Poorly sited U.S. temperature instruments not responsible for artificial warming

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 5:57 PM GMT on January 25, 2010

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Former TV weatherman Anthony Watts, who runs the popular global warming contrarian website, "Watts Up With That", was convinced that many of the U.S. network of surface weather stations had serious flaws in their siting that was causing an artificial warm bias in the observed increase in U.S. temperatures of 1.1°F over the past century. To address this concern, Watts established the website surfacestations.org in 2007, which enlisted an army of volunteers to travel the U.S. to obtain photographic evidence of poor siting of weather stations. The goal was to document cases where "microclimate" influence was important, and could be contaminating temperature measurements. (Note that this is a separate issue from the Urban Heat Island, the phenomenon where a metropolitan area in general is warmer than surrounding rural areas). Watts' volunteers--650 strong--documented the siting of 865 of the 1,218 stations used in the National Climatic Data Center's U.S. Historical Climatology Network (USHCN) for tracking climate change. As reported in Watt's 2009 publication put out by the Heartland Institute, the volunteers "found stations located next to the exhaust fans of air conditioning units, surrounded by asphalt parking lots and roads, on blistering-hot rooftops, and near sidewalks and buildings that absorb and radiate heat." Watts surmised that these poorly-sited stations were responsible for much of the increase in U.S. temperatures over the past century, due to "a bias trend that likely results from the thermometers being closer to buildings, asphalt, etc." Watts concluded, "the U.S. temperature record is unreliable. And since the U.S. record is thought to be the best in the world, it follows that the global database is likely similarly compromised and unreliable".


Figure 1. A poorly sited temperature sensor in Marysville, California, used for the USHCN. The sensor is situation right next to an asphalt parking lot, instead in the middle of a grassy field, as it is supposed to be. The sensor is also adjacent to several several air conditioners that blow their exhaust into the air nearby. Image credit: surfacestation.org.

Analysis of the data disagrees with Watts' conclusion
While Watts' publication by the Heartland Institute is a valuable source of information on siting problems of the U.S. network of weather stations, the publication did not undergo peer-review--the process whereby three anonymous scientists who are experts in the field review a manuscript submitted for publication, and offer criticisms on the scientific validity of the results, resulting in revisions to the original paper or outright rejection. The Heartland Institute is an advocacy organization that accepts money from corporate benefactors such as the tobacco industry and fossil fuel industry, and publishes non-peer reviewed science that inevitably supports the interests of the groups paying for the studies. Watts did not actually analyze the data to see if taking out the poorly sited surface stations would have a significant impact on the observed 1.1°F increase in U.S. temperatures over the past century. His study would never have been publishable in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.


Figure 2. Annual average maximum and minimum unadjusted temperature change calculated using (c) maximum and (d) minimum temperatures from good and poor exposure sites (Menne 2010). Poor sites showed a cooler maximum temperature compared to good sites. For minimum temperature, the poor sites were slightly warmer. The net effect was a cool bias in poorly sited stations. The dashed lines are for stations ranked by NOAA, while the solid lines are for the stations ranked by surfacestations.org.

Fortunately, a proper analysis of the impact of these poorly-sited surface stations on the U.S. historical temperature record has now been done by Dr. Matthew Menne and co-authors at NOAA's National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). In a talk at last week's 90th Annual Meeting of the American Meteorological Society, Dr. Menne reported the results of their new paper just accepted for publication in the Journal of Geophysical Research titled, On the reliability of the U.S. Surface Temperature Record. Dr. Menne's study split the U.S. surface stations into two categories: good (rating 1 or 2) and bad (ratings 3, 4 or 5). They performed the analysis using both the rating provided by surfacestations.org, and from an independent rating provided by NOAA personnel. In general, the NOAA-provided ratings coincided with the ratings given by surfacestations.org. Of the NOAA-rated stations, only 71 stations fell into the "good" siting category, while 454 fell into the "bad" category. According to the authors, though, "the sites with good exposure, though small in number, are reasonably well distributed across the country and, as shown by Vose and Menne [2004], are of sufficient density to obtain a robust estimate of the CONUS average". Dr. Menne's study computed the average daily minimum and maximum temperatures from the good sites and poor sites. The results were surprising. While the poor sites had a slightly warmer average minimum temperature than the good sites (by 0.03°C), the average maximum temperature measured at the poor sites was significantly cooler (by 0.14°C) than the good sites. As a result, overall average temperatures measured at the poor sites were cooler than the good sites. This is the opposite of the conclusion reached by Anthony Watts in his 2009 Heartland Institute publication.

