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 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
Quoting tornadodude:
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?


It's a total waste of time at this point.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
Is anyone else looking at the numbers?

1. 71 "good", 454 "bad", total of 525.

2. 71/525, or .135 good.

3. 454/525, or .864 bad.

And this using NOAA's data (which, BTW, they couldn't provide when asked about it in the beginning). It took Watts and a group of unpaid volunteers to gather the data.

This is data that only expresses 2% of the earth's surface (as they are so fond of saying).

This is also the US data, whch is probably the best kept stations in the world. We'll never know, because we can't even get the scientists to release a list of the stations they use for the ROW.

All of this doesn't prove or disprove GW. It does, however, call into question the charts they create showing a .8 degree rise in temps since 1800.

Has the earth warmed? Yes. We're coming out of an Ice Age.

By how much? We're not sure. Four groups of scientists can't even agree on which averaging period to use.
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Right. If anyone else has anything they wish to chastise me for, please just email it. Thank you.
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8301
Now thats a mature re-tort from a Freshman,


JF has a lot to offer on the matter at hand,so Id be a lil more tactful and respectful..

Civility is a art form as well as blogging.

And I say that about JF cuz Ive come to admire his art,His entries and his passion for the discussion.
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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?
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8301
Quoting IKE:
I don't know why anyone comes on here arguing over....I can't even type it.

It's like a bad marriage....just goes on and on and on. Never gets any better.

I'm outta here for now.



Wunderful as well,

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


I really wish Dr. Masters would stay away from this topic in the main blog. After all, it is a tropical weather blog.


Dr Masters blog has never been a tropical blog only. Look back through the history of his blogs here and see for yourself. This is his site and his blog. We do not have to like it nor visit here when there is a topic we don't care for. Personally, I just stay away from certain subjects and you see me very little on those days. But once hurricane season in the Northern Hemisphere kicks in it can get very serious and informative and they are quick to boot off topic.

Dr. Masters' Blog Rules Of The Road
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Member Since: August 22, 2008 Posts: 12 Comments: 6010
Quoting tornadodude:


exactly! what I say here has no significant impact, and there is no way I am going to change anyone's stance on the issue. I might make some good points, but because I am "only" a first year college student, my view is insignificant to most of the elders on here.

a radicalized perspective is not a solution. it makes as little sense to retort everything with question as it does to irrefutably accept indoctrination. age does not define pertinence, and any mind can become nimble or shut down. the quality of one's arguments can be judged by the arguments alone.
our affect on the climate is proven locally, but on the global scale it is questionable. i do want to remind anyone that the local and global systems interact on scales we are only just revealing, and are far from understanding.
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Quoting IKE:


I'm glad you finally see the light! Congrats!


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.
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8301
614. IKE
I don't know why anyone comes on here arguing over....I can't even type it.

It's like a bad marriage....just goes on and on and on. Never gets any better.

I'm outta here for now.

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It seems that your belief in Global Warming is often determined by how you define yourself politically. As I say, I think I must be the worlds only liberal who thinks Global Warming is BS.

Link
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
Quoting tornadodude:
isnt it also a little arrogant to assume that we can have a significant impact on the way the earth behaves?


Isn't it a little ignorant to assume that we don't?
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http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=how+to+talk+to+a+psychopath
Member Since: September 22, 2005 Posts: 11 Comments: 2032
609. IKE
Quoting tornadodude:
I see no point in me expressing my view on it as it is dismissed and refuted with arguments presented in a manner that makes one perceive that their view is the only way and that those who dont accept it are arrogant, ignorant, or even a national security threat. congratulations to those who succeeded on finally frustrating me enough to shut me up.


I'm glad you finally see the light! Congrats!
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I see no point in me expressing my view on it as it is dismissed and refuted with arguments presented in a manner that makes one perceive that their view is the only way and that those who dont accept it are arrogant, ignorant, or even a national security threat. congratulations to those who succeeded on finally frustrating me enough to shut me up.
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8301
Quoting Dodabear:


DUDE!!! I am proud of you! You are one of the first to figure it out. Nothing that anyone here says is going to make a bit of difference as to what happens or what others think. It is all "blowing smoke into the wind." Don't try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and it annoys the pig.


exactly! what I say here has no significant impact, and there is no way I am going to change anyone's stance on the issue. I might make some good points, but because I am "only" a first year college student, my view is insignificant to most of the elders on here.
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8301
Quoting Dodabear:


DUDE!!! I am proud of you! You are one of the first to figure it out. Nothing that anyone here says is going to make a bit of difference as to what happens or what others think. It is all "blowing smoke into the wind." Don't try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and it annoys the pig.


