How not to measure temperature, part 74

Sometimes, words fail me in describing the absolute disregard of the placement of NOAA official climate monitoring sites. For example, this one in Clarinda, Iowa submitted by surfacestations volunteer Eric Gamberg:

Click for larger image

The MMTS temperature sensor is the short pole next to the half pickup truck.

For those of you that don’t know, this station is located at the wastewater treatment plant there. I’ve written many times about the placement of stations at WWTP’s being a bad idea due to the localized heat bubble that is created due to all the effluent coming though. The effect is especially noticeable in winter. Often you’ll see steam/water vapor in the air around these sites in winter, and more than one COOP observer has told our volunteers that snow sometimes does not stick to the ground at WWTP’s.

The larger pole appears to be a gas burnoff torch for excess methane. I can’t say how often it is activated (note the automatic ignitor circuit on the pole) but I can tell you that putting an official NOAA climate thermometer within a few feet of such a device is one of the worst examples of thoughtless station placement on the part of NOAA I’ve ever seen. Here is an example of a methane burn-off device at another WWTP.

020806_methane_flare_pipes

click for larger image

We’ll probably never know what the true temperature is in Clarinda because untangling a measurements mess like this is next to impossible. How many days was Tmin and/or Tmax affected at this location by gas burnoff and to what magnitude? We shouldn’t have to ask these questions.

And, adding insult to stupidity, the GISTEMP Homogenization adjustment makes the trend go positive, especially in recent years:

clarinda_ia_temp_anim

Click image if animation does not start automatically

According to the NCDC MMS database for this station, the MMTS was installed on October 1, 1985. Who knows what the data would have looked like if somebody had thought through the placement. Whether or not the temperature sensor has been significantly affected or not by this placement is not the issue, violation of basic common sense siting guideline that bring the data into question is. Anything worth measuring using our public tax dollars is worth measuring correctly.

Dr. Hansen and Mr. Karl – welcome, feast your eyes on the source of your data. You might want to think about changing this description on the NCDC website for USHCN:

The United States Historical Climatology Network (USHCN) is a high quality, moderate-sized data set of daily and monthly records of basic meteorological variables from over 1000 observing stations across the 48 contiguous United States.

I suggest to NCDC that “high quality” doesn’t really apply in the description anymore.

I really could use some help, especially in Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas to get the USHCN nationwide climate network survey completed. If you have a digital camera and can follow some simple instructions, why not visit www.surfacestations.org and sign up as a volunteer surveyor. If you can’t help that way, donations to help fund trips such as these that I’ve been doing are greatly appreciated.

UPDATE 11/20 4:20PMPST: Some commenters such as Krysten Byrnes and Steve have suggested that the blink comparator above is wrong due to the fact that the scale on the left changes in offset. I realize that may create some confusion. A couple of clarifications are needed to address that.

First, these graphs are generated by the GISTEMP database, not me. I simply copied both from the GISTEMP website into my animation program. This includes the scale offset which is part of the difference in the original GISTEMP generated images. You can do the same thing also by visiting here: http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/station_data/  and putting Clarinda in the search box. Use the pulldown menu to select either data set you want. The above is the “combined sources” and also “after homogeneity adjustment”.

Second what is important to note here is that the slope of the trend changes as a result of the adjustment applied by GISS. It becomes more positive in the “homogenized” data set.

Third, in the “homogenized” data set, the past has been cooled, the present also made warmer, making the slope more positive over the timeline. Here is the Clarinda GISTEMP Homogenized data plot overlaid on the “raw” data plot. Again these are the original unmodified GISTEMP generated graphs using a simple cut and paste with transparent background technique:

clarinda_giss_compare-520

Click graph for full sized image

Note how the hinge point appears around 1980 where the data appears to match. Note also how the divergence between the two data sets increases either direction from this hinge point.

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hereticfringe

Hey, I have a spot next to my barbeque grill in the backyard where a temperature station could be installed. I’m sure that Hansen would be thrilled to have it put there!

Pierre Gosselin

I suggest the following description for Dr. Hansen and “Dr.” Karl to consider:
“The United States Historical Climatology Network (USHCN) is a ship-shod, positive-biased data set of daily and monthly records of easy-to-manipulate meteorological variables from over 1000 poorly sited observing stations across the 48 contiguous getting hotter United States.”

Steven Hill

Don’t worry, they have tweaked the reading for that station to allow for that burner. (wink)

Harold Ambler

Pierre Gosselin: (08:11:04): “The United States Historical Climatology Network (USHCN) is a ship-shod, positive-biased data set of daily and monthly records of easy-to-manipulate meteorological variables from over 1000 poorly sited observing stations across the 48 contiguous getting hotter United States.”
What is actually very hard to take is the knowledge that the network is almost certainly the best on Earth, as Bob Carter has observed.
Why is GISS data ramping up when declining temperatures worldwide are on the verge of shifting the debate? Coincidence? Second warmest October in history? Absolutely, except for …. no.
We need to start a 12-step program for warmaholics. Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over temperature, that our lies had become unmanageable.
When should the ENSO number for October be released? Is it published somewhere besides here http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/analysis_monitoring/ensostuff/ensoyears.shtml sooner?

