GHCNM Spatial Sampling


This post is about the current spatial sampling of the stations with monthly average temperature data in GHCNM version 3, the current source data for many “official” reconstructions of the global land surface air temperature history.

Preliminary results are also given for GHCNM version 4, which has not yet been released officially.

A figure of around 8000 stations is often quoted for GHCNM version 3, which might appear to be an adequate spatial sampling. However, most of those 8000 stations are no longer providing updates, and there are questions about the adequacy of the current spatial coverage in two distinct areas:

  • Spatial sampling of the varying climate around the globe
  • Detection and correction of inhomogeneities in the currently reporting stations

These two questions will be discussed on a per-country basis, starting with Australia.


The Australian Bureau of Meteorology has 112 stations in ACORN-SAT(2012), intended to describe the varying climate histories around the country:


The currently reporting stations in GHCNMv3 (unadjusted), for monthly TAVG (average temperature) data is shown in the following list for Australia, generated by recording only those stations with data in 2018:


These 62 stations in Australia that are currently reporting monthly TAVG to GHCNMv3 are possibly adequate to represent the varying climate around the country, but only if those stations remain unchanged in equipment, environment and procedures, and are free of errors.

ACORN-SAT was constructed by homogenisation involving many hundreds of other stations. This is no longer possible in GHCNMv3, which only has current data for 62 stations in Australia.

To confirm that all of the many other Australian stations in GHCNMv3 are currently non-reporting, here is a table of all Australian TAVG data (qcu: “unadjusted”) for 2017:


The 4-digit numbers in the table above, with separate columns for Jan to Dec, are the average temperature in hundredths of a degree C, -9999 means missing data.

GHCNM version 4 (preliminary) results are as follows. A total of 101 Australian stations contributed monthly average TAVG (unadjusted) data for January 2018, shown below in two parts:



101 stations will be a significant improvement on 62, but falls short of the 250 that is my guesstimate for the minimum number required to have a good chance of detecting and correcting inhomogeneities.

More to follow later, about other countries …

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Author: Dr Michael Chase

You are invited to visit a new website that describes a relatively simple, but nevertheless effective method of reconstructing the regional average history of monthly average surface air temperature variations for a region from its weather station data, aided by any metadata that is available:

The new website will be kept small and focused on the methodology, to help navigation.

This blog will continue to cover results from the method, and comparisons with “official” temperature reconstructions.

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The Rumble at Rutherglen

Author: Dr. Michael Chase


Photo above: A recent picture of the weather station at Rutherglen, Australia, from the BoM webpage cited below. Other photos are shown at the end of the post.

Post Summary and Conclusions

This post documents some analysis of changes in minimum temperatures (Tmin) at Rutherglen, a rural weather station in South East Australia. It is found that:

  • Early 20th century Tmin measurements are around 1.0C higher (annual average) than those that would have been measured if the recording system/location/environment of today had been in place then. There is some variation between months that make up this annual average.
  • The annual average ACORN-SAT(2012) correction of 1.7C for early data is therefore substantially too high
  • The daily ACORN-SAT(2012) corrections for 1920/21/22 (the only years examined) show a nonphysical discontinuity between the end of November and the start of December


Rutherglen (BoM id 82039) is a rural weather station at a research farm, with no nearby man-made structures, at least from 1975, as revealed by photos and descriptions from the BoM webpage given below:

The RAW Tmin data from Rutherglen, and from many nearby stations, show a net cooling over the last 100 years, as revealed in the following figure:


Questions have been asked about why the raw temperature trend of net cooling has been adjusted in ACORN-SAT to a net warming trend, and the BoM have responded with the webpage cited above.

ACORN-SAT Corrections

The dates and sizes (annual average) of Tmin corrections applied by ACORN-SAT(2012) are given in the following extract from its adjustment summary document:


A later (September 2014) summary from the BoM about Rutherglen does not mention the 1928 Tmin correction:

but it is unclear if that correction has been disowned (without saying so) or simply not mentioned. The original 2012 documentation is taken to be definitive, as it matches daily temperature data available in October 2017.

Data prior to the last-listed correction in 1928 is reduced, on average, by 1.7C, the sum of all corrections. The following figure shows the daily corrections for 1920/21/23 (the only years examined):


The corrections appear to change in jumps from month to month, in particular with a very large jump (marked A in the figure above) from November to December, surely an undesirable and erroneous artifact rather than a genuine weather phenomenon.

