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 Orcasystems:


I think if you keep it light hearted.. or take humorous jabs at people.. like Floodman :) then its all good... but if you are going to come in and spout some BS or take offensive action with your quotes.. then you might find some of the regulars taking offense.

I for one.. enjoy it in here. There are some new people in here who leave a lot to be desired... most of them arrived with the Hockey stick...and they aint playing Hockey.
:) yet, they still tend to body check...
Member Since: July 31, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1320
Quoting PcolaDan:




that's about what I look like after this beating Ive taken :p
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 24 Comments: 8200
Quoting Orcasystems:


yeah thats it.. what they said in Lion King.. whats the name of that song???

Acona Matata?


I think its Hakuna Matata
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
Quoting Orcasystems:


I think if you keep it light hearted.. or take humorous jabs at people.. like Floodman :) then its all good... but if you are going to come in and spout some BS or take offensive action with your quotes.. then you might find some of the regulars taking offense.

I for one.. enjoy it in here. There are some new people in here who leave a lot to be desired... most of them arrived with the Hockey stick...and they aint playing Hockey.


Member Since: August 22, 2008 Posts: 12 Comments: 6010
Quoting P451:


I remember a glacier in the 1980s in Alaska that was expanding and the local officials feared it was about to overtake a vital highway. It stopped pretty close to the highway and eventually retreated.

You see, with the AGW theory (yes, I said I was done talking about this, but this is a different topic somewhat I wanted to chime in on), the idea is it's all over. Temperatures are rising on a straight line and will continue to do so exponentially.

Of course, that is my interpretation of the theory.

There is no room for cycles. There is no room for that at all. There is no such thing as a cycle. If the temperature is rising, it will continue to rise unabated to infinity.

I....really don't think that's what we are experiencing.



I would have to agree with you. I think we are warming, but I think it's a natural cycle. Maybe we'll warm for a few decades, then cool for a few decades.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
Quoting CaneWarning:


Yup, such is life.


yeah thats it.. what they said in Lion King.. whats the name of that song???

Acona Matata?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Always someone to my East bringing my perceived status onto his retort,..fine.

Dad said long before he was Buried,if they quoting you,or thinking about you..at least your reaching.

Been banned as much as any other,..its no thing to me,maybe to others,,but hey.

Life isnt here..its outside,.and Im heading out to it now.


But I sleep well at night knowing I've helped make a difference,and I thank Jeff Masters daily in my prayers as well as his site.

For one can make a difference....and I like to believe I have.

Toodles.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting PcolaDan:


C'est la vie


Yup, such is life.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
Quoting PcolaDan:
Interesting how certain people get picked on and not others. Presslord trying to marry off his daughter, Patrap cheering for the Saints and New Orleans in general, pottery with his rum :), all non weather related. I rather enjoy it myself. Helps keep the mood lighter. But all respected so no one goes after them. But someone comes in here that is not liked by some people for whatever reason is fair game.

Well, for you blog police, flag the people you have problems with. Admin will take care of them if necessary. If they don't agree with you, oh well!


I think if you keep it light hearted.. or take humorous jabs at people.. like Floodman :) then its all good... but if you are going to come in and spout some BS or take offensive action with your quotes.. then you might find some of the regulars taking offense.

I for one.. enjoy it in here. There are some new people in here who leave a lot to be desired... most of them arrived with the Hockey stick...and they aint playing Hockey.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting CaneWarning:


It's ok if they do it. The blog has its favorities, and the admin seems to like them too.


C'est la vie
Member Since: August 22, 2008 Posts: 12 Comments: 6010
Quoting P451:


I personally refuse to use the ignore list except for the most useless of trolls. I have five. They're purposeful gimmick names. They have no actual opinion. They choose one and press it to get a rise out of people. Those go on ignore.

Those that have an opinion, even if very headstrong, even if I disagree with them 100%, even if they attack me, I don't put them on ignore. I just... don't reply to them... if I think it'd be in no interest to do so (just a fight if you will).







