Blue moon at the The Australian

Over at The Australian Cheryl Jones seems to be immune to the group think there, writing a straight news story on the debunking of a paper by by Stewart Franks et al, which purported to prove that global warming had no effect on the drought in the Murray-Darling Basin:

In winter, the days are shorter the farther south you go. The Franks team's dataset started with stations in the southern basin, including ones near Canberra and Melbourne, and ended with stations as far north as Moree, near the NSW-Queensland border. By adding data from more northern stations later in the period, the analysis gave the impression of a trend towards longer sunshine hours.

Dr Cai's team, which includes Bureau of Meteorology scientists, analysed the same dataset but used corrections for latitude. The "trend" vanished. The patchy distribution of data in space and time had skewed the Newcastle team's results, producing a "large spurious trend".

Of course, The Australian had earlier given Franks an opinion piece to advance his theories.

More like this


Surely the science is being argued out in peer reviewed papers in GRL? This is how it should be.

Articles in the Australian are irrelevant, especially to a blog that many who post on it claim is 'about science not journalism.'

By Dave Andrews (not verified) on 29 Apr 2010 #permalink

@Dave Andrews - perhaps you don't read the articles here very much - have a look through this list and see how many articles highlight The Austalian's "coverage" of climate science.

Maybe you should read some of them, and learn.

By crazy bill (not verified) on 29 Apr 2010 #permalink

Dave Andrews: "...a blog that many who post on it claim is 'about science not journalism.'"

This site clearly does devote a fair bit of time to journalism, or the failings thereof. And that's fine by me. Who cares what you claim "many who post on it" think? (I presume you mean commenters.)

Surely the science is being argued out in peer reviewed papers in GRL? This is how it should be.

Well, Dave Andrews, I'm glad you've came around to the view that The Australia's War on Science is wrongheaded and that they should accept the consensus of the scientists published in the peer-reviewed literature.

It must have been a big step for you to take, but it's better late than never.

Well done.

Nice. I particularly liked the use of the term 'junior high school science' to describe where Franks' paper went wrong.

It's still unfortunate that it is described as the 'latest battle in the climate wars'. It would be nice if this type of correction happened the way it does in most spheres of science: quietly, with the correct interpretation then used responsibly in future research. Postulating some kind of combatorial arena in the scientific literature isn't going to benefit anyone.

I got a couple of paragraphs into this article yesterday and had to do a double-take and check I was still in "The Australian" and hadn't accidentally stumbled into a different paper by mistake.

Very well done Cheryl!
- Quoting real scientists instead of cranks or random passers-by.
- Referring to genuine published research instead of hyperbolic media releases.
- An absence of scientifically-illiterate twisted editorial logic.
- She even gives Franks the opportunity to comment, but without giving him the last word.

A fantastic effort which could restore my faith in science journalism.

By Vince Whirlwind (not verified) on 29 Apr 2010 #permalink

I noted the article yesterday and had to do a double take as well. "What!?!?!" was my reaction.

Agree - a good example of science reporting done right. The traditional journalistic balance is balanced, however in the end it comes done to what makes good science.

One can only hope for more.

By Watchingtheden… (not verified) on 29 Apr 2010 #permalink

Kudos to Cheryl Jones.

Gaz @4, he shoots, he scores. Way to go Gaz!

By MapleLeaf (not verified) on 29 Apr 2010 #permalink

Actually, I've just had a read of a few other Cheryl Jones articles and I see she's an unusual kind of journalist in that she obviously knows her shit.

Turns out she has a degree in Chemistry from Uni of NSW, as opposed to the usual journalistic qualification consisting of a "degree" in Media Studies from a rebranded CAE "University".

I think I'll add her to my "Ben Galdacre, Johann Hari, ..." list.

By Vince Whirlwind (not verified) on 29 Apr 2010 #permalink

Well done Cheryl Jones. What I find so extraordinary is that The Australian should have published it. After all, that newspaper and others published by Murdoch, are renown for their bias (is bigotry too strong a description?) in favoring publication of any view which disputes the causes of global warming or that it is even occurring.

For a long time there has been a large divergence between the Higher Education Supplement and the rest of The Australian. Presumably it's market segmentation, given that the HES is largely read by tertiary academics who tend to be a) vaguely left wing and b) intolerant of bullshit and attacks on their collective expertise and reputation. If they ran the HES with the same editorial policy as the rest of the paper, all the unis would shift their advertising to the Fin.

By James Haughton (not verified) on 29 Apr 2010 #permalink

So when can we expect the 'debunking' of the debunking of the debunking, brought to you curtesy of WUWT, presumably?

