waht things will be like” (on warm days, droughts, hirricanes, etc. rings a bit false to me…an emotional PR aspect is still driven and the individual data point elevated above the set.)

  • Stephen Spencer // February 9, 2009 at 12:09 am

    Tamino,
    I really appreciate your efforts to enlighten us about the many issues around climate change.

    I have long been a lurker on this site, but haven’t made a comment before as I haven’t had anything to say that has not been covered better by you or other people commenting.

    I live in Melbourne, Australia. Saturday was a horrific day. There are now over 100 people been killed and over 700 homes destroyed.

    Those who were in the bushfire areas say that the fires appeared very quickly, like a fireball, and people had little time to escape.

    My concern is that fires like Saturday’s will occur more frequently in the future, as the world warms.

    It has been incredibly dry here in southern Australia for more than 10 years and this adds to the wildfire menace.

    Tell me if I am wrong, but my impression is that Climate theory predicts that this part of the world will bet drier, as the climate zones shift poleward, caused by Global Warming. People here still talk of the “drought” but I suspect that it is a genuine climate change.

    While my area in southern Australia bakes and dries out, large parts of the north of the country are under water. My understanding as well is that tropical northern Australia is expected to get wetter.

    Thanks again for this great site.

  • Nathan // February 9, 2009 at 12:13 am

    Sadly it’s not only hot in Australia. There has been disastrous flooding in the north. The town of Ingham is expected to be flooded for the third time in three weeks.

    The extra rain in the north, and the drought in the south combined with high temps (which create the conditions for fire) are what the CSIRO told Australians to expect from global warming.

  • George Darroch // February 9, 2009 at 12:14 am

    Nice statistical analysis, the reason I always come here.

    It’s also very nice having the BOM in Australia, who have a great range of graphs and datasets to play with.

    One of the reasons the fires have been so ferocious (although not completely out of the ordinary - perhaps 1 in 10 year events) is that there were a couple of heavy rain events in December and early-Jan,interspersed and followed by no rain in the entire month following, and very high temperatures. This caused good growth, which then turned to tinder.

    For rainfall and temperature maps, see http://www.bom.gov.au/cgi-bin/silo/rain_maps.cgi?map=contours&variable=totals&area=aus&period=cmonth&region=aus&time=latest

  • Peter Martin // February 9, 2009 at 12:45 am

    Its interesting to see your calculation of Melbourne showing a temperature increase of over 1.5 deg C. It would be good to see what it is for other cities too, although I know there will be a fair bit of work involved.

    The combined land /sea temperature anomaly figures of around 0.4 deg C are well known. However the global figures for land areas alone, (where most of us do live!), are more than double this. See:
    http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs/Fig.A4.lrg.gif

    and show a rate of increase of about 0.3 degC per decade.

  • dhogaza // February 9, 2009 at 12:52 am

    Brave New Climate has also looked at the data, reaching the conclusion that yes, there’s a global warming signature to what’s going on in SE Australia.

    Worth taking a look. He wrote on Feb 3, commenting on the eight day > 35C heat wave and the upcoming forecast but unfortunately hasn’t updated yet. However, from reading about the horrible fires that followed, and the extremely high temps that help prod them on, seems like that forecast was likely true.

    Hopefully Barry will update soon.

    And as far as trees “actually exploding!” … since “actually” often implies amazement, it’s actually common in high-temp forest fires, in North America in pine forests. Lots of pitch that can flash to steam, blowing the trunk apart. Actually know someone who had a white fir explode about 50 feet in front of him, due to a lightning strike. Lots of big chunks of wood scattered around.

    And two common, very similar species of pine in California - Ponderosa and Jeffrey - were only differentiated when people began examining why turpentine plants were occasionally blowing up in the Sierran foothills. Turns out that Jeffrey pine pitch is very volatile and goes kaboom! easily.

    [Response: I got the "actually" from newspaper reports that expressed amazement. I guess it's not so amazing.]

  • Luke // February 9, 2009 at 12:57 am

    Tamino - I wouldn’t use Melbourne itself due the UHI concerns. But there are nearby stations ?

    The Australian Bureau of Meteorology has released a special report on the heatwave and breaking records. http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/current/statements/scs17.pdf

    The sceptics of course will insist that it was warmer before 1910 but there are problems with measurement techniques i.e. Stevenson screens vs Glaisher stands. The stands recording higher temperatures.

  • chriscolose // February 9, 2009 at 2:42 am

    //”Melbourne can expect to get more heat waves and cold spells in the future”//

    I’m not sure what this is based on. This may be true for this particular location (I haven’t actually looked at the trends), but it’s not obvious that a place should get more cold spells in a warming climate. Some people act as though it is self-evident that in a warmer world, the climate variability increases. It’s not self-evident, and there’s no a priori reason to expect it will be the case.

    Other than this comment kind of thrown in, this was a great post. Keep in mind also that IPCC projections have various areas of Australia impacted differently in a warmer world, with a tendency of increased rain fall in certain areas but decreases when lookng over all of Australia. Tamino’s post highlights some of the growing concerns as Australia will be probably be one of the worst in terms of drought/wildfire impacts.

    [Response: I guess I was unclear. I didn't mean that they'll get more cold spells than they have in the past, only that they'll *still* get cold spells -- global warming won't put an end to that. But it will make them less frequent and less severe.]

  • Nathan // February 9, 2009 at 3:33 am

    Chris
    I think the current situation in Australia very closely follows the projected path. With drought and fires in the south and floods in the north. If you look up any news on North Queensland you’ll see the situation up there.
    I think it was early last week more than 60% of Queensland was flood affected (it’s about as big as Texas?)

  • Gareth // February 9, 2009 at 4:11 am

    dhog didn’t provide the link to Bary Brooks’ post on the Aussie heatwave: it’s here, and I develop the theme slightly here.

    I’d be interested in seeing if the distribution of extremes is changing for various metrics (temp, rain etc), because it’s through the extremes that climate change impacts will first be felt. The corollary is that when the extreme impacts are felt, then politicians and voters will pay attention.

  • jyyh // February 9, 2009 at 4:13 am

    I’ve been toying with an idea there could be an social order for a blog/site that would take all the rare weather/climate events (say once in 10-30 years) and provide a climatological AND meteorological explanation for these. Weather being what it is, this would have to be a non-scientific site. The real scientists are not prone to interpret most of these events as caused by weather/climate change. Is there such a site already somewhere? Anyway this sort of site would be a tall order and would require heavy maintenance (and be subjected to censorship accusations, probably). Probably this would also be a 24/7 job, and no sane person would be likely to commit so much of his time to a discussion that would likely be attacked from both sides (climatology and meteorology) and additionally be thrust with occasional attacks from deniers (like “there are no fires in Australia”). Probably it would be best to not accept any comments, and the blog/site owner would then be likely labeled as a nutcase anyway. :-) Just toying with the thought.