I really wish Dr. Masters would stay away from this topic in the main blog. After all, it is a tropical weather blog.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
Quoting tornadodude:
ok, as of right now, I am not going to discuss GW, AGW, CC, or anything related to it. y'all know my stance, and there is no point for me to say anything more about it because obviously I'm not gonna change anyone's view on the issue, and no one will likely listen because I am just a first year college student who doesnt take every word a scientist utters as complete infallible truth.


DUDE!!! I am proud of you! You are one of the first to figure it out. Nothing that anyone here says is going to make a bit of difference as to what happens or what others think. It is all "blowing smoke into the wind." Don't try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and it annoys the pig.
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looks like Tennessee and Kentucky might get a pretty decent snow tomorrow through friday. one estimate I saw was for 10 inches in southern Kentucky
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8301
Quoting tornadodude:
ok, as of right now, I am not going to discuss GW, AGW, CC, or anything related to it. y'all know my stance, and there is no point for me to say anything more about it because obviously I'm not gonna change anyone's view on the issue, and no one will likely listen because I am just a first year college student who doesnt take every word a scientist utters as complete infallible truth.




WUnderful...,never trust anyone over 40 too,until yer 41


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Quoting tornadodude:
isnt it also a little arrogant to assume that we can have a significant impact on the way the earth behaves?




We do,,I can show you on any given day many examples,..Hong Kong,Shanghai,Beijing,..

Also,,ever seen a Cooling tower in a Refinery seed a Thunderstorm,,I have..over 100 times here locally from a Local Refinery.


PCBS,Carcinogens are NOT a Natural occurrence in the Earths atmosphere and they are abundant even on Everest and the Peruvian Peaks.

So your statement is wrong on many Levels and re-enforces the statement of Man's arrogance in such matters.

Earth has her Limits as to what she will take from Man.

And she can cut us loose like a Sinking dinghy in a single day,if she so chooses.


Member Since: Posts: Comments:
600. Boca
Quoting trumpman84:
Dr. Masters,
This article is not really an argument for or against global warming, but sounds more like a direct personal assault of Anthony Watts and his integrity.

You start the article off with "Former TV weatherman Anthony Watts..." It's curious that you start the article this way instead of saying "Meteorologist Anthony Watts..." or simply "Anthony Watts..." The fact that you purposefully included "TV weather", even though its true, sounds like an assault on integrity right away. After all, TV weather men aren't REAL meteorologists...only internet blog meteorologist are real.

Secondly,
You mentioned that surfacestations.org is funded by the heartland institution and that the heartland institution gets funding from tobacco and oil companies. Not just oil, but tobacco as well..they must be really bad to get funding from the two evils of corporate America! (cue Darth Vader theme)
After a quick search, I found no evidence that this statement is even true. On surfacestations.org's FAQs, Anthony specifically says that the only costs to the project are for web hosting, computer and bandwidth and that Mr. Watts funds it out of his own pocket. They do accept donations, but only from individuals and not corporations. Barring any other specific evidence about their funding (you provided no source to back this up), I am compelled to go by the information on Mr. Watt's site.
Also, even if this was true, how is receiving funding from big oil any different from receiving funding from big Government as the Pro-AGW camp is? I guarantee that big Government has much, much deeper pockets than big oil.

Also, you seem dismissive of the fact that poorly sited stations is a problem, even if no extra warming is observed. (As of writing this comment, I haven't done any research/analysis into the numbers you used to create your graph.) I do not think accepting poorly sited stations and adjusting is a proper way to measure temperature. And I agree with Anthony when he states that, if our temperature measuring network, which is the best in the world, is so poor, what does that say about temperature monitoring stations in other parts of the world? Even if we may be 'adjusting' or 'quality controlling' the data to account for biases or instrumental flaws, who's to say the rest of the world is as well? After all, the United States hasn't shown nearly as much warming as, say Northern Russia, where temperature sensors were found to be sitting next to old, poorly insulated pipes that are used for heating during the winter.

