Surface Temperature Records in China


There is an interesting fight brewing over surface meteorological stations in China being led by Doug Keenan of the UK. This is a case where the station metadata used to track station moves and other changes doesn’t seem to be available, and that lack of availability is in contrast with a paper written by some top climate scientists.

This report concerns two research papers co-authored by Wei-Chyung Wang, a professor at the University at Albany, State University of New York. The two papers are as follows.

Jones P.D., Groisman P.Y., Coughlan M., Plummer N., Wang W.-C., Karl T.R. (1990),

“Assessment of urbanization effects in time series of surface air temperature over land”, Nature, 347: 169–172.

Wang W.-C., Zeng Z., Karl T.R. (1990),

“Urban heat islands in China”, Geophysical Research Letters, 17: 2377–2380.

Each paper compares temperature data from some meteorological stations in China, over the years 1954–1983. (The first paper also considers data from stations in the USSR and Australia; Wang was only involved in Chinese data, and so the other stations are irrelevant here.) The first paper is quite important: it is cited for resolving a major issue in the most recent assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC, 2007].

See the description of the issue and specific complaints here:

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Evan Jones
August 12, 2007 3:57 pm

As bad as one could expect, then. I’ve been waiting for this shoe to drop, but I wasn’t expecting fabrication.
Could it be that the actual readings themselves have been “conformed to socialist reality”?

August 12, 2007 6:46 pm

I have been posting ‘Global Warming’ stats about the Earths History of ‘Global Warming’. Contrary to political opinion, ‘COOL’ is the rarity. Read these blogs for a few hard facts. as well as one other site I maintain has Many ‘Global Warming’ comments in archives Welcome to a ‘Naturally Warm World’.

August 12, 2007 6:48 pm

I have a comment on this story and a link to a site that talks about Russian problems.
Problems in Asia

Inbred Pseudo-Redneck
August 12, 2007 8:15 pm

Well TCO,
Iff’n ya sold me a cherry 1957 Chevy and told me it was all origonal and I found out the gril was plastic and made in China in 1995 and your name was on the old reciept that I found in the glove box, I’d say ya fibbed (or fabricated a quality claim).
Iff’n a scientist comes to me and says he got data from China that was later found to be non-existent, I’d say he fibbed (or fabricated the data).

August 12, 2007 8:28 pm
August 12, 2007 8:46 pm

Correct me if I’m wrong… but is that a row of pot plants growing behind the MMTS?

August 12, 2007 11:27 pm

Anthony, I’m glad you posted about this. The link in the story is to the report that I formally submitted to Wang’s university. Based on that report, a misconduct investigation will now be undertaken.
I’ve posted some additional remarks at
This discusses the term “fabrication”, as well as some potential issues relating to the IPCC, etc.
TCO, you say that you dislike the term “fabrication”. If you read my report, it is clear that fabrication was committed.

August 13, 2007 1:02 am

lol I spit coffee on my keyboard.
But seriously. Those plants are showing signs of wilting, so we can’t rule out anthropogenic causes.

August 13, 2007 2:58 am

TCO, we have no idea if it was fraud, fabrication or what. What seems certain is that there was a refusal to reveal data until compelled to do so by the Freedom of Information Act, after which, when it was revealed, it was found to have a distinct odor of fish.
Was it stupidity, incompetence, carelessness, fraud? Who cares, the loss of credibility is identical.
If it were not for climate scientists behavior, we would all find AGW a much more plausible hypothesis. But you just can’t have any confidence in people who behave like this.

August 13, 2007 4:11 am

Does Doug Keenan have a blog?

Evan Jones
August 13, 2007 5:13 am

Har! Har!
It certainly could be. If you blow up the shot, some of the leaves look suspicious but it’s hard to tell.
If so, it might explain a small part of the reluctance to the photo project!
(It would be almost as good as the station they blew up in the name of homeland security.)

August 13, 2007 11:56 am

You present us with quite interesting options.
1) Wang fabricated his study.
2) Wang falsified his study.

August 13, 2007 12:28 pm

TCO, DougK,
If I’m reading this correctly, TCO is gnawing on a gnat’s eyebrow aspect of this.
Doug’s claim is “fabricating scientific claims”, while TCO wants the term “fabrication” to focus on data.
Doug’s actual complaint is about fabrication of station-move data (i.e. station histories). Wang claims all the station histories were available, but cannot produce them. DougK’s claim is supported by material published by Zeng (Wang’s data source), who said, at the time, that station histories were not available.
To me, that’s a valid fabrication claim: Doug is saying Wang based his work on unmoved stations, when he apparently did not have the necessary station-move data to support his work.
Sure, there’s a minor english usage question involved here, and TCO loves to quibble about grammar… but most people just don’t care about grammar.
That’s my interpretation at least.