Phillip Bratby

Every point before about 1905 has been adjusted down, 1905 to about 1935 is unadjusted and after about 1935 every point has been adjusted upwards! Any real reason for this?

TerryC

Would it be possible to adjust the temperature axes of the two graphs to the same scale. The animation makes the temperature appear to increase in recent years but if you correct for scale shift, the change appears to actually be a marked decrease in earlier temperatures. Recent temperatures appear to be minimally changed or even very slightly adjusted downwards.

Bill in Vigo

It is now my humble opinion that there will never be anything useful to come from the USHCN other than to be a useful tool for the political powers that be to control the American people. And now with the financial crisis the control will become almost total. We may be witnessing the end of the “Land of the Free”.
What is happening now is not conducive to the old American belief in home rule. God help us.
Bill Derryberry

MG

I would worry about the sludge pools more than the methane fire, which is also problematic. The positive bias could be HUGE at a site like this on a cold, calm winter night.

Has anyone performed an analysis of USA temperature trends (1950-2008 ?)using the untainted, unadjusted, temperature data available from ACCURATE weather stations (Those not directly affected by manmade heat sources such as paved roads and buildings)??
Given the pathetic general lack of use of scientific method in climate data analysis and reporting by NOAA and NASA, this would be very useful information.

Every time I read one of these reports, I think it could never get any worse, yet, there is always yet another example that just makes me shake my head. Anthony, I am still hoping to get to some of the sites in North Dakota soon to fill in that part of your map.

jerry

Anthony,
where can a person buy a Stevenson screen and all the guts that go into the box. The reason I am asking is my work is located in the Republic of Georgia and we have access to open rolling grasslands with nothing around on our property and also have lots of people on the payroll. If I know how to get one and what the cost would be I might be able to have one installed and done properly and start recording data. We are located in the boonies between the Caucasus and the Lesser Caucasus mountain ranges.

Frank Mosher

Lppking at the UAH data, since 1997, the warmest anomalies were 4/98 (warm) and 1/2000 (cool). Until those values are exceeded, it would appear we are observing “noise”. Doesn’t a trend require higher or lower values to constitute a trend? A doctor would not hospitalize a patient with a temp of 98.7 F or conversely 98.5 F. Anthony, this is a great web site, and i marvel at you and your readers knowledge.

Steve Keohane

Just another S.N.A.F.U.

Jim Pfefferle

“… I can tell you that putting an official NOAA climate thermometer within a few feet of such a device is one of the worst examples of thoughtless station placement on the part of NOAA I’ve ever seen.”
I would contend that much thought and planning went into the careful placement of this station.

Jeff Alberts

I’d also be interested in finding out where to get a weather station I can place on my open 2 acres in Western Washington State…

Drew Latta

Well, the methane burn off thing is interesting, but it might never be activated. A lot of these WWTPs use excess methane from sludge digestion to heat the digester and other processes. Depending on the temperature their digester runs at it might be heated most or all of the time, and they might hardly ever flare the methane. Or they could almost always flare, which is what happens in my city because they get a lot of industrial wastewater that ends up having contaminants that would destroy a heating system. You’d have to talk to the operator.

Mike C

Like some other posters pointed out, the scale on the left is confusing but if you put the numbers on a spreadsheet, there are some problems. In this instance, Hansen cooled the past until the early 90’s when he starts taking the cooling away which has the effect of warming the station in the present. And the artificial cooling in the past is significant; between .8 and 1.2 degrees C. This is a GISS lights = 24 station, it should be adjusted the other way around.
Oddly enough, USHCN has very few adjustments to this station despite equipment changes and location changes since 1984.

crosspatch

Every point before about 1905 has been adjusted down, 1905 to about 1935 is unadjusted and after about 1935 every point has been adjusted upwards! Any real reason for this?

That was noted on Climate Audit some time ago. It is as if you can’t make the present warmer, you can always make the past cooler and give the impression of a warming trend. Which is what GISS is really all about, not so much showing current absolute warming but in showing a trend over time. Hansen’s goal is to show a given rate of warming to validate his climate models. I believe there should be a clear separation of responsibility between those who create the models/forecasts/predictions and those who produce actual climate data.
GISS has a built-in conflict of interest and puts Hansen in a double-bind if the climate models are incorrect. If he massages the climate data to match the model he appears incompetent and if he doesn’t massage the data and it doesn’t match the model, he appears incompetent in his model creation. He has positioned himself in such a way that they must match (because remember, the science is “settled”) or the entire argument comes down around them and their credibility approaches zero.
One supposed reason for making the adjustments is to compensate for station moves over time. If a station has moved from a cooler location to a warmer location, temperatures are “adjusted” in order to give a consistent result. At least that is the theory. But in reality what you will find is pretty much what is noticed with this station … older temperatures are adjusted downward, newer temperatures adjusted upward.

Gary

What’s the “nightlights” factor on a WWTP flamethrower?

