How not to measure temperature, part 13


The picture above is of the official USHCN climate station of record in Quitman, GA and comes to me via volunteer Joel McDade.

It is located at a residence, the observer has consented to having this NOAA weather equipment at his home.

Besides the usual problematic close-by parking of vehicles that we’ve seen before, and buildings less than 100 feet from the temperature sensor, we have a new issue to contend with: inoperable vehicles and abandoned appliances near the temperature sensor. Such big chunks of metal have thermal retention, which means that heat is retained past sunset and re-radiated near the sensor. This may bias overnight lows.

I thought the old washing machine was a nice touch though. It illustrates how little quality control of the temperature measuring environment is being done with the US Historical Climatological Network.

Additional pictures of the site are available at the online database.

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June 26, 2007 11:18 pm

This is a cross post to a blog Anthony wrote on June 18th. Because the item is still relevant and being discussed I have posted it here as well.
Randall Stone (me) wrote:
Sorry…I am just getting back to respond….phew, what a week with Field Day and all.
I guess my comments were tongue in cheek (actually no…they *were* tongue in cheek).
Nonetheless I thought most of the data regarding the earth’s temperature increase was based mostly on the polar ice caps. In fact, that is the big problem with the Dennis Miller line, “you know I just don’t think I trust temperature measurements from 200 years ago” (implication being that we didn’t have accurate means to measure such a thing.
Yet, the ice tubes tell us much more than any Napa Valley temperature gauge over a tarmac ever will.
This is my tongue in cheek comment: What in the world does the tarmac location of a (virtually) irrelevant temperature gauge have on the entire discussion? My response (if anyone was asking) would be nothing. But I imagine Fox News wouldn’t have me comment.
On the vote recounts, it is assumed that I was in support of recounts which I have never (publicly) claimed that I was (though my political party affiliation was to a point). I didn’t complain either way…publicly or privately. But that’s just statistics.
Of course amateur radio is a great scientific study. My original degree is actually in the “dismal science” which may indicate my position on the scientific method…or not. I’m a man of science as well. I just don’t think Napa Valley can be considered the litmus test over a tarmac for the entire process which has little to do with a current gauge. And I don’t think Brit Hume or any other psuedo-newscaster could be so silly as to claim that it is influencial.
How’s that for knee-jerk?
P.S….you missed a great Field Day. Platte Mountain was great…no global warming this year 😉 It was actually much cooler than last year for the W6RHC crew.
73…we’ll have coffee soon.
Randall, K6RCS

Anthony Watts
June 27, 2007 8:15 am

Hi Randall, Thank you for the comments.
The ice cores also tell us about the sun’s activity.
See this post:
Beryllium-10, an isotope produced by the interaction the suns magnetic variability modulating cosmic rays hitting the earth, filters down through the atmosphere onto the ice. Its a proxy indicator of the suns activity.
It tracks well with other indicators of the suns activity.
As for the weather station on the tarmac. I think you may be missing the larger picture. Scientists established the US Historical Climatological Network (USHCN) to use as a way of tracking temperature from what they described as “high quality” stations. That’s their description, not mine.
In the nationwide survey being conducted by myself and volunteers has shown that in many cases, the network has net been kept up nor meets the own published NOAA standards for thermometer siting and exposure. In some cases, there are multiple problems at a single site.
It’s a typical failure of bureaucracy. Billions are being spent on climate changes research, yet the measurement system is in disrepair and nobody has bothered to do basic QC checks, even though NOAA’s own panel in 1997 indicated a need for such a thing.
Since this data gathered by the USHCN network is used in climate change research, that can be a problem. I’m sure that researchers want accurate data. The problem is many are taking it at face value, and assume that scientifically rigorous measurements are being done. I believe many scientists simply don’t know how haphazard the data gathering has been.
Those that did know, the one in charge of the program, should have fixed the problem long ago. They haven’t, despite requests in the scientific community such as from Dr. Roger Peilke Sr. at the University of Colorado, which have gone unheeded.

