Road trip Update: Day 1 at NCDC

I felt right at home when I walked into Dr. Bruce Baker’s office for the Climate Reference Network (CRN):

Why? Because the first thing they had, front and center, were pictures of every CRN site:

and more of them on other walls:

I asked about them, and the reply was: “every time we put in a new CRN station, up goes the picture”.

I spent and hour meeting with director Tom Karl and Assistant Director Sharon LeDuc, both were in attendance for my presentation on what we’ve all learned from the surfacestations project.

Quote of the day from Dr. Thomas Karl: “You and your volunteers have surveyed almost half of the network on a zero budget. If we had undertaken this, it would have meant preparing several proposals and allocating thousands of dollars”.

Yep.

Bruce also bought lunch, and I had a rousing discussion on instrumentation with him and Grant Goodge. More later.

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42 thoughts on “Road trip Update: Day 1 at NCDC

  1. Sounds like a winner! (The belittling has begun already on the blog-that-must-not-be-named.)
    Looking forward to more.
    How did those CRN sites look?
    REPLY: Unsurprisingly, they looked like CRN1 and 2’s. I was impressed with the diligence they have gone through to ensure siting is not an issue in the present or future. I am more convinced than ever that the CRN will be accurate. I threw about a half dozen what ifs and they had relevant and applicable answers for each issue. It is well thought out.
    In other news, Matt Menne reads this blog, and spent and hour and a half with me today. He used several entries posted here in his presentation today on USHCN2. Here is a relevant paper:
    http://ams.confex.com/ams/pdfpapers/100694.pdf
    Though there’s another coming in BAMS on USHCN2.
    Today was very cordial friendly, and there was none of that sniping that we see from the dark and angry. While Menne and I disagreed on some points related to detecting sit biases, I came away feeling that we had both gained from the experience. While USHCN2 is a huge step forward in detecting and correcting for undocumented change points like “sudden asphalt syndrome”, it still won’t catch long term drifts such as moldy MMTS’s or slow urban creep within the station representivity zone.

  2. Anthony, maybe you can get some no strings attached $$ from them to help fund your survey?
    REPLY: Money can’t buy you love, but access is golden.

  3. Awsome!!! I’m going to buy myself a bottle of wine to celebrate the recognition. Of course, I would have had the wine anyway, but now I have a good rationalization.
    REPLY: Rationialzation is the mother of exemption

  4. When they say: “If we had undertaken this, it would have meant preparing several proposals and allocating thousands of dollars”.
    They means 100’s of thousands if not millions.

  5. Maybe our government will be shamed into into survaying the rest of the site.
    But then again, that would take ten years.

  6. Just opening the bid would have cost tens thousands, and it would take at least five years to get funding approval to release a contract.

  7. The station survey is NOT zero budget.
    It’s a voluntary, self funded exercise. Note that the station curators/operators are also not funded for daily operations.
    REPLY: point taken, we have all contributed to this, in time, money, sweat equity, and ideas. I think Dr. Karl was referring to zero GOVERNMENT budget. Which by the expression on his face when he said it implied incredulity that we have been able to get this far.

  8. And Hansen would have headed the bid selection committee.
    Seriously, IMO the best thing would be the coordination of a unified data structure. There’s these computer thingies nowadays that have no problem with 4 dimensional thousand field sparsely [populated matricies that record every raw and adjusted aspect of any sensor readings.

  9. So far it’s cost me one Italian dinner and an undisclosed amount of drinkin’, gas, and grits money for Anthony.
    I’ve gotten far more than my money’s worth. It’s been a bargain.
    I may have to get me one of dem thar computer thingies too!

  10. The best part of the Surface Stations Survey, of course, is the data and insight that will come from it. Second best and nearly equally important is the outlet it provide for lay people to help scientific research. Amateur birders through Audubon’s annual bird count or simply monitoring what comes to the feeder provide a lot of data that would be very expensive to do otherwise. Amateur astronomers are probably the group best allied with their professional brethren. Amateurs find a lot of the comets and novae, but they also take on a lot of the grunt work like monitoring variable stars.
    It’s very nice to see the SSS earning the respect of the CRN folks. It will be interesting to see the impact that the SSS and follow on projects will have on climatology. Keep up the great work!

