Spot the thermometer in this photo


I have a new tool for evaluation of the micro-site measurement environment near thermometers. The first site I’ve surveyed has not one but two potential biases. Can you spot them? Can you guess what they are?

This may be the first image of it’s kind. I don’t recall seeing IR photo’s of NOAA thermometers in situ local environment anywhere before. Correct me if I’m wrong.

Read on to see the picture in visible light for comparison…


As you can see, the NOAA MMTS official thermometer is at the edge of a swimming pool, with the stucco wall of the observers residence just 29 feet away. You can see the heat from the residence in the stucco, and the pool, which is also warmer than the ambient air. The air temperature when this photo was taken was 54°F or 12°C. The pool appears to be about 14°C. of course the pool will be significantly warmer than the ambient air at night this time of year.

Here is another view with a wider angle:


This is the official USHCN station for Livermore, CA. I’ll have a complete writeup on this in the near future, but for now you can see the photo gallery here at

23 thoughts on “Spot the thermometer in this photo

  1. Anthony, you’re not supposed to open your toys until Christmas, but in this case we’ll make an exception. As for the biases, these are guesses: 1) the background (obviously nearby) looks 8 degrees C warmer than the MMTS and 2) the pole the MMTS sits on seems to be a degree or two warmer than the sensor housing.

  2. Anthony,
    Last week I was thinking that it might be a good idea to do an Infrared scan of a site with bad micro-station issues (i.e., paving, buildings, concrete, A/C exhausts, etc.) and another scan of a clean rural site nearly simultaneously at different times of the day (noon, 6P.M., midnight, 6A.M.). Scans from the ground and, if possible, from neighboring flat roofs or windows overlooking the sites.
    I have no idea how to do this or how one could calibrate the results for comparison purposes, but it might be revealing even if only on a visual basis.
    Just a thought.

  3. Damn!
    What a concept. Measure the temperature of the environment the environmental thermometer is in.
    Amazing how obvious an idea is once somebody is bright enough to think of it.
    A question that is sort of on the topic…..
    A long time ago when I was young(er) and (more) foolish I was more interested in trying get the government out of my life and less interested in details like the price it was paying for toilet seats and coffee pots.
    But in that era I think I recall a minor scandal involving hugely expensive thermometers designed to detect the dread global warming. The highlight of the story as I recall it was that the thermometers were found to have errors larger than the differences they were supposed to measure.
    I am pretty sure it was not a siteing issue but rather something intrinsic in the design or precision (or accuracy–I’m not sure) of the instruments.
    I have not run across anything recently that resonates with this–did I imagine it all>

  4. What a great, simple idea. Makes a body think, “Why didn’t *I* think of that?”
    What LS said.
    Hats off to the Rev!

  5. Some, if not all, micro-site biases should lessen the stronger the wind. It should be possible to use a subset of stations in a rural environment but with significant micro-site problems to estimate the overall impact of these on temperature? (If compared to a subset of well-placed rural stations on windy vs calm nights.) Someone who’s a good friend of math lab, with access to these data, should have a very interesting paper to publish with not to much work to be done…

  6. Questions:
    Do you know what the body of the mmts is made out of? Reason – plastic breaks down, becomes less shiny. Would go along with your paint experiment.
    What time of day was this taken? Are max/min recorded at same time each day?
    Reason – since it appears that the case is warmer than the surrounding air, did the case reach max daily temp before the air temp did? (if that makes sense…)
    Also, did the case hold heat during min temp time?
    I’m also wondering if the side of the sensor facing the “heat source” would show a diff temp than the side facing away.
    It would be interesting to see if a particular housing/shield holds temp better under the same conditions (NIMBUS/MMTS/Stevenson Screen/HYG, etc).
    REPLY: Henry they are made of a plastic, but I don’t know the composition. There seems to be a slight yellowing factor to some of them, but it does not appear to be large in magnitude. They are low mass, and seem to track air temperature fairly well.
    I’m going to ask to come back to this site at night to get follow up IR pix to answer the questions about the home/pool radiating and causing a split bias on the MMTS housing.

  7. Anthony –
    Just for general info, IR images should only really be used for qualatative assessment, unless there is a specific calibration to frequencies or to surfaces. That’s because every surface has a different emissivity. Brings me back to the first IR sensor I used that was similar to this – it was a $50K instrument and looked like a shoulder camera (like the ones you see news guys carry). Nonetheless, its interesting to see this.
    REPLY: Understood and I’ve known that. My intent was to show the environment, and potentially biasing elements as an adjunct to the reasoning behind the distance based site quality rating system. There are those that complain that nearby objects don’t have the potential to bias the temperature measurement. Seeing an image of where heat is and is not is helpful in understanding the issue.

  8. What we all have to keep repeating in the back of our minds as we look at the biases is that the warming observed over the last 100 years is .6 degrees C.
    Could this be explained via another mechanism besides being caused by carbon dioxide build-up – such as an overheating Dodge parked on the acres of asphalt beside the foundry wall where the MTSS is attached?
    I have a question that might be off topic but has anyone done a controlled experiment where CO2 levels were tested for their effect on temp. Imagine a round room, 30 feet in diameter, with a powerful full spectrum light source suspended in the center about 15 feet off the floor. Around the room, Plexiglas boxes, 1 meter square with appropriate concentrations of atmospheric gases sit on tables a few feet off the floor. The only difference would be the level of CO2, 200 ppm, 300 ppm, 400 ppm, etc. Thermometers in each box would record continuous levels of temp to determine this level of forcing we hear so much about.
    I just can’t accept that a concentration that represents less that 1.5” on a football field means doom for the planet.

