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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429. IKE
My latest electric bill goes from Dec. 3rd to Jan. 3rd. The cold started on New Years Day, but got colder as the days went on....my total is $206.75.

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426, My brother put new windows in 2 yrs ago and it cost 14,000 that was a 3 story house and about 15 windows. It will take him about 10 to 12 yrs to pay off. Got you coming and going.
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427. IKE
Quoting severstorm:

Good Morning, Hey Ike I just got my bill from when it was cold,, 441.23 Last month it was 130 go figure it was cold out there.


From 130 to 441.23? OMG.
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I got two bids for new double pained windows a couple of years ago.

The cheaper bid was 27k. I still got my old windows!
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425. IKE
Quoting PensacolaDoug:
4800??!!! I did not realize there were that many!! Who is reporting that figure Ike?


I should have sourced it....yeah, it's CNN.

I'll edit the post.
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Good Morning, Hey Ike I just got my bill from when it was cold,, 441.23 Last month it was 130 go figure it was cold out there.
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Quoting IKE:


Seems to have helped a little. I haven't gotten my electric bill for the time it was real cold here....yet. But it seems my heater didn't have to work as hard.


Yeah, every little bit helps. We had double insulated windows in our house in Arkansas but the new home here in Macon does not. I would put them in here but with 18 windows on just the ground floor the price for that is sky high. :(

See you later.
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4800??!!! I did not realize there were that many!! Who is reporting that figure Ike?
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Morning folks!
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418. IKE
Quoting RTLSNK:
Hey Ike!
I saw sometime back that you said you had covered the open areas around your house's crawlspace. How has that worked out for you? Any change that you've noticed?


Seems to have helped a little. I haven't gotten my electric bill for the time it was real cold here....yet. But it seems my heater didn't have to work as hard.
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Hey Ike!
I saw sometime back that you said you had covered the open areas around your house's crawlspace. How has that worked out for you? Any change that you've noticed?
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416. IKE
Quoting RTLSNK:
Snakeymon tiptoes in, peeks around the corner, Oh good he whispers, they're all still asleep, morning Ike, 35.5*F in Macon this morning, the Ocmulgee River is over its banks again in Macon but not as bad as last time. Time to make the coffee and turn the heater up a little. Temp low for tonight around 29*F. Good thing I had my garage doors insulated last fall, makes a big difference this winter. :)


After reading back to post 351, I see what you mean...lol.

Good morning!
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Snakeymon tiptoes in, peeks around the corner, Oh good he whispers, they're all still asleep, morning Ike, 35.5*F in Macon this morning, the Ocmulgee River is over its banks again in Macon but not as bad as last time. Time to make the coffee and turn the heater up a little. Temp low for tonight around 29*F. Good thing I had my garage doors insulated last fall, makes a big difference this winter. :)
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414. IKE
41.9 degrees outside...inland Florida panhandle.

4,800: Americans unaccounted for....in Haiti....per CNN.
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413. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Tropical Cyclone Warning Center Darwin
Tropical Cyclone Advice #20
TROPICAL LOW, FORMER OLGA (07U)
8:00 PM CST January 26 2010
========================================

At 6:30 pm CST, Tropical Low, Former Olga (997 hPa) located at 17.0S 137.9E or located 200 kms east southeast of Borroloola and 140 kms west southwest of Mornington Island has 10 minute sustained winds of 25 knots with gusts of 45 knots. The low is reported as moving west northwest at 15 knots.

Ex-Tropical Cyclone Olga is currently located over land near the NT/QLD border and is expected to move northwest parallel to the coast and intensify, before turning northwards over Gulf of Carpentaria waters. Ex-Tropical Cyclone Olga is expected to redevelop into a cyclone late on Wednesday or Thursday.

GALES with gusts to 110 kilometres per hour are expected to develop between Burketown and Groote Eylandt, including Alyangula, on Wednesday night or early Thursday and may extend to Cape Shield on Thursday.

HEAVY RAIN may lead to significant stream rises in the Roper-McArthur District.

Tropical Cyclone Watches/Warnings
===================================
A Cyclone WARNING is now current for coastal and island communities from Groote Eylandt, including Alayangula, in NT to Burketown in QLD.

A Cyclone WATCH has been declared for coastal and island communities from Cape Shield to Alyangula.
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 50 Comments: 45235
412. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Fiji Metorological Services
Tropical Disturbance Summary
TROPICAL DEPRESSION 05F
18:00 PM FST January 26 2010
=============================================

At 6:00 AM UTC, Tropical Depression 05F (1000 hPa) located at 14.5S 177.0W is reported as moving slowly. Position POOR based on enhanced infrared with animation and peripheral observations. Sea surface temperature is around 30C.

Organization has slightly improved in the last 24 hours. Convection has not increased or deepen much. 05F lies to the south of the 250 HPA ridge axis region and along a monsoonal trough in a moderately sheared environment. Outflow good to the north but restricted elsewhere. Northwest deep layer mean winds is expected to steer TD05 southeast into an area of decreasing shear in the next 24 hours.

