Showing posts with label science. Show all posts
Showing posts with label science. Show all posts

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Just because it is beautiful........(31)

The International Space Station moves across the face of the Earth's natural satellite, the Moon, photographed in broad daylight by Dani Caxete, BBC News, 2 August 2017

Tweet of the Week

Climate change denialist, anti-science and all round conspiracy theorist, discredited One Nation Senator Malcolm Ieuan Roberts gets disinvited.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Chris Kenny and Andrew Bolt "wilfully misrepresent" according to Crikey and the scientific community

Crikey must have taken some pleasure in publishing this story on 11 July 2017:

…..But Kenny knew better, cleverly revealing the real story: “a global warming pause”.

Wrong. There is no global warming pause, as has been widely and repeatedly made clear, for example, herehere and here. Even worse, the paper he referred to said nothing of the sort.

About five seconds into Kenny’s TV, ahem, “report”, he decided to stop being even slightly accurate. “What they’re saying here is that the warming they have on their graphs, on their modelling, is much higher than the warming that has actually occurred.”  

The paper didn’t say this either.

Kenny then went on to quote repeatedly and triumphantly from the paper’s abstract, not the paper itself. Which is a bit weird. It’s like quoting from the back cover of a book, not the book itself. (The abstract of academic papers is typically publicly available, whereas the papers themselves are usually restricted to researchers or universities.) For such a huge, serious science story, wouldn’t you cite the actual paper? Unless, of course, you don’t have access to the paper. And if you don’t have access, have you actually read the thing?

Kenny quoted the last line of the paper’s abstract:

“We conclude that model overestimation of tropospheric warming in the early twenty-first century is partly due to systematic deficiencies in some of the post-2000 external forcings used in the model simulations.”

This, he said, meant that scientists were overstating temperatures. Hence the momentousness of his”story”. Problem is, the paper didn’t say this at all.

If he’d read the last line of the paper itself — and it’s questionable as to whether he read the paper at all — he would have read this:  

“Although scientific discussion about the causes of short-term differences between modelled and observed warming rates is likely to continue, this discussion does not cast doubt on the reality of long-term anthropogenic warming.”

Kenny didn’t report this, though. If he had, he wouldn’t have much of a story. However, he did claim that the paper showed that climate scientists’ models were wrong, that temperatures were overstated and therefore climate change wasn’t such a problem.

Kenny is the earthly representative of his spiritual mentor, Andrew Bolt, who misreported the same story, but went one further, saying that the paper’s lead author, “leading alarmist Ben Santer, now admits the world isn’t warming as predicted by global warming models”.

Not only is Bolt’s report as untrue as Kenny’s — if not more so — but Santer has been at pains to make clear the opposite is the case. For example, he published a fact sheet to accompany the paper Kenny and Bolt reported on. Wait a moment, I here you say, there was a fact sheet

Indeed. As Santer explained to me:

“The aim of the fact sheet was to reduce the likelihood of misinterpretation of key findings of our paper. But no matter how carefully or cautiously a paper is written, it is impossible to guard against wilful misrepresentation of results. Sadly, such wilful misrepresentation is now an expected outcome after each paper I publish.”…..

Apart from getting the names of two of the researchers right, little else Kenny said was.

As is evidenced by Kenny’s Heads Up segment posted on YouTube:

Here is that fact sheet both Kenny and Bolt appeared to ignore:

Benjamin D. Santer, John C. Fyfe, Giuliana Pallotta, Gregory M. Flato, Gerald A. Meehl, Matthew H. England, Ed Hawkins, Michael E. Mann, Jeffrey F. Painter, Céline Bonfils, Ivana Cvijanovic, Carl Mears, Frank J. Wentz, Stephen Po-Chedley, Qiang Fu, and Cheng-Zhi Zou
Published online in Nature Geoscience. DOI:10.1038/NGEO2973.
Question 1: What is the main issue that you look at in your paper?
Answer: Our paper looks at satellite and climate model estimates of global-mean changes in the temperature of the lowest layer of Earth’s atmosphere – the troposphere. It tries to understand why there are differences between modeled and observed tropospheric warming rates over the period of satellite atmospheric temperature measurements (January 1979 to December 2016). These differences have an interesting time signature. In the last two decades of the 20th century, differences between modeled and observed tropospheric warming were generally small. But during most of the early 21st century, the average warming in models was larger than in observations.
We asked whether such differences between modeled and observed warming rates could be explained by natural internal variability of the climate system. Natural internal variability arises from phenomena like El Niños, La Niñas, decadal oscillations in the Pacific,1 and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO).
We found that natural internal variability can explain most of the relatively small differences between modeled and observed tropospheric warming in the last two decades of the 20th century, but can’t fully explain why model tropospheric warming is larger than in the satellite data during much of the early 21st century.
Question 2: What is your bottom-line finding?
Answer: The bottom line is that the differences between modeled and observed tropospheric warming contain useful diagnostic information. We use this information to test hypotheses about the causes of these warming rate differences. One hypothesis is that internal variability alone can explain why model tropospheric warming in the early 21st century is larger than in satellite data. Our findings suggest this hypothesis is very unlikely to be correct.
Based on our results, it is far more likely that the early 21st century differences between modeled and observed tropospheric warming rates are due to the combined effects of two factors: 1) Random differences2 1 Such as the closely-related Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO) and Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). 2 We analyzed simulations performed with atmosphere-ocean models of the climate system, which produce their own random sequences of internal climate variability. In such models, there is no “synching up” (except by pure chance) between the random sequences of internal variability in the observations and in the model simulations. Different sequences of internal variability in “model world” and in the real world are not a scientific surprise – they are expected, and they can contribute to short-term differences between modeled and observed warming rates. 6/1/17 10:47 AM 2 in how modes of internal variability actually behaved in the real world and in the model simulations; and 2) The fact that some of the external cooling influences which affected “real world” temperature in the early 21st century were not accurately represented in the model simulations.
Question 3: What are the “external cooling influences” you are referring to in your paper?
Answer: Examples of such external cooling influences include a series of moderate volcanic eruptions, a long and unusually low minimum in the Sun’s energy output during the last solar cycle, and an uptick in particulate pollution from Chinese coal-fired power plants. The model simulations were performed before reliable, upto-date information became available about how these external cooling factors evolved in the early 21st century.3
Question 4: Do the problems in representing these external cooling influences point to systematic errors in how sensitive the models are to human-caused greenhouse gas (GHG) increases?
Answer: No, not at all. We are talking about known, well-studied problems with some of the external, climate-influencing “forcing factors” that were used in the model simulations. These problems have nothing to do with the issue of how sensitive models are to GHG increases.
Question 5: Haven’t some scientists claimed that the larger-than-observed model warming in the early 21st century is solely due to over-sensitive models?
Answer: Yes, such claims have been made and continue to be made. We tested the “over-sensitive models” claim in our paper, and found that it does not explain the actual differences between modeled and observed tropospheric warming behavior. Nor does a combination of “over-sensitive models” and natural internal variability plausibly explain the differences. None of our findings call into question the reality of long-term warming of Earth’s troposphere and surface, or cast doubt on prevailing estimates of the amount of warming we can expect from future increases in GHG concentrations.
Question 6: In a recent paper in Scientific Reports, you find that satellite measurements do not show any signs of “leveling off” of tropospheric warming over the past two decades. Aren’t those findings at odds with the findings of the Nature Geoscience paper?
Answer: No. The findings of the two papers are entirely consistent. The Scientific Reports paper compares the satellite tropospheric temperature trend over the past 20 years with many samples of 20-year trends obtained from model simulations of natural internal climate variability.4 Even though the most recent 20-year warming trend is smaller than in earlier parts of the satellite record,5 it is still significantly larger than the range of 20-year trends caused by internal climate variability alone. From our Scientific Reports study, there is no evidence that satellite data show “leveling off” of tropospheric warming in the last two decades.
