Weather Stations Disappearing Worldwide

I know, this sounds like “save the whales”.

Amazing as this sounds, weather stations used to monitor near surface temperature for the global climate record are disappearing worldwide at and alarming rate. There are two things going on here: 1) Stations are actually being closed down, particularly in Canada and in Russia in the early 1990’s. 2) Some stations while open, have disappeared off the reporting radar for global temperature metrics such as GISS.

Watch the video here prepared by our super volunteer and unofficial historian John W. Goetz. It outlines how the worldwide network has grown since the 1890’s, and then dwindled in modern times.

If you wish to play the video at full resolution in Windows Media Player, here is a link to the WMV file.

The USA remains the world leader not only in the number of weather stations but also in the quality of the network. Given what problems I’ve found thus far in the USHCN network in the USA, this does not bode well for the quality of GHCN stations in the rest of the world.

John recently did a writeup on this on Climate Audit called: Historical Station Distribution

In response to that, Steve McIntyre recently found that a number of stations that went missing from the NASA GISTEMP dataset are still actually in operation, and producing data, are not being updated into the GISTEMP dataset for some reason.  Irregardless of the reason, the problem of dwindling data for the ROW as demonstrated by the video above is real.

What is strange though is that some obviously easy to locate data, (link to data) such as Bern, Switzerland, where the headquarters of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) are located, are missing from NASA GISTEMP. Nearby stations such as Zurich, Switzerland are included in the GISTEMP database.

Other stations, such as Crater Lake, OR, are removed from the GISS source code released last year, with a citation saying they are excluded (but exist online in GISTEMP), but no reason is given. yet other stations like this terrible rooftop station cum heat anomaly (and closed by NWS for that reason) in Baltimore, MD are included.

I find this odd since GISS has been working hard to include and apply as many station corrections as possible. Why would they include Crater Lake in the online database, but not in the Model E Global Circulation Model code they run and released last year?

It begs the question: what could be the explanation for such randomness in whether or not stations are used? Why are some stations with known current data excluded from the NASA GISS online database and climate modeling?

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March 6, 2008 8:30 pm

It could be argued from your four series comparison that the satellite data are sufficient now and that only a few very good ground stations might be needed for ground-truth checks. Yes, it would be good to have more data points, but given the quality concerns, is losing bad stations that much of problem? Which is worse bad data or no data?

Evan Jones
March 6, 2008 8:44 pm

But what if the satellite proxies are off because of past correlation of method with bad ground stations?
What we need is a good ground network. (And I would venture to bet that current satellite measurement methods would diverge from it.)

Evan Jones
March 6, 2008 8:53 pm

What the heck was going on with Turkey? BAM! All blue, BAM! Fade to red, then to nothing.
REPLY: The little popup thermometer on turkey “popped” indicating it was done. After that, the thermomter was discarded. 😉
John Goetz – can you help?

March 6, 2008 9:19 pm

Turkey was done in 1990…same as China. That is about the time GISS switched to MCDW data. Steve McIntyre has noted this effect a number of times on CA.

March 6, 2008 9:31 pm

I’d love to see an audit of Australian sites similar to that being undertaken in the US. Australia covers almost as much area.
IN the 1990s, literally hundreds of Australian stations were deleted from the GISS network. Nearly all of these are still operational, including about 44 rural or semi-rural sites that now form part of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s “High Quality” network.
While these are still operational, the data is not freely available. You have to order a quite expensive CD-ROM. The BoM publishes nationwide averages and trends, but their methodology is almost completely opaque.
GISS has current data for only about 40 Australian sites (excluding offshore). By my count, only eleven of these are rural sites with populations of less than 10,000.
Out of about 600 Australian stations that are being used by GISS or have been used in the past, there is only one mainland rural site that has continuous data from 1930 to the present (Cape Leeuwin).

March 6, 2008 9:56 pm

what could be the explanation for such randomness in whether or not stations are used?
A bar chart of number of stations by amount of warming will show how much warming you get depends on the stations you use.
Without well defined criteria for inclusion and regular undependent audits, bias in selecting stations is inevitable, unconcious or otherwise.

