Will the real The Death Valley 134F high temperature record please stand up? NWS says one on file at NCDC is a ‘fake’

Twenty-mule team in Death Valley, California

It seems the U.S. Borax company was responsible for doing the original record. Above: Twenty-mule borax wagon team in Death Valley, California (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“…someone made this fake form off the original and even forged Oscar Denton’s name on it.”

Readers may recall that last week I noticed differences in the two “official” paper records presented by NOAA/NWS and the National Park Service in their respective web announcements about the 100 year anniversary of the 134°F reading in Greenland Ranch in Death Valley, which is now the all-time highest temperature reading on Earth.

I pointed out that the two paper forms didn’t match. They had different handwriting styles, different notations, different portions filled out, and different numbers is some places. It was a curious puzzle that made me wonder why two different paper records existed. Some readers commented to the effect that looking at such minutiae was a waste of time. But as NWS Las Vegas points out, they took my question seriously once I got their attention.

To get their attention, I had to enlist the help of Dan Vergano and Doyle Rice of USA Today to ask the question since my queries were going unanswered. I thank them for their assistance.

Here is what NWS Las Vegas says, and an image showing all three records follows:

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

From: Christopher Stachelski – NOAA Federal
Sent: Thursday, July 11, 2013 12:30 PM
To: Rice, Doyle
Cc: Randall Cerveny
Subject: Death Valley 134 Forms

Hi Doyle,

Randy Cerveny informed me you had a question about the multiple Death valley 134 degree forms. In short here’s the whole story on this one as I explained to him. Please let me know if you have any further questions on this.

Thanks,

Chris Stachelski

NWS Las Vegas

After looking at the blog entry from Watts, here’s my findings. On their Facebook page Wednesday, Death Valley posted a photo of the observation form from July 1913. This indeed appears to be a carbon copy of a form from that era.

In 2008, I asked NCDC to furnish our office with a copy of the original 1913 form. The following, which is on their website in the IPS system was what they sent me. http://www1.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/orders/IPS-4467B518-F5E1-46BF-904D-1FF111E11154.pdf

This is clearly not an original form to 1913 as evident by the Weather Bureau being in the Dept. of Commerce on this form when it was in the Dept. of Agriculture. It appears sometime in the 1950s or 1960s someone made this fake form off the original and even forged Oscar Denton’s name on it. After pointing out the discrepancy in the agency I mentioned above, NCDC continued to state this was the only form they had from Greenland Ranch from July 1913.

Starting in 2009 when I took over the climate program at NWS Las Vegas, I asked Charlie Callagan, a ranger at DV who oversaw the weather station and published a report on it with the AMS, about locating some of the missing B-91s cooperative observation forms so the missing data and forms could be filed with NCDC. In addition, I worked with the Datzilla folks at NCDC to clean up a large number of misfiled forms and keying errors within the datasets for Death Valley and Greenland Ranch. During a trip to Death Valley in 2010, I asked Charlie in person about getting a copy of the 1913 observation form. We both went to the Cow Creek library where he went into the archives and provided me with this form – http://www1.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/orders/IPS-F9CF539C-22BA-498D-BBFC-9DF92999FEE4.pdf – which I then sent into NCDC to have filed.

To my knowledge, the co-op observer used carbon forms then. The Borax Company gave many of their original items to NPS. Watts is right that there are differences in the 1913 forms that say Dept. of Agriculture on them. This is the first I know of two Dept. of Ag forms from July 1913. Based on how Oscar filled out the sky conditions on each day while he was an observer in the adjacent months and the form NCDC having from us showing temperatures at observation (the carbon like copy does not), I have reason to believe the copy NCDC has on file that we sent them is the copy of the original one to July 1913. The one NPS has on their Facebook page looks valid and likely is an older form that either Oscar or another Borax Company employee copied to ensure a copy of the original form existed. They may have done such a thing since the writing may have not pressed well in the carbon at the time.