The Nature Geoscience paper focuses on different model simulations. It looks at simulations of historical climate change, and asks whether differences between model-simulated and observed tropospheric warming 3 Consider a hypothetical climate model with perfect representation of all important physical processes in the real-world climate system. If such a model were used to simulate historical climate change, but the simulation left out important external cooling influences that affected the real world, the simulated historical warming would tend to be larger than observed. 4 Model estimates of natural internal variability were obtained from so-called “control runs”, with no year-to-year changes in GHGs, volcanic aerosols, the Sun’s energy output, or other external factors. 5 For reasons that are explained in the last paragraph of the answer to Question 2. 6/1/17 10:47 AM 3 could be due to different sequences of internal variability in the real world and in model world. It finds that internal variability alone cannot convincingly explain why models do a reasonable job capturing observed tropospheric temperature changes in the late 20th century, but not in the early 21st century. It also finds that “over-sensitive models” cannot explain the curious structure of model-versus-observed warming rate differences.
The key point here is that the two studies pose different scientific questions. The answers to these questions are complementary, not contradictory.
Question 7: What is the major remaining uncertainty in your study?
Answer: We think that the main uncertainty is in the model estimates of internal climate variability. We rely on these variability estimates to test the two hypotheses mentioned above – that differences between modeled and observed warming rates during much of the early 21st century could be due to: 1) internal variability alone; or 2) the combined effects of “over-sensitive models” and internal variability. If models systematically underestimated the size and the timescales of the major “real-world” internal variability modes, it would be less easy for us to rule out hypotheses 1 and 2.
The problem here is that satellite temperature records are relative short, and are a mixture of both internal variability and temperature responses to external factors (changes in GHGs, particulate pollution, the Sun, volcanic aerosols, etc.). Reliably teasing out the internal variability from such a short, mixed record is a tough job. To be clear: model control simulations6 can give us pure “unmixed” estimates of internal variability. Observations cannot, so there is some irreducible uncertainty in judging how well models capture key features of “real world” internal variability.
Previous work that we’ve done has not found a systematic low bias in model estimates of tropospheric temperature variability, but there is some evidence that current models might underestimate the timescale of the IPO. A lot more work needs to be done in comparing modeled and observed variability. We hope that our paper will provide impetus for such work.
Question 8: What are some of the major lessons you’ve learned?
Answer: One of the lessons learned is that “forcing matters”. Through the pioneering work of Susan Solomon and many others, we’ve learned a lot about the external influences that affected real-world temperature in the early 21st century. We now understand that if we systematically misrepresent these external influences in model simulations, we’ll see differences between modeled and observed warming rates. We need to do a better job understanding how these external influences actually changed in the real world, and we need to put our best estimates of these forcing factors into model simulations. This type of work is now happening.
Another valuable lesson learned is that “natural internal variability matters”, particularly when one is comparing modeled and observed temperature changes with different sequences of internal variability, and over short periods (1-2 decades). Many scientists (and many of the authors of the Nature Geoscience paper) have devoted years of their careers to the task of improving the understanding of internal variability.
These lessons will enable us to do two things. First, to more reliably separate internal variability and external influences in observed climate records. And second, to better quantify the relative contributions of internal variability and external influences to the differences between simulated and observed warming rates. The “lessons learned” will help us to better diagnose the causes of these differences.
1 Such as the closely-related Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO) and Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO).
2 We analyzed simulations performed with atmosphere-ocean models of the climate system, which produce their own random sequences of internal climate variability. In such models, there is no “synching up” (except by pure chance) between the random sequences of internal variability in the observations and in the model simulations. Different sequences of internal variability in “model world” and in the real world are not a scientific surprise – they are expected, and they can contribute to short-term differences between modeled and observed warming rates.
3 Consider a hypothetical climate model with perfect representation of all important physical processes in the real-world climate system. If such a model were used to simulate historical climate change, but the simulation left out important external cooling influences that affected the real world, the simulated historical warming would tend to be larger than observed.
4 Model estimates of natural internal variability were obtained from so-called “control runs”, with no year-to-year changes in GHGs, volcanic aerosols, the Sun’s energy output, or other external factors.
5 For reasons that are explained in the last paragraph of the answer to Question 2.
6 See footnote 4.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Can the CSIRO sink any lower?