  • James // February 9, 2009 at 5:07 am

    Actually, the Melbourne station (086071) is a poor choice for looking at trends. I used to ride past it on my bicycle on my way to Melb Uni every day. It’s in Latrobe St on a traffic island, surrounded by ashphalt on one of Melbourne’s busiest roads. It’s hard to imagine a site more subject to UHI effects.

    Probably for this reason the adjusted record for Melbourne in GHCN shows no trend at all.

  • Craig Allen // February 9, 2009 at 6:13 am

    Regarding the suggestion that the trends are due to an UHI effect in Melbourne. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology has loads of climate data plots and maps at http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/index.shtml
    If you explore this you will find that the south is clearly becoming warmer and drier and the north is getting wetter.

    The BOM has rigorous data quality standards, and uses a rigorously vetted high quality subset of all it’s weather station to derive climate trends and maps. This is explained here :
    http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/change/datasets/datasets.shtml

    To underline just how extreme the weather was this past week, central Melbourne got to 46.6 degrees C. This is a record for any Australian capital city. At Geelong airport - a small aerodrome 100km south-west Melbourne, surrounded by paddocks and wetlands, it got to 58 degrees C!!!!!

    Tamino, if you feel so inclined and if it is not too arduous to do, I’d be really interested to know what is happening with regard to the trends of records being set at the high quality weather stations.

  • Craig Allen // February 9, 2009 at 9:42 am

    Oops, bad typo. Geelong Airport got to 48 degrees C.

  • ChrisC // February 9, 2009 at 10:41 am

    I’m both a meteorologist former Melburnian, and I’ve been watching the last few weeks compulsively (and the last few days with horror). More than 130 people have been killed in the recent fires, while several more have been killed by the latest heatwave. A few comments are in order…

    While the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO have yet to crunch the numbers, the current heat-wave has been one of the most severe in South-east Aus in history, both in terms of the intensity on the heat, and the longevity of the system. Mildura, on the SA/Vic border recorded 12 consecutive days of max day-time temperatures in excess of 40C (~104F), more than doubling the previous record. Meanwhile, several locations in Tasmania (an island state to the south of the Australian mainland) broke record temperature’s by several degrees C. Wiki has a good overview:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2009_Southern_Australia_heat_wave

    Or to quote a Bureau met:

    “I’ve got a massive spreadsheet here of maximum temperatures and it doesn’t mean anything any more. The whole thing’s gonna have to be rewritten, ”

    Secondly, these heat-waves, caused by a blocking high in the Tasman, are quite common, but strangely, the Jan-Feb 2009 heat wave came 11 months after a previous record breaking. This event, detailed here:

    http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/current/statements/scs15b.pdf

    was described as “unprecedented”, and was calculated by the CSIRO to be a 1 in 1000 year event. The meteorological structure of the March 2008 event and the Jan/Feb 2009 event were very similar. This raises the obvious question: “Why the hell are we seeing so many rare events in this neck of the woods so close together”.

    While I’d caution pointing the finger at climate-change immediately, this is broadly consistent with predictions from the Climate models.

    A few people have raised the spectre of the Urban Heat Island effect (UHI). I’d respond with the following:

    1. The readings from the long term stations in Australia are extensively quality controled;

    2. Nearby stations in rural area’s and at airports recorded very similar, record breaking temperatures (such as Avalon airports 47.9C (~115F)).

    3. The heat-wave was not only remarkable for the record temps, but also for its longevity. Many sites broke (or smashed) long standing records for the number of days above 35 or 40C, something that the UHI would be unlikely to effect.

    This event, like the one in March 2008, was something special. I’ve seen many such events that last a few days, but event the older, more experienced mets I work with have commented that they’ve never seen anything like this. I can only hope what I’ve experienced is just “weather”, because if they are indeed related to climate change, we’re in for more of these in the future.

  • Torsten Mark Kowal // February 9, 2009 at 11:02 am

    IS THERE A LINK BETWEEN ADELAIDE’S HEATWAVE AND GLOBAL WARMING?

    Barry Brook has analysed the probabilities.

    http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/02/03/is-there-a-link-between-adelaides-heatwave-and-global-warming

    He writes……

    So, in Adelaide we have two freakishly rare extreme events happening with a 10 month period. How likely is that?

    Well, if the events are totally independent, we’d expect the joint likelihood of two such heatwaves (of 0.25% probability per year [the 2009 event] and 0.033% per year [2008 event], respectively), occurring within the same 12 month period, to happen about once every 1,200,000 years.

    Is that unlikely enough for you?

    But if there is ‘autocorrelation’ - dependencies between the two events due to a linked cause, such as climate change - this calculated probability is not valid.

    What exactly do I mean by this? Well, the heatwave that struck Europe is 2003 provides a good way to illustrate my final point, thanks to a neat analysis published in Nature in 2004

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v432/n7017/abs/nature03089.html.

    The authors of this study estimate that warming to date has at least doubled the probability of such an extreme heatwave occurring.

    Moreover, under ongoing heating, climate models suggest that by 2040, this extraordinarily hot summer (in historical terms) will be just a run-of-the-mill average summer.

    By 2060, it will be among the coolest of summers the future residents of Europe will thereafter ever experience.

    AUSTRALIA IS PIONEERING THE TRACK SOON TO BE FOLLOWED BY CALIFORNIA, SOUTHERN EUROPE AND SOUTHERN AFRICA.

    With a sense of great pathos I came across these pictures of a koala so hot and thirsty it had to descend the dry trees and ask at a house for water.

    See what happened next here -

    http://climateprogress.org/2009/02/06/australia-hot-dry-koala-waltzing-mathilda/

  • RedLogix // February 9, 2009 at 11:04 am

    Like Alan Spencer above I’m a long term lurker here. As a New Zealander, living just over the Tasman I want to express my real sympathy for the people of the State of Victoria and what they are going through.

    Australians are a tough bunch as a rule, and they are no strangers to bush fires. They know more about this kind of hazard than anyone on earth, yet the events of the last few days seem to have shocked even the most hardened of them, even the firefighters themselves. These fires seem to have been in a class of their own, obliterating several towns. The death toll may yet reach 200, way over-topping an earlier disaster in 1983 that took 87.