Why did the poorly sited stations measure cooler temperatures?
The reason why the poorly-sites stations measured cooler temperatures lies in the predominant types of thermometers used at the two types of sites. An electronic Maximum/Minimum Temperature System (MMTS) is used at 75% of the poor sites. These MMTS sensors are attached by cable to an indoor readout device, and are consequently limited by cable length as to how far they can be sited from the building housing the indoor readout device. As a result, they are often located close to heated buildings, paved surfaces, air conditioner exhausts, etc. It turns out that these MMTS thermometers have a flaw that causes them to measure minimum temperatures that are slightly too warm, and maximum temperatures that are considerably too cool, leading to an overall cool bias in measured average temperatures. In contrast, only 30% of the "good" sites used the MMTS sensors. The "good" sites predominantly used Liquid in Glass (LiG) thermometers housed in wooden shelters that were more easily located further from the buildings where the observers worked. Since the poorly-sites stations were dominantly equipped with MMTS thermometers, they tended to measure temperatures that were too cool, despite their poor siting.


Figure 3. Comparison of U.S. average annual (a) maximum and (b) minimum temperatures calculated using USHCN version 2 temperatures. Temperatures were adjusted to correct for changes in instrumentation, station relocations, and changes in the time of observation, making the trend from good sites show close agreement with poor sites. Good and poor site ratings are based on surfacestations.org. For comparison, the data between 2004 - 2008 taken by the new high-quality U.S. Climate Reference Network (USCRN, black dashed line) is shown, and displays excellent agreement for that time period. Image credit: Menne 2010.

Independent verification of recent USHCN annual temperatures
Clearly, the siting of many of the surface stations used to track climate change in the U.S. is not good. To address this issue, in 2004 NOAA created the U.S. Climate Reference Network, a collection of 114 stations in the continental United States for the express purpose of detecting the national signal of climate change. The stations were sited and instrumented with climate studies in mind, and can provide an extremely high-quality independent check on the old USHCN network. Each of 114 stations at 107 locations (some stations were installed as nearby pairs) is equipped with very accurate instruments in a triplicate configuration so that each measurement can be checked for internal consistency. As shown in Figure 3, the USCRN air temperature departures for 2004 - 2008 are extremely well aligned with those derived from the USHCN version 2 temperature data. For these five years, the the difference between the mean annual temperatures measured by the old USHCN compared to the new USCRN was just 0.03°C, with a mathematical correlation coefficient (r-squared) of 0.997. Menne et al. concluded, "This finding provides independent verification that the USHCN version 2 data are consistent with research-quality measurements taken at pristine locations and do not contain spurious trends during the recent past even if sampled exclusively at poorly sited stations. While admittedly this period of coincident observations between the networks is rather brief, the value of the USCRN as a benchmark for reducing the uncertainty of historic observations from the USHCN and other networks will only increase with time". The authors finally concluded, "we find no evidence that the CONUS temperature trends are inflated due to poor siting".

Crediting Anthony Watts
The surfacestations.org effort coordinated by Anthony Watts has made a valuable contribution to science, helping us better understand the nature of the errors in the U.S. historical temperature data set. In his talk last week at the AMS conference, and in the credits of his paper, Dr. Menne had some genuinely grateful comments on the efforts of Anthony Watts and the volunteers of surfacestations.org. However, as of this writing, Watts has made no mention on surfacestations.org or on wattsupwiththat.com of Dr. Menne's study.

