How not to measure temperature in the GHCN, part 1

Yes, it’s back. Dr. Roger Pielke Sr.  and I have started looking at the GHCN to document the siting quality of surface stations that measure climate in the Global Historical Climatological Network (GHCN), the darling of NCDC’s Dr. Thomas Peterson who has recently added another level of processing to the mix.

I’ll be offering some instructions soon on how to participate. In the meantime, feast your eyes on this gem, the GHCN station in Tampico, Mexico, #76548. What is it with air conditioners and weather stations anyway?

NCDC has pretty much non-existent metadata on it. Even the start date is wrong.

The lat/lon is so coarse that it pretty much is useless, as Steve Mosher demonstrates, it makes Hansen’s nightlights UHI adjustment pretty way off-center. But hey, “close enough for government work“.

Hopefully, they’ll bother to put in a “GHCN” flag like they did after we embarrassed them into doing in the original surfacestations project for USHCN. As a results of the efforts of volunteers, we actually had better metadata than NCDC did, and they couldn’t have that, so they fixed their own problems by making the lat/lon more accurate and putting USHCN flags into the database. It is a far cry from their first response, which was to block the database for our use. I won that argument hands down.

Here are some other examples in Mexico:

Veracruz, 76692. I wonder if they have a cat on that tin roof at night?

Salina Cruz, #76833:

 

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44 thoughts on “How not to measure temperature in the GHCN, part 1

  1. Oh goody!

    Does this mean you’ll have a repeat of the unsubstantiated accusations of corruption, premature conclusions of large impacts on the surface temperature record and then a paper showing the effects to be minor?

    REPLY: No Mr. Thomas, it means that we are gathering the metadata to see what we find. As people like yourself are so fond of pointing out, the USA is only 2% of the landmass while making up the bulk of the observing sites. ROW may be far different. Logging the metadata for it’s own value is worthwhile, as is an ROW study of the character of siting. Be as upset and snarky as you wish. BTW, NOAA closed stations sited like this one after we made them known. Marysville, UofA parking lot station, and others. Actions speaking loudly. – Anthony

  2. so is anyone still confident of the .7 rise over the last century using sterling sites like these ?

  3. Anthony, you really enjoy being a burr under their saddle don’t you?

    So do we. Keep up the good work!

  4. I’m surprised they haven’t found a weekly Dutch Oven Cookoff beneath one of these weather stations–or perhaps the weekend flea market surrounding some of them (or am I speaking prematurely?)

  5. These climate hysterics must have friends; or do they only gather together with each other for social comfort? If they do have friends, does anyone know if these climate hysterics exhibit strange behaviours in normal intercourse? Or do they, as with Superman, change clothes once they arrive in their offices/workplaces?

  6. I don’t know about the weather stations in Tampico, but if the roads are any indication that picture doesn’t surprise me. Most people seemed to care too much about trying to make a living as opposed to keeping up with temperature data. I can’t say the ROW will be any better. Have to say, though, the food was great when I was there.

  7. Why do you kick this ass in the butt? Because it’s fun. Do you think they will change their ways? NO!

    Maybe we should turn it into an Olympic event.

    Isn’t it obvious what their goal is, and it has nothing to do with accuracy or the data quality.

  8. Again, you guys seem to be having way too much fun! Keep it up, we’re enjoying the entertainment. A rising boat floats all tides…. :) (reversal of boat and tides is intentional, for fun, ya know)

  9. “What is it with air conditioners and weather stations anyway?” In this case it must have something to do with both being located on a roof, with the weather station being 82 feet above ground.

    The people who chose that location for the weather station must have considered that an unobstructed view of the horizon was the primary objective that had to be met.

  10. FredT says:
    August 29, 2011 at 9:09 am

    Oh goody!

    (Idiotic blathering nonsense…….)
    =============================================================

    Fred, is it that you want inaccurate temp readings to base our decisions on? As Anthony pointed out, stations got closed that needed closed. Things got documented that needed document…… as far as accusations of corruption……. he had pointed many things out before people moved to correct the errors. So, maybe not corrupt, but laziness and incompetence were clearly demonstrated.

    Did you expect that correcting 2% of the landmass records to have a significant effect?

  11. The data you collect is only has good as the tools and methodology you use to collect them, no matter how smart the researcher or attractive the theory. Sitting of these stations and how well they meet the laid down requirements was always going to be a problem ,given the lack intention these received. Like a lot of stuff in climate science, in the past it did not matter becasue great claims of accuracy and great demands for change where not being put on their back but now they are.

  12. “”””” Greg, Spokane WA says:

    August 29, 2011 at 10:26 am

    Any thoughts on how much that air conditioner or tin roof might skew measured temps? “””””

    Absolutely ! The air conditioner and tin roof, are not wired into the measurement electronics at all, so we can say without fear of contradiction, that neither one of them can skew the measured Temps one iota.

