Feeling the Heat, is it real or is it ASOS?

Guest post by Russ Steele

(Note Russ was the very first volunteer for surfacestations.org, I’m traveling today, so I’ll comment later on this investigation. – Anthony)

Reno_ASOS_wide_view

Feeling the Heat was published by Environment California a non-profit group a few weeks ago, claiming 2007 was the tenth warmest year on record and that the mountain west was experiencing above-average temperatures.  Full report here: Download feeling_the_heat_ca.pdf One of the examples given for the high western temperatures was Reno Nevada with a average temperature of 55.3 degrees in 2007, four degrees higher than the 30 years average temperatures from 1971 to 2000. The EC report is concerned about the night time low temperatures rising higher than the 1971-2000 average, again citing Reno as an example, with an average minimum temperature of 40.7 degrees – more than five degrees higher than the 1971 to 2000 average.

Heat_min_temps_t11_2
Click for larger image

.

Renoasos_close_2

My interest in the report grew more intense, as I had been doing some research on UHI in Reno, following Anthony Watts attempt to survey the Airport ASOS shown above.  The Reno Airport a station is in the historical climatology network and Anthony Watts Surface Station Survey data base.  I decided to dig a little deeper into the data provided in the EC report which was funded by the The Pew Charitable Trusts and Energy Foundation. It was written by Emily Figdor, who was recently recognized as a top global warming lobbyist by The Hill, a Capitol Hill newspaper.

Up front in the EC report the author dispatches UHI as having any influence on the climate change, citing studies by Easterling, PD Jones and Parker

In a 1997 study, by David Easterling of the National Climatic Data Center examined data from 5,400 weather stations, of which 1,300 were located in urban areas. He found that urban effects on globally averaged temperature data were “negligible” and did not exceed about 0.05°C over the period 1900-1990. These results confirm the conclusions of a similar 1990 study [PD Jones]. David Parker of the UK’s Hadley Centre also found that global temperatures have risen as much on windy nights (when the urban heat island effect is diminished) as on calm nights (when the effect is at its strongest). He concluded that “overall warming is not a consequence of urban development.”

In my earlier research I had found a National Weather Service Technical Memoranda, CLIMATE OF RENO, NEVADA written by Brian F. O’Hara on the Internet. He wrote that Reno had grown to surround the airport and temperatures have been influenced by the effects of the urban heat retained in urban concrete, brick and asphalt. O’Hare writes:

During the summer afternoon highs are often above 90° F, but at night the air mass can cool down into the 50s. In the last five or six years however, nighttime lows during July and early August sometimes do not make it below 65° F. As will be seen in the tables in the Temperature section below, this warming trend has been seen in summer high temperatures, but not to the extent that it is reflected in the nighttime temperatures.

These conditions maybe due to an urban heat island effect. Since the early 1940s the official observation site for Reno has been the airport. When the airport became the official observation site on September 1, 1942 the airport was a few miles southeast of town in a rural area. There was a noticeable cooling in the average temperatures during the 1940s from what had been seen during the 1930s when the observation site was downtown. Average temperatures have shown a gradual warming trend over the decades. This consistent warming may be due to the fact that the city of Reno has grown in area and now surrounds the airport. The weather observation site is now in an urban area, and thus the air mass (especially during summer) has a more difficult time cooling down at night.

O’Hara concludes:

Average temperatures then started a gradual warm-up, with impressive rises during the 1980s and 1990s (urban heat island effects). In a strongly developed heat island, the temperature in the urban area can be up to 10°F greater than it is in the surrounding rural areas (Oliver and Hidore, 2002).

I found this chart from the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology, Weather and Climate of the Reno-Carson City-Lake Tahoe Region report, again O’Hare was the main author.

Bur_minestable
Note how the annual temperature increased over time as Reno grew, and then it dropped once the sensor was moved from downtown to the airport which then was quite rural. As Reno enveloped and surrounded the airport, the temperatures continued to increase. Also, as the Reno Airport grew to handle a growing population they increased the square yards of concrete and black top, which collects the daytime heat and releases it back at night.

