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 AussieStorm:

It's going to suck in all that moisture and grow to a Cat 3.
Just watch


IF, it stays over the water long enough

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Quoting latitude25:
"Ozone hole healing could cause further climate warming"

Use more hairspray!



hairspray doesn't contain CFC's. CFC's have been banned, maybe admin should do that to a few people in here.
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1326. Skyepony (Mod)
96P

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Quoting Jeff9641:


Yeah there are a few knunkle heads on here for sure. A bunch of Al Gore followers.


I put Al Gore's picture on a dartboard and use his face as the target. Its actually really fun. Should try it sometime.
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1317: At least that one comes from a new press release...
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Quoting Jeff9641:


That's a big circulation.

It's going to suck in all that moisture and grow to a Cat 3.
Just watch
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15749
"Ozone hole healing could cause further climate warming"

Use more hairspray!


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Big Time Snow or Ice Storm coming to the Tennessee VAlley .......BIG TIME in the Mountains......Look at the precip and look at the Temperature forecast.....OUCH!





Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 177 Comments: 20430
Quoting Grothar:


Henry?

Yes. Dr. Henry Fuelberg. BS, MS, and PhD from guess where...

Likable guy, to boot.
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Quoting Rakhal:
And having said that and reviewed the blog I shall make no comments on GW myself :)

--Rakhal

+1 !

Thanks for that.
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1317. Ossqss
Those darn clouds are throwing a curve in the science :)

Ozone hole healing could cause further climate warming

The hole in the ozone layer is now steadily closing, but its repair could actually increase warming in the southern hemisphere, according to scientists at the University of Leeds.

The Antarctic ozone hole was once regarded as one of the biggest environmental threats, but the discovery of a previously undiscovered feedback shows that it has instead helped to shield this region from carbon-induced warming over the past two decades.

High-speed winds in the area beneath the hole have led to the formation of brighter summertime clouds, which reflect more of the sun's powerful rays.

Press Release
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Only action out there.
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1314. Grothar
Quoting atmoaggie:

Which one? I worked with Fuelberg on a project once upon a time...


Henry?
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1311. That's why I stopped.
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What does academia of the world and all the players in Copenhagen have in common? They are effectively blind to temperature. As a professional with an engineering and electrical energy provision background, we use calculators for temperature considerations.

I read Anthony Watts information on the placement of weather stations and the bottom line is while the information is important it doesn't reflect what happens with development. Meteorology passes on the most important data for building design by supplying building codes with regional climatic data. The building and the energy systems used designed with that climate data so we don't impose on the atmosphere. The problem is all of it is signed off as compliant and insured.

We employ the most advanced infrared applications in the world because we investigate temperature at a molecular level. Professionals of many fields are provided sight of their temperature objectives that otherwise couldn't be seen. I lecture this in academia objectively and without a commercial objective.

We were asked to find the cause of urban heat islands and how they use massive energy production responding to them. Los Angeles alone is reported to spend over 100 million a year on energy responding to them. The results of years and seasons of work contradicted our own educations. Buildings were being radiated by the same sun that burns us. Buildings weren't addressing solar radiation the same way a weather station does by reflecting the sun's rays. Here is a link to show you basic infrared time-lapsed videos showing how urban heat islands are created as well as what happens inside the building. We documented building surfaces 201 deg F on a 95 deg F day without emissions produced. Urban Heat Islands

On a 23 deg. F Christmas Day, solar exposed building surfaces were 122 deg F and heating the atmosphere without emissions produced. We are dealing with this through governments but watch the colors on the exterior and chopping down trees allows the surface of the planet to be radiated.
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1311. Rakhal
Hmm, just spent a LOT of time reading through maybe a years-worth of posts on here and one thing I have noticed about the whole GW debate here is how repetitious it is! The same points are brought up again and again, each time as if this is some stunning new revelation in the debate. And the same responses are made again and again.
This is especially noticeable when we get new people here. They raise all the arguments appropriate of their side of the debate as if they are the only person who can see the truth, and apparently expecting the self-evident truth of their argument to sweep all before it, revealing the opponents to their view to be the at best idiots, and and at worst conspirators in a massive hoax.

If all new contributers spent time reviewing the history of this blog we'd have a lot less argument here I suspect.

And having said that and reviewed the blog I shall make no comments on GW myself :)

--Rakhal
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Wow. 80 knots or 45 knots? Guess it depends on interaction with the coast in the Gulf of Carpentaria...