I'll have a new post Wednesday or Thursday.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting atmoaggie:

Ahh, yes, but, if a PhD, published scientists was working at an industry-funded think tank, is it at all possible for him/her to conduct good, valid work?


Possibly. I usually go with the Heritage Institute or Brookings for good, divergent positions...those are just examples. Gotta' run, but I'd like to discuss that one day, Atmo!
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If interested...



Link


http://www.physicalgeography.net/fundamentals/10af.html
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Quoting CaneWarning:
Earth is warming - We can all agree on that probably.

The reason for the warming is the cause for controversy.


The controversy and debate, by now, should have moved beyond whether climate change is happening and whether it is caused by man. By now, the debate should be about the solutions, and what to do to mitigate or adapt to climate change. Unfortunately, some people simply shoot down radical ideas as soon as they see one, and we're still stuck at step two. Delay in action due to debate is as serious as deliberate inaction due to political lobbying. If this has proven anything, it only proves that our traditional ideas about politics do not work and that conservative thinking can no longer survive on this planet. Denial is now funded by large corporations and governments, who care nothing for their people and everything about their mony, investing on a resource due to run out in a few decades. Too much politics have been injected into the scientific debate, which should have ended 20 years ago. Global warming doesn't care what your political party is. To solve this global problem, we need global cooperation. The faliure of the Copenhagen Conference solidly demonstrates that global cooperation is currently not possible due to all the political lobbying.
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Quoting tornadodude:


what?


He referenced my old screen name - HOG.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
article excerpt



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884. JeffMasters (Admin) 9:15 PM GMT on January 26, 2010

ya really like firing this bunch up

lol
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Threats to national security - Crimes against Humanity

‘Grassroots’ Opposition To Clean Energy Reform Bankrolled By Foreign Oil, Petro-Governments
(Updated)

Clean energy legislation passed by the House, now pending in the Senate, faces fierce opposition from the proprietors of fossil fuel companies, and much has been reported on how domestic oil and coal companies have flooded the debate with money, lobbying, and misinformation. These opponents of clean energy reform claim to be “standing up” for American jobs and security. However, according to an investigation by ThinkProgress, many of the lobbyists and right-wing operatives engineering the attacks on clean energy reform either work directly for petro-governments, or work for companies in the business of importing foreign oil:

– Nigeria’s Bayelsa State, the region of the country producing much of its crude oil, is registered with the Carmen Group as its representative in DC. (Update: The Carmen Group later informed ThinkProgress that it no longer represents Nigeria.) The Carmen Group is run largely by employs lobbyist David Keene as a Managing Associate, who also manages the American Conservative Union. (Update: The Carmen Group’s Managing Director Richard Masterson tells ThinkProgress that Keene “does not work for any energy-related interest at the Carmen Group.”) Keene has lobbied against clean energy reform and used his conservative organization to generate “grassroots” opposition to legislative efforts to move away from a fossil fuel based economy. Although the extent to which the Carmen Group “provide[s] general representation before the United States Congress” is unclear — as Justice Department disclosures indicate — the Nigerian state has lavished Carmen group lobbyists with $903,450 in payments since 2006. According to a report produced Monday by the State Department, Nigeria is at risk of becoming a haven for terror and extremism. In the past, Keene, the coordinator of the CPAC convention, has been caught auctioning off conservative grassroots support to his corporate lobbying clients for as much as $2 million dollars.

– The lobbyist-run front group Americans for Prosperity is perhaps the most active anti-clean energy group in the country. In addition to working furiously to orchestrate anti-clean energy themed tea parties, Americans for Prosperity is running anti-clean energy legislation ads, anti-climate change science ads, and is even barnstorming around the country with anti-clean energy “hot air” rallies. The organization was founded and is bankrolled by David Koch of Koch Industries, a major refiner of oil. Through Koch Industry subsidiaries — Koch Supply & Trading and Flint Hills Resources — Koch imports crude oil and unfinished oils from a variety of foreign sources, including from Saudi Arabia and Nigeria.