The slight bubble burst here is that it appeared in the Higher Education supplement, not the main paper where the 'opinion' articles do...

AS I've said in the past, if a reporter does a good article, email them and tell them so, and even better email their boss.

By John Mashey (not verified) on 29 Apr 2010 #permalink

John Mashey:

Already left a comment, but will do.

By Marion Delgado (not verified) on 29 Apr 2010 #permalink

Off with her head!

By Cheryl's boss'… (not verified) on 29 Apr 2010 #permalink

I mentioned this one on Wednesday in Open Thread 47. I read it and had the same reaction as a few of the posters here - had to take a second look to check that it was in fact The Australian. I guess this is their attempt at journalistic balance.

The Franks paper (i) acknowledged the possibility of spurious artefacts in the simply averaged MDB timeseries, and (ii) consequently, analysed individual station data, not for âunderlying trendsâ but for strength of correlation.

The results â that sunshine hour duration is better correlated to temp than rainfall (as expected). This invalidates the âfilteringâ of temp using rainfall that form the basis of Caiâs work as well as Karoly/Nicholls which appeared in the IPCC 4AR.

I haven't read the Cai paper but he is quoted as saying this;

âHe also suggested that high temperatures had worsened the drought by increasing evaporation and transpiration, or loss of water from plants. â

Franks on the other hand said this:

âDuring drought, when soil moisture is low, less of the sunâs radiant energy goes into evaporation and more goes into the heating of the atmosphere which causes higher temperatures.

âMost importantly, the elevated air temperatures do not increase evaporation but are actually due to the lack of evaporation and this is a natural consequence of drought.â

Franks is correct; when moisture is scarce the energy required to evaporate it is proportionately higher so heating rather than evaporation will occur.

Franks is preparing a reply to the Cai comment.

It is not as simple as you are making out cohenite.

ET is proportional to the VPD. The saturation vapour pressure is solely a function of temperature. Look at the P-M equation.

So if the temperature increases, typically so does the VPD. The potential ET goes up-- that is the evaporative demand goes up. Whether or not the plant can meet this demand depends on the the root-zone soil moisture availability. In drought, actual ET is typically much less than potential ET.

The ET is inversely proportional to the stomatal resistance, which increases when the plant experiences moisture stress. ABA is released by the roots and this signals the stomata close or reduce their aperture. The result is less transpiration. Less transpiration contributes to warmer temps., which increases the VPD, which increases evaporative demand.

All this is reflected by the Bowen ratio (ratio of sensible to latent heat flux). During drought, the Bowen ratio is higher, that is the partitioning of net radiation is skewed, with more heat going into the sensible heat flux and less into the latent heat flux. The increased sensible heat flux acts to heat the canopy and boundary layer.

Anyhow, I have not read the papers. But going by what you said, Frank's first point is correct, but his point about higher temperatures not increasing evaporation is not necessarily true. They should also be careful to distinguish between evaporation of moisture form the ground/soil and transpiration from the vegetation canopy. The higher temperatures are not necessarily soley because of reduced ET though.

By MapleLeaf (not verified) on 30 Apr 2010 #permalink

"During drought, the Bowen ratio is higher, that is the partitioning of net radiation is skewed, with more heat going into the sensible heat flux and less into the latent heat flux."

Is that true for the Antarctic?

Wow, cohenite. I give you science and you give me BS. Last time I checked this story was about Australia.

You missed it, but when I read your post @20, I did notice that I made a mistake earlier. I, of course, should have said "with more energy going into...".

Thanks MFS, good to know. I am aware of cohenite's antics and contrarian leanings, form other threads at Deltoid.

By MapleLeaf (not verified) on 30 Apr 2010 #permalink

Actually at least cohenite sounds polite here not like [Bolt's blog](…)

>cohenite replied to AS
Thu 29 Apr 10 (07:30pm)
Actually ass, the yellow line is a simple trend regression for temp which the IPCC and knuckleheads like you swoon over; I put it in to contrast the real movements in temperature since 1880; they are the other straight lines which show movements up and down consistent with natural factors like PDO
Your comment about CO2 leading temp is so spectacularly stupid that I can only say not even the IPCC assert that; see âEnhanced Greenhouseâ, although that degree of slightly more sophisticated sophistry may fry whatever is left of your brain.

>cohenite replied to AS
Fri 30 Apr 10 (08:44am)
... there is arguably no correlation between CO2 and temperature.