    These were not an ill-prepared people. They knew the dangers well, they were planned and prepared… yet these fires hit with an unprecendented ferocity and speed, leaving split-seconds to seek safety…. a safety many did not find.

    I know full well the folly of extrapolating from the specific to the general, but these events cannot but help raise a very blooded flag in the minds on many.

  • bluegrue // February 9, 2009 at 11:36 am

    Citizens have reported seeing trees actually explode in the midst of the fires.

    Those would be Eucalyptus trees. It’s what they do in a fire. I’m sorry for the Australian’s huge losses in lives and property.

    Eucalyptus are a hazard in California, too.
    http://library.csustan.edu/bsantos/section3.htm

    P.S.: Have posted as “blue” before.

  • Nexus 6 // February 9, 2009 at 11:38 am

    Here’s a link from the Bushfire CRC that readers may find interesting.

    http://www.bushfirecrc.com/publications/downloads/Fire-Note-climate-change_25.pdf

    Have a think about donating to the Red Cross bushfire appeal too.

    http://www.redcross.org.au/vic/services_emergencyservices_victorian-bushfires-appeal-2009.htm

  • Luke // February 9, 2009 at 11:57 am

    The sceptics will consider any allusion that these fires have had a helping hand by AGW influence as ghoulish. But surely at least consistent with what you’d expect.

    However the Australian bush is dangerous if not fired. It will burn at some point. Trees literally exploded during these fires. And a storm of embers causing spot fires everywhere.

    But 1939 fires were also bad. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bushfire

    However if you combine a drought many many years in the making with record breaking temperatures - the result is predictable. http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/current/statements/scs16.pdf

    Plus more hazard exposure by many more living close to the bush in a rural urban lifestyle. Alos perhaps we don’t patch burn mosaic the bush like the Aboriginal inhabitants did regularly for 1000s of years.

    And lots of little climate quirks - changes in SAM, Indian Ocean Dipole and the sub-tropical ridge moving rainfall patterns to miss southern Australia. All AGW possibles.

    So yes I think one has to consider the AGW implications - but should give none of us any pleasure. It was hell on earth down there.

  • Luke // February 9, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    At the risk of seeing too many synchronous effects it is interesting to ponder what other droughts are also occurring at the moment. A 100 year drought in Argentina with massive stock losses, drought in Kenya, drought in California and southern Texas and a growing drought in China.

    I guess some of the drought regions could be put down to La Nina, but how many of these droughts have multi-year components. And the La Nina brought rain to northern Australia but not the south. Hopes for a break didn’t occur.

    Papers in the last week about a broadening of the tropics and drying of the sub-tropics. A paper on changes in the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) said to have influenced drought in southern Australia. But also a paper in Climate Dynamics by Nicholls on changes in the Southern Annular Mode (SAM) also affecting drought in southern Australia. And other papers in recent years on a decreasing Walker circulation - Smith and Power, 2007 and Vecchi et al.

    I can’t find much on drought trends globally except the paper by Dai et al on the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) indicating some trends.

    Nevertheless a range of possible AGW effects which might bring big changes to sub-tropical regions - a whole suite of issues - water security, food production, drought, fire. How these recently documented effects interact with major sources of variation like ENSO and the PDO/IPO is pretty challenging stuff.

    So while there is a fascination with the GMST as a metric of climate change I would have thought that changes in circulation patterns, and who wins and who loses with drought and flood are more important issues.

  • jyyh // February 9, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    Shouldn’t have put the smiley on my last message. 170 deaths (as reported here in the north now) was not what I thought about when writing that. Apologies to those who were offended.

  • John L. McCormick // February 9, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    Published research by Thompson and Solomon point to tightening of the Antarctic Polar Vortex as a possible explanation for higher temp and lower precip in Southern Australia.

    The following are a few citations you might want to read. Some heavy lifting here but more informative than lifestyle of Koalas, cute as they are.

    Starts with Australian government publication:

    Australian Greenhouse Office, Department of the Environment and Heritage, April 2005

    http://www.climatechange.gov.au/ science/ hottopics/ pubs/ topic9.pdf

    “WHAT IS CAUSING THE RAINFALL DECLINES OVER SOUTHERN
    AUSTRALIA –OZONE, CLIIIMATE VARIABILIIITY OR CLIMATE CHANGE?”

    Excerpt:

    Thompson and Solomon (2002) have shown that stratospheric ozone depletion over Antarctica in spring and early summer is strengthening the westerly winds blowing around Antarctica. (Stratospheric ozone depletion is caused by industrial chemicals such as CFCs.) The effect is greatest during summer and may persist into autumn.

    Cite to the Thompson, Solomon study published in Science:

    http://www.atmos.colostate.edu/ ao/ ThompsonPapers/ ThompsonSolomon_Science.pdf

    “Interpretation of Recent Southern Hemisphere Climate Change”

    Abstract:

    David W. J. Thompson1* and Susan Solomon2

    Climate variability in the high-latitude Southern Hemisphere (SH) is dominated by the SH annular mode, a large-scale pattern of variability characterized by fluctuations in the strength of the circumpolar vortex.We present evidence that recent trends in the SH tropospheric circulation can be interpreted as a bias toward the high-index polarity of this pattern, with stronger westerly low encircling the polar cap. It is argued that the largest and most signficant tropospheric trends can be traced to recent trends in the lower stratospheric polar vortex, which are due largely to photochemical ozone losses. During the summer-fall season, the trend toward stronger circumpolar low has contributed substantially to the observed warming over the Antarctic Peninsula and Patagonia and to the cooling over eastern Antarctica and the Antarctic plateau.

    The ozone hole over Antarctica, in 2008, was at a record size and CFCs are not the cause to the degree that compound may have been before the Montreal Protocol.

    John McCormick

  • sod // February 9, 2009 at 9:47 pm

    Actually, the Melbourne station (086071) is a poor choice for looking at trends. I used to ride past it on my bicycle on my way to Melb Uni every day. It’s in Latrobe St on a traffic island, surrounded by ashphalt on one of Melbourne’s busiest roads. It’s hard to imagine a site more subject to UHI effects.

    station site and UHI are completely different issues. shouldn t you be at least able to tell the difference?

  • Phil Scadden // February 9, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    As another NZer looking on in horror, I can add another minor point - a blood red sun even in the early afternoon here.
    The weather system causing the heatwave moved across the Tasman Sea and gave us the hottest day of summer. We cleared off to beach despite it being cloudy and we noticed the high cloud had an odd colour. Suddenly everyone at beach was looking up - the cloud had thinned and we were looking at a red sun. Knew then that things must be really bad in Oz. When the sun went down it was a real spectacle but you looked at it with sadness knowing what the cause was costing.

