What’s up with Darwin’s weather?

December 30, 2009

Darwin is a the capital city of Australia’s Northern Territory. Lying on the coast of far Northern Australia, it’s situated well in the tropics and as a result has hot, steamy, monsoonal weather. Darwin’s weather has already had impact on urban culture, and now it seems it’s had a political impact too: it’s been at in the middle of the recent "Climategate" "scandal". A climate-change skeptic observed a discontinuity in the raw temperature records at Darwin airport in 1942 (which, as it turned out, was caused by a change in the equipment), and claimed that the standardization of the data was an overt attempt to present a cooling trend as a warming trend. This claim was roundly denounced in The Economist (prompting yet another reply and rebuttal).

Matthew Markus wasn’t satisfied with drawing conclusions from a back-and-forth in the blogosphere, though. He decided to get hold of the raw data from the Global Historical Climate Network and attempt to reproduce this "smoking gun" graphic for himself in R

Darwin temps

Markus provides all the details and R code for accessing and plotting the temperature data in a blog post. There’s lots of practical advice there, including how use the various command-line tools to uncompress and inspect the data (although you’ll need a Unix-ish machine to follow along) as well as all the R commands for reading in the data. (It makes for a nice demonstration of reading fixed-format data files into R, actually.) You’ll also see how to standardize and plot the data, with a result fairly close to the original above:


Matthew Markus: Raw Darwin Airport Temperature Data with R

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