Now that we have confirmed Reno has some UHI influences, could this be the only reason for higher temperatures. A HO-83 temperature and humidity sensor was installed at the Reno Airport in November of 1984, and upgraded to a full ASOS in September of 1995, according to the NCDC Station History. The HO-83 is know to have a warm bias between 0.5C to 0.7C. as shown here.

Ho83h7

I cannot find any information that this sensor has been removed in the NCDC History File. You can find the details on HO-83 bias at Climate Audit and Watts Up With That.

It turns out that all the station temperatures in Feeling the Heat were taken from Airports, as you can see in this table of top ten highest temperature stations.

Apt_avg_temp_t10

From the Methods section of the report:

We looked at data from 255 major weather stations. We generated this list of 255 stations from a list of “First Order” stations in the continental United States, obtained from Weather 2000,62 a meteorological consulting firm.

The “First Order” data was taken from National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s DS-3210 data set. Which is automated ASOS data taken from civilian airports and military air bases. According to the data set description there is very little auditing done on the data, mostly by computer, to insure the data fits in an established template. It is considered more accurate that human recorded data according to NCDC.

Reno_asos_wide_view_2 Click for a larger image

As you can see this the Reno Airport in now surrounded by dense urbanization, the main cause of UHI. I would say the increase in temperatures is human caused warming through urbanization, with very little caused by increases in greenhouse gases. The next step is to find an another near by station and compare the temperatures, are they rising also?

Last year, I found a Remote Automated Weather Station operated by the Forest Service at Desert Springs that is 11.28 miles due north of the Reno Airport, in a remote area well away from urban influences. The annual temperature in desert far from urban influence in 2007 was 52.54 F, which was 2.8 F below the Airport ASOS just eleven miles away. As you can see this site is quite remote.

Desert_springs

Desert Springs, click for larger image.

Here is a plot from last year comparing the Desert Springs and Reno ASOS.

Reno_DS-RAWS

Digging even more, I discovered the National Weather Service Forecasting Center has a surface station that has been in operation since the mid 1990s. It is only 4.36 miles from the Reno Airport, to the north north east of the city at the head of a canyon. The NWSFO site was 1.4 degrees below the Airport ASOS. This site does have some urban influences, a nearby college and some concrete parking spaces. Here are two photo, first to show the location, the second the surface station.

Reno_nws_station NWAFO Station, high view,

Reno_wfo_cotton NWSFO Surface Station

Here is a plot the average temperature comparing the Reno and NWAFO sites.

Comp_r_nws_0007_2

The temperatures track in parallel until 2003, and then come together in 2005, and then diverge over the 2006 and 2007 time periods. These sites are only a few miles apart, yet there is a one degree difference.  I decided to look at the Airport ASOS min / max temperature plot, was the min rising faster than the max?

Reno_minmax8906

As you can see the plot shows an increase in night time minimum temperatures over the day time temperatures from about 1950, shortly after the sensor was moved to the Reno Airport, which would be an indicators of UHI influence, when the urbanization drives up the min as the concrete, blacktop and surrounding buildings gave up heat as the night air cooled.

aI think, we can conclude that Reno record temperatures are UHI related, as temperature records move from a rural location, to a semi-rural location to the airport surrounded by urban development, the temperatures increases. Sensor site locations in this Google Earth photo.

Three_stations

What have I missed?

Next up at look at Helena Montana.

Heat_min_temps_t11

About these ads

39 thoughts on “Feeling the Heat, is it real or is it ASOS?

  1. Russ – This article reminds me of the oft’ quoted dictum,”Correlation is not causation”. Since I plan to move to Reno, I did a quick study using the table A data above. I pulled US census records for Reno and plotted the data following the sensor move to the airport. Voila’ a good fit with an R2 correlation of temp to population of 0.93 My view, UHI effects are undeniable. Just walk through down town Phoenix on a summer night and feel the IR coming off the structures. Good work sir. John B

  2. Thanks very much to Russ and Anthony for getting this information out. The local environmental reporter wrote a front page article in Helena Montana’s only major “news”paper regarding this Environment America study on October 22, 2008, the online version is available here.