    However we can also be reasonably sure, that those “measured Temps” in no way reflect the actual climate temperature that would pertain to that station location. But the thermometers themselves; fear not; they are rock solid reading their immediate environmental temperature. It would be nice to get some instrumentation to read the general location Temperature; that shouldn’t be too difficult since according to Dr James Hansen, it is close enough if you are within 1200 km of where you want to know the Temperature

  13. A list of all GHCN stations by country would be useful, I know quite a few of the ones in New Zealand well, but I am not sure which ones GHCN uses. I already have pics of some of them and I believe there is a book available in NZ with station history for most of them.

  14. Here is the full list of GHCN-Daily stations (the GHCN-Monthly ones are a smaller subset, but I’d start with GHCN-Daily since GHCN v4 is going to incorporate pretty much all of these into the monthly set): ftp://ftp.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/ghcn/daily/ghcnd-stations.txt

    Anthony, I wish you best on this effort, as the GHCN metadata is in dire shape at the moment and could definitely be improved. I’m not sure highlighting poorly sited stations will always give the right impression, as an image of the siting alone doesn’t necessarily tell you about the impact on the trend (e.g. Fall et al). That said, if its gets more attention paid to existing shortcomings (and potentially more resources; GHCN is run on a pretty shoestring budget at the moment, though the individual stations are in most cases the responsibility of the country in which they are located), it will likely serve to improve the temperature record in the long run.

    The ideal case would be to get a global CRN set up with excellent siting and metadata, similar to efforts in the U.S. over the past decade.

  15. I looked through the GHCN stations for the UK (all 35 of them). One I found interesting:
    UKW00035036 52.85 0.7667 68.3 SCULTHORPE
    This turns out to be an old USAF base (ex RAF WW II) – closed in 1992, and now derelict.
    I wonder who’s looking after the weather station.

  16. Further to that:

    UKW00015035 53.1667 0.5167 72.2 WADDINGTON
    UK000003377 53.167 -0.517 68 WADDINGTON GSN 3377

    Same place twice? flipping over the meridian!

  17. Yes Anthony I would start with GHCN Daily. WRT stations showing up in the water. Some of these will always be difficult because they are located on Atolls or frigates parked at sea. Methods for handling this are easy but time consuming. A typical reconciliation takes a few hours on my system. There is also the issue of the station being in the right location and the Geo datasets being off. For example, a 1km geo dataset is going to put the water in wrong places some of the time. The registration accuracy of the GIS data is also an issue so you have to consider that as an error source as well. with over 26K stations, however, I’m not that concerned about finding stations where the meso scale ( say 1-10km from the station) issues are not problematic.

  18. Mark Thomas says:
    August 29, 2011 at 1:27 pm (Edit)
    Further to that:

    UKW00015035 53.1667 0.5167 72.2 WADDINGTON
    UK000003377 53.167 -0.517 68 WADDINGTON GSN 3377

    Same place twice? flipping over the meridian!

    ######
    yes you will find those simple types of mistakes which are easily corrected in the first step of any analysis. There is a wrong sign on the .5167
    UKW00015035 53.1667 0.5167 72.2 WADDINGTON is in the water.
    a simple cross check with WMO volume 9, section A shows the correct location
    53 10 31N 00 31 24W for this WMO 03377.

    Wrong signs constitute a very very minor source of error.

  19. stumpy says:
    August 29, 2011 at 12:32 pm (Edit)
    A list of all GHCN stations by country would be useful, I know quite a few of the ones in New Zealand well, but I am not sure which ones GHCN uses. I already have pics of some of them and I believe there is a book available in NZ with station history for most of them.

    ####
    It depends on the dataset you are looking at but you can get the country several ways.

    In GHCN the country is encoded in the ID
    In GCHN daily the country is field in the metadata.

    You can also send the coordinates to any geocoder and get back the country. Use geonames.org and its relatively easy if you know how to program. If you dont know how to program, you’re SOL

  20. george

    “Temperature; that shouldn’t be too difficult since according to Dr James Hansen, it is close enough if you are within 1200 km of where you want to know the Temperature”

    you would actually be surprised how consistent temperature anomalies are within a 1200km radius. Like you I thought this was suspect, Looking at the data I was convinced. One meaning of the word climate is this: we know the winter climate of florida is different than the winter climate of arizona. location matters. How much does it matter? we can measure that by looking at the correlation length. turns out, for some parts of the globe at some times of the year, 1200km is a good number. During other seasons and and different latitudes it can be as high as 1500km. Some places more around 800km. It’s just data you should look at it

  21. What I found interesting was the assertion that siting issues didn’t “corrupt” the warming trend. I guess it goes to show the old saying “they don’t make ‘em like they used to” is true after all.

    All those medieval air conditioners, jet aircraft exhausts etc running since the pre-industrial age obviously wouldn’t affect the trend.