Hope this helps,

Chris

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

I thank Chris Stachelski for answering Doyle Rice’s question, and for the help USA Today writers Dan Vergano and Doyle Rice provided. I was traveling this weekend and didn’t have time to devote to this posting until now, hence the nearly a week delay in reporting it here.

So, it appears there was no nefarious intent, but it just goes to show that paper records can be easily taken for granted as being ‘official’ when they are not. Here are all three side by side. The question is: which one is the real one?

Death_Valley_3recordforms

Based on what I read from Chris Stachelski, the one in the middle is. Let’s hope this settles the matter.

The majority of the weather and climate history of the USA exists on paper records like these, and while NOAA/NCDC does attempt to correct for obvious errors in recording and transcriptions, not everything is always what it appears to be. Since NOAA/NWS and NPS made a big public deal out of this record, it follows that something this important should most certainly be certified so that we know which one is the real record, and which ones might be copies or forgeries. From that point forward, only the real record should be displayed.

I think NWS Las Vegas and/or NCDC should put a notice on their website to certify the real paper record for posterity.

One wonders what else remains to be discovered once a curious eye is put the millions of paper records in the climate controlled basement of NCDC.

About these ads
This entry was posted in Climate data and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

52 Responses to Will the real The Death Valley 134F high temperature record please stand up? NWS says one on file at NCDC is a ‘fake’

  1. Speaking of curious eyes, there has been talk for awhile about crowdsourcing an effort to digitize scanned versions of the old paper records in the NCDC basement. I’m not sure if they can get any funding to develop a web app for it, though, given the sequester and whatnot.

  2. DirkH says:

    Zeke Hausfather says:
    July 17, 2013 at 1:25 pm
    “Speaking of curious eyes, there has been talk for awhile about crowdsourcing an effort to digitize scanned versions of the old paper records in the NCDC basement. I’m not sure if they can get any funding to develop a web app for it, though, given the sequester and whatnot.”

    Don’t worry Zeke. Bernanke currently buys at leat 70% of all newly issued federal debt which leaves too little for other institutions that need “high quality collateral”. So, the US govt CAN’t stop spending like a drunken sailor; otherwise QEinfinity becomes impossible and you get a depression.

    You’re hovering 25 million USD under the debt ceiling for 56 days now. The bookkeeping tricks will run out in one and a half months. You’ll lift the debt ceiling in time.

  3. Frank K. says:

    Thanks for the follow up article, Anthony. Shows how the NCDC really doesn’t care about getting anything right with regard to actual climate records.

    “I’m not sure if they can get any funding to develop a web app for it, though, given the sequester and whatnot.”

    Sequester? Spare me!! The climate industry is awash in gobs of government money…

  4. MattN says:

    So is 134F still the official record or are they going to nullify this one too?

  5. Allan Brockman says:

    Why do they think that 134 is the world’s highest temp? In the late 60’s, I worked in southern Iran. I was out at a drilling rig on the hottest day that summer. They recorded a shade temp of about 60 centigrade. As an aside, the local newspaper reported that Ahwaz had a temp of 188 Fahrenheit ( obviously a bit of overstatement) that day. I still have a copy of the newspaper

  6. Kev-in-Uk says:

    have just spent a few minutes looking at the images, and I would certainly say that the middle one has been altered too. In the precipitation summary, the ”22nd” looks completely different to elsewhere, and must certainly be an addition?
    also, does anyone else wonder why ZERO days were ‘partly cloudy’ ?? seems odd to me – I wonder what the definition of ‘partly cloudy’ was/is?

  7. Justthinkin says:

    I would go with the middle one. It’s dis-colored, has an imperfection in top lefthand , and the hand writing is from when it was actually taught in schools, and not a Bic pen. Right one way to new, left, gobbledy-gook.

  8. SasjaL says:

    As I thought … but 1950s/1960s? Not later?