Steven Mosher
August 13, 2007 1:29 pm

Perhaps I can ride to TCO’s rescue.
Every fabrication is a falsification. “TCO has horns and carries a pitch fork.”
But not every falsification is a fabrication. “TCO has a sub 100 IQ.”
The former being an outright Invention ( err as far as I know ) made up out of whole cloth and the latter being an exaggeration, err an underestimation, ahhh crap.
Thus ends today’s lesson in meaningless scholastic distinctions.
TCO may not be your cup of tea, but more often than not, he’s not half wrong.
Ok, enough frivolity. Like it or not the real business is doing the kind of study that TCO suggests.
Still, some in the community have rhetorical skills, some legal, some photographic, some are Stats guys, HVAC guys, Hurricane girls, So, Perhaps some pressure and friction on Wang will result in a happy ending.

August 13, 2007 3:01 pm

TCO, my understanding is that FALSIFICATION, in a scientific context, refers to a mathematical (or logical) PROOF of something being false (like the recent German unpublished falsification of CO2/greenhouse theory).
a “false claim of data quality” is NOT falsification. it is clearly fabrication. a claim was made in which the claimer knew, or should have known, that the claim was untrue.
maybe a distinction without a difference, but i think you are wrong here.

Steve Moore
August 13, 2007 6:15 pm

Let’s just call it “scientific misconduct” for now.
I’ll wait for more information before I’ll grant “”honest error” or “honest differences in interpretations.”

August 13, 2007 6:58 pm

That Chinese stamp at the head of this post depicts quite good compliance with siting standards – open, grassy area, no nearby obstructions or asphalt, no air conditioners or grills, and a fence to keep it all secure. I hope photographs live up to the artistic conception.

Evan Jones
August 13, 2007 8:07 pm

Come to think of it, if any of your volunteers run across any illegal plantage near weather stations, I–strongly–advise them to hightail it the heck out of there immediately.
Their lives could be in extreme danger, and I ain’t kidding even a little.

August 14, 2007 12:34 am

TCO the claim of site quality was a fabrication.

August 14, 2007 12:43 am

The paper TCO linked to provides a simple set of definitions showing that DougK is correct in his use. It says (quoting NAS):

Misconduct in science is defined as fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism…
Fabrication is making up data or results,
falsification is changing data or results, and
plagiarism is using the ideas or words of another person without giving appropriate credit.

DougK is accusing Wang of making up data, i.e. station histories. He’s not making accusations about changing data.
TCO, if you want to argue that station histories are not “data”, go look at AnthonyW’s photo collection and explain why those photos are not data. The data describing provenance of measurements is just as important as the measurements themselves.
Apparently you don’t know that, and thus have lost my trust in your self-selected role as SteveM’s in-house gadfly.
TCO, once upon a time you seemed to be one who shared nuggets of gadfly-wisdom based on a depth of background understanding. Now I see you are more like Chauncey Gardiner — seen as wise because you had so little to say.
Too bad. Perhaps the advice of one of my long-ago mentors would be a help to you as well: “MrPete, you’re a smart guy. Shut up for a few years and learn to listen… and then you will have something valuable to contribute.”
Boy that stung… (!) but it was good advice.

John F. Pittman
August 14, 2007 6:29 am

For TCO from your article on questionable conduct:
Others that are synonomous with fabrication/falsification:
Questionable research practices include activities such as the following:
Failing to retain significant research data for a reasonable period.
Maintaining inadequate research records, especially for results that are published or are relied on by others;
Conferring or requesting authorship on the basis of a specialized service or contribution that is not significantly related to the research reported in the paper;
Refusing to give peers reasonable access to unique research materials or data that support published papers;
Using inappropriate statistical or other methods of measurement to enhance the significance of research findings;
Inadequately supervising research subordinates or exploiting them; and
Misrepresenting speculations as fact or releasing preliminary research results, especially in the public media, without providing sufficient data to allow peers to judge the validity of the results or to reproduce the experiments. [COSEPUP 1992:28, emphasis in original]4
For those who wish to know. Falsification may be the best word to use for the reveiw of this work. In many areas that I am a professional, a false claim of quality is a falsification. You have falsely claimed that the data was true, accurate, and correct. When presenting data to many state and federal agencies, one must certify the quality. Failure to do so is subject to penalty. Falsification is subject to a five year felony (most often both state and federal; so you can be tried twice, since both are violations of different law). But as interesting as this discussion is. Just gander at what misconduct is!!! If only a fraction of what has been claimed, not to mention what has been admitted, there are a lot of AGW researchers, that want you to accept their work, that are in seriuos violation of the guidelines/ requirements. That the administrators of certain institutions may be refusing to make persons who recieved federal funding follow these guides/requirements shoiuld give other scientists and informed public cause to reject the claims of AGW or other “science” until they are met.