  9. All of us at urge that we all pray for the souls of those involved in this blatant, obvious fraud of siting thermometers to give desired results instead of accurate readings.
    As Dante said, those involved in “complex frauds”, especially those that cheat taxpayers, end up in the 8th Circle of The Inferno.

  10. I assuming that you’d recommend situating the sensor somewhere more “natural”… but isn’t data like this important too? I mean… people live in environments like this, right? How important is it for someone to know the temperature of some pristine area? Just curious– this is TOTALLY not something I know about.

  11. All of us at (ok, not a real web site) hope that anyone perpetrating a fraud in order to further a political agenda regarding global warming get their just desserts, since we know that praying has zero effect on anything.

  12. to Bob L
    I hunted on the net for 3 months for one and could not find any CO2 sensitivity experiment that did not include a computer climate model. It is amazing that after 30 years of computer climate modeling that there is not one controled experiment that validate CO2 sensitivity to any atmosphere (like your home).
    If CO2 is that “forcing” to an atmosphere as computer climate models show, we would have had CO2 climate control systems in our homes 20 years ago to save energy. Think about it.

  13. Bob L. I have found an early experiment on the CO2 – IR mechanism:
    R. W. Wood, “Note on the Theory of the Greenhouse”, Philosophical magazine 17, pgs 319-320 (1909)
    Here is an excerpt:
    “There appears to be a widespread belief that the comparatively high temperature produced within a closed space covered with glass, and exposed to solar radiation, results from a transformation of wave-length, that is, that the heat waves from the Sun, which are able to penetrate the glass, fall upon the walls of the enclosure and raise its temperature: the heat energy is re-emitted by the walls in the form of much longer waves, which are unable to penetrate the glass, the greenhouse acting as a radiation trap.
    I have always felt some doubt as to whether this action played any very large part in the elevation of temperature. It appeared much more probable that the part played by the glass was the prevention of the escape of the warm air heated by the ground within the enclosure. If we open the doors of a greenhouse on a cold and windy day, the trapping of radiation appears to lose much of its effcacy. As a matter of fact I am of the opinion that a greenhouse made of a glass transparent to waves of every possible length would show a temperature nearly, if not quite, as high as that observed in a glass house.
    The transparent screen allows the solar radiation to warm the ground, and the ground in turn warms the air, but only the limited amount within the enclosure. In the “open”, the ground is continually brought into contact with cold air by convection currents.
    To test the matter I constructed two enclosures of dead black cardboard, one
    covered with a glass plate, the other with a plate of rock-salt of equal thickness. The bulb of a thermometer was inserted in each enclosure and the whole packed in cotton, with the exception of the transparent plates which were exposed. When exposed to sunlight the temperature rose gradually to 65 °C, the enclosure covered with the salt plate keeping a little ahead of the other, owing to the fact that it transmitted the longer waves from the Sun, which were stopped by the glass. In order to eliminate this action the sunlight was first passed through a glass plate. There was now scarcely a difference of one degree between the temperatures of the two enclosures.
    The maximum temperature reached was about 55 °C. From what we know about the distribution of energy in the spectrum of the radiation emitted by a body at 55 °C, it is clear that the rock-salt plate is capable of transmitting
    practically all of it, while the glass plate stops it entirely. This shows us that the loss of temperature of the ground by radiation is very small in comparison to the loss by convection, in other words that we gain very little from the circumstance that the radiation is trapped.
    Is it therefore necessary to pay attention to trapped radiation in deducing the
    temperature of a planet as affected by its atmosphere? The solar rays penetrate the atmosphere, warm the ground which in turn warms the atmosphere by contact and by convection currents. The heat received is thus stored up in the atmosphere, remaining there on account of the very low radiating power of a gas. It seems to me very doubtful if the atmosphere is warmed to any great extent by absorbing the radiation from the ground, even under the most favourable conditions.
    I do not pretend to have gone very deeply into the matter, and publish this note merely to draw attention to the fact that trapped radiation appears to play but a very small part in the actual cases with which we are familiar.”

  14. Global warming is real and we are in the 11th hour. Please tell your Congressperson to support the Bali initiative. Do you want your grand-children to drown, melt, or have to war for scare resources?

  15. Pingback: » Bali-wood II, The Forest Thickens

  16. Run, Johnny, Run! I noticed you haven’t given up your computer for a CO2-free lifestyle, so you really can’t be that scared…

  17. Yes, remember the massive world-wide famines of the 1980s? And how all the resources ran out by the year 2000? And the mass extinctions? And the J-curve die-off that resulted in a 90% depopulation of the earth? And how it all resulted in World War IV? (Oh, yeah, and let’s not forget the tragedy of industry-caused Global Cooling.)
    All sold to you by the same crowd that sells you AGW (at great expense).
    Looking back on all that, we’f better ACT NOW. No time to think. (And for gaia’s sake, shut the deniers up before they multiply!)

Comments are closed.