My Analysis

I have estimated the monthly average corrections that would be needed to be applied to raw Rutherglen Tmin data to remove non-climatic influences relative to those present in recent years. The methodology is being documented in a separate blog:

The following figure shows the annual average correction needed for periods of data (the bold blue lines are the moving averages) deemed to be stable, tracking the regional average (in red) reasonably closely:


The required correction is the temperature difference between the bold blue and dashed red lines, which are respectively the 15-year moving average of raw Rutherglen Tmin data, and the 15-year moving average of the regional average temperature variations. The figure also shows the 12-month moving average of weather-corrected raw Tmin data at Rutherglen.

The key features of the data shown in the figure above are as follows:

  • 1914 to 1926: The average correction needed for Tmin data in this early period of stability is around 1.0C, the ACORN-SAT(2012) correction of 1.7C is too much
  • 1914: There was a step change in temperatures, probably associated with the station move in January 1914 (source: Torok thesis 1997), a move that fails to get a mention or a correction in ACORN-SAT(2012)
  • 1928: There was a step change in temperatures around 1928, but they recovered around 1936. ACORN-SAT (2012) has the step down in 1928, but not the recovery in 1936, an example of errors caused in ACORN-SAT by transient perturbations.
  • 1966: There was a large drop in temperatures
  • 1974: There was another drop in temperatures, but note that this was the date of some heavy rainfall (see below), and the temperature drop looks a bit like the sharp edge of a sawtooth perturbation
  • 1984: This marked the start of a long period of stable temperatures with a trend matching that of the regional average
  • 1998 (29th January): This was the date of a switch to an AWS system, which does not appear to have had a significant impact on measured temperatures
  • 2012: There was a drop in temperatures at that date, possibly associated with a period of heavy rainfall, more on that below

The regional moving average temperature history was derived by averaging periods of stable temperature (such as the ones shown above in bold for Rutherglen) across stations in the region.

Monthly Corrections

The following set of figures show eyeball-estimated corrections for each month, being the average temperature difference between the raw data (in black, red for its average) and the regional average (in blue/mauve):





The figures shown above confirm that the periods 1914-1966 and 1984 to 2012 were roughly stable in terms of non-climatic influence, justifying the use of these periods in obtaining the regional average temperature history. If a corrected (“homogenised”) version of Rutherglen Tmin data is required then early data (before 1966) must be reduced by around 1.0C, with some monthly variation in that figure.

Regional Average

The following figure shows more of the periods of data used to form the regional average temperature history:


The complete set of the data periods used in regional averaging at Rutherglen is shown here:

Finally, the following figure shows a summary of the regional average Tmin and rainfall history back to 1885, indicating the heavy rain that may explain some of the anomalous changes in temperature around 1974 and 2012:


Conclusions: See the start of this post.


The following photo of the Rutherglen station is from the ACORN-SAT station catalogue:


Photos of the Rutherglen site from the BoM website cited above (click to enlarge):




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Merge Errors in ACORN-SAT

Author: Dr. Michael Chase


I believe that it was James Hansen and NASA/NOAA co-workers who first pointed out in print the problem of historical non-climatic warming in temperature reconstructions, as depicted in the following diagram:


Source of the figure above:

This post shows examples of the problem manifesting itself in station mergers in ACORN-SAT, and quantifies the sizes of the resulting errors.


I construct regional average temperature histories, separately for each month, of monthly average daily maximum (Tmax) and minimum (Tmin) temperatures. Full details of the methodology are being documented in this blog:

Normalising station data to the level of the most recent regional average reveals the time-history of non-climatic influence at the stations being merged, indicating the size of corrections that would be needed in the construction of composite station records.

Example 01: Wagga Wagga (NSW) Tmin

The following figure shows 12-month (and longer) moving averages of Tmin for Wagga Wagga Kooringal, and AMO, with consistent normalisation for both stations, i.e. allowing actual measured temperature differences to be seen:



The figure above also indicates typical sizes of temperature corrections that would be needed in the construction of a composite record. The composite corrections needed for early data (1910-25) are much lower than those applied in ACORN-SAT, which are shown in the following extract from its documentation:


Working backwards in time from the present, ACORN-SAT applies the following corrections to Tmin data:

