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Comment on “A Reanalysis of Long-Term Surface Air Temperature Trends in New Zealand”

Mullan, Brett, Salinger, James, Renwick, James, Wratt, David
Environmental modeling and assessment 2018 v.23 no.3 pp. 249-262
air temperature, surface water temperature, time series analysis, New Zealand
de Freitas et al. (2015) (henceforth dFDB) report a trend of 0.28 °C per century over the period 1909–2009 for New Zealand land surface temperatures, from their reanalysis of a composite of seven long-term records. This is much lower than the warming trend of about 0.9 °C per century reported previously by other researchers and much smaller than trends estimated from independent sea surface temperature data from the surrounding region. We show these differences result primarily from the way inhomogeneities in temperature time series at individual stations due to site or instrument changes are identified and adjusted for in the dFDB paper. The adjustments reported in that paper are based on a method designed by one of us (Salinger), but use only a short (1–2-year) overlap period with comparison stations and consider only inhomogeneities in monthly mean (rather than monthly maximum and minimum) temperatures. This leads to underestimates of the statistical significance of individual temperature discontinuities and hence rejection of many valid adjustments. Since there was a systematic tendency for the seven-station sites to be relocated to colder locations as the early half of the twentieth century progressed, this rejection of valid adjustments produces an artificially low rate of warming. We therefore disagree with the trend calculations in the dFDB paper and consider there is no reason to reject the previous estimates of around 0.9 °C warming per century.