  • Tim // February 9, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    Correction (I’m in Melbourne).
    Whole towns have been wiped off the map.
    Marysville is one (deliberately lit).

    Secondly. It was much hotter than this around Melbourne. I was in Avalon on the way back from a surf and it was 47.9 (officially).
    I was surfing in Torquay from 8-10.309AM and with an onshore (S) wind it was a pleasant ~30C. At around 11.30AM, the dust appeared with a fiery hot N wind that put the temperature up around 15degC in about (and I am not joking) 10-20seconds.

    @ Brian Rookard // February 8, 2009 at 11:45 pm . I have to disagree. The BOM and others state that climate change (as opposed to your definition of GW) will cause SE Aus (Vic, SA and some other areas) to be hotter and drier. This will increase bushfire risk, shorten our snow seasons (in which I have an interest) and the heatwaves will be intense.

    It is difficult to come to grips with the heat unless you experience it, but as linked to by others, mathematically, as an independent event, the Adelaide heatwave of Jan/Feb 09 and March 08, is 1/1.2Million. If correlated, lower. I wouldn’t like to bet on the independent event, would you?

    Anyway, the heat has been horrible, and phenomenal (I drove for about 5 hours on the Saturday in near 50degC temps in my car with no aircon - not pleasant). The bushfires and Melbourne’s train woes are a sign of things to come.

    The feeling of that sort of heat, coupled with a screaming hot North wind @ 100km/h in some spots, along with fuel loading, eucalypts (releasing their oil, you can see a blue haze across the bush on hot days, which is the eucalypts virtually saying “we need to burn”) dry….it is armageddon waiting to be unleashed. Having personally been caught in a bushfire before in the Macedon Ranges, I can tell you under these circumstances, no matter how well you are prepared, a fire of this intensity rolls, roils, crowning the canopy, throwing huge embers kilometres ahead of the main front on the wind , starting spot fires km’s ahead which makes things worse. It is a savage beast. Most of these people have fire pumps, know how to protect their place, have brick homes, well practised safety plans….but if you see pictures…the bricks have been destroyed. Such is the heat.

    Most people know someone who has been affected by the fires. My mum had to evacuate. Mate at work, his parents were in the fireline @ Yackandandah.

    Not a pretty picture. On top of this, if the 12-15 year drought continues, Melbourne could run out of water (time to start drinking recycled wastewater from Werribee).

    If this is a sign of things to come Vicco and SA is in big big trouble.

    Koalas: http://www.news.com.au/adelaidenow/gallery/0,22613,5037290-5014156,00.html#

    Personal story: http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/i-now-understand-the-word-firestorm-20090209-8288.html

    News: theage.com.au

    tm

  • Dave A // February 9, 2009 at 10:39 pm

    “because your own backyard is not the globe.”

    But BCPs are?

    [Response: Irrelevant cheap shot. Infantile.]

  • naught101 // February 9, 2009 at 11:34 pm

    Dhog: I’ve alo had friend who’ve seen pines explode in big fires, it is quite common. Eucalypts don’t do that nearly as easily, the sap isn’t as volatile, the wood is far, far more dense, and the foliage is generally more sparse.

    cheers
    naught

  • saltator // February 10, 2009 at 1:40 am

    I am a citizen of southern Australia. The event in Melbourne was an extreme event. In your use of Melbourne’s temperature figures you did not explain that the city has grown significantly since the 1950s through immigration. Melbourne is a classic Urban Heat Island problem.

    Perhaps it would have been better to look at the temps for Cape Otway and Ballarat as these are not as contaminated by size changes in the city.

    Lastly, these fires would not have occurred if nature alone was at play. There were not adverse weather conditions that would have permitted lightning strikes. The fires were lit by a human agent. An arsonist or arsonists.

    I live in Perth (southern Western Australia) and we are not having an out of the ordinary summer.

    [Response: I repeat: the trend in max temperature doesn't really "take off" until the 1990s. I seriously doubt that Melbourne wasn't urbanized before then. You're just repeating an old tired excuse.]

  • saltator // February 10, 2009 at 2:29 am

    By the way. I am not insinuating that global warming has no role in these events. I am merely saying that to link them to global warming without sufficicent evidence is counter-productive.

    Might be a time to pray for lost souls instead.

  • saltator // February 10, 2009 at 3:51 am

    Tamino,

    I will not labour on this and do not wish to get into an unseemly argument at this time. However, a little understanding of demographic changes is needed. There has been a rapid increase in urban sprawl in Melbourne from 1990 particularly to the east of the city. Urban incursion into previously forested and farm lands is part of the problem with this fire event.

    if you visit: http://www.gmodules.com/ig/creator?synd=open&url=http://mapvisage.appspot.com/fires/vicfiresgadget.xml

    You will gain an insight into the relationship between the urban sprawl and the fire distribution.

    Victoria is the most bushfire prone region of the world. Couple that with a burgeoning population since the mid 1990s (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melbourne#Contemporary_Melbourne), this disaster was probably the result of a “perfect storm” type of event.

  • Oakden Wolf // February 10, 2009 at 3:56 am

    Hi, I just wanted to point out, you’ve got a bias toward the Northern Hemisphere, when you said, “Since its winter…”. It’s not winter globally, is it?

  • ChrisC // February 10, 2009 at 4:38 am

    “I live in Perth (southern Western Australia) and we are not having an out of the ordinary summer.”

    According to the Bureau of Met for January:
    “Mean daily maximum temperature - well above average: Perth’s mean daily maximum temperature for January was 32.5°C, compared with the average of 30.5°C. January 2009 ranked as the equal sixth hottest on record with 1981, 1961 and 1956 since observations commenced in 1897″…ect

    http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/current/month/wa/archive/200901.perth.shtml

    True, December 2008 was slightly cooler than normal, but the equal 6th hottest January on record actually substantial. This stuff is easily checked you know.

  • saltator // February 10, 2009 at 5:07 am

    Chris C.

    And the coolest october in 35 years. I reiterate. We are not having an out of the ordinary summer.

  • TCOis banned...why? // February 10, 2009 at 5:13 am

    I am finding that AGW debates remind me more and more of the hell of Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day.

    “Wake up the polka, blabla!” Go of and kill myself.

    Lather rinse repeat.

