Above: Tifton, GA Sewage Treatment Plant – a good place to measure climate?
There have been some claims on the blogosphere of limited or no value to the taking of pictures for the www.surfacestations.org project. This is my view of why pictures are vitally important to an assessment of the accuracy of the near surface temperature record gathered by USHCN and other weather stations, where the data gathered is used in climate studies.
Photography is well established as a diagnostic tool in many fields. Take astronomy for example. If data and computer models of the universe is all that was needed to move the science forward, we certainly wouldn’t need the Hubble Space Telescope.
Do pictures work very well in illustrating problems that need correction? Well I say ask any doctor who uses xrays, or MRI images, or ultrasound. Do you think doctors can define an illness solely on chart data such as BP and body temperature? No of course not, they need pictures. They DEMAND pictures.
Or how about the NASA’s loss of the space shuttle Columbia in 2004? The spacecraft is covered in sensors, yet after a photo showed foam striking the shuttle during booster burn, engineers pleaded to get photos under the wing from Department of Defense DOD. NASA Engineering made three separate requests for DOD imaging of the shuttle in orbit to get photos to determine if there was damage. NASA management did not honor the requests for DOD photos and in some cases intervened to stop the DOD from assisting.
On reentry, sensors on the shuttle started showing problems, and flight controllers struggled to understand what was happening. Photos and video taken by amateurs on the ground showed clearly what had happened. I don’t recall CNN showing pictures of sensor data in announcing this failure to the world.
Given NASA’s unwillingness to listen to engineers first with Challenger (frost and o-rings) and Columbia (possible wing damage – just get us a picture so we can be sure) I have even less respect for the NASA armchair UHI analysis called “lights = x” ironically done by counting the number of streetlights near weather stations using DOD nighttime photos. This method can give an approximation of the urbanization around a weather station, but it can’t possibly discern the nearby microsite effects like asphalt and air conditioners that have seen so far.
The worlds of science, engineering, medicine, forensics, astronomy, biology, and many more use photos to cross check gathered data or to confirm observations or theory. Climatology shall be no exception.
We are getting pictures of stations, lots of them, and we’ll get every one if possible. Then we are going to analyse them against existing published standards, and then we will publish the results of that analysis. And unlike some prominent climatologists, the pictures, the methods, the code, and the results will be publicly available to anybody, be it scientist, layman, or citizen. And, it will be done without wasting once cent of taxpayer money.
Then after that, critics can determine just how useful the pictures are.