“Collaborating with government. As a trusted adviser to government, our collaboration within the sector supports it to solve challenges, find efficiencies and innovate.” [CSIRO, Data61]

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is a federal government corporate entity ultimately responsible to the Australian Parliament.

It started life in the midst of global conflagration in 1916 and for most of its existence it was widely respected both in its country of origin and around the world.

Sadly that level of respect has been diminished in recent years as commercial imperatives saw it move away from its once proud boast that:

However, it had not yet become a low creature of right-wing political ideology.

Until now – when it appears willing to participate in enforcing punitive social policies, cynically presented in the guise of Budget measures by the Turnbull Coalition Government.

In particular, enabling the trial drug testing of income support applicants “based on a data-driven profiling tool developed for the trial to identify relevant characteristics that indicate a higher risk of substance abuse issues” which almost inevitably will target the poor and vulnerable.

Apparently the only matter holding the CSIRO back from full commitment to the trial is the matter of contract negotiations with the Dept. Of Social Security and/or Dept. of Human Services1.

The cost of this measure has reportedly been deemed by government to be “commercial-in-confidence”.

InnovationAus, 2 June 2017:

CSIRO has still not officially agreed to allow its Data61 analytics unit to become involved in the government’s highly contentious welfare drug testing program, a Senate estimates hearing has been told.

But the delay appears to be related to difficult contract negotiations – for which the research agency is well known – rather than the objections of staff or management to becoming involved in such a politically-driven program.

The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science and CSIRO appeared at the Senate estimates on Thursday morning.

The shocking concession that CSIRO has been in discussion to work on the drug-test project since April comes despite the organisation having specifically declined to confirm any knowledge of the project for weeks – let alone that it was actively negotiating a contract.

This is despite direct questions being put to CSIRO on multiple occasions for weeks.

The estimates hearing also revealed that Data61 has been called into the controversy plagued Social Services robo-debt project that has mistakenly matched debt to welfare recipients.

CSIRO digital executive director David Williams told shadow industry minister Kim Carr that while CSIRO was approached by the Social Services department about the welfare drug testing scheme in late April – less than a month before its involvement was prematurely announced by Cabinet Minister Christian Porter – it is still yet to officially sign on to the project.

“The Department of Social Services approached CSIRO in early April, wanting to implement a trial involving activity tested income support recipients across a small number of geographical areas,” Mr Williams told senate estimates.

“They asked for Data61’s support in doing the analysis to see whether predictive analytics could help them in that task.”

“Since that time we’ve been talking with the department, and scoped out a statement of work and we’ve looked at how we can implement that work should we sign a contract and proceed. At this moment we’re working through the procedures inside CSIRO.”


1. The CSIRO already has a business relationship with the Australian Department of Human Services (DHS). Commencing in February 2017 the CSIRO and/or CSIRO Data61 conducted a Review of Online Compliance Systems, as well as supplying Specialist Data Science Services and Selection Methodologies Advice to the department. See;

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Former sceptic tells climate change denialists to put up or shut up

US WRAL TV meteorologist and weatherman on Facebook:
Greg Fishel

You know everybody reaches their breaking point and quite frankly I have reached mine with the folks who post all over the internet about the scientific fallacies of man induced climate change. All of them are guest bloggers or essayists. None of this stuff has ever been published in a peer reviewed atmospheric science or climate journal. But we live in an age today where higher education and research are no longer respected. Heck, think of all the money my parents wasted on my education when I could have waited for the age of twitter and Facebook and declared myself as an expert in the field of my choice. That's sarcasm to illustrate asininity.
But wait! Let's say one of these guest essayers is a modern day Galileo, and has that critical piece to the puzzle that no other scientist has. Then they should submit their findings to one of the American Meteorological Society's peer reviewed journals for publication. If they are rejected, and the author feels unfairly, then make public each and every one of the reviewers' comments for the entire world to see. If there is bias and corruption in the peer review process, everyone needs to know about it so this flawed process can be halted and corrected. But ya know what? I doubt any of these folks has the guts to do this, and they'll continue on with their pathetic excuse for science education.
So prove me wrong bloggers and essayists. Submit your work the way real scientists do, and see where it takes you. Uncover that bias and corruption you're so convinced is present. If you end up being correct, society will owe you a huge debt of gratitude. If you're wrong, stop muddying the scientific waters with ideological trash.


Indy Week, 21 October 2015:

You might assume that your local meteorologist believes in climate change.

Certainly if he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Penn State in 1979 and began working at WRAL-TV as the station's first meteorologist in 1981. Especially if he was promoted to chief meteorologist in 1989, a post he has held ever since. And without a doubt, if your local weatherman was the first American
Meteorological Society-certified broadcast meteorologist in the United States, who then chaired the board that developed the 100-question exam used for broadcast certifications, he'd have to embrace the overwhelming scientific consensus. Right?