    Is this the only one or are there (plenty) more …

  9. _Jim says:

    The math; has anybody run-through the calculation of the various (the 3) means (the averages)? This was before calculators (BC) became common in the field, of course, therefore, this was not a trivial, though simple, operation …

    .

  10. Kev-in-Uk says:

    _Jim says:
    July 17, 2013 at 2:17 pm
    I was going to – bhut cant read the middle one properly.
    Also, can anyone explain the ‘penned’ on Humidity readings – clearly an addition also – but why the regular then irregular/missing days?

  11. clipe says:

    So, the US govt CAN’t stop spending like a drunken sailor

    There’s the rub. A drunken sailor spends his own money.

  12. Thanks Mr. Wattson!
    It is good to have a look at real/surreal/faked raw data.
    A data mirage!

  13. cotwome says:

    From the NOAA.gov Death Valley website:

    “On July 10th, 1913 the weather observer at Greenland Ranch in Death Valley, California recorded a high temperature of 134°F (56.7°C). This is the highest reliably recorded air temperature on Earth.”

    In light of this post, is this actually the ‘highest reliably recorded air temperature on Earth.’?

  14. Resourceguy says:

    They might also find the Ark of the Covenant down there…..or a fake one that was sold to them at some point.

  15. albertalad says:

    I fully realize while you talk about Death Valley high temperatures – check this out! Perhaps a little off topic but what one gets another doesn’t.

    Record cold weather sweeps the west, beating previous lows set in the late 1800s

    Staff writers

    Wednesday, July 17, 2013, 12:40 PM –

    Brrr! Turning on your heat in mid July may seem strange, but some Albertans were forced to do that on Tuesday morning.

    As much of eastern Canada bakes in extreme heat, a cool airmass and clear skies allowed parts of Alberta to reach new record low temperatures Tuesday morning.

    The temperature at Medicine Hat Airport plunged to 5.9°C, beating the previous record low of 6.1 set back in 1887.

    While the 4 degree start to the day in Edmonton was chilly, it wasn’t quite cold enough to beat the current daily record of 3.3°C set in 1968.

    The climate normal in Edmonton at this time of year is 23°C.

    Temperature records from Environment Canada: (These temperature records have not been quality controlled and are unofficial)
    Location New Record Old Record Record Year Records Began
    Jasper Warden -0.5 1.7 1922 1916
    Medicine Hat Airport 5.9 6.1 1887 1884

    Rocky Mountain House
    -0.1 0.6 1939 1917

    The following locations obtained near record temperatures:
    Location Min Temp Current Record Record Year Records Began
    Brooks 3.9 3 1982 1912
    Edmonton International Airport 4.0 3.3 1968 1961
    High Level Airport 1.2 0.1 1998 1967

  16. albertalad says:

    Well that didn’t turn out so well after all.

  17. JohnC says:

    cotwome: Reliably recorded, not securely stored.
    clipe: “Can’t stop spending like a drunken sailor.” A drunken sailor can stop (when he’s broke and no one will lend him money) but the govt can’t. Sooo, they can’t stop spending like a drunken sailor. It’s all in how you read it.

  18. Mark Bofill says:

    Wow.

    It’s so … refreshing? startling? … to see people answer queries without evasion, misdirection, or breast beating. I’d forgotten what it looks like, honestly.

  19. Chad Wozniak says:

    National Geographic has run stories (some years ago) about temps in the Danakil Deprression in Ethiopia in which, if I recall correctly, mentioned temps up to 145 F (63 C). I do not have a source to cite for this – if anyone has one, let me know and correct my information if it is wrong.

