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Oz Blog News Commentary

When is a record not a record?

July 17, 2018 - 14:59 -- Admin

It’s been  cold here in Brisbane for the last few days, at least by our subtropical standards, with overnight minimums of 6 degrees in the city, and negative temperatures in  towns like Stanthorpe in the nearby Granite Belt. That occasioned lots of news coverage, with the observation that this was the coldest temperature we’ve had since 2014 and one of the coldest since 2000. The same was true for much of Eastern Australia. Melbourne had its coldest morning in several years, and  a couple of towns in NSW had the lowest minimum for several decades.

All of these are “records” in the trivial sense that we record the temperature every day, but none of them are records in the commonly used sense of “lowest (or highest) value in the relevant record”. That didn’t stop the usual denialist suspects claiming a RECORD (all caps in original) and evidence of global cooling. The Daily Mail  claimed “Australia’s east coast shivers through its coldest EVER morning” even though the sub-headlines made it clear this wasn’t true.

What’s striking here is that the same people who are willing to claim that the Bureau of Meteorology is part of a world-wide warmist conspiracy to doctor climate records are eagerly credulous about any piece of data that suits their case. Next time we get record heat, the conspiracy theories will be wheeled out again, but for now the Bureau is an unquestionable source of scientific evidence.

To take this news a little more seriously, it’s important to remember that there are vast numbers of records that can potentially be broken on any given day – highest and lowest maxima and minima, for a given month, in any location where weather is recorded. That means we need either to confine attention to a limited number of records – most obviously mean global temperatures or look at statistical measures, such as the relative frequency of new records for cold and heat. Both of these measures give the answer that is by now obvious* from experience: the climate globally and Australia is getting warmer.