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:
: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...
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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.



So I'm a national security risk now? Geez.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
Quoting physicistGunkel:
• THE GREATEST CRIME?

Publication of deliberately false climate change data literally ought — i.e., MUST — be treated, not as a peccadillo, but as a Crime Against Humanity.

My remark here is not an expression of an emotion, but of an intellectual and humanitarian reaction of a scientist to falsification of data that could be as bad in its effect as long-term global warming itself, by permitting the latter to thrive, and acquire an egregious and panhumanly disastrous momentum.

If this were World War III such people would be shot, and with far, far greater warrant than even those human catastrophes.

A scientist is a kind of Protective Angel for Humanity. Why? Simply because he lives and breathes for Truth.

——— * ———

As for the falsifiers of data, or criminal social parasites, let me switch from the second to the first of my scientific careers, long ago at M.I.T., where I was — a then VERY rare! — theorist in neuroscience, trying to make sense of the human brain as a whole and all the astonishing behavior and abilities it gives rise to.

A SIDE interest of mine, then and later, was the queer and baffling, and decidedly chilling, phenomenon of the psychopath, a.k.a. sociopath. The essential trait of such people is that have little or no conscience, and yet they can be at the same time profoundly convincing to the layman — i.e., virtually all of us.

The incidence of these curious and horrific people in the body of the whole of humanity is estimated to be of the order of 1/200. This is misleading, however, because the pathology is a matter of degree, or properly illustrated by an intensity-frequency curve.

To put it simply, a psychopath can and does lie without a blink, either external or internal. And often does so for profit or simply out of total indifference to the harm he works upon the innocent and the virtuous.

I have little doubt that the purveyors of purposefully, and dangerously, falsified Global Warming data ARE in many instances psychopaths, whose falsifications tend to put ALL of us at risk.

Even heads of great corporations can be, in various ways and degrees, psychopathic. (Psychopathy probably had some partly useful — personal OR social — function in the long-ago past of Homo sapiens. It is certainly common enough in our politicians nowadays!)

— Patrick Michael Gunkel (Princeton, NJ)

POSTSCRIPT: Two decades ago I was neutral, but skeptical, about global warming. Later I realized that we simply could not tolerate the risks it potentially posed. One does not play games, or take chances, when essentially the whole of civilization and humanity MAY be in peril.

None of us can escape from the need for such caution, and where even the very survival of our species over Eternity may just be confronted with the possibility of extinction through carelessness or ignorance, or a shallow and selfish morality, or ideology or skepticism, or a universal involvement in petty and personal disputes between men fighting in diapers. (Phenomena we have seen often enough in World Wars and in Wars Ancient, but no less pathetic and mindless.)

In short, All of the Future hangs by a single tenuous thread from each and ever Present.

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.
Member Since: September 22, 2005 Posts: 11 Comments: 2032
Quoting CaneWarning:
Pirates have taken over downtown Tampa. 4 Skull and Crossbones flags are now flying in front of my building. I hear the mayor has surrendered to them.


Arrrr... I can't see it here in Clearwater, matey... I'll have to turn on the old lookie-tube
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Quoting CaneWarning:
Pirates have taken over downtown Tampa. 4 Skull and Crossbones flags are now flying in front of my building. I hear the mayor has surrendered to them.


I want to go to that, but will be in Orlando probably.
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Quoting AussieStorm:

Going to bed now. 3:25am and I'm sun tanned and tipsy. hehe

Goodnight all.
Stay safe.


G'night, man...
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Pirates have taken over downtown Tampa. 4 Skull and Crossbones flags are now flying in front of my building. I hear the mayor has surrendered to them.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
: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.
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 24 Comments: 8185
McBill 4:14 PM GMT on January 26, 2010
"You may want to read more carefully, Latitude"

You too.

Follow the links posted on Watts site to Roger Pielke Sr's site.