  • Dan R // February 10, 2009 at 5:18 am

    “Lastly, these fires would not have occurred if nature alone was at play. There were not adverse weather conditions that would have permitted lightning strikes ”

    Incorrect, the cool change that swept through Melbourne Saturday evening brought with it storm cloud development and associated lightning, but little rainfall. Arson AND lightning played a role in these fires, time will tell exactly how each individual blaze started.

  • saltator // February 10, 2009 at 5:21 am

    My apologies. I meant November not October.

  • david // February 10, 2009 at 5:42 am

    Will keep this short because I am busy - yes I work at the Bureau.

    There is little to no evidence of an urban heat island affect in summer maximum temperatures in Melbourne and indeed recent events suggest perhaps a reverse effect. The city is surrounded by low mountains which give rise to very hazy conditions in summer (ie smog). The recent event was more remarkable outside of Melbourne itself.

    PS Mike - take a look at (Recent intensification of tropical climate
    variability in the Indian Ocean
    NERILIE J. ABRAM1;2*, MICHAEL K. GAGAN1*, JULIA E. COLE3, WAHYOE S. HANTORO4
    AND MANFRED MUDELSEE5, http://www.nature.com/naturegeoscience for your discussions with Ian Holton about the IOD). The IOD may be partially behind the drought but increased IOD activity is a likely consequence of global warming.

  • AndrewS // February 10, 2009 at 7:07 am

    @ChrisC

    And November (I know it’s not Summer, but here in Perth, it often feels like) was even more below average than December, one of only 5 Novembers not to have a day above 20 in history.

    http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/current/month/wa/archive/200811.perth.shtml

    This stuff is easily checked, and I can see why it feels like this summer in Perth hasn’t been especially hot. It certainly does for me.

    That said I was in Adelaide when it was hot in Perth, and up until the heatwave recently, Adelaide was having a relatively cool summer.

  • AndrewS // February 10, 2009 at 7:08 am

    Sorry typo, above 30.

  • Nathan // February 10, 2009 at 7:27 am

    Saltator
    Looks like both Jan and feb will be hot in Perth, Have you seen the forecast for the next week?

  • Craig Allen // February 10, 2009 at 9:10 am

    Tamino, if you have access to the data, you could resolve this UHI effect debate by presenting data from one of the regional high quality weather stations.

    SOme Victorian ones that are not adjacent to substantial urban areas that are Cape Otway #, Wilson’s Promontory Lighthouse, #085096Nhill #078031 (a tiny place in the middle of nowhere), Mildura airport #076031 (it’s out of town), and Deniliquin Airport#074258

  • Craig Allen // February 10, 2009 at 9:15 am

    Tamino, if you have access to the data, you could resolve this UHI effect debate by presenting data from one of the regional high quality weather stations.

    Some Victorian ones that are not adjacent to or surrounded by substantial urban areas that are:
    Cape Otway #090015
    Wilson’s Promontory Lighthouse #085096
    Nhill #078031
    Mildura airport #076031
    Deniliquin Airport #074258

  • Luke // February 10, 2009 at 9:48 am

    So sceptics have branded any discussion on an AGW influence on this fire disaster as ghoulish.
    http://talbyv.blogspot.com/2009/02/australian-bushfires-due-to-agw-not.html

    But here we go - who’s more ghoulish - a disgusting excuse to attack the greens in the midst of a national disaster. Comments worth a read too.

    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25031389-7583,00.html

    How did all those horrific bushfires before the modern green movement start.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bushfire here’s the list.

    Greenies were around in 1939 were they?

    What green groups have anti-burn no fire regime policy? Evidence is …?

    Wonder where the term fire ecology came from?

    Australia also differential fire regimes too - northern Australia savannas burn too frequently - sometimes every year http://www.nt.gov.au/business/blog/documents/IED%20Presentation%20-%20West%20Arnhem%20Fire%20Abatement%20Project.pdf

    Large pastoral regions of Queensland and NSW don’t get to burn at all - thanks to overgrazing - and so more and more woody shrubs and trees. Woodland thickening. Same in southern USA and southern Africa.

    And southern higher density temperate forests likely to explode into massive conflagrations every 10-20 years.

  • Saltator // February 10, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    Craig Allen,

    “Tamino, if you have access to the data, you could resolve this UHI effect debate by presenting data from one of the regional high quality weather stations.”

    Craig, I have looked at the daily temps for Ballarat. The loess function does not behave anything like Melbourne’s.

    I disagree with the Bureau fella on the UHI. There is ample research by Monash University and others to suggest the UHI is a significant effect.

    see: http://mclean.ch/climate/Melbourne_UHI.htm

    http://www.earthsci.unimelb.edu.au/~jon/WWW/uhi-melb.html

    http://www.warwickhughes.com/blog/?cat=4

    Apparently Melbourne Regional Office 86071 (MRO) has been removed from the Bureau’s High Quality dataset. Perhaps our Bureau fellow can tell us why.

    [Response: And I've looked at Mildura, and it behaves a *lot* like Melbourne. I'll post on the subject soon.]

  • Kevin McKinney // February 10, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    It’s instructive how the “UHI effect must account for it” idea refuses to die in this thread, despite repeated posts which really should have killed it off, if pure logic were the determining factor.

    And yes, this whole event is horrific–one that weighs on the heart if contemplated squarely.

  • dhogaza // February 10, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    Barry Brooks has posted again on the exceptional heat wave that has contributed to this catastrophe.

  • Dave A // February 10, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    dhogaza,

    First of all let us acknowledge the significant human tragedy that has taken place.

    Then, let’s accept that the current heat wave probably did nothing to lessen that tragedy.

    But what about state government regulations against controlled burns to clear the ‘fuel’ build up in the brush( the environmentalists wanted the brushlands to be “pure”)?

    And how about the deliberate setting of fires by ’sick’ individuals?

    Life is actually, as ever, a tad bit more complicated than you seem to think it is.

  • Dave A // February 10, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    Don’t you hate it when you make typos!?!

    ‘bush’ and’ bushlands’

  • david // February 10, 2009 at 10:38 pm

    >I disagree with the Bureau fella on the UHI. There is ample research by Monash University and others to suggest the UHI is a significant effect.

    Saltator not for high maximum temperatures. The effect on minimum temperatures is very very clear. There is no evidence for a UHI on very high maximum temperatures - however. Hot days are usually associated with high winds. In addition there is irrigated park land north of the instruments which offer the potential for a slight cooling in addition to that caused by aerosol pollution in the city.