  • 1968 (-0.46C): There was indeed a step change in temperature of around this size at that date
  • 1964 (-0.09C): The data are consistent with this small correction
  • 1948 (-1.62C): It appears that this enormous correction is the consequence of the anomalous warming at Wagga Kooringal between around 1930 and 1950, a period that I mark as being too anomalous to include in the regional averaging process.
  • 1928 (+0.43C): This correction achieves some damage limitation, but the net correction (the sum of all of them) applied to data before 1928 is -0.46 – 0.09 -1.62 + 0.43 = -1.74 C, which results in considerable over-correction



Regional Average Stations

The list of stations used in constructing the regional averages in the analysis above is as follows, indicating which ones were omitted:

id BoM-id From To
01 82039 1912 2017;… % RUTHERGLEN RESEARCH
02 74128 1867 2003;… % DENILIQUIN WILKINSON
03 74258 1997 2017;… % DENILIQUIN AWS
04 82001 1908 1986;… % BEECHWORTH COMPOSITE
05 82002 1903 2006;… % BENALLA
06 82170 2006 2017;… % BENALLA AIRPORT
07 72151 1871 1950;… % WAGGA WAGGA KOORINGAL
08 72150 1942 2017;… % WAGGA WAGGA AMO
09 80015 1881 2017;… % ECHUCA AERODROME
10 80023 1903 2017;… % KERANG
11 82053 1901 1987;… % WANGARATTA
12 80002 1907 1986;… % BOORT
13 77042 1899 1996;… % SWAN HILL PO
14 77094 1996 2017;… % SWAN HILL AERO
15 74034 1907 2014;… % COROWA AIRPORT
16 74110 1914 1975;… % URANA PO
17 72023 1922 2017;… % HUME RESERVOIR
18 74009 1907 1975;… % BERRIGAN PO
19 80043 1908 1977;… % NUMURKAH PO **** OMITTED ****
20 82016 1909 1976;… % EUROA
21 73127 1913 1975;… % WAGGA WAGGA AG
22 80091 1965 2017;… % KYABRAM
23 81084 1965 1985;… % LEMNOS **** OMITTED ****
24 80049 1940 1975;… % ROCHESTER **** OMITTED ****
25 72000 1907 1994;… % ADELONG PO **** OMITTED ****
26 74039 1947 1977;… % DENILIQUIN FALKINER
27 74069 1949 1969;… % MATHOURA STATE FOREST
28 75080 1914 1927;… % WANGANELLA
29 74106 1970 2017;… % TOCUMWAL AIRPORT
30 81049 1965 2017;… % TATURA
31 82138 1987 2017;… % WANGARATTA AERO
32 72097 1970 1986;… % ALBURY
33 82100 1968 1986;… % BONEGILLA
34 82056 1954 1968;… % WODONGA
35 82038 1903 1921;… % RUTHERGLEN PO **** OMITTED ****
36 82085 1903 1937;… % RUTHERGLEN VITI **** OMITTED ****
37 82034 1927 1969;… % MYRTLEFORD PO **** OMITTED ****
38 81057 1965 1975;… % YARRAWONGA PO **** OMITTED ****
39 81124 1993 2017;… % YARRAWONGA
40 75038 1940 1956]; % KOONDROOK **** OMITTED ****

More examples to follow later.

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The Late 20th Century Climate Shift in SE Australia

Author: Dr. Michael Chase


Monthly average surface air temperature data in South-East Australia (and probably in other regions) show a relatively sudden increase in maximum temperatures at the end of the 20th century. Unfortunately, this was also the time when the BoM introduced Automatic Weather Stations (AWS) at many of its sites. This post presents some data on temperature and rainfall changes around this “climate shift” and shows graphically that the calibration of the AWS systems in the area examined had close matches to those of the systems they replaced, at least at the level of monthly Tmax averages. The seasonal differences in temperature and rainfall variations may provide clues to the cause(s) of the climate shift.

Regional Average Temperatures and Rainfall

The figure below shows the climate shift in a region of NSW/VIC bounded by lines joining Mildura, Hillston, Wagga Wagga, Rutherglen, Echuca, Nhill and back to Mildura:


The data shown in the figure above represent estimates of the regional average temperature history, in this case for 6-monthly Tmax data. Details of how to estimate regional averages, detecting and correcting inhomogeneities, will be given in later posts.

I have examined the regional average temperature history for each separate month, and find that each month from September to February has a similar upward shift in Tmax near the end of the 20th century, so have averaged over this 6-month period to illustrate the phenomenon (red curves above). The other months all show a similar lack of anything special happening around that time (blue curves for the 6-month average).