  11. …oh, and I guess someone should send a note to Eli Rabbittttt-a, showing that this project, according to Dr. Karl himself, was not the big waist of time Mr. Rabbittttt-a claimed.

  12. PS. I was looking at the Spot-O-Meter, i.e. the link to the picture of the sun, and thought I saw a new sun spot. Turns out it was just a smudge on my laptop screen!

  13. 4 dimension? N dimensions in real time, slice and and dice, baby – not even hard, just alittle pricey.

  14. As my Dad used to say years ago Hot Diggity Dog some body is watching.
    Congrats Anthony,
    Bill Derryberry

  15. THE WHOLE WORLD IS WATCHING!
    THE WHOLE WORLD IS WATCHING!
    THE WHOLE WORLD IS WATCHING . . .

  16. Anthony,
    Well yes, but not a zero budget for us volunteers. We have put a lot of miles on our vehicles, and spend many hours search for clues as to the location of some of the surface station sensors. NCDC could help cut down on our cost by providing access to the exact locations, contacts, and give us permission to contact the private citizens who are operating some of the surface stations. Can they provide a volunteer log in using a list of vetted volunteers from your list? With just better access to information it could be a big help visiting the last half of the sites on your surface station list.
    Russ
    REPLY: Working on that very issue, government never moves fast. It’s possible, in discussion. Remember, a year ago they closed of certain data access. Now they’ve invited me to present. I’d say that it progress.

  17. This is dandy, Anthony. You’ve done a fine job of getting a foot in the door.
    It’s great that CRN stations might be well sited for future weather/climate monitoring, but I see no recognition of the fact that the surfacestations.org effort has cataloged the totally awful condition of most USHCN stations around the country.
    We taxpayers have provided millions/billions of bucks for a “climate monitoring network” that has provided junk numbers. There’s no kinder way to say that.
    The USHCN data give us little useful/verifiable information about local or regional temp/climate trends for surface sites in the US.
    I’d stand up and salute Tom Karl if he announces tomorrow that we (NASA/NOAA) honestly don’t know squat about historic temperature trends (prior to satellite data).
    Until that happens, I think I’ll keep my seat.

  18. @Jeez
    That was also my first thought!
    “You and your volunteers have surveyed almost half of the network on a zero budget. If we had undertaken this, it would have meant preparing several proposals and allocating THOUSANDS of dollars”.
    These govt folks have a habit of grossly overstating temperatures while grossly understating budgets.
    I’m also wondering if the NCDC is going to use Anthony’s work to justify further adjusting (downwards) earlier temperature records.
    HELP!
    To other readers, I have to admit I’m awfully confused with the alphabet soup of US agencies (USHCN, GISS, NCDC) involved in temperature recording and all the station closings etc., etc. Who exactly is responsible for recording temperatures? Is the NCDC finally going to be the official network in the future? Exactly which stations are being (or will be) used?
    If someone took a few minutes to guide me out of the woods, in which I’m hopelessly lost, I’d be most grateful.
    I have the same problem with the German network. There are stations located at airports, but not used by the German Weather Service. I’ve called the Weather Service, but keep gettin the bureaucratic run-around (so much for the myth of German efficiency). No one can tell me where I can find a list of stations used by the German Weather Service.

  19. When are we going to see a temperature series computed from the existing class 1 and 2 stations only?
    REPLY: I get this question a lot, and the answer is that we don’t have enough stations yet to do a meaningful analysis. There are just a handful of 1/2 stations with poor spatial distribution. Only 44% of the network has been surveyed, and it would seem that a majority would be required in order to get a realistic number of 1/2 stations given the 13% makeup we have now.

  20. sonicfrog: There was a new Cycle 24 spot yesterday, but is is all but gone today in the visual spectrum. The magnitogram shows it though.

  21. Anthony you and the volunteers have done an outstanding job. But if you want to see things get really screwed up just get the government involved.

