I’ve been away from WUWT this weekend for recovery from a cold plus family time as we have visitors, so I’m just now getting back to regular posting. Recently on the web there has been a lot of activity and discussions around the issue of the dropping of climatic weather stations aka “the march of the thermometers” as Joe D’Aleo and I reported in this compendium report on issues with surface temperature records.
Most of the station dropout issue covered in that report is based on the hard work of E. M. Smith, aka “chiefio“, who has been aggressively working through the data bias issues that develop when thermometers have been dropped from the Global Historical Climate Network. My contribution to the study of the dropout issue was essentially zero, as I focused on contributing what I’ve been studying for the past three years, the USHCN. USHCN has had a few station dropout issues, mostly due to closure, but nothing compared to the magnitude of what has happened in the GHCN.
That said, the GHCN station dropout Smith has been working on is a significant event, going from an inventory of 7000 stations worldwide to about 1000 now, and with lopsided spatial coverage of the globe. According to Smith, there’s also been an affinity for retaining airport stations over other kinds of stations. His count shows 92% of GHCN stations in the USA are sited at airports, with about 41% worldwide.
The dropout issue has been known for quite some time. Here’s a video that WUWT contributor John Goetz made in March 2008 that shows the global station dropout issue over time. You might want to hit the pause button at time 1:06 to see what recent global inventory looks like.
The question that is being debated is how that dropout affects the outcome of absolutes, averages, and trends. Some say that while the data bias issues show up in absolutes and averaging, it doesn’t effect trends at all when anomaly methods are applied.
Over at Lucia’s Blackboard blog there have been a couple of posts on the issue that raise some questions on methods. I’d like to thank both Lucia Liljegren and Zeke Hausfather for exploring the issue in an “open source” way. All the methods and code used have been posted there at Lucia’s blog which enables a number of people to have a look at and replicate the issue independently. That’s good.
E.M Smith at “chiefio” has completed a very detailed response to the issues raised there and elsewhere. You can read his essay here.
His essay is lengthy, I recommend giving yourself more than a few minutes to take it all in.
Joe D’Aleo and I will have more to say on this issue also.