He's the only one of my iggy list.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
2009: Second Warmest Year on Record; End of Warmest Decade

The Facts as stated by consensus is all the Data I need.

One Opines from their Political Slant or pedigree always cloud some's perception.

Always has thru the centuries,be it religion against Galileo,or Crazed Political Parties to Jeff Masters.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Minnemike:

i hate to see a quality mind succumb to any of the ills you've described. open mindedness is not something we can really say of ourselves, but rather resides in the actions we take; like while we listen, think, and respond to others and their information. i think other people are better left to put that label on any one of us.

i hope tdude, among all who've engaged you here, that i'm not seen as one shooting you down. i see a quality in you where i see fallacy and hopelessness elsewhere, which may even be supported by your age (having not become cynical and closed). i have no statement to persuade your beliefs, just a caution on how you think you've arrived at them. if always examining that while examining everything else, no one will ever be able to support calling you stubborn or close minded (which i'm certainly not saying now either).


thank you, I have never perceived you as one to shoot me down, you actually have a knack for putting things into a better perspective. It is appreciated. I do look at both sides. However, I have been increasingly frustrated by the bloggers who tell me that I dont look at their point of view when they in fact do just the same. I am not leaving WU (sorry to disappoint you guys), but I am done engaging in the frivolous attempt to show another point of view.
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 24 Comments: 8200
Quoting PcolaDan:
Interesting how certain people get picked on and not others. Presslord trying to marry off his daughter, Patrap cheering for the Saints and New Orleans in general, pottery with his rum :), all non weather related. I rather enjoy it myself. Helps keep the mood lighter. But all respected so no one goes after them. But someone comes in here that is not liked by some people for whatever reason is fair game.

Well, for you blog police, flag the people you have problems with. Admin will take care of them if necessary. If they don't agree with you, oh well!


It's ok if they do it. The blog has its favorities, and the admin seems to like them too.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
Also, following the talk of glaciers last night, then please explain why some glaciers in South America and New Zealand are actually explaining. Glaciers have been retreating since the 1860's - long before SUV's and the modern world.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
Quoting Patrap:
Been fun today,,..

Butt Im going to see da VA Doc,my GI man for a better view of my day so far.

LOL

ewww TMI TMI :)
Member Since: August 22, 2008 Posts: 12 Comments: 6010
Interesting how certain people get picked on and not others. Presslord trying to marry off his daughter, Patrap cheering for the Saints and New Orleans in general, pottery with his rum :), all non weather related. I rather enjoy it myself. Helps keep the mood lighter. But all respected so no one goes after them. But someone comes in here that is not liked by some people for whatever reason is fair game.

Well, for you blog police, flag the people you have problems with. Admin will take care of them if necessary. If they don't agree with you, oh well!
Member Since: August 22, 2008 Posts: 12 Comments: 6010
All I can say is the Global Warming Theory is still disputed by many scientists. If it was "fact" then there wouldn't be an discussion going on in that community.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
Quoting tornadodude:


ha thanks. I think that my wit and other abilities can be better used elsewhere where people are actually open minded. At least I listen to both sides. I hate to see so much stubbornness. Maybe this is just my young mind wanting to be rebellious, I dont know, but one thing I do know is to always be open minded and willing to listen to everyone's opinion regardless of age, race, or gender.

i hate to see a quality mind succumb to any of the ills you've described. open mindedness is not something we can really say of ourselves, but rather resides in the actions we take; like while we listen, think, and respond to others and their information. i think other people are better left to put that label on any one of us.

i hope tdude, among all who've engaged you here, that i'm not seen as one shooting you down. i see a quality in you where i see fallacy and hopelessness elsewhere, which may even be supported by your age (having not become cynical and closed). i have no statement to persuade your beliefs, just a caution on how you think you've arrived at them. if always examining that while examining everything else, no one will ever be able to support calling you stubborn or close minded (which i'm certainly not saying now either).
Member Since: July 31, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1320
Quoting tornadodude:
Lol if everyone with an opposing view point ignores each other, we will essentially have two separate blogs.