    There full HQ data sets can be found at http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/change/datasets/datasets.shtml and includes photos. City locations are included in many of the HQ datasets because they are high quality urban sites. They accurately potray the climate the inhabitants are experiencing - but these data ARE NOT used for the monitoring or reporting of Australian climate change such as here - http://www.bom.gov.au/cgi-bin/silo/reg/cli_chg/trendmaps.cgi?variable=tmean&region=aus&season=0112&period=1900

    A full updated report on the heatwave is available at http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/current/statements/scs17c.pdf . Barry Brooks summarises this event nicely at http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/02/10/heatwave-update-and-open-letter-to-the-pm/. To quote… “this was the hottest day on record on top of the driest start to a year on record on top of the longest driest drought on record on top of the hottest drought on record”

  • dhogaza // February 10, 2009 at 10:40 pm

    But what about state government regulations against controlled burns to clear the ‘fuel’ build up in the brush( the environmentalists wanted the brushlands to be “pure”)?

    This typical anti-enviro, anti-science, RWingnut rant has already been quite soundly fisked. You can do your own homework. It will require you to read beyond the normal denialist sites that seem to be the basis for your “science education”.

  • Luke // February 10, 2009 at 10:59 pm

    More accusations now coming in about the design safety of a lot of these rural-urban style communities. The ever present hazard of fire living in the Australian bush and lessons needing to be revisited by another generation.

    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25038717-5018722,00.html

  • Dave A // February 10, 2009 at 11:21 pm

    dhogaza,

    OK educate me. From what I’ve read across a number of sources there have been restictions or bans on people’ cold burning’ (ie, in winter) the bush on their own land and general cutbacks on the ability of the forestry etc services to do the same.

    The reasons for this are no doubt complex, but one significant reason is the demands of the environmental movement.

    Now if you do not agree with what I have said, educate me rather than just posting ad homs

  • JCH // February 10, 2009 at 11:31 pm

    It says they weren’t doing controlled burns in many priority areas because they were too close to homes.

    Most likely the homeowners did not like the smoke and they probably did not want to look at the blackened scar left by the fire - their lovely country view.

    Were all those homeowners environmentalists?

  • JCH // February 11, 2009 at 12:05 am

    This is from the website of one of the areas devastated by the fire:

    Burning off

    A person must not light a fire in the open air unless for fuel reduction purposes and only in accordance with the following:
    Properties less than 0.4 Ha or 1 acre are permitted to burn with a permit, from 1 October until 1 February (or the start of a fire danger period if sooner).
    For properties 0.4 Ha and over, fires are allowed without a permit at all times outside the declared fire danger period.
    During the declared fire danger period, no burning is allowed.
    To obtain a permit and to check the conditions for burning off with or without a permit, please contact Council’s Emergency Risk Coordinator ….

  • Nathan // February 11, 2009 at 12:07 am

    Dave A,
    We do prescribed burns in WA, they happen (I think) in Autumn, nothing will burn in Winter.
    Often the prescribed burns cause bushfires as they can get out of control. It does seem that they work to a degree here, BUT you have to look at the result. There is an increase in the ‘fire-loving’ vegetation, that is vegetation that uses fire - they grow rapidly, set seed early, and create an environment that encourages fire. The so-called ‘kerosene bush’ (also known as Karri Hazel?) down south is a prime example.

    One interesting thing to note is the loss of small marsupials may have had an enormous impact. In WA there’s a samll marsupial mouse, the Woylie, which feeds on fungus. It buries leaf litter and sticks and effectively farms the fungus. It can reduce the load (I think I saw an estimate of aroun 1 ton per year, but you may have to search yourself for better ones) without encouraging the growth of fire-loving plants.

    It’s a very complicated situation and simplistic “greenies are bad” arguments are stupid.

  • Craig Allen // February 11, 2009 at 12:07 am

    Dave A:

    You are definitively incorrect. Ecologists and most environmentalists recognise the importance of fire in Australian ecosystems. The lack of burning is due to the lack of resources to do the work within the relevant government departments, and because of the small windows of opportunity when fuel reduction burns can be undertaken safely.
    Part of the cause of the small window of opportunity is the communities demand that fuel reduction be done with a zero risk of outbreaks causing property damage. We are so scared that fuel reduction burns will get away that we can’t do enough of them given the resources at hand to ensure that wildfires do not take hold during extreme weather.

    What ecologists and environmentalists are against is the careless repeated year by year over burning of areas of bush, which can degrade ecosystems and can ironically favour faster growing more flammable species.

    Explain to me why you think environmentalists would prefer to see the vast acreages of forests and woodlands reduced to cinders than to have a properly instituted regime of burns designed to both reduce risk and promote ecological diversity.

    I’ll give you one example. The critically endangered Lead Beaters Possum of Gippsland (eastern Victoria) requires old growth forest with an understory of wattle trees that are less than 30 years old. To manage for this species we therefore need to a) not log the forests and b) make sure that we create a mosaic of burns in the landscape where it lives that ensure it always has areas it can colonise. Not burning the forests ensures that sooner or later all it’s habitat will be eliminated.

    Any environmentalist with half a brain wants more burning, not less, but does not want a scorched earth policy, whether caused by inadequate burning and crazy weather as we have just seen, or by ecologically inappropriate over burning.

  • dhogaza // February 11, 2009 at 12:22 am

    It says they weren’t doing controlled burns in many priority areas because they were too close to homes.

    Of course. Same is true here in the american west. You don’t do prescribed burns where there are houses nearby because unanticipated changes in conditions (sudden wind shift, etc) can cause a fire to jump control lines and possibly burn down the houses you’re trying to “protect”.

  • dhogaza // February 11, 2009 at 12:28 am

    Any environmentalist with half a brain wants more burning, not less, but does not want a scorched earth policy, whether caused by inadequate burning and crazy weather as we have just seen, or by ecologically inappropriate over burning.

    Let me guess:

    In Australia, as in the United States, the very environmentalists DaveA claims block prescribed burning were among the first voices calling for prescribed burning.

    Sound about right?

  • Ray Ladbury // February 11, 2009 at 1:49 am

    Dave A., While your intent is clearly to divert discussion from the role climate change likely plays in this tragedy, your post does raise an interesting point. That is, given that fire management policy ought to be based on sound science, the proper policy is likely to change–and may even change year-to-year as things warm up. For instance, how do milder winters in which pine beetles survive the winter change fire management in the Rockies? Another risk we should be tracking.