  3. This is excellent confirmation of man made global warming. Now if could just NWS/NOAA to place all their weather stations on 100X100 meter concrete pads painted black in urban centers we could even accelerate AGW and really panic the public.

  4. A clear and present danger: Scientists with political motives
    By Dr. Tim Ball Friday, October 24, 2008

    Andrew Weaver is a professor at the University of Victoria who has built a career around climate change.

    Weaver’s main claim to fame is his involvement in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a United Nations body set up to promote the science that supports extreme measures on CO2 reduction.

    They only examine human causes of climate change and though they say their work is not to be used as a basis for policy formulation, the IPCC produces a Summary for Policymakers (SPM), which is the only IPCC document most governments read. They seem to not know that the SPM is written independently of the main science report and released months before the report it is supposedly summarizing. In reality, the IPCC science report is edited to ensure it agrees with the Summary.

    Weaver is not a climate scientist per se. He is a computer modeler who attempts to meaningfully model global climate, an unsuccessful exercise to date. Yet the entire output of the IPCC is based on the output of computer models such as those created by Weaver and his team.

    And that’s the biggest problem with Weaver’s frightening pronouncements that 80 per cent of species will become extinct and human civilization, as we know it will be destroyed, by the end of the century if we do not stop emitting greenhouse gases entirely. They are based on the assumption that CO2 drives temperature and thereby climate change. In fact, there are no records of any duration for any time period in which CO2 increase precedes temperature increase.

    http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/5783

  5. It’s difficult to understand how PD Jones and D Parker of the Hadley Centre can deny the UHI. The BBC weather forecast for London (given by Met Office forecasters – and the Hadley Centre is part of the Met Office) invariably says that the London temperature is about 3C above that of the surrounding countryside.

  6. Hm is it really a good idea to use those airport based weather stations for science? I suppose the airports own meteorologist wants to have a word on the placing, and he is not there to do science, he’s there to help run the traffic as safe as possible. To do that I suppose he would be interested to get temperature, wind and moisture as close to the runway as possible. For other weather data he probably relies on radar and reports from a national weather center. I took a look in Google Earth at our 2 airports here in Stockholm Sweden and it looks about the same.

  7. Can someone fill me in on the details re: Jones and the urban heat island study? Didn’t someone ask Jones for the data sets and stat work underlying his study so they could check it out and Jones gave the “dog ate my homework” excuse?

  8. Stan,

    Steve M at Climate Audit has tried to get further information from Phil Jones a number of times but is fobbed off with what amounts to ‘why should I show you my information when all you want to do is use it against me?’

    If you search his site for Phil Jones, I’m sure you will come up trumps ,or perhaps not :-)

  9. AGW is devouring tens billion of dollars each year in research grants, the IPCC reporting, and governments changing every aspect of energy production and use.

    That does not include the lesser restrictions local governments add in the way of fees, land use rules, dubious rapid transit decisions, installation of hydrogen stations for city vehicles, and, of course, new departments to watch all this and attend regional conferences.

    The cost of the international top level conferences alone must be staggering. Thousands and perhaps tens of thousands of attendee-days each year at top hotels and resorts in remote locations – such as Bali – reached by long airline flights.

    And each is preceded by weeks of staff rehearsals for the drama. And probably a million pages of position papers and economic studies from fifty governments.

    Maybe they could find a few hundred million to upgrade, relocate, and standardize a few thousand surface stations. And to make all data available to anyone without adjustments by anyone.

  10. I was very interested in the graph for Reno Max v Reno Min.
    Mr Steele comments – “As you can see the plot shows an increase in night time minimum temperatures over the day time temperatures from about 1950…” and draws attention to the fact that this could be an indicator of UHI effect. Point taken.
    But I notice that the maximum temperature shows a very steady increase over the whole of the period covered.
    Further, until about 1940, the Max/Min do not seem to track each other very closely and then they track each other only to the extent that both are rising (albeit at different rates, and for the minimum, at an increasing rate).
    I think the cause(s) may turn out to be more complex than UHI effects.