  22. Rosco says:
    August 29, 2011 at 2:40 pm (Edit)
    What I found interesting was the assertion that siting issues didn’t “corrupt” the warming trend. I guess it goes to show the old saying “they don’t make ‘em like they used to” is true after all.

    ###############
    It’s not that surprising of a result.

    Let’s start with the basics. In the Field tests of the development of the CRN scale ( 1-5) the researchers found the following:

    1. the micro site effect was modulated ( increased or decreased ) by factors such as wind, rain, and clouds.
    2. the primary effect was to increase the RANGE of highs and lows and not the MEAN.
    CRN 3, for example, refers to the fact that the station may see highs on certain days
    that are 3C higher and lows that are 3C lower. It’s a measure of variablity, not BIAS
    3. The bias was roughly .1C warming for all classes of stations.

    basically you have a sporatic effect that is modulated by wind and clouds and rain. Its the same with UHI. For example in some locations a surface wind of 2m/sec will mitigate UHI, in other locations 7m/sec erases all the UHI. Is there UHI and microsite? sure. That’s not the question. The question is how large? how often? and which direction is the bias?. The answer to date is as follows
    Not large enough and not often enough to create a significant detectable difference in global trends. no cookie, yet

  23. They closed the U of A parking lot station! Damn!!! It’s my favourite one.

    Brent in Calgary

  24. I see a picture of a box and some anenometers. But what’s the basis for believing that it is GHCN station #76548?
    #####
    Good catch Nick.

    Looks like there is some confusion about that site. The system that Anthony is using (MMS) looks to be pulling up WMO data. Thats the location of the WMO station. which cross checks with publication 9.

    However, that station does not get used in any of the official datasets.
    Its not in GHCN Daily. and the Tampico station that does get used in GHCN Monthly
    is at a different location.

    41476548000 22.2200 -97.8500 9.0 TAMPICO, TAMP 32U 212FLxxCO 5x-9COASTAL EDGES C

    So, 1. we dont know that the picture is of the location and 2 we know that the station at the location given by MMS doesnt make it into the global average and 3 the station in Tampico is classified as Urban.

  25. “I’ll be offering some instructions soon on how to participate. In the meantime, feast your eyes on this gem, the GHCN station in Tampico, Mexico, #76548. What is it with air conditioners and weather stations anyway?”

    As the MMS system shows NCDC have no temperature data for this station.
    In short, the bad station contributes no data. That would be a good thing.

  26. It also looks like the station only has data since 2007 to present, which means that it would fail the 10-year minimum requirement for inclusion in GHCN (as well as the lack of any common baseline period years in a CAM approach like NCDC uses).

    REPLY: No, that’s the add date at NCDC, if you’ll check around, you’ll see many GHCN stations that started in 2007, prior to that they had no record of these at all in MMS – Anthony

  27. ‘Steven Mosher says’

    Points well taken but it still comes down to site maintenance, calibration and changes that have occurred around the site since day1 etc…. just because you can get an average over 1200km says nothing about these points. The surface data is suspect to say the least.

  28. tom s says:
    August 29, 2011 at 4:14 pm (Edit)
    ‘Steven Mosher says’

    Points well taken but it still comes down to site maintenance, calibration and changes that have occurred around the site since day1 etc…. just because you can get an average over 1200km says nothing about these points. The surface data is suspect to say the least.

    #######

    For example, recently to test some new algorithms ( created by Nick stokes, RomanM, and Tamino) that have a sounder statistical basis than GISS or CRU, I looked at a 100 stations in
    texas. Just testing these algorithms. Any way, when I was done testing I asked myself, I wonder how well correlated they are? I mean if we assume that there are calibration problems all over the place and bias problems and all sorts of data horrors those horrors should show up in time series
    correlations. right? No odd balls. 98% correlations across the board. no odd balls. But texas is not the world, its just a big area I selected randomly to test the algorithms.

    let me repeat this yet again. To bias the anomalies you have to have widespread biases with a consistent directionality. An odd ball here or there is washed out in the global total. we dont see widespread oddballs. The most interesting unanswered question centers around the issue of categorizing stations into urban and rural classes. That was the question 4 years ago, its still the question today. Answering that question depends upon.

    1. having accurate station location data
    2. having physically relevant and objective proxies for urbanity
    3. categorizing stations while minimizing false identification and maximizing global coverage.

  29. Good timing.

    I’m off to Morioka (in Tohoku) tomorrow. I’ve located the station 21047584001 MORIOKA near where I’m staying, and printed off the map. Photos and site description to follow. I’ll take my tape measure.

    Cheers

  30. So, Anthony, is this a worldwide surfacestations project that you’re proposing? I note from the list of GHCN stations that there are 6 in the Kamloops area which I can get out and photograph assuming the lat/long coordinates are sufficiently precise. I know of one station at the university (TRU) which seems to be poorly sited as it’s bordered on the west by an asphalt roadway and parking lot. Not sure if it predated the university expansion.