For Greg Fishel, accepting that reality took time. An avid churchgoer and Rush subscriber (that's Limbaugh, not the band), Fishel has been slower than most scientists to recognize the fact that the planet is warming and we're to blame. Last week, the meteorologist penned a blog post titled, "Choose science, stewardship in understanding climate change," a public admission of his previous ignorance and a plea for people like him—Republicans, churchgoers, Fox News fanatics—to approach the topic scientifically rather than ideologically.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

More than two thirds of Australians are concerned about the rise in extremely hot weather and the impact it will have on health and wellbeing

Media Release
RACP: Australians concerned about the health impact of extremely hot weather
April 5 2017
New research* from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) has revealed more than two thirds of Australians (68 per cent) are concerned about the rise in extremely hot weather and the impact it will have on health and wellbeing.
The topic of climate change and health will feature prominently at the World Congress on Public Health this week, with more than 2,000 health professionals descending on Melbourne for the World Federation of Public Health Associations event.
RACP Faculty of Public Health Medicine President-elect Associate Professor Linda Selvey, who will share the RACP research during her session this afternoon, said it was pleasing that the majority of Australians are united in viewing climate change as a significant health issue.
“There is undeniable evidence that climate change is fast becoming one of the most challenging global public health issues of the twenty-first century and one that could over-shadow all others,” explained Associate Professor Linda Selvey.
“Left unchecked, extreme weather events, fires, disease, disruptions to food and water supply, loss of livelihoods and threats to human security will push us all towards a global public health emergency.
“Already in Australia, record-breaking heatwaves have seen significant increases in emergency department presentations, ambulance callouts, and higher rates of heat-related illness and mortality rates.
“Greater temperature increases in coming years will inevitably multiply health risks and put further stress on the health sector.”
Last year was the hottest year on record globally, the third successive year of records, reaching 1.1°C above the pre-industrial period. It was the fourth hottest year for Australia and new record highs were recorded in Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra.
Associate Professor Linda Selvey said the data is both comprehensive and conclusive and she called on the Government to introduce a national climate and health strategy.
“This would ensure that the impact of climate change on health and the health sector would be front and centre of Government deliberations when considering climate policy.
“A strategy would also result in greater collaboration between governments and provide greater impetus for action—both adaptation and mitigation, as well as stronger research, better disease monitoring, and education for healthcare professionals.
“The majority of Australians are concerned about the health risks of climate change – our research has made this very clear. A national climate and health strategy would go some way to reassuring Australians that governments are doing all they can to address this health crisis.”
Associate Professor Linda Selvey said the RACP had long recognised the health impact of climate change. In 2015, it launched its successful Doctors for Climate Action campaign which positioned it as a global leader on the issue. Last year, the RACP released three Climate Change and Health Position Statements.
* Based on attitudinal research completed by Essential Media on behalf of the RACP in March 2017. Sample size of 1004 respondents.


Sunday, 16 April 2017

Santos in the Pilliga could mean light and fugitive emissions pollution for Siding Spring Observatory

The Santos Narrabri Gas Project Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) covering the Pilliga region is on public exhibition until 22 May 2017 and submissions can be made online by concerned individuals until then.



Santos plan to build an 850 coal seam gasfield near Siding Spring Observatory has been submitted to the NSW Govt. They plan to triple the amount of pilot flares and double the amount of huge flares, adding damaging light pollution to our region in defiance of the recent declaration of this area being Australia’s only Dark Sky Park recognised internationally.


Copy and paste this provided submission below to this link or write your own with the information provided.

This submission has been written to draw attention to the unacceptable impacts of Santos current plan with light pollution from their upcoming 850 gaswells and flares near Siding Spring Observatory. It is a simple solution, as recommended by the NSW EPA to enclose all flares, not just for emissions and cleaner burning, but also to reduce the amount of unnecessary light pollution from giant flames lighting the night sky.