  11. Reno is no exception. Check out Palm Springs. Temps are taken at the city fire station located right next to the airport taxiways and parking areas. Just look at this year’s monthly minimums compared to normal, all are 2 to nearly 8 degrees above the normal. With 85 years of records, in the last 6 years record high average minimums have been set for seven months. Average maximums for the year so far have been below normal for 4 months with July and August the coolest in 10 years. This station has got to be moved and I have suggested so to the NWS in San Diego. One can also go to Yosemite National Park. About 4 years ago Park personnel stopped doing the weather. They relied on a RAWS station that was found to be about 4 degrees above normal on the max side and about normal on the minimum side. In mid-August Park personnal began doing the observations again but what you see posted is still the RAWS data. The list goes on…….

  12. Stan,

    One of the things that the Jones et al. paper appears to have done inappropriately is in the assignation of locations to the ‘Rural’ pile or the ‘Urban’ pile.

    There’s a lot of information missing, but consensus at Climate Audit appears to be that there are enough concerns to require serious responses or reinvestigation.

    What I’d prefer is an examination using the raw satellite data on a target like Las Vegas. There’s pristine wilderness and long-term ranches nearby in essentially all directions.

  13. Mr Bratby said (09:39:00) :
    “It’s difficult to understand how PD Jones and D Parker of the Hadley Centre can deny the UHI. The BBC weather forecast for London (given by Met Office forecasters – and the Hadley Centre is part of the Met Office) invariably says that the London temperature is about 3C above that of the surrounding countryside.”

    That’s the hot air produced in Parliament.

  14. Wow, they’re relying on studies about UHI from 1990? That’s nearly 20 years ago! Things have changed quite a bit since then.

  15. Many times I have amused myself while driving (for work) by monitoring my car’s exterior temperature display. The factory location was protected from direct outside air and just in front of the radiator, to correct for this they held the display static for the first few minutes of running the car to give the sensor a chance to cool down via the fan. I relocated the sensor to the frontmost tip, protected from direct air but also from the radiator. I then modified the display to update more frequently and with no initial delay.

    When I drive through cities and towns, it is invariably a few degrees C warmer, summer or winter. This is not an isolated case, or “many times”, it is universal. Especially on a still evening or at 1am… but also when it’s windy, raining, or snowing.

    Even a town of 1000 will have more structures and parking areas that ARE the UHI effect, and the area around them is warmer. Calgary, with a population over a million, has areas that are significantly warmer than others. Almost always, lower areas are cooler.

    Okay, technically this is “anecdotal”. But when it is such a consistently observable effect I have to wonder why it is so cavalierly ignored or minimized by “scientists” who are supposed to know better.

  16. Another biased AGW “report.” Note how the table shows only very large cities. It just boggles my mind that ANYONE with any common sense at all would not just intuitively KNOW that a significant UHI effect is there.

  17. One of the most annoying tricks the AGW promoters engage in is the Orwellian rewrite of history.
    Rationalizing away the UHI is just one example.
    But what should we expect?
    AGW is built on convincing people into believing models over data in the first place.

  18. One of the factors that may lead to an offset is altitude.

    The NWS station built near TMCC and DRI is about 500′ above the Airport and sometimes above the inversion. I wonder about the ‘canyon’ comment for this one as it has quite a breathtaking view out over the city of Reno.

    The Desert Springs station almost sounds like it is near the new developments just north of Sun Valley between Spanish Springs and Lemmon Valley. It is also a bit higher than the Reno Airport and in some interesting terrain.

    It is interesting that there isn’t record at the Stead airport to use for comparison. That has been rather stable as much of the land to the north or east has been bought by the Air Race committee for their annual races.

    Between altitude differences, terrain, and vegetation, comparisons between nearby stations in this area can be misleading and difficult, I think.

  19. Bryan – thanks for that. Very interesting observations on the sites.

    I have to say that this kind of consideration starts me wondering about what a “global average temperature” (GAT) is really all about. Clearly it is a construct and as such it is not really something which can be measured.

    What if you take the ‘average’ between two sites which clearly have different topographical features (such as the ‘canyon’ and the airport)? Well …, surely that is meaningless. Isn’t that even more pertinent to averages taken over an entire planet?

    And if you take an average between daily max/min, that can easily be different to an average taken from a series of measurements taken, say, hourly in the same place!