June 28, 2007 7:04 am

Your point regarding placement is valid. I assume there would be hundreds of these stations in non-compliance. Why I think I even find a fellow ham operator’s personal home weather station contributing to the data. Of course if it is just a station at home and simply adding data to the pool, I have reservations that such systems are actually being placed and assumed “reliable” or “high quality”.
But that may be my level of ignorance (I don’t claim to know or understand any of this study). I just don’t think that the overwhelming majority of scientists weighing in on the debate are that foolhardy or focused on a political agenda. In fact, in my limited experience scientists have less of an axe to grind on any issue. Just like economists…most are economists *first* and let bias influence them (if at all) very much after the fact. That’s not saying *all* but most. We usually only hear about the biased on the fringe.
This is not unlike the outlier pundits (Ann Coulter, Pat Buchanon, Pat Robertson, etc.) or the dissenting scientists – the point being a very small group of people with very clear influences by externalities. But with the overwhelming majority of climatologists – absent externalities – signing on, it leaves little doubt (*little* doubt). So little doubt, the Bush administration is demanding China sign on to global warming controls without accepting our own. Now that’s duplicitious!
Of course so is “I’m a member of Congress!” “No wait, I have Executive privilege!” “No wait, I’m part of Congress!”
This playing with the Constitution reminds me of the child in Bill Cosby’s routines: “I DON’T KNOWWWWWWWWWW?”
I don’t trust *those* scientists.

Anthony Watts
June 28, 2007 9:23 am

Randal thanks again for the comments.
Irrespective of whatever political maelstrom surrounds the climate change issue, I am certain of this one thing:
Many stations that are used in the USHCN climatic data set observed thus far are out of compliance.
My goal and the goal of my now 125 volunteers nationwide is to document as many as possible and find out how many are in compliance and how many are not.
Amazingly, this has never been done, and it is the most basic quality control.
Until that is known, an undocumented uncertainty exists in the surface temperature record. Much has been built on the trends of the surface temperature record, so it is extremely important to know how much of the data is a true measurement of air temperature and how much has been affected by undocumented nearby influences as demonstrated in the photographic records now being obtained.

June 29, 2007 4:33 am

Randall doesn’t seem to be able to talk about the specific issue..

David Walton
June 29, 2007 7:38 pm

Re: “Randall doesn’t seem to be able to talk about the specific issue..”
You mean this blog is not about Randall Stone’s discomfiture over his perception of the duplicity of politicians and the inexpertness of political pundits and journalists?
I was misinformed.

July 1, 2007 2:47 pm

Actually, I believe I was talking about the specific issue…at least the issue that Anthony is bringing to the table. I shouldn’t speak *for* Anthony, but it seems to be consistent with his belief that global warming, while manmade, may not actually exist. The arguments in opposition to global warming are the lack of accurate data from NOAA and, as examples, individual (albeit many) temperature stations identified as accurate and scientific. While Anthony has a valid point (as I indicated in the beginning of my post) it doesn’t really detract from the ice tube measurements which are not so casually reported.
I also indicated that there are many “weather stations” that contribute to the NOAA systems including RAWS stations and individual home systems. I don’t think any of this diminishes the validity of the scientists that acknowledge both global warming as a significant threat and its man-made influences.
That is unless Anthony was just making conversation and wanted to discuss temperature sensor accuracy irrespecitve of global warming.
Excuse me, Jeff, for being right the first time.

July 1, 2007 3:59 pm

Re Randall, “I shouldn’t speak *for* Anthony, but it seems to be consistent with his belief that global warming, while manmade, may not actually exist. ”
You are correct Randall, you should not speak for me because thats not my belief.
My position is this:
Warming of earth’s climate system has been observed by various methods, so I do not dispute that global warming has been observed.
I believe that the sun’s variation itself and variations in the earth sun relationship is the major driver of earth’s climate. Other factors, including man’s influenece are secondary in magnitude.
Measuring the magnitude of those secondary effects is a very complex task and is not yet fully quantified.
Some of that magnitude is quantified in the surface temperature record. The validity of data points for some stations is being called into question. My work is to help refine the data points in question to help determine the true overall magnitude of the surface temperature record.

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