  • Hank Roberts // February 11, 2009 at 3:39 am

    http://www.werc.usgs.gov/yosemite/JvWBiswell.pdf
    The Biswell Symposium: Fire Issues and Solutions in Urban Interface and Wildland Ecosystems

  • Hugh // February 11, 2009 at 8:25 am

    To apply a slightly different [sociological] perspective on household-scale wildfire mitigation, I found this essay by Hannah Brenkert to be very readable. She teases out the complexity of the ‘community’ and ‘place’ factors that influence the decisions of those who live in the WUI very well.

    The essay won a prize a couple of years back in the annual Natural Hazards Center [Boulder]competition

    http://www.colorado.edu/hazards/awards/paper-competition/Brenkert_grad.pdf

  • Aaron Lewis // February 11, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    Get the new version of Google Earth and you can look at time series of the same area. With this program you can look at photos of the Melborne area from 2002 until 2009. Looks to my naked eye like there was some urbanization in that period. This hints that it may not be possible to discount UHI effects without looking at actual dates of urbanization.

  • J // February 12, 2009 at 11:53 am

    Aaron Lewis writes: Looks to my naked eye like there was some urbanization in that period. This hints that it may not be possible to discount UHI effects without looking at actual dates of urbanization.

    Except that in the other thread, Tamino has shown several other nearby (and indisputably non-urban) stations that ALSO show 0.3-0.8 C warming since 1990.

    http://tamino.wordpress.com/2009/02/10/australia-51/

  • Lee // February 12, 2009 at 6:16 pm

    Part of the controlled-burn equation is very simple.

    If homes get built in fire-climax ecological communities, it makes it impossible to do more than very limited controlled burning in those areas, because of the risk to the homes.

    This in turn means that fuel build up and growth of combustible vegetation continues until we get catastrophic conditions, and then we get catastrophic fires that destroy many of those homes. And, because the catastrophic fires burn so hot, damages the regenerative ability of the ecological communities. Catastrophically hot fires destroy stumps that would otherwise stump-sprout, destroy fire-adapted seeds that would otherwise be primed to sprout after fire, sterilize and ‘coat’ soils so that they repel water and lock up nutrients, and so on.

    This is a very simple and very predictable cost of building in those areas.

    Far from opposing controlled burning, many environmental groups have opposed building in those fire-climax communities precisely because it makes it impossible to do controlled burning to reduce such catastrophic fires.

  • TCOis banned...why? // February 12, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    I thought I had a really pithy, emotively connecting remark that would appeal to all sides and I did not even get a yap-dhog remark. :(

  • dhogaza // February 13, 2009 at 12:01 am

    I thought I had a really pithy, emotively connecting remark that would appeal to all sides and I did not even get a yap-dhog remark. :(

    You really overestimate yourself.

    And your taste in movies …

    There, feel better?

  • Philippe Chantreau // February 13, 2009 at 4:38 am

    Lee’s right.

    There are places where people have no business having a house, unless they’re ready for the risks coming with prescribed burns. If they’re not ready for that, they should be ready for the risk of catastrophic burns and also to be liable for the consequences of a catastrophic burn that will affect people other than themselves ( i.e. all users of the ecosystem destroyed by the catastrophic burn).

    I doubt that developers ever present things like that, however.

  • Manfred // February 13, 2009 at 10:27 am

    the melbourne uhi has been analyzed here:

    http://mclean.ch/climate/Melbourne_UHI.htm

    … no records broken, taking uhi into account.

  • Chris O'Neill // February 13, 2009 at 11:42 am

    Saltator:

    I disagree with the Bureau fella on the UHI. There is ample research by Monash University and others to suggest the UHI is a significant effect.

    see: http://mclean.ch/climate/Melbourne_UHI.htm

    http://www.earthsci.unimelb.edu.au/~jon/WWW/uhi-melb.html

    http://www.warwickhughes.com/blog/?cat=4

    None of those cites have anything to do with Monash University. Perhaps you meant Melbourne University?

    In any case no-one is suggesting that the UHI doesn’t exist. But if you read your second cite you will notice that it says:

    The results from a recent study in Melbourne have found that the central business district (CBD) and industrial suburbs (IS) retain stored heat from the previous day until sunrise the following morning. This explains why these areas are consistently warmer at night than the outer suburbs and surrounding rural environments.

    Notice how it says “at night”. i.e. the UHI comes into effect mainly at night, not during the day when the maximum usually occurs. The UHI is also generated by stored heat, so if it is windy such as it was on the 7th of February (83 kph around the time the maximum occurred), this stored heat and the resulting UHI is quickly dissipated by the wind. We can also see the consequence of strong winds from the forecast maximums for Melbourne city and its inner and outer suburbs on that day. They all had a forecast of 44 deg C (apart from the suburb with 600 metres altitude). No sign of UHI at that point in time. As well as Melbourne city itself, both outer suburbs I checked, east and west, Scoresby and Avalon, set a new record that day even though the UHI is much less significant that far from the city during the times it does occur.

    The bottom line is, UHI affects minimums not maximums. UHI is “blown away” by wind. UHI, when it does occur, is far less significant in outer suburbs. There was no opportunity for UHI to influence Melbourne’s maximum on the 7th of February.

  • TCOis banned...why? // February 13, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    Yap…always good for a downer!

  • dhogaza // February 13, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    McLean’s credentials for overturning conventional scientific temperature analysis:

    Computer consultant and occasional travel photographer

    Similar to my credentials as a computer consultant and internationally published nature photographer and writer.

    Oddly, I don’t feel like my credentials qualify me to overturn the work of climate scientists…

  • Chris O'Neill // February 13, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    the melbourne uhi has been analyzed here:

    http://mclean.ch/climate/Melbourne_UHI.htm

    … no records broken, taking uhi into account.

    Also known as proof by citation that doesn’t prove what you claim it does. For a start, maximums and averages are not the same thing.

    BTW, I’d take everything McLean says with a grain of salt.

  • Johan i Kanada // February 13, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    Of course, no serious “climate change denier” claims that one local wheather event, at one time, proves or disproves anything.

    However, the AGW alarmists, including its cheer leaders in the MSM, merrily reports any “abnormal” wheather event as a proof of global warming.

    [Response: Wrong on both counts.]

  • Philippe Chantreau // February 13, 2009 at 8:35 pm

    Are you sure about that wind figure Chris? If it is correct, how could anyone seriously suggest that UHI could have been a factor? I must have missed something, this is ridiculous. Siting effects would likely be just as irrelevant. That’s about 50mph wind, as is generated by a tropical storm; a light airplane can fly stationary with that. Most people would not even consider walking outside. UHI in 50mph winds? Little gremlins heating up thermometers with flashlights sounds more plausible.

