Experts BoM excuses about a solar panel leaning on bushes near Sydney’s official thermometer

By Jo Nova

Two days in a row, this blog has been quoted in the Daily Telegraph.

Congratulations to Clarissa Bye for shining a torch on the BoM

Craig Kelly found the wandering solar panel leaning on a bush near Sydney’s official thermometer, and I wrote about what a  strange spot that was to leave a solar panel. Then Clarissa Bye of the Daily Telegraph picked up the story and on Jan 25th  asked the BoM why the panel was there.  After a whole week of missed deadlines, with pleas for extra time, The Daily Telegraph gave up waiting and published the story Wednesday:

Science blogger Jo Nova has also queried the solar panel’s location, describing the BOM as “lackadaisical” at best in maintaining weather sites. “The solar panel is exactly due south of the Stevenson screen where the thermometer is kept,” she said. “If, hypothetically, someone wanted to leave a reflective object pointed at the box at midday, that’d be the place to do it.”

““There’s only been one day above 30 degrees since February 21st last year in Sydney, and that was a day when the wandering solar panel was visiting the thermometer, seemingly connected to nothing and leaning on a bush.”

Meanwhile the BoM, which didn’t have time to answer questions, somehow found time to take the embarrassing panel away.

Then finally, the BoM responded to Ms Bye and my thoughts are “wow… it took them a whole week to come up with that?Apparently the strange panel has been there for almost a whole year now, and was being used as backup power for the weather station, just in case there were blackouts due to renovations at the school next door, and if you believe that…

Clarissa Bye, The Daily Telegraph, Feb 2, 2023

The solar panel mysteriously vanished after media questions were asked, but the Bureau of Meteorology has now issued a statement saying the panel was erected because of potential power interruptions due to a nearby construction of a school.

It stated the panel was installed in February 2022 and removed in January 2023 “as it was no longer required to supply power to the weather station once the mains power was restored in December 2022”.

“The solar panel could not be placed on a roof due to heritage restrictions, so was placed at an appropriate distance on the grass nearby,” the BOM stated.

As Jo Nova said — there is nothing “appropriate” about this distance, and the BOM knows it.

Clarissa Bye sent me the BoM reply and most of my responses were put into the online Daily Telegraph update yesterday:

Asked if the BOM was confident that the reflected heat would not affect recordings on the temperature gauge, the BOM spokeswoman stated:

“Any potential impact from the installation and removal of the solar panel will be assessed as part of routine quality assurance processes used by the Bureau for all weather station data.

Climate and science blogger Joanne Nova said that the solar panel should have been located elsewhere on the site and placed so that the reflection was never on the Stevenson screen. “The BOM is not confident it has no effect or they would have said so,” she said.

And as I added:

“An even better answer would have been ‘we bought a 30m extension cord and put the panel far away’.

Which obviously the BoM didn’t do.

And that raises other questions:

“If this panel was a back up for the Stevenson equipment then where was the battery? A solar panel on its own is no use as a mains replacement if the power fails at night.”

Mowing the grass around that panel for a whole year must have been a pain too, right?

I really have a problem with the lack of any care for site conditions and raw data. Does climate science matter?

“They evidently did not make even the slightest effort to put the panel in there in such a way to minimize the impact.  “Indeed, it‘s hard to think how they could have put it in a more suspicious place than they did.

As usual, the BOM don’t care less about recording accurate temperatures. They’d rather play statistical games after the fact to try to fix the errors. Does their “routine quality assurance”, mentioned above, involve homogenization with “neighboring sites” a thousand kilometers away? Perhaps the site in Cobar will detect the effects of the solar panel in the backyard of the observatory? Does that sound like expert science?

The most important thing here is that there are many better locations within the small enclosure for that solar panel, even if a first world country needed a makeshift panel in the centre of their largest city “for reliable supply” — which is another crisis all of its own. The panel could have been placed to get the morning sun at the Western edge of the patio (at least). It could have been placed to make sure the reflection was never on the Stevenson screen.

A better answer from the BoM would have been: ” We needed the panel for back up supply from day x until day z. This temporary addition was recorded in the metadata. The angle was calibrated at xx% to make sure it collected sun but at no time reflected directly onto the Stevenson screen.”

None of that happened.

Institute of Public Affairs senior fellow Dr Jennifer Marohasy – who is in a court battle with the BOM to access historical weather records – said the solar panel fracas “undermined” the bureau in the absence of other explanations.

The BOM has accidentally admitted the solar panel was definitely there when the site recorded 30.2°C on January 18th. Indeed it may have been warming temperatures the entire time since the last time Sydney reached more than 30°C on Feb 21 last year. The whole time Sydney has been “below 30°C” there was a strange solar panel pointed at the official thermometer.

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via JoNova

February 3, 2023 at 01:28AM

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