  20. Eliza says:

    OT but The noble prize credibility was finito when they awarded it to Gore et al AGW. These days the Nobel prize really does not mean much because of that event. That AGW prize demeaned its value quite a bit unfortunately. For example the next physiologist(s) to be given an award by the Nobel Committee will mean less than it did before. Probably the Nobel Committee does not realize this, but it is eroding their credibility. Similarly, Journals such as Nature have lost credibility because of this AGW poison that will affect anything they publish even if its not related to ” climate Change”. I for one who have published widely in referred journals would not submit anything to Nature for this reason. Its no longer a credible respected Journal

  21. learnedthatinhighschool says:

    The one labeled fake also has another problem. On the top line, center right, it appears to say “budget bureau approv” followed by what looks like “41-“. According to Wikipedia, the budget bureau didn’t exist until 1921, so the first two numbers may be the year that form revision was approved, or 1941.

  22. learnedthatinhighschool says:

    1940: The Weather Bureau is transferred to the Department of Commerce.

    From http://www.nws.noaa.gov/pa/history/timeline.php

  23. Robert of Ottawa says:

    I would say the middle one as it has been meticulously filled out, each day, in copperplate handwriting; just what one would expect in 1913. However, ditto has a long history http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ditto_mark but is a mark of hurry, as if one was copying.

  24. @Allan Brockman:
    As a matter of interest, what do such extreme temperatures actually feel like?
    @Resourceguy:
    You never know, they might find Trenberth’s missing heat down there!

  25. Gary says:

    Is the so-called “fake” form a forgery – implying a deliberate attempt to mislead – or a facsimile, just a copy containing accurate information, but not an exact duplicate? Forgery doesn’t seem like the right word.

  26. Robert of Ottawa says:

    Andrew Zalotocky, It depends what the humidity is. If it is dry, not too bad; just like Canadian winters – so cold, there is no humidity, it’s all lying on the ground ;-)

  27. _Jim says:

    Kev-in-Uk says July 17, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    I was going to – bhut cant read the middle one properly.

    This may be of help: They sum individual temp values in two columns; perhaps their sum can be used to validate your sum (or offer a clue as to how much difference exists)?

    One sum also looks to have been changed (an erasure seems evident).

    .

  28. intrepid_wanders says:

    Based on how Oscar filled out the sky conditions on each day while he was an observer in the adjacent months and the form NCDC having from us showing temperatures at observation (the carbon like copy does not), I have reason to believe the copy NCDC has on file that we sent them is the copy of the original one to July 1913. The one NPS has on their Facebook page looks valid and likely is an older form that either Oscar or another Borax Company employee copied to ensure a copy of the original form existed. They may have done such a thing since the writing may have not pressed well in the carbon at the time.

    While the center one is the closest to the original, it still is one of the carbon transfers (Why else would it be back in the Cow Creek Library archives). The original B-91 is lost. It would have been nice to see those “adjacent months” sky observations, since the original copy has that steadily growing text that is indicative of someone writing in one session as opposed to a month. I speculate the carbon that had transferred to this copy had mostly fallen off and someone overwrote it to preserve the record, because it still looks of ball point pen.

  29. Bob Koss says:

    That picture of the 20 mule team brings back to memory the long forgotten TV show Death Valley Days. It was a weekly half hour western shown in the 1950s loosely based on true events. When I was a youngster I thought it was a great show and was always disappointed when I missed it.

  30. I predict that this inquiry will result in throwing out the 134 degree measurement altogether. This will allow last month’s high of 129 deg to be touted as the all time high (or at least a tie high), a result that proves global warming.

  31. Physics Major says:

    A few years ago, my wife and I were driving through Death Valley en route to Las Vegas in September. We stopped at the little general store near the low point of the valley. When we stepped out of the air conditioned car, we were greeted with a 115 F sauna. When we entered the store, the proprietor said, “Nice and cool today, isn’t it?” We gave him a quizzical look and he explained that the past two weeks had seen temperatures over 125. It’s all relative.

  32. Hoser says:

    But don’t try to get authentic copies of temperature records from Hawaii. Jus’ sayin’.

  33. tomt says:

    I stand by what I said about the first post, this is trivial matter. So you got an answer, but it is still an answer to a trivial matter.