March 7, 2008 1:03 am

The surface temperature data are fraught with so many inconsistencies, sloppiness, irregularities and manipulation that they cannot be takien seriously. Satellites are the data source we can rely on.

March 7, 2008 4:29 am

Minor note.
Irregardless is not a word. It’s just plain old regardless.
REPLY: Well if it is in the dictionary, it qualifies.

March 7, 2008 7:01 am

Various organizations have collected temperature data from meteorological
organizations around the world. Some continue to do so. Some pass on
much of that data in more or less convenient manners. One such
organization is the US NCDC, a part of NOAA.
Among their collections of data is GHCN V2, a combination of previously
collected (i.e. mostly old) data from numerous sources, and relatively
recent data from some US locations, and some non-US locations that are
MCDW locations, i.e. many fewer locations than were among the collections
of old data. The apparent “drop” in the numbers of GHCN stations was
largely due to the large number of non-MCDW stations that were included
among the collections of old data.
See the paper:
Peterson, T.C., and R.S. Vose, 1997: An overview of the Global
Historical Climatology Network temperature database. Bulletin of the
American Meteorological Society, 78 (12), 2837-2849. (PDF Version)
linked at:
for more information on GHCN V2 sources.
Non-US locations which are not MCDW locations are not included in the
GHCN process for gathering relatively recent data.

Stan Needham
March 7, 2008 7:49 am

Turkey was done in 1990…same as China. That is about the time GISS switched to MCDW data. Steve McIntyre has noted this effect a number of times on CA.
Anthony, looks like you need to make an addition to your Glossary:
MCDW = Monthly Climatic Data for the World

Evan Jones
March 7, 2008 9:31 am

Steve McIntyre has noted this effect a number of times on CA.
Sheesh. Isn’t that why God made gridding?
If this goes on much longer I will be beginning to lose my faith in the adjustment process or something.

March 7, 2008 4:01 pm

I keep hereing rumors that the sattelite data was “adjusted” to match the surface data better. Is that true? If so, that would be disturbing.

March 7, 2008 6:24 pm

I keep hearing rumors that the sattelite data was “adjusted” to match the surface data better. Is that true?

Quite possibly, but we have no way of knowing, since any such adjustment would be described rather differently.
We need someone to audit the raw satellite data, the way Steve and others have been auditing the raw weather station data. To interpret the data, one needs both the raw measurements, and the precise distance north and south of the satellite’s range. The exact orbital data would be nice. How do we know what the orbit is?

Evan Jones
March 7, 2008 6:26 pm

Check out comments on:
A look at temperature anomalies for all 4 global metrics: Part 2

March 7, 2008 11:36 pm

A couple grammatical nits to pick: First, to “beg the question” means to commit the logical fallacy of assuming the truth of the proposition one intends to prove. It is not synonymous with the phrase “raises the question,” which was how you employed it here. Second, the word “irregardless” is of highly dubious authenticity and ought to be replaced with “irrespective” or simply “regardless.”
(Hey, it’s the reason you keep a blog, right?)

March 7, 2008 11:38 pm

Why was my comment deleted?

March 7, 2008 11:38 pm

F*** y**
REPLY: Above comment was edited by moderator for cleanliness.

March 7, 2008 11:42 pm

Hello? What’s happening?
REPLY: Its called a moderation que, Pacific Standard Time, and I’m asleep at the time you posted the comment. You might want to pay closer attention to the message posted after pressing “submit” or read the policy page before hurling insults because you didn’t get what you wanted immediately.

David P
March 8, 2008 8:01 am

For the layman, that little vid display leaves the distinct impression that a “global mean surface temp” derived from those increasingly sparse observation points is a complete fiction, or, at best, a very shaky guess. Yet those measurements appear to be at the foundation of AGW data analyses. Am I missing something?

David P
March 8, 2008 8:07 am

Also, I was wondering if anyone has run a test to determine the correlation between the rate of decline of reporting stations and the climbing surface temp trend, rendered graphically? The decline in # of stations is very evident by 1990, and gets worse. Is it a coincidence that so much of the “warming” troubling AGW proponents has occurred since then?