– Currently, FreedomWorks is focusing their energy activism on supporting the status quo reliance on fossil fuels. Throughout 2009, as FreedomWorks leader Dick Armey organized tea party opposition to clean energy reform, he simultaneously worked for the lobbying firm DLA Piper on the account of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates. According to disclosure forms filed with the Justice Department, the UAE paid Armey’s lobbying firm at the time to help maintain the “development of UAE energy resources, which represent about 10 percent of global oil reserves.”

– Oil companies have attempted to demonstrate popular support for fossil-fuel dependence by hosting “Energy Citizen” rallies around the country, where employees of oil companies are bused in for large events. The “Energy Citizen” website claims that converting a clean energy economy would mean “less energy independence.” Ironically, the main sponsor of the Energy Citizen effort is the American Petroleum Institute, which is a trade association for companies like Chevron, Exxon Mobil, and Sunoco. These companies, in turn, are highly dependent on foreign oil imports — from countries including Algeria, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Libya, and Venezuela. For perspective, Exxon Mobil imports 27%, Valero 29%, and Chevron 36% of its oil from Persian Gulf countries alone.

As a report by Rudy deLeon and Dan Weiss has argued, “America’s dependence on foreign oil transfers U.S. dollars to a number of unfriendly regimes, while robbing the United States of the economic resources it desperately needs for domestic development and American innovation.” It is alarming, though, that American lobbyists — funded by foreign oil — are working furiously to continue the status quo that is putting the nation’s security at risk.
http://thinkprogress.org/2010/01/13/foreign-oil-tea/
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Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
Quoting tornadodude:








Why is JFLORIDA talking about me in your quote there???
Quoting JFLORIDA:
I think we just need higher quality posters round here. That means not putting up with the ridiculous stuff no matter what.

Facebook is still there for that.

I remember a poster HOG that was treated poorly a few years ago by the clique crowd - my how things change.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
I do find it funny that the director of the IPCC has benefited from statements made by the IPCC because of his businesses. It's also funny that he has no formal training in this field.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
Quoting JFLORIDA:


More like pearls before swine. Is he going to apologize for ridiculing a poster on something he was completely incorrect about I wonder.

What your expertise is, besides creating handles, I would like to see. (ive seen you say things I think are inexcusable btw - so I dont consider you an expert on statements
)


Quoting JFLORIDA:
I think we just need higher quality posters round here. That means not putting up with the ridiculous stuff no matter what.

Facebook is still there for that.

I remember a poster HOG that was treated poorly a few years ago by the clique crowd - my how things change.


Quoting JFLORIDA:
Look temperature measurements are statistically analyzed through temp readings, sat temp readings, extensive statistical methodology, thousands of proxies and who knows what else. If you are going to discus it stop posting irrelevant pictures and tackle the science.

You are just spamming now. And showing your ignorance of the process.


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Quoting AstroHurricane001:


My point is that this El Nino season has produced more snow in parts of Texas than here. I'm blaming global warming. :)
i let ya know in july if the globe is warming
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:


Wait. How can you possibly be sure?


See post 907. I was typing and all of a sudden it posted itself!
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Attribution of climate change from forcings:




Comparison of different forcings, including solar activity and CO2 concentrations to the observed temperature changes:

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Quoting atmoaggie:

Most of the stations that show no warming are rural ones, if that is what you are asking. Which takes away from the CO2-forcing argument, actually, as CO2 is a well-distributed gas and should have the same effect at rural stations as urban/suburban stations.

But that wasn't the point. Point was, there are a lot of stations that do not show any warming, as opposed to Astro's thought on the matter.


Quite. But you would then admit that global warming is in fact anthropogenic, with the slight distinction that it is caused by tarmac (for cars that use and burn oil), poorly insulated buildings, especially air conditioning (powered by electricity from the burning of coal) and global urbanisation (which could potentially have one it's causes in big bad polluting industry)...