    Looks like I will have to undertake a course in advanced statistics to be able to get a handle on this.

  20. Bryan,

    The Airport is 4,415 feet elevation
    NWSFO Station is 4,459 feet elevation
    Desert Springs RAWS 5,280 feet elevation

    The total elevation from Airport to Desert Springs 865 feet.
    The total elevation from Airport to NWSFO is 544 feet.

    I am sure that elevation can account for some of the differences, but how much? The full 2.8 degrees?

  21. RussS,
    the approximation in the UK is 1 degree (Celcius) per 100m. I believe this depends on lattitude. 0.6C/100m is commonly cited for Europe. So elevation is could be responsible for a lot of the difference if not all – a pity.

    Nice piece of detective work though.

  22. Ellie in Belfast,

    I had not thought about the altitude difference problem. I found this rule of thumb from David Cook, meteorologist at Argonne National Laboratory. The general rule of thumb used by meteorologists is that temperature decreases approximately 3.6 degrees F per 1000 feet in the Troposphere (the lowest layer of the atmosphere, where we live). This is an average value and varies from season to season. The decrease is slightly less in the summer and slightly greater in the winter.

    If this rule of thumb applies, then the difference between Desert Springs and The Airport would be about 3 degrees and the record shows 2.8. The difference between the Airport and NWSFO Station would be about 1.95 due to altitude and the record shows about 1.4 degrees F. Interesting.

  23. Russ,

    Comparisons of actual temperature will fool you if you dont take into account the lapse rate. One way around this is to compare the trends at the sites. FWIW hansen uses a lapse rate of 6C per km when he adjusts sites whose altitude has changed

  24. Steven Mosher already hints to this, but don’t forget that global warming doesn’t care about site X is warmer than site Y because of UHI. What global warming cares about, is that site X in 1950 was cooler than site X in 2007.

    Now, from what I understand (could be lacking…) the people who say that UHI is not an issue in global warming generally studied large cities compared to rural areas (or at least tried to, and failed in some cases). But when you look at downtown Manhatten for example, the population increase and development has been pretty stale since the 50ies. It was already a highly populated and largely concrete island in 1950 and still is. Compare this to a rural site with no development since the 50ies, and I’m sure the trends will be quite similar (if there are no micro-site issues). So they conclude UHI is not affecting trends, and considering what they looked at, you could argue they are right.

    But the real issue, of course, is not UHI per se, but urbanisation, ie. the process of transforming from rural area into urban area. Add a site with virtually no population or concrete in 1950 and a couple of thousand people with streets, buildings and driveways in 2007 to the above comparison, and you’ll see a much larger trend than in either the big city or the stable rural location, despite the fact that its still only a very small city and would probably qualify as rural in most analyses.

    So, in the Reno example above, it would be more interesting to compare 1950-2007 trends for the three sites than the absolute values since 1992.

  25. K:

    Great post! You ended it with this comment:

    Maybe they could find a few hundred million to upgrade, relocate, and standardize a few thousand surface stations. And to make all data available to anyone without adjustments by anyone.

    That is an entirely reasonable proposal. And I doubt that it would require anywhere near that amount of money. Also, there is no credible rationale for not publicly archiving the raw data in addition to their “adjusted” data.

    The reason they refuse to provide taxpayer funded transparency is clear: the truth would drastically undermine their hypothesis that CO2 is the evil culprit that requires $billions in tax money, and gigantic alterations in our present standard of living, in order to implement the alarmists’ New World Order.

    If it were not for the internet and sites like this, we would be well on our way to living in mud huts and eating berries, grubs and roots.

    My personal bugaboo is “carbon sequestration,” which is the most astonishingly stupid idea that has ever been proposed in the history of modern civilization. Carbon [dioxide] sequestration is the equivalent of employing millions of government bureaucrats to dig 10X10X10 foot deep holes in the ground, and then moving those holes twenty feet away every six months. That would be equally effective; in fact, it would be more effective that carbon sequestration, because beneficial CO2 promotes increased food crops, with no downside…

    Proving once again that globaloney is a political, and not a scientific issue.