There is normally a close association between Tmax fluctuations  and rainfall levels, but the following figure shows that there was no particular trend in rainfall around the time of the climate shift:


Are AWS Systems Involved?

Many stations in the region had AWS systems installed in the late 20th century, for example becoming the primary sensors in November 1996 at both Mildura Airport and Wagga Wagga AMO. Fortunately, many nearby stations retained their manual systems, and I have checked their temperature histories against those that switched to AWS.

The following figure shows the temperature history (12-month and 15-year moving averages, after subtraction of regional average temperature fluctuations) for 3 stations that switched to AWS, together with the regional average temperature history (black curves):


Note that there are no substantial deviations from the regional average when the AWS systems became the primary sensors. For comparison, the following two figures show the same data for 6 stations that did not get converted to AWS:




There may be calibration differences of a tenth or two degrees C at the level of monthly Tmax averages between the AWS and manual systems employed in the region, but not more than that. This conclusion is consistent with the absence of corrections for AWS installations in ACORN-SAT, the early one at Cape Otway being the only one that has a correction.

Later posts will look at how the climate shift varied around Australia, which may shed some light on cause(s).




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Averaging Multiple Temperature Records

Author: Dr. Michael Chase


This is the first in a series of posts with the general theme of “Do it yourself temperature homogenisation“. The full series of posts will outline a simple but effective procedure for turning raw instrumental temperature data (aided by any available station history and data on rainfall) into reconstructions of the background temperature history for any area with a “sufficient” number of weather stations, the sufficient number depending mostly on the quality and extent of the data.

The overall procedure involves visual detection of inhomogeneities, followed by averaging and integration of interannual temperature differences in which the inhomogeneous data is omitted. Effectively, large inhomogeneities allow visual detection, followed by removal from the data, small ones are suppressed by the averaging process used to obtain regional histories.

Averaging Multiple Records

This first post in the series deals with the final step of the procedure, the method by which multiple temperature records are combined to give a regional average temperature history. The following figure gives a schematic picture of what typical temperature data looks like:


The figure above illustrates the following:

  • Black data: Historical urban warming, followed by a station move (typically to an airport or other out-of-town site), followed by a switch to automatic sensors
  • Red Data: A good rural station, but with some missing data
  • Blue data: A station with a transient perturbation, possibly of non-climatic origin, or possibly due to a period of localised heavy cloud/rainfall

It is assumed for the purposes of this post that the previous stage of the overall procedure has identified the inhomogeneities, marked all periods of “transition” within a computer program, and that the analyst has corrected the data for any large residual inhomogeneities at transition boundaries and at all ends (more on that last issue below and in subsequent posts). The computer program, under analyst control, then does the following:

  • Either infills missing raw data or leaves gaps if there is doubt about the station history within a gap. Infilling can also be done manually.
  • Computes all valid differences in temperature, separately for each month, between years N and (N-1). Valid differences are those that do not cross, or lie within transitions
  • Extrapolate temperature differences for all stations with missing years using the average of valid temperature differences

The following figure illustrates the resulting full coverage of temperature differences:


The temperature differences can now be averaged again with the important feature that each station has a constant weight in the averaging process (1/3 for each station in the example shown in the figure above). Finally, the average temperature differences can be integrated forwards and backwards in time from any desired reference year/temperature to obtain average temperature histories for each month.

Error Analysis

The reason for extrapolating temperature differences for all stations can be seen from the example of the blue data in the figure above. In some cases the dip in the blue data will be deemed to be associated with a period of heavy rainfall, i.e. a genuine climatic effect. This genuine climatic effect will only produce the correct impact on the regional average (i.e. only within the period of rainfall) if the weighting of the blue data is constant in time, which is what results from the extrapolation of temperature differences for the red data.

Using interannual temperature differences avoids the need to estimate and correct most inhomogeneities, but there is a small price to pay for that substantial benefit, the problem of residual inhomogeneities at boundaries, illustrated in the following figure:


The figure above shows an example of a temperature record with perturbations from the regional average. The perturbation within the record is not really a problem, because the downward shift in temperature is matched by the exact reverse in later data, with the constant weighting of each record ensuring that the perturbation will not influence the end-to-end shift in average temperature.

The problem illustrated in the figure above arises from the inhomogeneous ends of the record (more generally from any boundary, including ones created by defining “transitions”), which can distort the end-to-end variation of average temperature if the inhomogeneities are not detected and corrected, which can be done manually (see a later post).