Of course the above is slightly tongue in cheek, but really the global warming crew don't base _all_ their views on US temperature measurement, many places around the world are already in big trouble with a shifting climate, and it's perfectly possible the shift is manmade in some form or fashion. I agree that to some extent CO2 has been made the bad guy, but it is a common factor in a lot of good and bad "ethically sustainable" issues.

And on a lighter mood:

Why did the chicken cross the road?
.. He finally learnt to look both ways first!
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Quoting Ossqss:
So the science does not matter, it is only about the money, regardless of the findings?

What have we come to.........


That's how most things in life work now unfortunately.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
Quoting atmoaggie:

Ahh, yes, but, if a PhD, published scientists was working at an industry-funded think tank, is it at all possible for him/her to conduct good, valid work?


Apparently so, especially if he gets his buddy who is funded by the same group to do a peer review!
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
Earth is warming - We can all agree on that probably.

The reason for the warming is the cause for controversy.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
don't start complaining of lack of snow or ya might jinx us kinda liken this cold but snowless winter


My point is that this El Nino season has produced more snow in parts of Texas than here. I'm blaming global warming. :)
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Quoting atmoaggie:

20,000 years ago no one lived near a MMS thermometer. Now, most MMS thermometers get an anthropogenic signal.
;-)

so you believe in AGW then? :P
how many heat islands does it take to screw in a light bulb..
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Quoting AstroHurricane001:
To date, Toronto Pearson airport has recorded less than 30 cm of snowfall accumalations. The previous record low was close to 55 cm by this time of year in the season, set in 1952-53, and the current record is close to half of the old one. My location, not far from Toronto has had only ONE major storm this winter season producing over 20 cm of snow.
don't start complaining of lack of snow or ya might jinx us kinda liken this cold but snowless winter
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So the science does not matter, it is only about the money, regardless of the findings?

What have we come to.........
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Quoting AwakeInMaryland:
Dr. Masters posted what I was thinking, but wouldn't dare post. I know of those people...but being a Beltway Brat doesn't put a Ph.D. or scientific credibility after my name. Thank you, Dr. Masters.

Ahh, yes, but, if a PhD, published scientist was working at an industry-funded think tank, is it at all possible for him/her to conduct good, valid work?
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Boy I sure see some of "the pot calling the kettle black" in here right now.
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Quoting CatchMeifUCan:


Absolutely correct. 20,000 years ago the North American glaciers reached into Georgia. So why do we need all the waste of resources to discover the glaciers have been melting for many hundreds of human generations? Why is redundancy such a common task of ours?


CO2 concentrations 20,000 years ago, at the height of the last ice age: 180 ppm

CO2 concentrations in 1800, near the start of the Industrial Revolution: 280 ppm

CO2 concentration today: 388 ppm


The CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere have increaced 100 ppm from the end of the last ice age to 1800, a span of 19,800 years. Since then, in 200 years, it has increased 108 ppm. It's obvious that human activity is having more of an effect on CO2 concentrations, and eventually on climate, than the natural cycles.
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Earth is warming, but it is not due to man.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
Quoting futuremet:


This is what causes global warming, not us humans.

Wrong. We are in fact currently in a solar minimum cycle (which currently ends). Even though the solar activity has very little outcome when you compare it to the other forcings of climate change.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_cycle
Member Since: September 22, 2005 Posts: 11 Comments: 2032
Quoting JFLORIDA:
What was the human population 20,000 years ago? What is it now?

20,000 years ago no one lived near a MMS thermometer. Now, most MMS thermometers get an anthropogenic signal.
;-)
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895. Skyepony (Mod)
Well now we know what Watts has been up too.. geez really 107 pages..
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Dr. Masters posted what I was thinking, but wouldn't dare post. I know of those people...but being a Beltway Brat doesn't put a Ph.D. or scientific credibility after my name. Thank you, Dr. Masters.

(& thnks for cookie, T-dude.)
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Quoting CaneWarning:


The IPCC has become nothing more than an organization that releases propaganda. There are many who are calling for it to be disbanded. Their recent falsifications and scandals do not help.