  22. There’s a couple of policy positions that would have wiped out a lot of the uncertainty we see from studying (with hindsight) the way USHCN has gone.
    A policy of requiring a solid overlap period for every station change or move would go a long way.
    One thing we see repeatedly is the effect of station moves. Requiring that the new location receive new gear, and operate for a year prior to decommissioning the old site would give a pretty solid comparison between the two locations. Then if you want to rebaseline or combine the two series, you have a solid idea of the actual microsite differences between the two sites.
    A second policy could be focussing on promoting volunteerism. The minimal requirements for a temperature-only station are quite low, automation electronics can be cheap, now throw in digital cameras and GPS units. What if NCDC (or NIST, or some standards group) could accept a standardized design of not just the MMTS, but also a solar panel/datalogger/rest-of-station gear?

  23. Forgive my novice and somewhat off-topic question here. I was in a discussion with someone today that essentially rejected microsite bias as a legitimate issue because “the data from the network isn’t really used anywhere anymore”, citing the much more prominent use of other data sources for temperature change. Can someone enlighten me please?
    REPLY: You’ve been misled. The COOP network, of which the USHCN stations are a subset, are in fact still used by NOAA, NCDC, GISS, and HadCRUT for climate monitoring. You cna prove it to yourself by going here:
    GISS: http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/station_data/
    choose a station near you by clicking on the map to get a list, then click on the station of choice in the list to see the graph…that’s NASA GISS using a COOP station to present climate trends
    Then to see that it is in fact part of the NOAA Cooperative Observer Network, go to NCDC’s Multi Metadata System (MMS) loging and serach for that station name and click on results for the details.
    http://mi3.ncdc.noaa.gov/mi3qry/login.cfm
    I just came from NCDC in Asheville, and I can assure you the old network is still very much in use. -Anthony

  24. I think the burning question is regarding the CRN 4 and 5 stations that you have documented. Are they going to do anything about them? Adjust the temperature data based on the your documented site evaluation? Or stuff the report in a binder and then put the binder on the shelf with all the binders collecting dust? If it would take them thousands of dollars for request proposals to even visit their own equipment, what pray tell will it take to correct the documented problems? And how will they comply with the Data Quality Act?
    REPLY: NCDC is doing an end-run around the problem with the CRN network and the new HCN-M network (CRN Lite). Post coming on this shortly.

  25. Sorry, I don’t buy the “thousands of dollars” excuse.
    Sure, it would be an expense to assign a new independent team of consultants to go to each site and collect the data. Your voluteers took on that task, without any direct responsibly for the system’s results, and accepted the cost burdens. Any such “professional” team would obviously cost big $$.
    But, there are persons already assigned, and likely paid, to monitor the condition of each site. Asking each monitor to collect the info. and forward a couple pictures should not incur any additional costs, except postage. These people are already on the payroll, this is a request to do their job.
    That look on his face was fear that a group of volunteers was demonstrating the incompetance of the government scientists to properly do what they have been paid handsomely for.
    Don’t forget to ask for the technical papers that monitor the accuracy of the new systems vs the older installations during the long term, you known, the initial side-by-side sytem calibration installations.
    Also, get that paper that compares the results from stations located at the various sides (and roof) of the same building, (plus the one in the middle of the parking lot) versus the data from a control unit optimally located in a open field within 200 m. That’s the microsite effects research that needs to be done to evaluate the uncertainty of the mess that’s currently used.

  26. BTW, Rev, thanks for the “reply upadate”. Any idea when the CRn system is going to give us its first crop of numbers?
    And is the data going to be tabulated an collected by automation? At this stage of the game, I’d just as soon see that the deck is on the table and cut before the deal.

  27. Another problem that I see rising up will be the scientists “need” to splice the old USHCN data with the new CRN network (or CRN Lite).
    There’s no way the scientists are going to wait for 30 years of data from the CRN to look for trends.
    It may be as simple as others have suggested, use the existing CRN 1/2 sites as the baseline (raw, UNADJUSTED data). They wouldn’t have proven a need to adjust the new sites yet, so no need to adjust past yet. After a period (to be announced), analyze data as a whole to see if changes are needed.
    Also, who will own the CRN data? Whoever owns the data needs to stress that THEIRS is the official archive, and no changes will be made unless there is a coherent, archived reason. Need to prevent individuals from making changes to past for no reason.
    Also, stress to all that a common reporting period needs to be defined. Bring the old (CRN 1/2) up to the end of the century and re-compute in 2010.
    One more thing. What data do they have for ROW? CA has been doing the “where’s waldo” series, trying to find the world’s surface stations.