    REPLY: thanks, your triviality is noted. – Anthony

  34. jerry says:

    I noticed that it says 134, not 134.56 degrees, I thought all the esteemed climate scientists had all temperatures down to the hundredth of a degree

  35. intrepid_wanders says:
    July 17, 2013 at 4:45 pm
    ….. I speculate the carbon that had transferred to this copy had mostly fallen off and someone overwrote it to preserve the record, because it still looks of ball point pen.
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Don’t think it would have been ball point pen:

    I have noticed a number of people making comments about the use of a “ballpoint pen” in the 1913 recording. However, the ballpoint pen was not perfected until 1938 and was not produced commercially until the 40’s. http://www.cosmopolis.ch/english/cosmo30/history_ballpoint_pen.htm
    Having gone to school in the 50’s, we were initially only allowed to use pencils, then ink pens (remember the inkwells in school desks). Then fountain pens. Ball points weren’t allowed because they blotched and skipped and smeared. If I remember, we started being allowed to use ball point pens in the 60’s when they were improved and less prone to problems. But we were still using fountain pens well into the 70’s and I still have several sets of pens with mechanical pencil, universal ballpoint refillable and fountain pen (both cartridge and refillable), several never used since we now use ink jet, laser and electrons. In my early working career, a lot of my notes looked a lot like sample one, original in 2H pencil and two or three carbons behind. (2H so you could press hard enough to make the carbon copies and not break the pencil lead) And we were not allowed to erase, only cross out and rewrite. (erasing would create an unreadable blotch on the carbon copies (and the later pressure sensitive paper) We were still using pressure sensitive field note paper when I retired 11 years ago ( if we weren’t using electronic notes).

  36. Gary Pearse says:

    How can they be pushing the temperatures everywhere else down and yet hang on to this 134F. The answer is probably pride in having the hottest temp on earth in the US. Surely they must have looked at the algorithm for adjusting temperatures and were told, No, this is a heritage number. Maybe Steve Mosher knows how to dig this out.

  37. John Snow says:

    I was in Saudi Arabia in 1983-1985. I remember a day when the local town recorded a recorded a high of 58 C which is 136.4 F.

  38. Mike McMillan says:

    The third is obviously a modern fake because it’s in small caps. The person filling it in didn’t know how to write in cursive hand. :-)

  39. Matt J says:

    The two on the left are interesting for another reason. At the top, with the year, the left image clearly shows 19__ with the 13 hand written. It’s hard to tell from the image but the one on the middle appears to show 191_. The two ones in “191” appear to be the same style and I would believe the second 1 was printed on the form. Irregardless, the second 1 does not have the same style as all of the other hand written “1”s on the page. In fact, all of the “1”s on both of the images are a single stroke of the pen, not a stylized “1”.

    Following that logic, it would seem that the left image was copied in the late teens or twenties at the earliest, when the form was changed from “191_” to “19__”.

  40. david moon says:

    Previous commenter claimed a temp of 60 C which is 140 F. In my experience with power supplies and heat sinks, 70 C is a temperature that will burn- you can’t keep your finger on an object at that temp. 60 C is lower but certainly not comfortable.

  41. Darrin says:

    I’ve both logged a lot of logs and copied a lot of logs. When actually doing logs I’ll write in everything properly, when copying logs I’ll do something like Cloudy then follow that up with ” for each successive entry until it changes to speed up copying. That to me makes the left one a copy. Also not the D in Dry for amount and look at the D in Denton.

  42. Man Bearpig says:

    jerry says:
    July 17, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    I noticed that it says 134, not 134.56 degrees, I thought all the esteemed climate scientists had all temperatures down to the hundredth of a degree

    Yes, this is intentional … we asked the boys last Friday er … 2013, no, in erm 1913 – that’s it – 1913 … to only record to 0 decimal places so that if temp gets to 134.01 then it would prove global warming as a slam dunk and you guys must pay more tax or else we are all going to die.

    /sarc

  43. Rabe says:

    Can’t we give it to CRU and let them adjust it?