Siding Spring Observatory is Australia’s only unique science research facility using the largest optical telescopes for astrophysics and astronomy. First established in Coonabarabran NSW, on the Warrumbungle Ranges in the 1960’s it was built here because of the dark skies in this region. While there is historic value of this site from telescopes established over 50 years ago, this observatory hosts the largest optical telescopes from national and international universities and research entities. Not only hosting the largest, this site hosts the second, third, fourth, fifth largest telescopes etc in Australia, playing a key role in science research across the Southern Hemisphere. Over 50 telescopes are listed across the site being used by over 30 universities, institutions and private businesses using cutting edge technology, with some of the most advanced telescopes being used is astrophysical research. Future plans include another 50 telescopes to be built on site within the next decade. All this is reliant on keeping the dark sky dark! If this area was to lose the dark sky, this observatory would not be replicated again in Australia, but moved elsewhere in the Southern Hemisphere.

From 2013 onwards light emissions from the Santos gasfield exploration have increased to the point that, just the Bibblewindi large flare and unmanned facility alone, creates more light pollution than the entire town of nearby Coonabarabran with over 3500 people residing there. Santos have listed plans to triple the amount of pilot flares and double the amount of large flares including constructing 50 metre high flare stacks, with an average 30 metre high flame above it. Nowhere do they list the EPAs recommended practice to enclose flares, as has been done in NSW areas such as Gloucester. Enclosing flares is the only acceptable mitigation to protect the scientific community from the unnecessary light pollution they plan to emit. Siding Spring Observatory already has to deal with light pollution from existing mining and regional towns. Even Sydney itself, from over 400kms away can affect research from its light glow.

Santos are a lot closer than this. Every bit of extra light pollution is making it more difficult to continue the leading scientific research, and while each pollute in different levels, most consider they aren’t doing any damage. But it’s the combination with the existing light sources, adding a cumulative effect which is becoming worse as more pollution is created.

In summary, this is a simple fix in this case, as while Santos building infrastructure is willing to comply with shielded lights for buildings, they need to go a step further and enclose all current and future flares as the NSW EPA recommend. It is the only acceptable solution.


your name

Where to submit
(Click link then scroll to bottom)

Please copy and paste or add your own information. Privacy is an option if you do not want your name made public. Take this opportunity now to help protect Siding Spring Observatory. There will not be another chance.


People For The Plains

Siding Spring Observatory - A Priceless Resource Under Threat

Astronomers at Australia’s world-leading Siding Spring Observatory are becoming increasingly concerned about the potential threat to the observatory from adjacent coal seam gasfields. 

So much so that leading astronomers Robert McNaught and Malcolm Hartley have taken their protests directly to Santos.

Astronomer McNaught commented, “To put at risk the world class status of Siding Spring Observatory is both illogical and galling. It’s also infuriating that community concerns are being trampled upon by both government and industry.” 

The threat of light pollution from gas flares and infrastructure (expected to equal that of a reasonable sized town) and the increase of particulates in the air from flares, increased traffic on unsealed roads and clearing, has prompted the protest against Santos.

Other concerned astronomers and the community of Coonabarabran are united against coal seam gas (CSG) developments in the area.

The iconic observatory has been an important scientific tool and economic boon for the Coonabarabran area and Australia for over 50 years, with 30,000 visitors annually, many of them school children and family groups. About $5 million dollars is injected into the local economy each year.

The Federal Government has highlighted the protection of the observatory as one of the key areas it will be looking at in the Environmental Impact Statement of the Narrabri Gas Project, because of its importance to the regional economy and the national astronomy sector.

The site was chosen due to its high elevation, low humidity, non-turbulent atmosphere, clean air and clear night skies. These attributes bring astronomers from around the globe.

Siding Spring is the largest optical astronomy research centre in Australia, now with 47 Australian and international telescopes, and with more international and local research institutes looking to expand, including Japan and the US. 

More than $100 million worth of research equipment is located at the observatory.

Siding Spring employs many technical and maintenance staff, with around 40 living in Coonabarabran and another 50 (not including astronomers) living in Sydney and Canberra.

The observatory has been integral in the discovery of many comets, asteroids and galaxies and is renowned throughout the world.

Recent discoveries include the oldest known star, the largest comprehensive mapping of the universe in the world, and an intensive study of the closest known super nova.

The Siding Spring Observatory survived destruction during bushfires in 2013 and is now under threat by the proposed Santos coal seam gas developments in the Pilliga Forest and future expansion into other PELs including the Liverpool Plains and Coonabarabran itself.