  28. I’m worried. Is he being held captive? Being made to paint Steveson Screens?
    Redraw graphs?

  29. Evan Jones that study you linked to on “measuring temps above asphalt/concrete as opposed to grass” is an eye opener. The temperature differences are huge.

  30. Yeah. The Rev did a post some time back comparing a Baltimore rooftop with surround rural sites (The “HOT-L Baltimore” observations), and it clocks in at about the same rate as Yilmaz.
    The kicker is that a heat sink (like a chunk of asphalt) not only creates a heating offset, but ALSO exaggerates a heating trend. See:
    LaDochy, Medina, Patzert. 2007. Recent California climate variability: spatial and temporal patterns in temperature trends. Climate Research, 33
    http://www.int-res.com/abstracts/cr/v33/n2/p159-169/

  31. There’s always this, too:
    TIME
    Sunday, Aug. 03, 2003
    How Cities Make Their Own Weather
    By Jeffrey Kluger
    When Houston is hit by a sudden storm, the city may be partly to blame. Increasingly, urban centers don’t merely endure bad weather; they help create it. Researchers believe the phenomenon may be more common now than ever before.
    Scientists have known for 200 years that the temperature in a city can be higher than that in its environs — something they learned when an amateur weather watcher detected a 1.58F temperature difference between London and its suburbs. Modern cities, with their cars and heat-trapping buildings, can create an even bigger temperature gap, sometimes as much as 10F.
    Islands of urban heat can do funny things with weather. Hot city air, like hot air anywhere else, rises — even more so because of the turbulence caused by tall buildings. When that air is damp enough and collides with colder layers above it, water can condense out as a sudden burst of rain, especially if there are few frontal systems to disrupt the layers, as in summer. In a spot storm above a city or just downwind of it, it’s likely that nature alone isn’t behind the downpour.
    NASA and the University of Arkansas have been using satellite mapping and ground-based temperature readings to determine how widespread this phenomenon is. This spring researchers got a surprise when they turned their attention to Houston. Because it’s near a coast and sea breezes tend to cool and disperse hot air, Houston was thought to be comparatively safe from homemade rain. Now it appears that the opposite may be true. “The sea breeze may exacerbate the rainfall,” says research meteorologist Marshall Shepherd of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. The warm air and sea air collide, he explains, and “move straight up like the front ends of two cars that hit head on, providing a pump of moist air that helps thunderstorms develop.”
    Hot, waterlogged cities can be cooled off in the usual ways — by limiting auto exhaust, for example. Using light-colored roofing and paving materials in place of black, heat-absorbing tar will also help. As a bonus, the cooler roof will reduce the need for air conditioning.
    ————————————
    The Urban Heat Island Effect And Its Influence On Summer Precipitation In The City And Surrounding Area
    http://www.theweatherprediction.com/weatherpapers/008/index.html

  32. Tks, Tony,
    I’m pleased that you have evaluated the USCRN sites and not found them wanting, the siting methodology sound, and I am even more pleased that you visited NCDC and the CRN office to present your findings and evaluate the people and their doings and intellectual honesty in those endeavours.

  33. Tks, Tony,
    I’m pleased that you have evaluated the USCRN sites and not found them wanting, the siting methodology sound, and I am even more pleased that you visited NCDC and the CRN office to present your findings and evaluate the people and their doings and intellectual honesty in those endeavours. Bruce B was probably a very gracious host, and Grant G is a botomless well of knowledge on instrument behavior; siting impacts, etc. Mike C drove the site selection process to completion and activation, and the Oak Ridge Boys were and are meticulous in their accomplising the impossible in the field, and in their very dutiful annual maintenance visits. Without this integration of skills there would have been no USCRM, AKCRN, GCOS CRN, etc.
    I am hopeful that the forthcoming USHCN-M station siting will follow the USCRN siting methodology – along with the CRN’s in HI, Alaska, Russia, Peru, etc. Let me know if you wish any information or inputs.
    Regards,
    Mike H.

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