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Review of Thornton et al 2017

Author: Dr. Michael Chase, 3rd July 2017


This post documents a review of a recent paper published in Environmental Research Letters about GB wind power and electricity demand:

The relationship between wind power, electricity demand and winter weather patterns in Great Britain

Hazel E Thornton1,5, Adam A Scaife1, Brian J Hoskins2,3 and David J Brayshaw3,4

Published 16 June 2017 © 2017 Crown copyright
Environmental Research Letters, Volume 12, Number 6

I was alerted to the publication of this paper by a post about it at the “Energy Matters” blog by Roger Andrews:

The paper has generated some hype and fake news, such as this from “energylivenews”:

“Wind turbines produce more power on the coldest days than the average winter day.”

This post attempts to provide a more accurate description of what the paper says, and what it does not (but should) say.

The authors of the paper are all meteorologists or climatologists. The meteorological aspects of the paper are excellent, especially the insights provided into the particular weather patterns that lead to most cold spells and associated high demands for electricity. The absence of electrical engineering input is apparent in the incomplete analysis of the contribution of wind power to meeting future peak demands.

Incomplete Analysis

The paper quantifies how well current wind power deals with an old problem (high demand during cold spells on a system without wind power) but fails to quantify how additional wind power would contribute to solving current problems. Current GB wind power already has more than sufficient capacity to deal with the relatively small excess demands that appear to occur during some windy cold spells, so windy cold spells are no longer a problem. In fact, the current nameplate capacity of wind power of around 15GW (metered plus embedded generators) is so large that it has shifted the current problem (the peak demands placed on the rapidly diminishing conventional sources of supply) to times of such low wind conditions that additional wind power capacity will have negligible effect on the current capacity problem for the foreseeable future.

The following figure shows how the analysis could be improved to draw appropriate conclusions about additional wind power:


The figure above has been copied and pasted from the paper, with the addition by me of the red line, which provides a rough estimation of where the current problem lies, the peak demands that conventional sources might be expected to have to meet when cold spells fall on working days. The slope of the red line follows from the current total nameplate capacity of GB wind power. I have assumed that the conventional sources can supply 1040 GWh per day, so the red curve starts at that level. As total wind power increases higher total demands can be met thanks to the wind contribution. The current problem is events below the red line, several of which had very low wind power. Those very low wind power events had a BIT less demand than the highest but a LOT less wind power than the average, and that is the current peak capacity problem, and additional wind power will not solve it.

The figure above can be used to see the outcome of several what-ifs. If demands increase (such as via increased electrification of heating and transport) then many more events will move to the right into the danger region. If more conventional supply is lost then the red line will move to the left, bringing many more events into the danger region.

What-if more wind power capacity is added? Suppose that an extra 1.5 GW (nameplate) is added in the next few years, will that improve the security of the GB electricity system? The answer can be seen from the effect on the red line, whose slope will merely decrease by 10% (since total nameplate capacity has risen by 10%), making very little difference to the problem area below the red line.

Wind power enthusiasts may be tempted to argue that there is very little in the way of events below the red line so there is not much of a capacity problem, especially when more wind power is added. There are two problems with that argument, firstly that the temporal resolution (daily wind averages) used in the paper underestimates the number of events below the red line (more on that below), but even if that issue is minor the capacity problem includes the large number of events that are poised to enter the danger region via a rise in demand and/or a fall in conventional supply. Wind power has changed the statistics of the supply/demand balance, but that change in statistics has now all but stopped, and somehow the rapidly falling conventional supply has to be reconciled with the expected rapid rise in demand.

Modelling Issues

The reanalysis data used, from 1979, includes long periods of relatively mild (and presumably windy) winters in the UK, and this is likely to have biased the statistics in the over-optimistic direction. The following figures show HadCET data for daily winter maximum and minimum temperatures from 1878, with exceptionally cold days shown with blue markers.



Finally, the paper uses daily average wind power, when it should have made an attempt to estimate wind power at the critical early evening period, when peak demands occur. Critical events with wind power lulls in the early evening will have been biased towards higher apparent wind power by the use of daily averages. There would be many more dots below the red line in Figure 6 of the paper (shown above) if the analysis had been done at a finer resolution, with Roger Andrews showing example data at 5-minute resolution from a particular cold spell in his blog post cited above.

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