Pielke Sr was authoring a paper when Menne beat him to it.
Pielke Sr is disputing the Menne study because even though over 87% of the USHCN sites have been surveyed, Menne only picked a subset of the site classifications, around 40% is all they used.
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I'm glad noone seriously took the bait, raises my impression of the people reading here! :) (referring to the age of the earth thing). Of course we have to trust scientists to some extent, but correcting, refuting, arguing, denying, sulking and general pig headedness and scatterbrainness has been a sympton of scientists for a very long time. It's also normal and part of the same scientific process that has given us the opportunity to do so many things now compared with a few thousand years ago.

p.s. I don't have total faith in the people here though, I mean we have examples of total panic disordered people (*cough is the room spinning or is it just tampa=?)and others who disprove GW with a facebook conversation with first year college students <3
Member Since: November 6, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 165
Quoting AussieStorm:

Going to bed now. 3:25am and I'm sun tanned and tipsy. hehe

Goodnight all.
Stay safe.


haha have a good one man
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 24 Comments: 8185
Quoting Floodman:


Aussie! How are things down under, mate?

Going to bed now. 3:25am and I'm sun tanned and tipsy. hehe

Goodnight all.
Stay safe.
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Region: TRISTAN DA CUNHA REGION
Geographic coordinates: 39.130S, 15.849W
Magnitude: 5.5 Mb
Depth: 10 km
Universal Time (UTC): 26 Jan 2010 15:22:05
Time near the Epicenter: 26 Jan 2010 14:22:0
Location with respect to nearby cities:
387 km (241 miles) SW (232 degrees) of Tristan da Cunha
3096 km (1924 miles) SE (134 degrees) of Campos, Brazi
l3504 km (2177 miles) E (83 degrees) of STANLEY, Falkland Islands
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I've been called height challenged before...

And I know I am looks challenged :-)
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Only a blogger could actually say Jeff Masters a PHD, site co-founder and developer is "computer challenged"

Ive seen that bloggers latest entry,..and well,nuff said there.
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Quoting tornadodude:


(4) JFV


So the list is

1. GW (or CC)
2. Politics
3. Religion
4. JFV

We should have this added to the "Rules of the Road" as a suggestion

LOL
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(7) PressLord when his wife Audits the books..(SO HE SAYS)!
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560. unf97
Good morning everyone.

It is an absolutely beautiful day in Northeast FL. I registered a morning low temperature of 43.6 degrees. It is a currently bright and sunny and 56.3 degrees at the 11 a.m. hour at my home location. Expecting the mercury to reach the lower 60s for max this afternoon.

Looks as if a potential significant winter storm may effect the Southern Plains and Tennessee Valley area late this week and into Saturday. Some variances as usual with the models in regards to
to the intensity and track of the system late this week. Winter is not over yet folks. After mid-February in North Florida, generally the threat of freezes in this area drops off dramactically.

Have a great day everyone.
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(6) Al Gore
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
Quoting TampaSpin:


(5) Purdue vs Indiana if your on the Purdue side.....LOL


LOL :P
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 24 Comments: 8185
The climate during the miocene been similar today, with the diffrence (surprise!) it was warmer back than. Thus less species inhabited teh world.
Member Since: September 22, 2005 Posts: 11 Comments: 2032
Quoting tornadodude:


(4) JFV


(5) Purdue vs Indiana if your on the Purdue side.....LOL
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Quoting tornadodude:


(4) JFV


Awwww, that's one of my favorite subjects!
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
Quoting CaneWarning:


(3) Religion


(4) JFV
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 24 Comments: 8185
Quoting IKE:
Impressive system in the SE USA on the 12Z GFS.


I was stuck in the Atlanta airport for eight hours on Sunday due to the LAST impressive system in the SE.

You can tell this is an El Nino winter....
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Quoting IKE:


Yo bud.




Things to avoid on here...

(1)GW.
(2)Politics.


(3) Religion
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
548. IKE
Quoting Floodman:


Hang in there, man!


Yo bud.


Quoting TampaSpin:


Post something about Obama and see what happens.......LOL


Things to avoid on here...

(1)GW.
(2)Politics.
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Quoting theshepherd:

Geeesch...even Orca is older than that.


Is it possible that Orca is wiser beyond his years...He went on a nice Vacation in the middle of winter didn't he!
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Member Since: September 22, 2005 Posts: 11 Comments: 2032
545. IKE
Impressive system in the SE USA on the 12Z GFS.
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Quoting theshepherd:

Geeesch...even Orca is older than that.


LOL
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Quoting IKE:
I don't think admin polices this blog much in the winter. I haven't seen anyone come on here talking about being put in "time-out" for X amount of hours, since the hurricane season.