Julie KS
August 14, 2007 6:48 am

Re: the plants in the picture. I can’t be 100% sure without a closeup of the leaves, but to me those plants look very much like Giant Ragweed, Ambrosia trifida. It’s very common in my neighborhood, and I’ve killed a lot of it over the years.

August 14, 2007 7:44 am

Okay Julie,
Until we get definitive pictures we’ll call it weed and see how many Greenmen still sign up. 🙂

August 14, 2007 8:45 am

The core issue here seems to be whether the metadata is non-existent. Maybe I am not reading the report correctly, but to me it looks like Doug is saying the the DOE/CAS report in the 90s said that the metadata wasn’t currently available, and Wang is now saying that he had access to it via Zeng, who can no longer produce it. That doesn’t seem like convincing evidence of fabrication, however you want to define the word. At this point, if Wang can’t produce the data I think we are entitled to ignore the results of his work in this matter. Absent other evidence of willful misconduct on his part, however, I don’t see how the claim of fabrication is justified. Has that other evidence of misconduct been presented by Doug, and I have missed it?

August 14, 2007 10:27 am

The 1991 DOE report (the source of the data) on the China stations stated that the China station’s historical record was nor robust re: climate measurements. Too much movement. Too many gaps.
To state that the station’s records were robust they had to use the data without reading the attached report.
What are the odds?
(BTW Wang had a pre-publication version of the DOE report which accounts for the timing discrepancy)

Julie KS
August 14, 2007 2:00 pm

Right, JS, it’s definitely “weed” of some sort. Maybe we could ask the Chico Greenman for a verdict. Something tells me he probably has a lot of expertise on the subject.

August 14, 2007 2:21 pm

I doubt it. I have a sneeky suspicion that his “weed” comes in a plastic bag. On the other hand, ya never know, it is California and he might have a prescription.

Evan Jones
August 14, 2007 2:25 pm

This now worries me. There are a lot of crazy people out there, and I sure as the dickens wouldn’t want to be caught poking around some gang’s illegal plants–with a camera. Might be the last place I ever poked.
I repeat, if a volunteer sees any obviously suspicious plants, I advise (s)he leave at once and for god’s sake don’t take any pictures.

Julie KS
August 15, 2007 7:37 am

Evan, your advice to be careful is well taken. I had never really considered the potential danger. Once while doing veg surveys for the city, I found what later turned out to be a pot patch. Fortunately, it was long abandoned, and the only sign of it was the drip irrigation system and some containers. I didn’t have the slightest idea what I’d found, or that there could be any danger, so I just GPSed it and reported it. Only later did I learn what that stuff was for.
Kidding aside, I do think that those plants in the picture are probably giant ragweed, but you are right that if in doubt, it’s better to play it safe.

Evan Jones
August 15, 2007 10:20 am

I wasn’t aking it seriously at first, myself. Then I got to thinking.
But the topic at hand, the questionable quality of the foreign data.
I note cases of both warming and cooling biases in the unaccounted moves. Is this tit-for-tat, or is there an overall upward or downward bias indicated?

August 17, 2007 10:05 am

A number of Chinese “rural” stations are in places which, as of the 1950s and 1960s, were podunk with, at best, villages. But during the period 1970 – 2000, some of these made transformations into exurban / industrial zones. Type locations for this would be the industrial satellites of Shanghai, and the endless development zone around the Pearl River Delta.

Evan Jones
August 19, 2007 10:40 am

True, I expect a more severe form of exurban (straight-urban, in this case) creep eating up the stations as in the US.
But there is also mention of urban stations being moved to the seashore and stuff like that, and, of course, one must look at all factors at once.
(Perhaps the data is so bad it’s not terribly useful.)

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