    Kanada, if you paid any attention, you’d realized that the subject of this thread is the temp trend for Melbourne.

    Serious climate change denier? Sounds like an oxymoron. There are so many examples of deniers using cold events to deny warming, it’s not even funny.

  • Manfred // February 13, 2009 at 8:47 pm

    McLean’s analysis concludes that the melboune temperature increase in the last decades (also presented here in posting #1) is completely due to uhi.

    without this, there is no increase, as in the rural reference stations around.

    the temperature spike is then not on top of a trend and is nothing else but weather, not climate.

  • Philippe Chantreau // February 14, 2009 at 12:22 am

    So Melbournbe is all due to UHI.

    But the rural stations examined in this post show same or similar trends: http://tamino.wordpress.com/2009/02/10/australia-51/

    What is McLan explanation for that?

  • Chris O'Neill // February 14, 2009 at 3:23 am

    Are you sure about that wind figure Chris?

    It’s at the bureau’s web page . I should point out that that wind probably occurred just after the change came through, but the same page shows the wind speed was 39 km/h at 3 pm which was an hour or so before the change arrived and the wind speed peaked.

    BTW the maximums recorded by Melbourne city and suburbs and stations within 50 km on that day were:

    Melbourne City: 46.4 C
    Melbourne Airport: 46.8 C
    Avalon: 47.9 C
    Coldstream: 44.8 C
    Essenden Airport: 47.3 C
    Frankston: 35.9 C
    Laverton: 47.5 C
    Moorabbin Airport: 46.7 C
    Mt Dandenong (561 m): 41.8 C
    Scoresby: 46.1 C
    Viewbank: 46.7 C

    A map of these locations is here. I copied these figures from Latest Weather Observations for the Melbourne Area just before midnight on the 7th February when the maximums are reset but you can get the maximums for each location from Daily Weather Observations for Victoria.

    Every suburban station within 30 km of the city had a hotter maximum than the city. Not much evidence of a UHI at the hottest time in at least 155 years. In fact, Melbourne city was a slight urban cool island.

  • Timothy Chase // February 14, 2009 at 3:35 am

    Re Philippe Chantreau

    Barbies in the outback?

  • Chris O'Neill // February 14, 2009 at 4:04 am

    Manfred:

    McLean’s analysis concludes that the melboune temperature increase in the last decades (also presented here in posting #1) is completely due to uhi.

    Looks like you never get tired of claiming proof by citation that doesn’t prove what you claim it does. McLean’s analysis in that page does not conclude that the melboune temperature increase in the last decades is COMPLETELY due to uhi. It only showed that some of the trend in Melbourne’s average temperature is due to increasing UHI.

    without this, there is no increase, as in the rural reference stations around.

    Is that still true if you don’t ignore data after 1990 as Tamino has done?

    I don’t think so.

  • Johan i Kanada // February 14, 2009 at 6:20 am

    Philippe,

    As you can read in the first paragraph of Tamino’s post, he/she attempts to ridicule the opposition. I merely corrected his/her assumptions.

    [Response: If by "the opposition" you mean those who claim that every heavy snowfall proves global warming is wrong and Al Gore is a big fat liar -- then they deserve ridicule. Do you not agree?]

    The term “climate change denier” was of course invented by AGM alarmists for anyone not subscribing to the prevailing dogma, in an attempt to bring up associations with “holocoust deniers” (typically a nasty bunch of people).

    [Response: The term "denialist" is applied to those who are in denial. The association with holocaust deniers is yours, not mine.]

    How many debaters on the realism side of the debate claims that the climate is constant?

    [Response: I suppose you think you're on the "realism" side. You're not. Instead you're on the "let's make a straw man argument" side, trying to suggest that anybody ever claimed that climate is constant.]

  • Johan i Kanada // February 14, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    Dear Tamino,
    Presumably, you do agree that you and many others call certain people “climate change deniers”, do you not?
    If so, the implication is that these people claim that the climate is constant, is it not? (The climate either changes or is constant, there is no third alternative.)
    So could you please name a few?

    [Response: This is a perfect example of your obfuscation. Either you know perfectly well that "denialists" are those who deny human causation for modern climate change and/or the danger of same, or frankly, you're an idiot.

    So why would you say such a stupid thing? Perhaps you're constructing a "straw man" so you can knock it down and declare yourself a winner. Maybe you've thought about your comment on signal-to-noise ratio, realized that was stupid, so you're trying to embarrass someone else in order to divert attention from your own embarrassment. Maybe you're just dumb enough actually to believe it.

    It's abundantly clear that you're here to spread FUD.]

  • luminous beauty // February 14, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    What is apparently beyond Johan’s comprehension is that when one is reduced to making specious and affective semantic assertions against one’s opponents, one has lost the argument.

    I’ll bet he’s in denial about that, too.

    Such a lack of self awareness continues to keep the Karl Rove’s of the world employed.

  • Philippe Chantreau // February 14, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    Kanada, your thinking is as confused as your spelling.

  • dhogaza // February 14, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    Presumably, you do agree that you and many others call certain people “climate change deniers”, do you not?
    If so, the implication is that these people claim that the climate is constant, is it not? (The climate either changes or is constant, there is no third alternative.)

    Johan’s been making the same stupid claim since at least 2007

    He’s a slow learner.

  • Ray Ladbury // February 14, 2009 at 10:40 pm

    Johan, reality. Reality, Johan. I’ll leave you two alone. You have a lot to catch up on.

  • Luke // February 19, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    A perspective on conditions worth reading http://www.triplehelix.com.au/documents/ThoughtsontheVictorianBushfires_000.pdf

  • Chris S. // February 19, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    Luke

    That is interesting. One sentence that stood out for me was:
    “These fires burnt through areas that had been burnt by wildfire in 2004, and coupes that had been clear-felled within recent years, with no obvious drop in speed or fire intensity.”

    Makes a lot of the discussion on fuel load & tree felling to create firebreaks moot.

  • Tim // March 3, 2009 at 10:48 am

    @ Dave. Doesn’t matter about people encroaching on the bush. This was a beast unlike anything we’ve seen. Ever. Let me repeat that. EVER. Worst fire conditions EVER.

    I drove through Kinglake the other day - it looked like a nuke had gone off. I’ve seen, and been, in the midst of a few bushfires and this was on another level.

    Record drought, on top of record dry start, on top of record temps etc etc.

    FWIW I have some photos if anyone is interested in seeing them, will post them up on flickr.com/photos/mrtim or heresysnowboarding.com. Mostly shot at evening with an f/4 so not the best but you can see the damage.

    -tm

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