Most global models is slowly developing the system and moves it southeast.

Potential for this disturbance to form into a significant tropical cyclone within the next 48 hours is MODERATE
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 50 Comments: 45235
Berlin Schoenefeld, Germany
-17 °C
78%
1040 hPa
Haze
ENE at 11 km/h / 3.1 m/s

About this cold 2009/2010 in europe
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_winter_storms_of_2009%E2%80%932010
Member Since: September 22, 2005 Posts: 11 Comments: 2032
After reading the main post, someone is drinking the KoolAid. How can anyone seriously cite NOAA as an authority on their own improperly-placed weather stations?
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Iron Mountain, Michigan (Airport)
Updated: 1:54 AM CST on January 26, 2010
22 °F
Overcast
Windchill: 7 °F
Humidity: 72%
Dew Point: 14 °F
Wind: 18 mph from the NNW
Wind Gust: 26 mph
Pressure: 29.45 in (Rising)
Visibility: 10.0 miles
UV: 0 out of 16
Clouds: Mostly Cloudy 2200 ft
Overcast 8500 ft
(Above Ground Level)
Elevation: 1181 ft

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More than a dozen homes in Texas are evacuated after a sliding hillside cracks surrounding retaining walls.
http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/us/2010/01/25/tx.homes.danger.ksat

I wonder if this can be attributed to thetexas earthquakes from drilling
.
Member Since: September 22, 2005 Posts: 11 Comments: 2032
hey guys.. whats up everyone??
Member Since: August 15, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2133
Quoting TampaSpin:


I too don't mean to do so either, but am sure it comes across that way some times. This subject is such a heated disagreement of opinions.

Ofc just opinions. The earth is flat!
Member Since: September 22, 2005 Posts: 11 Comments: 2032
Quoting tornadodude:
btw, just so this is clear, I was in no way personally attacking anyone.

have a goodnight guys :)


I too don't mean to do so either, but am sure it comes across that way some times. This subject is such a heated disagreement of opinions.
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btw, just so this is clear, I was in no way personally attacking anyone.

have a goodnight guys :)
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Quoting JFLORIDA:
ITS A GLACIER ! They don't change seasonally. That is what that was about.

I got to go.


GLACIERS don't change Seasonally......Are you kidding.....OMG...like Alaska never has a season either...OK! WOW!
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Quoting tornadodude:
alright, we'll continue this debate another time. I appreciate the civility of this debate, hope you all have a great night, I have a class at 7:30, so I need to sleep.

btw, I sent you a request, Tampa
Greta to be of help :)
Member Since: September 22, 2005 Posts: 11 Comments: 2032
Quoting tornadodude:


ok, none of that mentioned man as a cause for the warming, right?
See last post and you first asked why glacier retreated. With the holocene/anthropocene the human begun impact the natural climate cycles.
Member Since: September 22, 2005 Posts: 11 Comments: 2032
alright, we'll continue this debate another time. I appreciate the civility of this debate, hope you all have a great night, I have a class at 7:30, so I need to sleep.

btw, I sent you a request, Tampa
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Anthropocene
The term Anthropocene is used by some scientists to describe the most recent period in the Earth's history. It has no precise start date, but may be considered to start in the late 18th century when the activities of humans first began to have a significant global impact on the Earth's climate and ecosystems. This date coincides with the 1775 commercialization of the Watt steam engine.[1] Other commentators link it to earlier events, such as the rise of agriculture. The term was coined in 2000 by the Nobel Prize-winning atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen, who regards the influence of human behavior on the Earth in recent centuries as so significant as to constitute a new geological era. Use of this concept as an official geological concept gained support in early 2008, with publication of two new papers supporting this idea
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_anthropocene
Member Since: September 22, 2005 Posts: 11 Comments: 2032
Quoting JFLORIDA:
Yea really deceptive Lake - no lake.



Nearly IDENTICAL PERSPECTIVE I MEASURED IT.

The Bottom pic would actually show more ice.

Dont be dishonest.


Dishonest......your calling me dishonest....LOOK at how much closer that pic at the top is from the bottom....yes there is a lake and when was each pic taken.....one in the middle of summer and the other in the middle of winter......do you know?
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Quoting drg0dOwnCountry:

The Holocene is a geological epoch which began approximately 11,700 years ago[1] (10 000 14C years ago). According to traditional geological thinking, the Holocene continues to the present. The Holocene is part of the Neogene and Quaternary periods. Its name comes from the Greek words ὅλος (holos, whole or entire) and καινός (kainos, new), meaning "entirely recent". It has been identified with the current warm period, known as MIS 1, and can be considered an interglacial in the current ice age.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holocene