Seems a little surprising that it would spin up at all, much less make 80 knots with this TCHP:
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1307. Is it Paul Ruscher? I've been trying to get in touch with him. If you talk to him tell him Barry from Milton emailed him.
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Quoting ElConando:
1272. lol one of those people is my professor at FSU ROFL.

Which one? I worked with Fuelberg on a project once upon a time...
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1272. lol one of those people is my professor at FSU ROFL.
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Quoting PensacolaDoug:
Could be You and I as one too......


Depends on who you ask I suppose!


Now Doug you already know what 90% of this blog is and stands for.....LOL! And i know you know what i am saying! Watch the left turn really quickly toward the center for a while tonite.
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Could be You and I as one too......


Depends on who you ask I suppose!
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Quoting PensacolaDoug:
Tampa! You chicken!!!

jk!

LMAO!


Ya it too much of a personal attack......LOL! Since no mention of any name now....there is a lot of nut cases out there.....Could be You and I as one too......LOL
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JF you're about as popular here as a tootheache.
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Tampa! You chicken!!!

jk!

LMAO!
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Takin the hint J?
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Quoting Orcasystems:
WTH is JFLORIDA, and why is emailing me??

I don't no who that is. I have it on Ignore.
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Quoting Orcasystems:
WTH is JFLORIDA, and why is emailing me??


Welcome back to the Jungle or ancient times......LOL! Most have him on Ignore! Hope you had a good vacation!
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Good Morning everyone! Hey, everyone in Dallas-Ft Worth, TX watch out..

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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
we just dont really understand as much as we think we understand

Agreed
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RE: 1286


Best laugh I've had in a week!
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WTH is JFLORIDA, and why is emailing me??
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253 mph on a cup anemometer is astounding. I'd like to meet the engineer who designed it.
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They're starting to get excited here in eastern NC for some snow. Looking pretty iffy, however.
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
ya flurries nothing serious cold this morn getting colder won't see above freezing till tuseday next week


aww sorry to hear that KOG (snicker snicker)
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Those who care about constructive discussions may be interested in this:

"Is This the Right Room for an Argument? Link

Those interested in how the IPCC is critiquing and working toward improved transparency and decision-making processes may want to read this:

"From Inside and Out, Climate Panel is Pushed to Change" Link
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1284. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
ya flurries nothing serious cold this morn getting colder won't see above freezing till tuseday next week
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
we just dont really understand as much as we think we understand


Agreed.. but it sure doesn't stop them from flogging their views to the point of being put on ignore :)

Snowing yet KOG??
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1282. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Quoting AussieStorm:

I'm with you, Some times in the past few days, I haven't even bothered reading back blog cause i no exactly what it's about. AGW.
we just dont really understand as much as we think we understand
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52230
Adoption of the term "Post-Tropical Cyclone" Terminology by the National Weather Service

ON MAY 15 2010...THE NWS WILL BEGIN USING THE TERM /POST-
TROPICAL/ TO DESCRIBE WEATHER SYSTEMS THAT ARE NO LONGER
TROPICAL CYCLONES. THIS CHANGE WILL MAKE NWS TERMINOLOGY
CONSISTENT WITH THE TERMINOLOGY USED BY OTHER WORLD
METEOROLOGICAL ORGANIZATION MEMBER STATES. IT WILL ALSO ALLOW
THE NWS TO MORE ACCURATELY DESCRIBE THE METEOROLOGICAL STRUCTURE
OF FORMER TROPICAL CYCLONES.

THE FOLLOWING DEFINITION FOR POST-TROPICAL CYCLONE WILL BE
INCLUDED IN THIS SEASON/S UPDATE OF NWS INSTRUCTION
10-604: TROPICAL CYCLONE DEFINITIONS.

POST-TROPICAL CYCLONE...A FORMER TROPICAL CYCLONE. THIS GENERIC
TERM DESCRIBES A CYCLONE THAT NO LONGER POSSESSES SUFFICIENT
TROPICAL CHARACTERISTICS TO BE CONSIDERED A TROPICAL CYCLONE.
POST-TROPICAL CYCLONES CAN CONTINUE CARRYING HEAVY RAINS AND
HIGH WINDS. FORMER TROPICAL CYCLONES THAT HAVE BECOME FULLY
EXTRATROPICAL...AS WELL AS REMNANT LOWS...ARE TWO SPECIFIC
CLASSES OF POST-TROPICAL CYCLONES.
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AOI

AOI

AOI

AOI

Humor in Comments
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26493

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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.

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