125 days...
14 hours...
42 minutes...and it starts again.


Post something about Obama and see what happens.......LOL
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Quoting FFtrombi:
How can they say anything is 15million years old? Everyone who reads the bible can see quite clearly that the earth is only 6-7000years old !!

Geeesch...even Orca is older than that.
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tdude.. you are 19 too, don't forget that. illustrates by you posting an entire FB stream, in what really amounts to a bashing session against someone who can't even defend themselves here, altogether used to bash someone who is here, whether subversively or not. so that speaks to your maturity, which you may find over the years a key characteristic to wisdom.
you are correct, the logic is faulty and that fella basically cornered himself by his own words. yes, question need be asked and authority need be questioned. but there is a point when an understanding develops, like a mental mean of information. this is a point when questions formulate answers, but there's rarely a point when one can say 'this' or 'that' is the truth for all. so when a pile of climate information points every which way depending on the lens, it is precisely that; a lens. we are given choices in life, and choices come from best fit information. Absolutely no one knows exactly what to do, ever. we use experience and trust in what we know.
Member Since: July 31, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1320
Quoting IKE:


I've done better.

I'm alive and kicking though....



Hang in there, man!
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Quoting hurricane23:
Hey SW! Took a pan at the CFS model yesterday which has a weak nino in place through The peak months of this years hurricane season which looks questionable if you ask me.Regardless iam expecting a slightly above average season this year. Friend send me an email after the WMO panel finished there review on a new world record TC gust (253.5 mph) achieved during Tropical Cyclone Olivia on April 10, 1996 at Barrow Island, Australia. Crazy stuff.

Adrian


Thats neat thanx for sharing.
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Quoting AussieStorm:

hey Floodman


Aussie! How are things down under, mate?
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Quoting tornadodude:


Was it Floodman? ;)


I was too worried about being eaten by Saber toothed cats and such...
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Hey SW! Took a pan at the CFS model yesterday which has a weak nino in place through The peak months of this years hurricane season which looks questionable if you ask me.Regardless iam expecting a slightly above average season this year. Friend send me an email after the WMO panel finished there review on a new world record TC gust (253.5 mph) achieved during Tropical Cyclone Olivia on April 10, 1996 at Barrow Island, Australia. Crazy stuff.

Adrian
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Quoting GrtLksQuest:


I really can't explain it. We have about 1600 sq. ft. on 2 levels, lower level is built into a hill overlooking the lake. We have radiant heat (electric) in the floor at that level. Our central heat is geothermal, using well water, so it is very efficient. We went from an uninsulated cottage to quite well insulated "lake house" (cottage vs. lake house is another story), replacing most windows and doors with high-end double-insulated ones. It seems to be working. We've also replaced most light bulbs with CFLs. We watch very little TV but speend quite a lot of time on computers (2). We read a lot - real books. Hope that helps.

None of my business, but I would suggest you start putting some money aside for when they find the billing error.
I've lived in my current house for 20 years and frequently leave home for more than a month at a time with the main breaker off, empty fridge and the meter stalled. 20 years ago my lowest bill was $19.75.
Fla rates are a tad lower than yours....
A word to the wise...
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quote from my facebook last night from the guy I was debating with "Once again, I didnt say they were perfect. Mistakes are mistakes, but whole theories do not constitute mistakes. There may be mistakes within a theory, but not the whole thing..."

Um, something is wrong with that logic
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 24 Comments: 8185
Quoting Floodman:


There've been a few but even during Hurricane season I think that the admins respond to complaints about posts, rather than reading the blog post by post...

How are you doing, btw?

hey Floodman
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Quoting ElConando:
How early do you guys get up for these things wow lol. I guess passion breeds arguments.


I'm at work. I do actually do a lot of work in between posts.
Member Since: April 26, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 3667
Quoting ElConando:
How early do you guys get up for these things wow lol. I guess passion breeds arguments.

it's 2:40am here
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Quoting FFtrombi:
How can they say anything is 15million years old? Everyone who reads the bible can see quite clearly that the earth is only 6-7000years old !!

Oh no, here comes another debate.
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Quoting ElConando:
How early do you guys get up for these things wow lol. I guess passion breeds arguments.


I had class at 7:30 :P lol
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 24 Comments: 8185

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About JeffMasters

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