The threat to Siding Spring Observatory is just one of many issues created by proposed Santos CSG developments that have led to community solidarity against Santos in Coonabarabran and opposition in the surrounding area.

The Guardian, 21 October 2014:

As well as light pollution, astronomers are concerned that material dispersed from mining operations will be corrosive to telescope lenses. Siding Spring has around 50 high-grade telescopes pointing at the heavens.

Peter Small, who provides technical support for Siding Spring, said an existing mining operation at Boggabri already gives off more light than the neighbouring towns of Narrabri and Gunnedah.

“We get light pollution from that – we even get light pollution from Sydney, which is 400km away, so you don’t have to be that close,” he said.

“This will reduce visibility. If there’s light pollution from anywhere, never mind about the gasfields, this site becomes unviable. It would shut down and all those local jobs would be lost.

Astronomers Malcolm Hartley and Robert McNaught

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Labor attempts to close anti-vaccination loophole

9 News, 2 April 2017:

Parents who oppose vaccinations on conscientious grounds will no longer be allowed to enrol their children at New South Wales child care centres under legislation to be introduced by the state opposition.

Labor leader Luke Foley announced the policy today and said the legislation, set to be introduced this week, would plug the loophole which had allowed specialist anti-vaccination child care centres to be set up.

The changes will not affect children who can't be vaccinated because of a medical condition such as a specialised cancer treatment.

“We need to be encouraging vaccinations not discouraging them," Mr Foley said in a statement.

"Vaccinations are the only way to protect against serious diseases like polio, mumps, whooping cough, meningococcal, diphtheria and tetanus."

Mr Foley said his plan would also cover family day care operations.

The announcement comes after an unvaccinated NSW girl was diagnosed with tetanus earlier this month.

It is believed the seven-year-old picked up the disease through an open wound on her foot while playing in the garden of her home in the state’s north.

The case prompted renewed debate in the north coast region, which has some of the lowest immunisation rates in Australia.

The Daily Telegraph, 1 April 2017:

A five-week-old baby boy is fighting for life after a catastrophic brain haemorrhage followed his parents decision to decline a routine vitamin K shot given to all newborns.

The baby, from northern NSW, presented to Lismore base hospital last week with bleeding on the brain before being transferred to Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital in Brisbane where he remains in a very serious condition. If he survives, he will likely be severely disabled.

Vitamin K is the new battleground of the anti-vaccination movement which has been scaring thousands of parents into rejecting the shot — a safe injection which has saved hundreds of children dying of Newborn Haemorrhagic Disease.

The Sunday Telegraph is today calling on the Federal Government to add the vitamin K injection to the National Immunisation Program (NIP) and tie it to Commonwealth family payments.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Australia at the sharp end of global warming

“Australians endured another intense summer, with more than 200 record-breaking extreme weather events driven by climate change” [Climate Council, 7 March 2017]

World Weather Attribution (WWA), media release, March 2017:

Extreme Heat:

A look at the recent record high temperatures in Australia

New South Wales, located in southeastern Australia, just experienced its hottest summer on record (Figure 1). Temperature records across the central and the eastern parts of Australia were broken, leading the Australian Bureau of Meteorology to issue a Special Climate Statement on the exceptional heat. For example, January 2017 saw the highest monthly mean temperatures on record for the cities of Sydney and Brisbane, and the highest daytime temperatures on record for Canberra. Overall, Australia experienced its 12th hottest summer on record.
There were three distinct heat waves in southeast Australia during January and February, with the highest temperatures recorded from February 9th to the 12th. For much of the country, the heat peaked on the weekend of February 11th and 12th, when many places hit upwards of 113°F (45°C). The 2016-2017 heatwaves broke long-standing records in central New South Wales that were originally set back in January of 1939 (Figure 2).
The WWA team and colleagues from the University of New South Wales conducted a rapid attribution analysis to see how climate change factored into the exceptionally warm summer (December to February) of 2016-2017. The team also looked at the hottest three-day average February temperatures in Canberra and Sydney.
 Figure 1: New South Wales, located in southeastern Australia, reported its hottest summer (Dec. 2016 – Feb. 2017) on record while the northwestern part of Australia reported cooler than average temperatures. Map shows temperature deciles. Source: Australian Bureau of Meteorology