And this [one](…) is fun
>Mathematicians are not scientists but highly skilled logicians and manipulators of symbols. Considering we donât really understand the physics of the earth and weather, Hawkingâs comments seem to be the result of too much focus on one particular idea not based in physical reality
Louis Hissink of Perth, WA (Reply)
Sat 01 May 10 (08:46am)

>cohenite replied to Louis Hissink
Sat 01 May 10 (10:43am)

>Hi Louis; In 1961 Frank Drake and Carl Sagan provided the formulaic basis for SETI


>As formulae go its about as useful as a climate model and Drake and Sagan could hardly have known that we already have aliens amongst us calling themselves gaia worshippers whose purpose is the destruction of civilisation through AGW

>Still Iâd rather see a few $ thrown at some satellites and screens than the trillions supporting the likes of Gore, Strong and the sundry spivs and rascals in the trough of AGW. At the very least the SETI and associated apparatus may pick up the next asteroid with us in its sights.

Just trying to broaden the discussion MapleLeaf; I don't disagree with your post and your last sentence: " The higher temperatures are not necessarily soley because of reduced ET though." adequately sums up the Franks paper and what I said in my 2nd paragraph; but since shinsko [who needs to get a life] and MFS have revealed my true self I best go over to Bolt and let off some steam.


I'm curious.

Do you have any connections to Franks?

By Bernard J. (not verified) on 30 Apr 2010 #permalink

I know him BJ; I don't know what you mean by connections; it sounds like something a lawyer would say.

I must be missing something - is Franks suggesting anything that isn't obvious?

Cheryl Jones also highlighted CSIRO scientist Wenju Cai in the Australian on May 13, 2009 when he factored the Indian Ocean Dipole into his climate model and found it contributed to droughts.

Jones said 'It could depress spring rainfall by up to 30 per cent in Australia's southeast, a region encompassing the nation's food bowl, the southern Murray-Darling Basin. And with global warming set to increase the frequency of dipole events, Australia was likely to get even bigger climatic shocks than previously thought, the computer simulations suggested.'

Totally unbiased, it just looks like she's pushing Cai's barrow. The reality is that journalists often go back to their previous articles, to update or create a completely new story.

Cohenite @24.

"Just trying to broaden the discussion MapleLeaf"

No, that was just a lame attempt by you to detract from the problems with Frank's analysis.

El Gordo @28, go and (try) to argue with Dr.Cai. Cai is not the only one interested in the Indian Ocean dipole, the South Africans are too. These scientists are trying to help nations cope with droughts, and preferably improve lead times, and all you can do is spout BS. You really are blinded by your ideology and anti-science meme.

Khandakar, a "contrarian" has done research into the Indian monsoon for similar reasons, but I suppose you think his work is just fine b/c of his stance on AGW? Or is anyone looking into teleconnections, in your ignorant opinion, wasting their time?

By MapleLeaf (not verified) on 01 May 2010 #permalink


I said nothing against Cai or Cheryl Jones and as global cooling is coming I am very concerned about drought. You really are blinded by your ideology.

No MapleLeaf, I was thinking of this:…

And if Franks has any problems, which, according to your analysis, is debatable, he will clear them up in his reply, because he is a reasonable person as is indicated from his paper:

"As an alternative explanation, the correlation between
temperature and sunshine hours is more statistically significant
than the rainfall relationships previously identified.
However, despite the improved correlation offered by SSH,
this model still represents a gross simplification of the known
physical processes of land surface â atmosphere interactions.
Consequently, to simply replace rainfall with SSH as a
valid model of detection and attribution of anthropogenic
influences would be as incorrect and inappropriate as the
methodologies proposed by Nicholls [2003], Karoly and
Braganza [2005] and the subsequent and related climate
change impact assessment techniques of Cai and Cowan
[2008] and Chiew et al. [2008]."

el gordo:

as global cooling is coming

el gordo September 28, 2009:

I believe global cooling has begun

Actual temperatures since September 2009.

el gordo:

You really are blinded by your ideology.

What a hypocrite and a displayer of idiot intelligence. Note: This is not a name-call. It is a statement of fact.

By Chris O'Neill (not verified) on 01 May 2010 #permalink

El Gordo: "I said nothing against Cai or Cheryl Jones"

El Gordo: "it just looks like she's pushing Cai's barrow."

You really are full of shit, El Gordo.

Franks is preparing a reply to the Cai comment.

Unless he has something profound to say about continental drift the matter is closed. The analysis was flawed.

By Scooby Doo (not verified) on 02 May 2010 #permalink

Gaz@33 and Chris @32,

Thanks. Been busy this weekend, so have not had much time for arguing with the denialists.

By MapleLeaf (not verified) on 02 May 2010 #permalink