  44. knr says:

    This story is a good reminder that ‘past records ‘ as well has current one sometimes need to be taken with a pinch of salt , not as the ‘word of god’
    And it’s also a reminder that not so long ago, such issues would little matter as its ‘just weather which is hard to predict anyway ‘ It is only since the claims of ‘settled science ‘ and ‘climate doom’ have these records become all so important . Oddly if a much better data collection and maintenance system is put in place for weather stations , it will be one of the few good things to come out of all the AGW BS

  45. Reg. Blank says:

    I think this storm in a teacup highlights how trivially easy it is to copy data these days. Until recently the most cost and time effective way to copy a small amount of information was to copy it by hand. The data in common seems to be the same on the copies. There doesn’t seem to be any fraud or forgery to me.

    The original of this particular form probably generated more child copies than these three–it contains a record temperature and has sufficient interest to warrant copying, just as this web site has done. In fact this web site by itself has probably generated more copies of the form at nearly zero effort, on each user’s computer, than were ever hand copied.

  46. Frank K. says:

    I now realize that what makes this story very important (particularly the FAKE document passed along by our very own NCDC!) is that this is not any ordinary climate record. It is, in fact, the record which contains the highest temperature ever seen in the U.S. (but probably not the world, other opinions notwithstanding). And if they can’t even properly document a record like this, what does this say about the integrity of the entire data set?

  47. Keith says:

    The Devil is in the details

  48. Beta Blocker says:

    One afternoon in the summer of 1974, I drove into Furnace Creek and pulled into the local Caterpillar dealer’s equipment laydown yard to pick up some bulldozer ripper parts that had been specially fabricated for us.

    That was back in the days when we were allowed to rape and pillage the environment for fun and profit, without undue interference from government and eco-lawyers.

    A thermometer mounted on the outside wall of their shop, which was located directly adjacent to the laydown yard, read 142 degrees F.

    So I asked the yard foreman if the official local temperature might be close to 142 F. He said that probably it wasn’t, but that it sure felt like 142 F standing there in that laydown yard.

  49. The Other Casper says:

    In weather that hot, I might have been too dizzy to read the thermometer accurately. In fact, I might have just stayed indoors drinking tea, and filled out the form with a guess. “Feels like about 134 now, don’t you think?”

  50. Steve Tabor says:

    I’ve always wondered about the reliability of the 134 degrees. It stands out like a sore thumb. Readings on adjacent days were not even close. What happened on that date to make a difference of three-four degrees? Probably something environmental, like a hot wind off an adjacent patch of desert pavement, or a freak swirling dust devil moving past, or a nearby car left with the motor running. Probably not anything meteorological, which calls the “record” into question as a meteorological event.

  51. Sometime back in the 1980s, to my recollection, NCDC constructed the “fake-looking” July 1913 report from Greenland Ranch/Death Valley. Apparently, the numerous requests for photocopies of this one piece of paper (that contained the record maximum temperature for the U.S.) was causing some degradation of the only copy that NCDC had. By making the artificial copy, the copy that NCDC had could stay safely stored and free from the frequent handling and abuse involved with dragging it in and out of a folder and subjecting it to the radiation of the photocopier. There was nothing underhanded or surreptitious going on — NCDC just wanted to preserve their original copy as much as possible, given its significance. But this brings up the question —- why didn’t they make a master photocopy of their original, and then make copies from that one for the public requests? If the numbers were difficult to read, they could have included both the “copy of the copy” and the fake one with the easy-to-read numbers and forged signature.

    When I requested the first ten years of monthly Greenland Ranch forms from NCDC back around 1988, the fake one for July 1913 was provided among the copies of the actual originals for all of the other months. One can now go online and see all of the original Greenland Ranch monthly records from NCDC here:

    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/IPS/coop/coop.html?_page=2&state=CA&foreign=false&stationID=043603&_target3=Next+%3E

    William Reid

Comments are closed.