Well Doc? What is your reply?
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ok, as of right now, I am not going to discuss GW, AGW, CC, or anything related to it. y'all know my stance, and there is no point for me to say anything more about it because obviously I'm not gonna change anyone's view on the issue, and no one will likely listen because I am just a first year college student who doesnt take every word a scientist utters as complete infallible truth.
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8301
Quoting drg0dOwnCountry:

Thank you Sir. Climate denial industrie is a threat to national security. People who participate in, should be aware of future conflicts and safty. They are part of the problem and responsible for a delay in eminent reaction to the crisis. The survival of the human species is at risc.


Lasted I checked we all die, just part of life.
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If one wants to make a defined tactical statement to Dr. Masters,,why not use the contact button on the right of this page.

Contact This Blog's Author

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Quoting tornadodude:
isnt it also a little arrogant to assume that we can have a significant impact on the way the earth behaves?


Yes.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
576. McBill 4:51 PM GMT on January 26, 2010
"Latitude, I'm not inclined to participate in your wild goose chase. You have something to show us, please provide a link."

Nope, my post is 100% correct.

My post was to the Doc, not you anyway.

If you are having problems, just follow the instructions for how to use the search bar on Watts site that I posted.

Watts is co-authoring the paper with Pielke Sr.
He has said that he will not comment on it further until it's published.

Doc said: "Watts has made no mention on surfacestations.org or on wattsupwiththat.com of Dr. Menne's study."

Watts has, he has discussed it, etc.
It's disingenuous to say that someone has not commented, knowing that the reason they have not commented is that they are also working on a paper disputing the Menne study.
Watts and Pielke Sr are co-authoring a paper.
They have both said that they will both discuss it in even more detail after
it's published.
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isnt it also a little arrogant to assume that we can have a significant impact on the way the earth behaves?
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8301
Quoting PcolaDan:


mail


Got it...full speed ahead, man!
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922
That reminds me, that show on the History Channel about life after man is very interesting. I really enjoy it.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
Quoting Patrap:
One has to fully grasp the numbers and forces involved to actually realize the urgency of the matter.

Besides Nuclear War,its the biggest "natural" threat to the World.


And thats the crux of the matter,what were doing to the atmosphere 24/7/365 isnt "natural" at all.

Never before in Earths history,has a species been able to wrac Havoc on Gaia's realm or rule.

And in the end,it will be her standing most likely,and MAN,,the distant memory.

Only Man is arrogant to change the Face of Iracus,and think he does no Harm...in the process.

Thats a fools Paradise,..we are mere dueces and 3's in the Deck.




Gaia? LOL
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
One has to fully grasp the numbers and forces involved to actually realize the urgency of the matter.

Besides Nuclear War,its the biggest "natural" threat to the World.


And thats the crux of the matter,what were doing to the atmosphere 24/7/365 isnt "natural" at all.

Never before in Earths history,has a species been able to wrac Havoc on Gaia's realm or rule.

And in the end,it will be her standing most likely,and MAN,,the distant memory.

Only Man is arrogant enough to change the Face of Iracus,and think he does no Harm...in the process.

Thats a fools Paradise,..we are mere dueces and 3's in the Deck.


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Quoting CaneWarning:


You are a national security threat. LOL


oh no :O lol
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8301
Quoting Floodman:


Right here, man...what's up, Dan?


mail
Member Since: August 22, 2008 Posts: 12 Comments: 6010
Quoting natrwalkn:
Any of you weather forecasters out there think central NC will get a big winter storm this weekend?


It's looking like snow is in the cards... hard to say how much right now, but there's definitely something in the forecast..
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Quoting tornadodude:


you cant be serious...


You are a national security threat. LOL
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
Quoting PcolaDan:
Flood, you here?


Right here, man...what's up, Dan?
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922
Any of you weather forecasters out there think central NC will get a big winter storm this weekend?
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Flood, you here?
Member Since: August 22, 2008 Posts: 12 Comments: 6010
Quoting drg0dOwnCountry:

Thank you Sir. Climate denial industrie is a threat to national security. People who participate in, should be aware of future conflicts and safty. They are part of the problem and responsible for a delay in eminent reaction to the crisis. The survival of the human species is at risc.


you cant be serious...
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8301
Quoting tornadodude:
:p

I wasnt posting it to disprove global warming (?)
Just showing how some people take what so called experts say as truth and dont bother to do any research.


That's true on both sides of the debate; the professionals, for the most part, are treating it as a debate, so when you see articles by "scientists" attacking someone on the other side of the debate, ask yourself what that person stands to gain from their entry into it. If you can't think of anything, remember that there is big money funding both sides of this thing and the person in question is likely on someone's payroll.

Sad, but true...
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922

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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.

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