Australian scientists at the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) ordered a review of temperature recording instruments after the government agency was caught tampering with temperature logs in several locations.
Agency officials admit that the problem with instruments recording low temperatures likely happened in several locations throughout Australia, but they refuse to admit to manipulating temperature readings. The BOM located missing logs in Goulburn and the Snow Mountains, both of which are in New South Wales.
Meteorologist Lance Pidgeon watched the 13 degrees Fahrenheit Goulburn recording from July 2 disappear from the bureau’s website. The temperature readings fluctuated briefly and then disappeared from the government’s website.
“The temperature dropped to minus 10 (13 degrees Fahrenheit), stayed there for some time and then it changed to minus 10.4 (14 degrees Fahrenheit) and then it disappeared,” Pidgeon said, adding that he notified scientist Jennifer Marohasy about the problem, who then brought the readings to the attention of the bureau.
The bureau would later restore the original 13 degrees Fahrenheit reading after a brief question and answer session with Marohasy.
“The bureau’s quality control system, designed to filter out spurious low or high values was set at minus 10 minimum for Goulburn which is why the record automatically adjusted,” a bureau spokeswoman told reporters Monday. BOM added that there are limits placed on how low temperatures could go in some very cold areas of the country.
Bureaus Chief Executive Andrew Johnson told Australian Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg that the failure to record the low temperatures at Goulburn in early July was due to faulty equipment. A similar failure wiped out a reading of 13 degrees Fahrenheit at Thredbo Top on July 16, even though temperatures at that station have been recorded as low as 5.54 degrees Fahrenheit.
Failure to observe the low temperatures had “been interpreted by a member of the community in such a way as to imply the bureau sought to manipulate the data record,” Johnson said, according to The Australian. “I categorically reject this implication.”
Marohasy, for her part, told reporters that Johnson’s claims are nearly impossible to believe given that there are screen shots that show the very low temperatures before being “quality assured” out. It could take several weeks before the equipment is eventually tested, reviewed and ready for service, Johnson said.
“I have taken steps to ensure that the hardware at this location is replaced immediately,” he added. “To ensure that I have full assurance on these matters, I have actioned an internal review of our AWS network and associated data quality control processes for temperature observations.”
BOM has been put under the microscope before for similar manipulations. The agency was accused in 2014 of tampering with the country’s temperature record to make it appear as if temperatures had warmed over the decades, according to reports in August 2014.
Marohasey claimed at the time that BOM’s adjusted temperature records are “propaganda” and not science. She analyzed raw temperature data from places across Australia, compared them to BOM data, and found the agency’s data created an artificial warming trend.
Marohasey said BOM adjustments changed Aussie temperature records from a slight cooling trend to one of “dramatic warming” over the past century.