Figure 2: Time series (1910-2016) of summer mean temperature anomalies for New South Wales. The 2016-2017 heatwaves broke long-standing records in central New South Wales that were originally set back in January of 1939. Source: Australian Bureau of Meteorology

Regional Level: New South Wales
The New South Wales record hot summer can be linked directly to climate change. Two different methods were used to reach this conclusion. First, drawing from a previously published analysis using coupled model simulations, we see that average summer temperatures like those seen during 2016-2017 are now at least 50 times more likely in the current climate than in the past, before global warming began. The team also performed an analysis based on the observational series from ACORN-SAT. This approach is similar to previous analyses used for record heat in the Arctic in 2016 and Central England in 2014. Comparing the likelihood of this record in the climate of today compared with the climate of around 1910 (before global warming had a big impact on our climate system and when reliable observations are available), the team again found at least a 50-fold increase in the likelihood of this hot summer.
The team then looked at the maximum summer temperature for New South Wales (see graphic below). Based on climate model simulations (weather@home and CMIP5) and observational data analysis (ACORN-SAT), maximum summer temperatures like those seen during 2016-2017 are now at least 10 times more likely in the current climate than in the past, before global warming began. In the past, a summer as hot as 2016-2017 was a roughly 1 in 500-year event. Today, climate change has increased the odds to roughly 1 in 50 years — a 10-fold increase in frequency. In the future, a summer as hot as this past summer in New South Wales is likely to happen roughly once every five years. In addition, climate change has increased the intensity of an exceptionally hot summer like this by roughly 1ºC (1.8°F). In the future, the intensity increases by roughly 2°C (3.6°F).
Local Level: Canberra and Sydney Heatwaves
The team also looked at the local scale to see if a climate change role could be measured in the heat waves that hit Canberra (population ~380,000) and Sydney (population ~4.9 million). Climate has much larger variability at the city level compared to a big area like New South Wales. This can make it more difficult to see the influence of climate change within the overall noise of the weather system.
In Canberra, temperatures hit 96.8oF (36°C) on February 9th and 104oF (40oC) on both February 10th and 11th. Using the weather@home model and ACORN-SAT observations, we analyzed three-day average maximum temperature. Both the observational data and the climate model simulations show that climate change increased the likelihood of the kind of extreme three-day heat observed in Canberra. The weather@home results point to at least a 50 percent increase in the chance of a heatwave like that.
For Sydney, a coastal city, the effect of climate change on this heat wave is less clear. Observations show that climate change increased the chance of such a heat wave occurring, but the high year-to-year variability makes identifying a clear human influence more difficult.
The Future
The heat seen this past summer across parts of Australia is still rare in our current climate. However, if greenhouse gas emissions are not dramatically reduced, intense summer heat will become the norm in the future.
For Further Information Contact:
Andrew King (University of Melbourne):
Sarah Kirkpatrick (University of New South Wales):
David Karoly (University of Melbourne):
Geert Jan van Oldenborgh (KNMI): (press office)


Excerpts from The Climate Council’s Angry Summer 2016/17: Climate Change Supercharging Extreme Weather report released on 7 March 2017:

In just 90 days, more than 205 records were broken around Australia.
The state-wide mean temperature in summer was the hottest for New South Wales since records began, with temperatures 2.57°C above average.
Sydney had its hottest summer on record with a mean temperature 2.8°C above average.
Brisbane had its hottest summer on record in terms of mean temperature at 26.8°C, equivalent to 1.7°C above average.
Canberra had its hottest summer on record in terms of daytime temperatures and recorded temperatures of at least 35°C on 18 days, already far higher than what is projected for 2030 (12 days).
Adelaide experienced its hottest Christmas day in 70 years at 41.3°C.
Moree in regional New South Wales experienced 54 consecutive days of temperatures 35°C or above, a record for the state.
Perth had its highest summer total rainfall on record of 192.8 mm.......
The impacts of the last Angry Summer of 2013/14 cost the Australian economy approximately $8 billion through absenteeism and a reduction in work productivity. The economic impact from the 2016/17 Angry Summer has not yet been quantified.

The Australia State of the Environment (SoE) 2016 Overview was tabled in the Australian Parliament on 7 March 2017.