Somali pirates could be causing BoM seasonal Outlooks to be inaccurate

Just saw this news at ABC online. “Pirates disrupting climate change research”

Note at the end – “….so right now half the tropical Indian Ocean is out of bounds for us so it’s a big problem, both for weather forecasting but also for that longer term climate seasonal forecasting.”

Pirates disrupting climate change research
The World Today
environment reporter Sarah Clarke

Posted July 14, 2011 17:10:49
Piracy in the Indian Ocean is hampering the efforts of climate change researchers to the point where they have had to call in the Australian Navy.

Pirate activity off the coast of Somalia has increased dramatically over recent years, so much so that a quarter of the Indian Ocean is now considered a “no-go” area.

While it is a major problem for commercial shipping, it is also frustrating for scientists.

Oceanographers and meteorologists say that being locked out of the region has put a hole in their data.

Since January 2010, there have been about 280 reported incidents of piracy off the coast of Somalia and as the activity escalates, the exclusion zone for shipping expands.

The CSIRO’s Ann Thresher says a quarter of the Indian Ocean is currently off limits.

“Pirates are a big problem at the moment for anybody who needs to make any sort of observations in the area of the north-west Indian Ocean,” she said.

“They’re ranging so far up from Somalia that we’re having difficulties getting instruments into that area so it’s a good quarter of the Indian Ocean [that] is a no-go area.

Dr Thresher says research vessels have been pursued by pirates on a number of occasions.

“Yes there have been research vessels in that area that had to make a quick retreat – in one case they actually hired an armed escort for the research vessel. That gets very expensive and we just don’t put scientists at risk like that,” she said.

So scientists are turning to the Navy to help solve the problem.

The United States and Australia have come to the rescue in a joint military and research effort. They are now planning to deliver the floats which scientists hope will fill the data hole.

Dr Thresher says the Navy’s involvement is vital to the success of the project.

“We’re using the Navy to sort of protect our instruments and get them into the right area. We’re also asking the Royal Australian Navy to take nine of our floats up into that area on the next rotation to the Gulf,” she said.

“Now we really need to rely on these guys and we’ll be using them probably much more than we ever have – it’s the only way to get instruments into this area.”

The pirates are hampering research that is crucial in the global understanding of weather forecasting.

The CSIRO is part of an international research team which uses thousands of robotic floats.

They are dropped into the ocean to provide near real time observations and for the last year, scientists have not been able to access the data they need.

Oceanographer Dr Susan Wijffels leads the scientific team, and says the data is of particular importance to Australia.

“So the Indian Ocean as a whole is very important for Australian climate and that area in particular is where there’s a lot of evaporation that happens to fuel the Asian monsoon and not having data there I think is problematic for predictions of what the monsoons are going to be,” she said.

“Then in the longer term especially around the ocean conditions, that area is one of the players in setting up and controlling what happens to a phenomenon called the Indian Ocean Dipole.

“We really do need to have good global coverage and in particular for Australian rainfall forecasting seasonal forecasting, we need good coverage of the tropical Indian and the tropical Pacific so right now half the tropical Indian Ocean is out of bounds for us so it’s a big problem, both for weather forecasting but also for that longer term climate seasonal forecasting.”

10 comments to Somali pirates could be causing BoM seasonal Outlooks to be inaccurate

  • pattoh

    They could always get their old mate Jim to fill in the data. He is good at that.

  • Bob in Castlemaine

    Well that explains it then! Wonder if these pirates also have a franchise in the North Sea and the Irish Sea?

  • Beachgirl

    Do not forget now how the BoM said in 2009 at an “Inquiry into long-term meteorological forecasting in Australia” by an Australian Commonwealth Parliamentary Committee – “….BoM stated that existing seasonal forecasts for Australia appear to have reached their peak level of performance, and may even be declining in skill as the climate changes.”

    You posted an article on this Warwick in Nov 2010.
    Presumably those statements were made under oath.
    So, was Somali pirates activity affecting the accuracy of BoM seasonal forecasting back in 2009 and earlier ? Will we ever know the real reason that BoM seasonal Outlooks are so cotton-pickin useless ?

  • Louis Hissink

    BOM seasonal outlooks are simply the reflection of having the basic physics wrong.

  • The Pirates in Canberra and Washington contribute to a lot more inaccuracy in forecasting too it seems. Hence the Lunatic tax.

  • Ian George

    Warwick,
    Slightly OT but does anyone have a link to a paper written by the BOM regarding the decreasing of Australian raw temperature by around 0.7C prior to 1950 and 0.3C prior to 1980. There is evidence that some of the temps on the BOM’s high-quality temperature sites have been decreased from the raw data.

    For instance, 1914 has a temp of 26.7C shown on the Lismore high-quality site show.
    reg.bom.gov.au/cgi-bin/climate/hqsites/site_data.cgi?variable=maxT&area=nsw&station=058037&period=annual
    The raw data shows 27.5C.
    www.bom.gov.au/jsp/ncc/cdio/weatherData/av?p_display_type=dataGraph&p_stn_num=058037&p_nccObsCode=36&p_month=13

    I’m sure I have seen a reference on this. I know about the Jones’ paper in 1986.

  • WSH

    Ian – I think this 1996 paper by Torok & Nicholls marked the start of the BoM inserting warming adjustments into Australian data.
    I think there is a later paper from the last decade.
    When the BoM use the term “high quality” in respect of temperature data – that is code for “tweaked & stroked to warm more since 1910″.

  • Ian George

    Thanks, Warwick.
    As you can see from the Lismore links, the ‘warming’ is apparent in the high-quality data site but no warming in the raw data site (the site was moved from the Centre St location, a park setting, to the airport during the 90s).

  • reginald

    I didn’t know you guys were all meteorologists.

  • is incredible that in this era, there are still pirates Get us out boats, but even boats that are intended to research one of the most important problems to be solved now, I think we should have continuous monitoring to avoid this type of things.
    Ed: I think we get your drift hipotecas. But the West is so weak – we tolerate North Korean dangerous carrying on – I could go on. I think the worlds navies could easily zap the Somali pirates but the willpower is not there in western Govts. Of course it is not enough to deal just with the pirates – the whole failed Somali state thing needs fixing.