I dont have any views, im staying in the middle "neutral". Until more evidence. I'd rather not see the arguing from both sides.
Member Since: August 11, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2315
Been fun today,,..

Butt Im going to see da VA Doc,my GI man for a better view of my day so far.

LOL
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Patrap:
JF is Not a troll sport,..your way outta line in that respect.

And you get a Minus and a exclamation point on that one.



A lot of us have him on iggy for a reason, sport.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
Lol if everyone with an opposing view point ignores each other, we will essentially have two separate blogs.
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 24 Comments: 8200
638.

Thanks :)

Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 24 Comments: 8200
Quoting drg0dOwnCountry:

The problem with your "debate and opinion" argument is, that it lacks ANY support from the science community. Your argument is based on hot smoke.

Hacked emails?
Glacier retreat prediction 2035?
Nothing of these sensational claims, has any impact to the science consensus on AGW and thousand supporting studies from scientist all over the world.

DENYING THE SCIENCE
Ever since global warming emerged on the international agenda, ExxonMobil has actively tried to defeat and derail efforts to address the problem. The company's legacy of denying the science and urgency of global warming is unparalleled - even as other oil companies acknowledged the problem. In 2006, the Washington Post deemed ExxonMobil the "the highest-profile corporate skeptic about global warming."

FUNDING THE DENIAL INDUSTRY
A leaked industry memo dating back to 1998 also reveals that ExxonMobil has been involved in a coordinated effort to confuse the public around global warming science; just like the tobacco industry did around smoking. To this day, ExxonMobil is the only oil giant known to be directly funneling millions of dollars to groups that deny the science on global warming
http://www.exxposeexxon.com/facts/globalwarming.html


Like popeye says "I's can take no more"

Poof by!

Meet my IGy list
Member Since: August 11, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2315
Quoting JFLORIDA:


good idea.

A Convicted Spammer too, my point exactly- have anything on weather or climate to actually add? No, thought not.

Uh, oh, pls. take it easy, now... have you ever been in WU-jail? I have, because posts are easily misinterpreted...okay, maybe one I really deserved...(or two?) It was jmo (Cheney as devil.)
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 32 Comments: 1918
However, as of this writing, Watts has made no mention on surfacestations.org or on wattsupwiththat.com of Dr. Menne's study.

When he does, will you report his reply?

Or, even better, let him have a guest post to refute the study?

Because part of his study also involved the type of paint used on the old wooden shelters. That's what caused him to move into the surface stations study.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Unfriendly:
@ tornadodude

Keep on posting whatever you like man - people will try to shut you up, discredit you, make fun of you, call you names, and even stoop to the classic tactic of calling you ignorant for being younger then them.

Keep in mind that their manufactured opinion is a result of innuendo, smoke, and mirrors.

THIS IS A BLOG.

PEOPLE ARE ENTITLED TO THEIR OPINIONS.

THIS DOES NOT MEAN SHOOT THEM DOWN AND BELITTLE THEM IF THEY POST SOMETHING AGAINST YOUR PERSONAL IDEALS.


+10000000000000000000000000000
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
A Spammer too, my point exactly- have anything on weather or climate to actually add. No thought not.

I'm too busy heading an Auction for Portlight...

Oh, and it's a lovley sunny day in Southern Calif!

:)


Member Since: Posts: Comments:
@ tornadodude

Keep on posting whatever you like man - people will try to shut you up, discredit you, make fun of you, call you names, and even stoop to the classic tactic of calling you ignorant for being younger then them.

Keep in mind that their manufactured opinion is a result of innuendo, smoke, and mirrors.

THIS IS A BLOG.

PEOPLE ARE ENTITLED TO THEIR OPINIONS.