    If I’m using my GPS (which is a USB module) I’ll also be able to run some temperature transects in Kamloops as I’m driving around. That is, if I can find some more batteries for the USB temperature monitors as mine have finally all died.

    REPLY: Yes another social networking project, like before, but this one has greater challenges. Details to follow in a few days – Anthony

  31. Greg, Spokane WA says:
    August 29, 2011 at 10:26 am
    “Any thoughts on how much that air conditioner or tin roof might skew measured temps?”

    Tin roofs of the variety shown get hot as Hell and hold it for a long time. For comparison, as long ago as the Sixties, we had to install insulation underneath tin roofs on “chicken houses” even though the peak of the roof was 14 to 16 feet above the floor of the chicken house and, in warm weather, the chicken house was entirely open to air front, back, and sides. The area was central Georgia USA. A “chicken house” of that era was about 210 feet long and 40 feet wide.

    Of course, the Warmista will reply that the tin roof does not matter because absolute temperature is irrelevant and only the trend matters. If you follow this Warmista reasoning, no location of any temperature station can have any adverse impact on temperature trends from that station. Warmista are so lacking in the ability to reason. If they take their principle seriously, the only possible conclusion is that all temperature readings and temperature trends are worthless. Why? For the obvious reason, they are not responsive to what is happening in the environment.

    Maybe I should add a bit more explanation. Take the clear case of air conditioners on private buildings. Warmista assume that the air conditioner will be on at all and only the same times every day or they assume that it will be on at random times, in the sense of randomness used in statistics. Now, tell me, what justifies such assumptions? Obviously, absolutely nothing. What goes against such assumptions is bedrock knowledge of human behavior. Human behavior is erratic or chaotic but not random.

  32. Steven Mosher says:
    August 29, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    ” you would actually be surprised how consistent temperature anomalies are within a 1200km radius.”

    Steven Mosher says:
    August 29, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    “For example, recently to test some new algorithms ( created by Nick stokes, RomanM, and Tamino) that have a sounder statistical basis than GISS or CRU, I looked at a 100 stations in
    texas. Just testing these algorithms. Any way, when I was done testing I asked myself, I wonder how well correlated they are? I mean if we assume that there are calibration problems all over the place and bias problems and all sorts of data horrors those horrors should show up in time series
    correlations. right? No odd balls. 98% correlations across the board. no odd balls. ”

    =================================================================

    98% correlation across the board between stations is achievable only if one fails to remove the overall mean of the yearly average time series, or if the annual cycle–which dwarfs climatic variations by orders of magnitude –is not removed from monthly averrage time series. Done correctly, inter-station correlations are very much lower than that. Taking the yearly data at Coriscana TX as an example, one finds R^2 estimates of 0.61 with Corsbyton (473km), 0.22 with Eagle Pass536km) and 0.35 with Alpine (716km). That’s a far cry from the 1200km radius that is assumed to be the effective “correlation length.”

  33. I found station 21047584001 MORIOKA.

    Nada. I couldn’t believe it. About a 10mx10m block on the side of a hill in a heavily suburbanised part of town, completely surrounded by 2-3 story buildings. I thought “I must have made a mistake”. Home, I’ve checked the data, and I had found the location correctly.

    Nothing there. It’s been moved. That site would have failed meteorology 101. Sorry folks, my Japanese isn’t good enough to go knocking on doors.

  34. There is a bottom line to all this, Mr. Mosher. Two bottom lines, actually. One is that your attitude seems to be that it would not matter if a weather station were mounted on the hood of a 1956 Buick Roadmaster Anniversary Edition. In other words, you show total disdain for the facts on the ground. And you have a meta-attitude of triumphalism, happily explaining that the statistics can overcome everything.

    The second major bottom line is that you have no clear idea of “climate” as opposed to “weather,” a problem that haunts all Warmista. If you cannot independently specify what you mean by climate then we remain clueless about the meaning of your statistical claims. But I do not believe that you can do this because “independently specify” means what it has always meant in science, namely, specify in accordance with scientific method through hypotheses that have shown reasonable confirmation.

  35. I’m sorry Steven Mosher, we must have you out of context here. I am very sorry.

    I assume what you mean to say is “Wow I didn’t realize how poorly those stations are sited. We really need to put some money into infrastructure. I still think the data are good enough for the purpose but better data would be important.”

    Right? That’s what you mean isn’t it? You can’t possibly be saying that these stations represent no significant accuracy problems statistically speaking and that you see no reason to correct these discrepencies. You really aren’t saying the latter are you?

    Is the Scientific Method really just a loose set of guidelines that scientists don’t need anymore?

    Your slip is showing.

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