Each stage is a period of higher or lower temperature on a graph of mean temperature (y-axis) versus millions, hundreds of thousands or thousands of years (x-axis). The cycles were found to correspond to terrestrial evidence of glacials and interglacials. A graph of the entire series of stages then revealed hitherto unknown and unsuspected advances and retreats of ice and also filled in the details of the stadials and interstadials. More recent core samples of today's glacial ice substantiated the cycles through studies of ancient pollen deposition. Currently a number of methods are making additional detail possible.
[edit] The number of stages

Each stage represents a glacial, interglacial, stadial or interstadial. Interglacials are odd-numbered; glacials are even numbered, one for each stage, starting from the present and working backward in time. For example, the Holocene is MIS1, or O-stage 1, or just stage 1. The previous interglacial is MIS5, or O-stage 5, or just stage 5.

Exceptionally, MIS2-4 refers to some middle part of the last glacial, because when initially interpreted MIS3 looked like an interglacial.

Stadials and interstadials are identified by a letter following the corresponding glacial or interglacial: 5a, 5b, etc. The dates of the stages were obtained by calibrating the graph on known dates by other methods.

MIS 11 of approximately 400ka is the most similar to MIS 1. A difference that has puzzled scientists is that CO2 levels remained steady or rose during MIS1 (before the industrial era), when by analogy to past interglacials, they should have been steadily decreasing over the last 5000 years. This is the basis of the Early anthropocene hypothesis.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marine_isotope_stage


There have been five known ice ages in the Earth's history, with the Earth experiencing the Quaternary Ice Age during the present time. Within ice ages, there exist periods of more-temperate and more-severe glacial conditions referred to as glacial periods and interglacial periods, respectively. The Earth is currently in an interglacial period of the Quaternary Ice Age, with the last glacial period of the Quaternary having ended approximately 10,000 years ago.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_glaciation


ok, none of that mentioned man as a cause for the warming, right?
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Quoting tornadodude:


if only you could read my facebook right now LOL its even worse


Here is my Facebook link....hook me up as a friend.....can't wait to see......LOL
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It went warmer because of the fact,that the climate setteled due to the fact of burried trees which formed fossil deposits beneath the earth. This took millions of years and humans now consume these ressources in an eyeblink - it's easy, pretty cheap but dangerous to the climate state we had the last 10.000 years. The time our species evolved on this planet.
Member Since: September 22, 2005 Posts: 11 Comments: 2032
Quoting JFLORIDA:


Well its not theory neither is the pollution, peak oil, and import wars.


???? so youre saying that the glaciers melting is entirely due to us humans? and that it is a fact??
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Quoting tornadodude:


why did it warm up? there is no way it was man

The Holocene is a geological epoch which began approximately 11,700 years ago[1] (10%u2009000 14C years ago). According to traditional geological thinking, the Holocene continues to the present. The Holocene is part of the Neogene and Quaternary periods. Its name comes from the Greek words %u1F45%u03BB%u03BF%u03C2 (holos, whole or entire) and %u03BA%u03B1%u03B9%u03BD%u03CC%u03C2 (kainos, new), meaning "entirely recent". It has been identified with the current warm period, known as MIS 1, and can be considered an interglacial in the current ice age.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holocene

There have been five known ice ages in the Earth's history, with the Earth experiencing the Quaternary Ice Age during the present time. Within ice ages, there exist periods of more-temperate and more-severe glacial conditions referred to as glacial periods and interglacial periods, respectively. The Earth is currently in an interglacial period of the Quaternary Ice Age, with the last glacial period of the Quaternary having ended approximately 10,000 years ago.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_glaciation
Member Since: September 22, 2005 Posts: 11 Comments: 2032
Quoting JFLORIDA:


You asked for that. What do you want. How would you resolve it?


well I wouldnt be so quick to spend billions of dollars trying to correct a theory.
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Quoting TampaSpin:
Unbelievable Narrow minds sometimes TornadoDude....Its never gonna change until we get another Glacier in Indiana......LOL


if only you could read my facebook right now LOL its even worse
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Quoting tornadodude:


why did it warm up? there is no way it was man


Bro it was the Dino's Poop.......ROFLMAO
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Quoting drg0dOwnCountry:

Because with the begein of the holocene it went warmer and human civilization first started to appear around aprox. 40.000 years ago and than we had the holocene revolution (the one before the industrial) - starting around 10.000 years ago.


why did it warm up? there is no way it was man
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Unbelievable Narrow minds sometimes TornadoDude....Its never gonna change until we get another Glacier in Indiana......LOL
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Quoting JFLORIDA:


Oh so now some one needs to be back there in the Holocene taking pictures? - this is redicouls - you souldnt be on a scientific site if you do not accept scientific study.

Thats just the bottom line.

Why did you ask if you didnt want to accept the truth.


LOL in order for something to be proven scientifically, one must use the exact same measuring tools throughout the entire experiment. not sketchy estimates from thousands of years ago and varying pictures from today
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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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