THIS DOES NOT MEAN SHOOT THEM DOWN AND BELITTLE THEM IF THEY POST SOMETHING AGAINST YOUR PERSONAL IDEALS.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting natrwalkn:


A good debate is one thing, but on this blog it just keeps going on and on and on and on and round and round and round in circles. Been happening that way for several YEARS now! I like the WEATHER links that people post on here and sometimes there is some really good info. It gets annoying having to scroll through all the bickering to get to that stuff though.


There is a lot more to the wunderground than this entry,..

One can Learn to use the Menu Bar and the SEARCH box and one can get ALL the Weather Globally in 5.8 seconds usually.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
You cant even post referenced articles or narrative in here anymore with out ridiculous comments. Like last night.

JFlorida, I'm one of the folks in the middle re "the topic that must not speak its name" (j/k)...but gosh, can I sympathize with that and relate.

You know the NASA experimental gizmo/suit that we posted about last night?

I accidently posted the link (only) on another WU site (I had two WU windows open)...whoa, did I ever get my chops busted!

Thnx.
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 32 Comments: 1918
Quoting P451:
Those who are convinced of the AGW theory seek to suppress any evidence or opinion contrary to that said theory.
br

The problem with your "debate and opinion" argument is, that it lacks ANY support from the science community. Your argument is based on hot smoke.

Hacked emails?
Glacier retreat prediction 2035?
Nothing of these sensational claims, has any impact to the science consensus on AGW and thousand supporting studies from scientist all over the world.

DENYING THE SCIENCE
Ever since global warming emerged on the international agenda, ExxonMobil has actively tried to defeat and derail efforts to address the problem. The company's legacy of denying the science and urgency of global warming is unparalleled - even as other oil companies acknowledged the problem. In 2006, the Washington Post deemed ExxonMobil the "the highest-profile corporate skeptic about global warming."

FUNDING THE DENIAL INDUSTRY
A leaked industry memo dating back to 1998 also reveals that ExxonMobil has been involved in a coordinated effort to confuse the public around global warming science; just like the tobacco industry did around smoking. To this day, ExxonMobil is the only oil giant known to be directly funneling millions of dollars to groups that deny the science on global warming
http://www.exxposeexxon.com/facts/globalwarming.html
Member Since: September 22, 2005 Posts: 11 Comments: 2032
Quoting CaneWarning:


It's a total waste of time at this point.


It is. Anything I say is going to be refuted with some snide remark about my age or political view. But hey, if their intent was to drive me away, they are quickly succeeding.
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 24 Comments: 8200
623. tornadodude 9:46 AM PST on January 26, 2010
say what you want about me. I dont care. If your goal was to be repulsive with your arguments instead of persuasive, then you have succeeded. want a cookie?


hahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!

:)

outa here.....
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Patrap:


Wunderful as well,

If youcant handle da heat of a simple debate,,stay out,,its the entry topic.


A good debate is one thing, but on this blog it just keeps going on and on and on and on and round and round and round in circles. Been happening that way for several YEARS now! I like the WEATHER links that people post on here and sometimes there is some really good info. It gets annoying having to scroll through all the bickering to get to that stuff though.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting tornadodude:


ha thanks. I think that my wit and other abilities can be better used elsewhere where people are actually open minded. At least I listen to both sides. I hate to see so much stubbornness. Maybe this is just my young mind wanting to be rebellious, I dont know, but one thing I do know is to always be open minded and willing to listen to everyone's opinion regardless of age, race, or gender.


I suspect there are more open minded people here than you may realize. As one of the "elders" you referred to earlier - :) - it is my opinion that in most any discussion/argument, it is the most adamant people (those who see no other side but their own) are usually the most vocal too. The rest of us either just take it all and in and digest the information, or just ignore it all. This is true of politics, religion and weather it seems. :)
But only I can drive myself away from a place.
Member Since: August 22, 2008 Posts: 12 Comments: 6010

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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.