Much of the criticism of the IPCC comes from its being too conservative in its forecasts. It predicted a sea level rise of less than 1 metre by 2010, but as we saw that the Pine Island Glacier has reached its tipping point the real sea level rise may be much greater if all of West Antarctica becomes destabilized.


Quoting futuremet:


Really? perhaps. Well regardless, AGW is overhyped, and is often used for political propaganda.

lol, I don't I am not going to argue GW again, so this my last post on this subject for a while.


The real "political agenda" is from the oil and auto industry lobbyists, who outspent the environmental groups 14-to-1 to promote their message of climate denial. The Bush Administration also funded that.


Quoting futuremet:


This is what causes global warming, not us humans. We are in a sense being misanthropes when we believe in AGW.


Solar activity is the short-term forcing of climate, while CO2 emissions are the moderate-term driver. Anthropogenic GHG emissions took over from solar activity as the main cause of climate change from the mid-1970s onward. The difference between solar maximum and minimum corresponds to a difference of slightly more than 0.1C in global temperature trends, and now that it's picking back up we should see the acceleration that's been largely missing for the past 10 years.
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Quoting AwakeInMaryland:


I sent you mail but you didn't answer back. I want a cookie.


answered :)
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
"The IPCC was forced to admit its key claim that Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035 was lifted from a 1999 (New Scientist) magazine article. It was also revealed that the IPCC%u2019s controversial chairman, Dr Rajendra Pachauri, described as %u201Cthe world%u2019s top climate scientist%u201D, is a former railway engineer with a PhD in economics and no formal climate science qualifications. Pachauri has been accused of a conflict of interest after it emerged he has a network of business interests that attract millions of pounds in funding thanks to IPCC policies."

Link

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Quoting txag91met:
Regardless of whether these stations are warming or not - we need a massive upgrade to our climate network. Some of these stations are in horrible locations and poorly maintained (actually a large percentage).

Whoop!
(Right on, to you non-ags)
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884. JeffMasters (Admin)
Quoting Ossqss:
I think it deserves its own post, Watt do you think :)

SURFACE TEMPERATURE RECORDS: POLICY DRIVEN DECEPTION?
by Joseph D’Aleo and Anthony Watts
SPPI




This would be worth a post on, if it had been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Instead, it has been published by the "Science and Public Policy Institute", which according to wikipedia "is not obliged by law to reveal, and does not reveal, its sources of funding". The organization's Executive Director is Robert "Bob" Ferguson, former Chief of Staff to Republican Congressmen Jack Fields (1981-1997), John E. Peterson (1997-2002), and Rick Renzi (2002). The science advisors include a number of well-known global warming contrarians who have a produced decades of mis-information on climate change for organizations on the receiving end of substantial grants from the fossil fuel industry. It's a classic example of the type of material the Manufactured Doubt Industry puts out.

Jeff Masters
Quoting tornadodude:
..., you have mail, but in case you need to know...:

... If you have new mail and are not in the mail section, the mail button (located at the top of the page) will turn red and read "new mail!"


I sent you mail but you didn't answer back. I want a cookie.
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JF, you'll never guess it, but you have mail.

why no response?
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
Quoting JFLORIDA:


And we just got a few pics of those - right?

Most of the stations that show no warming are rural ones, if that is what you are asking. Which takes away from the CO2-forcing argument, actually, as CO2 is a well-distributed gas and should have the same effect at rural stations as urban/suburban stations.

But that wasn't the point. Point was, there are a lot of stations that do not show any warming, as opposed to Astro's thought on the matter.
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Quoting AstroHurricane001:


Or even faster than that. When solar activity picks back up in the next few years, global warming will accelerate again, then positive feedbacks like methane will take over. Currently, global warming is having an effect on our ocean temperatures.


This is what causes global warming, not us humans. We are in a sense being misanthropes when we believe in AGW.
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Regardless of whether these stations are warming or not - we need a massive upgrade to our climate network. Some of these stations are in horrible locations and poorly maintained (actually a large percentage).
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.