Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The temperature record is unreliable

As regular readers of The Kitchen will know, your humble Devil has constantly, and primarily, attacked the climate change consensus from the point of view that the temperature data from bodies, such as James Hansen's NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), is simply not reliable.

One of the most invaluable resources backing this particular angle has been Anthony Watts's blog and, more importantly, his Surface Stations website. This latter is an effort to harness people, all over the US, to survey the temperature stations that feed into the US temperature record.

Now, via Climate Skeptic, I see that Anthony Watts has a full report [PDF] over at The Heartland Institute—I haven't yet read this in full, but the summary is crystal clear.
We 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. We found 68 stations located at wastewater treatment plants, where the process of waste digestion causes temperatures to be higher than in surrounding areas.

In fact, we found that 89 percent of the stations—nearly 9 of every 10—fail to meet the National Weather Service’s own siting requirements that stations must be 30 meters (about 100 feet) or more away from an artificial heating or radiating/ reflecting heat source.

In other words, 9 of every 10 stations are likely reporting higher or rising temperatures because they are badly sited. It gets worse. We observed that changes in the technology of temperature stations over time also has caused them to report a false warming trend. We found major gaps in the data record that were filled in with data from nearby sites, a practice that propagates and compounds errors. We found that adjustments to the data by both NOAA and another government agency, NASA, cause recent temperatures to look even higher.

The conclusion is inescapable: The U.S. temperature record is unreliable. The errors in the record exceed by a wide margin the purported rise in temperature of 0.7° C (about 1.2° F) during the twentieth century. Consequently, this record should not be cited as evidence of any trend in temperature that may have occurred across the U.S. during the past century. 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.

If we are unable to measure reliably the temperature in the US, then how are we supposed to be able to perform a global temperature measurement? Especially when the majority of the Earth's surface area is water?

The answer is, of course, that we cannot: and if we cannot reliably measure the world's temperature, then we cannot make any reliable assertions about anthropogenic climate change. We certainly cannot make any assertions reliable enough to be worth beggaring the planet for.

This report will be one of the final nails in the coffin of AGW. Unfortunately, as per fucking usual, it will take the politicians about a decade to catch up...


thefrollickingmole said...

If they were sited near air cons which were reverse cycle (heating as well as cooling) then it might also influence winter temps as well?

Wonder if that has been taken into account.

Mark Wadsworth said...

We all knew that (although it's well worth repeating).

What worries me is that it might be true that the sun is cooling down and that we are nearing the end of an inter-glacial warm period. I hope that this is just scare-story bollocks, but you're the expert on this.

Scan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scan said...

An excellent, excellent article from down-under on the top 10 global warming cons:


I've also just finished reading the latest of Tony Benn's diaries. On July 11th 2002:

"Piers Corbyn, Jeremy's brother, who is a weather expert, told me he is sceptical about global warming, and promised to send me his analysis. I was told to be wary of environmentalists because they're the ones pushing nuclear power, which I thought was interesting."

Frank Davis said...

Mark wadsworth wrote: What worries me is that it might be true that the sun is cooling downThe sun is currently at the minimum of the sunspot cycle, and as a consequence there is a reduced solar wind, but the net solar irradiation at the Earth is only very slightly diminished. So there is no evidence (that I know about) of the sun cooling down in any significant way.

Svensmark has argued that a reduced solar wind results in more cosmic rays from outside the solar system striking the Earth's atmosphere and creating condensation nuclei that form clouds, which reflect solar radiation, and produce climate cooling. But so far as I know this research isn't complete.

and that we are nearing the end of an inter-glacial warm period.This is true, but it's more a matter of "any millennium now" rather than "any day now" that we are due to slip out of our current warm interglacial back into ice age conditions.

All the same, it's rather puzzling that global warming is regarded as a threat when it is long term cooling that would seem the greater threat.

Devil's Kitchen said...


The sun is actually the dimmest (as far as we can measure) that it has been for a century. This would imply a drop in solar radiation reaching the Eart, but we don't actually know what effect that has.


Ruari C said...

Ooh, it's like a Danny Boyle movie. No, not the zombies one. The other one.

Anyway, I suspect it will take the politicians a lot longer than ten years, as the ones who are pushing their 'green' agenda are the ones with their fingers in the pie - Al Gore, anyone? Push green technology, get government (ergo taxpayer) subsidies, get rich.

mister_choos said...

We can of course measure global temperatures over the entire surface of the planet. A satellite has been measuring it for about 30 years I think. Can you guess what it shows? It shows nothing like the warming shown by the GISS data. Hansen et al have of course rubbished the data and said it is inaccurate (they may even have forced them to apply "corrections" so that it conforms to the doctrine.

Interestingly, the same sensor is used to calibrate the sea-level satellite measurements. But they don't complain about its use there. How they can acuratley measure to 0.1mm using 3cm and 10cm wavelengths is anybody's guess. The radars that I have seen vary by metres sometimes on every sweep.

John East said...

"This report will be one of the final nails in the coffin of AGW."Sorry DK, but it will be ignored, and the author, Anthony Watts, henceforth declared persona non gratia (if he hasn't already been so declared).

I was watching Sky at Night yesterday and it was reported that the solar minimum declared in January was followed by a few sunspots, but then the new cycle fizzled out. No new sunspots have appeared in the last 2 months. This raised speculation that we could be moving into another Maunder minimum and a new mini-ice age.

I certainly hope so.

I won't appreciate the weather or higher heating bills, but this will be more than made up for by the climb down forced upon the GW zeolots and our tax masters.

Damo Mackerel said...

Wasn't it Margaret Thatchet that started the global warming scare because she wanted to achieve two things:

1. Break the power of the coal miners' union.

2. Usher in nuclear power.

Frank Davis said...


From your link:

"...the decline in solar output is a few hundredths of one percent down,” There's a much larger annual variation in solar irradiation due to the eccentricity of the Earth's orbit.

That said, from your link again:

“The visible light doesn’t vary that much, but UV varies 20 percent, [and] x-rays can vary by a factor of ten,” Hall said. “What we don’t understand so well is the impact of that differing spectral irradiance.”So we don't know.

Stan said...

I can't remember who it was, but I believe there was a study that reported Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect could account for as much as 0.1C of warming per decade in China. If in China then likely as not elsewhere too. That on it's own would account for any recorded temperature increase.

That doesn't mean to say there hasn't been any warming, but when you filter in natural variabilty and regional discrepancies it is unlikely that much of that warming can be attributed to man's burning of fossil fuels and most definitely not the majority of it.

Finally, can I just say that you can not have consensus in science - or rather, consensus does not prove a theory. It doesn't matter if 500,000 climate scientists agree and only one doesn't - if that one is right that is that.

Anonymous said...

There was a similar study measuring pollution in Chinese cities. The air quality level was always reported as "good", until someone pointed out that the stations were all at the top of buildings or in parks. However, the authorities actually listened to that person and decided to build new stations. To save face, they decided to rename the old stations "general air quality" and the new ones "roadside air quality". The readings were now "very bad" every day, and according to the health department's advice, everyone should stay at home if the quality is "very bad". Thus they had to change that as well, so that only asthmatics were advised to stay at home, and created a new category of "severely bad" air quality..