Evan Jones
March 8, 2008 9:43 am

This whole thing raises up the gridding issue.
We have had to deal with just about every calculation and adjustment issue going on around this-here science. I sure wish there was SOME sort of measure we could count on.
For example, CO2 measurement. (I know about the Beck study, and I know it has been “refuted” but questions remain.)
Does anyone know how I would go about calculating how much CO2 a city puts out if there is a huge firestorm and it burns to the ground? There were a half dozen firestorms at least during WWII (not including the A-Bombs) yet there is a slight depression in the CO2 measurements. This raises my suspicions as to the accuracy/coverage of Antarctic ice core measurements for this purpose.

An Inquirer
March 8, 2008 11:38 am

I am sorry, Anthony, to bother you, but could you do some appropriate snipping of Matt Beck’s postings. Not only are they offensive to me without any intellectual contribution, but I also like to send students to this blog. It would be entirely inappropriate to send my students to such vulgar language.
REPLY: I had planned to leave them up long enough for him to realize his own mistake, but I’ll do some editing now.

Mike Stallard
March 9, 2008 9:48 am

Will you allow me, a total non scientist, to thank you all for a very scholarly and scientific approach? I got to your site through Christopher Booker in the (English) Sunday Telegraph. He has never let me down yet and this time, he has come up trumps!
Thank you all – and keep up the science!

Solomon Green
March 12, 2008 12:10 pm

As with Mike Stallard, I got this site through Christopher Booker. I am no scientist but, as an actuary, I understand statistics a little bit. It is interesting that last month I dined together with about thirty other actuaries to listen to Piers Corbyn an astrophysicist rubbishing much of the climatechange/globalwarming/allduetomanmadeCO2 theories. None of those actuaries present believed that the theory was justified by the statistics.

March 12, 2008 8:48 pm

[…] and is in need of more attention and funding. Given the recent study by John Goetz that shows a number of weather stations worldwide have been closed, and with my project finding stations placed in sub-optimal locations like […]

Grujeff Sons
March 16, 2008 10:47 am

the big drop off of stations in 1990 was equal to about 30 % of the stations . The average temperature increases about 1 degree celsius during the drop off in number of stations. Thats accordign to one graph I saw, and that 30% decrease in stations represented about 1500 ground stations. P.s. the raw temperatures from the stations are also changed according to formulas that are used to account for and discount the effects of “heat islands” and what have you, so we have to have a lot of faith in those people crunching those numbers. P.s a 30% decrease in stations and a .2% increase in Kelvin temperature ( that is what a 1 celsius increase is equal to in Kelvins which is on a scale of 450 points. look it up) happened around the same time. + on another note: look up the effects of volcanic ash on light getting through the armosphere at the hawai stations in the early 90’s from Pintatubo.

August 30, 2008 5:51 pm

If you are really interested in global temperatures, do read:
Jones, Wigley & Wright, “Global temperature variations between 1861 and 1984”, Nature 322, 31st July 1986, p.430ff.
Since 1986 the temperature data, which are published and used, are “corrected” data, where about 960,000 sets of data from the period 1861-1945 have been removed because “this difference is also **likely** to reflect a non-climatic inhomogenity in either the MAT data or the land data, **probably** the former.”
The article contains lots of “considered”, “thought to have”, “suggesting”, “generally assumed”, “likely”, etc.
The temperatures have been reduced by – (two examples from the list: 1861-73: -0,4 C; 1942-45: -0,54C).
The actually measured temperatures were published in Oort et. al.: “Historical trends in the surface temperature over the oceans based on the COADS”, Climate Dynamics 2, pp. 29-38, 1987.

November 15, 2008 3:26 pm

[…] know from John Goetz work as well as this artcle in Nature that Russian weather stations had been closing with regularity due […]

December 4, 2008 8:05 am

[…] Says U.N. Climate Agency Rife With Bad Practices 4 12 2008 Perhaps now the problems with disappearing weather stations and slow or non-existent updates of GHCN weather data can be explained. The U.N. appears to be […]

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