  26. If it were not for the internet and sites like this, we would be well on our way to living in mud huts and eating berries, grubs and roots.

    You’d be lucky to have the mud hut, since that would be raping the Earth of mud, and Mud Skippers might die.

  27. Regarding lapse rate, that rule of thumb holds in the troposphere, not on the surface of the earth. Looking at actual data (as contaminated by UHI and poor siting as it is) shows that you get about .003 F decrease in temp per foot increase in elevation. So scale that 1 C per 100m by 5/9 and it holds true for land data.

    Anyways, taking Bryan’s concerns into account one could always adopt the GISS methodology and compare ‘anomalies’ by subtracting away the mean for each station. That would turn an intriguing 2 F difference between Reno AP and NWSFO into an alarming 3 F difference, a trend that established itself in a short 4 years.

  28. Steven Hill (16:04:21) :

    I’ve seen you mention “Bottom up economics” in a couple of comments. I think you mean “Bend Over” economics and tax policies.

  29. Wow, Environment California really picked it well … it’s comical. Of all the ASOS out there … this one. Hah!

  30. Man-made global warming exists: in that the recorded warming is all due to man-made structures near the survey stations.

  31. Smokey: thanks for the kind words. I roughly figured $40,000 per new station. All to be installed by trained crews in a standard manner. That would mean a lot of travel and would take longer.

    But I much prefer a standard instead of having local people look at an instruction sheet and assemble the stations from a kit.

    Two thousand such stations around the world would be $80M and probably more. Uplinks and a central collection station. I’m guessing $15M to build and staff the first year. Perhaps $4M to staff and operate per year thereafter.

    Other topic. At first I looked upon CO2 sequestration as a “possible.” Geologic surveys showed much more capacity than I would have guessed. But it has been in testing several years and not much is reported. Silence often speaks for itself. Perhaps it was a bad idea whose time did not come.

  32. When it comes to ground stations, I’d love to see a HUGE number of home installations of something like http://www.wx.ca – check the Almanac tab too.

    If there was a standard kit, sold everywhere for $100 or so, then everyone interested in this could put their money where their mouth is. Picture it: one internet appliance. Temperature, solar radiation, wind speed and direction, precipitation, GPS, and a webcam so visitors could evaluate the siting. If there were tens of thousands, or millions, globally, all could feed into a massive server that averaged “weather”. On installation, the owner could accurately define the level of urbanization at the site, and that cross-referenced with the GPS position and standard maps would eliminate all of the guesswork.

    And if I had the financing, I would have started building these years ago. Each site could have a nice LCD display mounted inside so it was also a useful personal weather station. I know it would be possible to get a retail price of $100 on these, and in cases of pristine siting the government, OR a weather agency, could subsidize the installation and operating costs.

  33. Codetech, I’d love to have one. I’ve got 2.5 acres, partially wooded. I can place the station 100 feet away from any building or asphalt, just grass. Of course my grass albedo changes drastically during the year. In summer it’s brown, in winter it’s deep green.

  34. I think that Anthony’s “Barn Owl Box” expose, that reveals how “scientific” some of our basic data gathering sites are; is very telling.

    The users of this data such as GISS (presumably) report output “information” in hundredths or thousandths of a deg C; but that is based on the numbers that presumably some thermometer says ITS temperature is.

    So just who has done any studies to show just how well any of those thermometers reports what the surrounding area temperature really is.

    The reading on the thermometer is presumably no greater than what the mean temperature of the outside surface of the box is; I would hope those boxes contain no source of heating energy. But just how does the surface absorbtance of those boxes represent say the air temperature, or the ground temperature, or just whatever it is supposed to represent.

    I’m quite happy if the box tells the local TV news weather guy the local temperature was 73 deg F give or take a degree or so; but it seems a little bit hokey to input into global data bases.

  35. Pingback: UHI is real, in Reno at least « Watts Up With That?

  36. Pingback: Waste heat could warm the earth? Perhaps it has already started. « Watts Up With That?

  37. Pingback: All time low temperature record for Illinois called into question by NWS citing lack of confidence in equipment is misguided « Watts Up With That?

Comments are closed.