George E. Smith

“” TerryC (08:36:51) :
Would it be possible to adjust the temperature axes of the two graphs to the same scale. The animation makes the temperature appear to increase in recent years but if you correct for scale shift, the change appears to actually be a marked decrease in earlier temperatures. Recent temperatures appear to be minimally changed or even very slightly adjusted downwards. “”
Terry if you look closely at those scales you will see that one goes from 6.5-11.5, while the other goes from 7.5 to 12.5, so both scales are exactly the same 5degree range with just a 1 degree offset. You can pick the offset to be anything you like, and that will change the location of the stationary point on the two graphs.
What Anthony has done is the rigth way to do it. If the scales were the same, the whole graph would be jumping up and down by one degree and you couldn’t discern any relative shifts at all. Blink comparators depend on something (or most things) staying constant.
For example in the search for planetary or comet objects, a star blink comparator, will leave the stars stationary and only objects in relative motion with the stars will move; and styand out like a sore thumb.
This is a very clever demonstration anthony; and the whole project is laudable. the whole network looks like a giant Rube Goldberg to me. How anyone can call that science is beyond me; well the computer climate models do put it to shame, but even in high school you learn that one of the biggest sources of experimental error is “instrumentation error, where the measuring instrument is accurate but what it is responding to is NOT the intended measurement parameter. This is also a problem in process control, when such readings are used in feedback loops to control some process. If the sensor is not measuring the intended variable, you can’t control it.

P Folkens

Appearance is everything. This cooling of past numbers to create the impression of a steeper rise in temperatures is not new. In the earliest presentation of the IPCC scenarios regarding a rise in sea level, the original data graph went across the page and the height was less than the width. The scale to measure sea level increase was expressed in tenths of a meter. In subsequent presentations of the scenarios and sea level rise the graph was compressed laterally such that the width was now shorter than the height. This created a more dramatic appearing rise in the slope. They also changed the measurement to centimeters. As we all know, 64 cm is a larger number than 0.64 m. (Larger number yes, but larger quantity? Some dolts think so. I present this change in the presentation in my lectures and I am astonished at the number of people who do not realize that 64 cm is the same as 0.64 m.)

Paul H

Thought you might be interested, GISS related article at
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/11/19/nasa_giss_cockup_catalog/
REPLY: It is an essay by our good friend. EVAN JONES – Go Ev!
Anthony

How not to measure temperature is one of my favorite reads on the web!! 🙂
Anthony..thanks for your work..it doesn’t go unnoticed.
http://www.cookevilleweatherguy.com

Michael J. Bentley

Crosspatch,
I think you give Hansen too much leeway when you say he’s in a double bind. I remember the picture of the donkey between two bails of hay starving because it doesn’t know which way to move – in a psych class I think.
Hansen got where he is under his own steam. He’s the one who choses to spout off like he does. He is attempting to shout down those who question his results even now. He appears to be going up a creek without a paddle at the moment, at least among those who watch the data with a critical eye. The problem is that he still has the microphone.
I hope someone finds the off switch pretty soon, because most folks on the AGW side don’t have a clue about science (and slept through what you get in school anyway) and have a suspension of disbelief when those four magic letters are mentioned N-A-S-A.
Mike

J. Peden

Continues to be….Mindboggling!
And, imo, “the science is settled” = presuming that which is to be proven, which is not only logically fallacious but also the very antithesis of doing science. But that’s all the ipcc Climate Scientists have been doing the whole time.
Also, at the Clarinda site the presence of that half-pickup and the large storage tank is worrisome. I don’t think the people at Clarinda are really even aware that they are supposed to be trying to measure Global temperature. And the USHCN doesn’t seem to actually care about it either.

Oh, it could be worse. Like this USFS Fire Weather station that had the Local Weatherman scratching his head every night exclaiming “This cannot be right, folks” when referring to the daytime high of a mountain community exceeding that of Redding, CA, one of the hottest places in California. Anyone driving up out of that city to the hills immediately feels the temp drop 10 degrees. After stomping around for 3 separate trips, I finally found the sensor. Surrounded by masses of metal and itself encased in about 5 pounds of aluminum.
After explaining to the amazed USFS personell that I had found the location of the weather station that nobody had seen in 10 years, I got a call from a Tech who was going to replace the sensor, since they deemed it was acting erratically. The Tech brought a replacement sensor, not from a suppy of fresh ones, but from another failed station. The story read like a budgetary problem. And so, the 100 year history of one of the few rural mountain communities having a solid weather gathering record is tainted with 7 years of suspect data making it suddenly hotter than one of the warmest cities on the West Coast.
REPLY: Was this the sensor in Mineral, CA? – Anthony

M White

UK to auction carbon permits
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7736005.stm
“But the UK led a revolt against the Commission’s plan and refuses to ring-fence the carbon dividend. A government spokesman said: “We are committed to reducing carbon emissions as our climate change legislation proves, but we do not hypothecate [specify the intended use of] revenues.”
Perhaps its the treasury that sites weather stations?

crosspatch

What I would support would be a tax on emissions from coal seam fires. These fires are allowed to burn because the cost of putting them out is higher than the value of the coal being burned. If those fires were taxed to such an extent that it would be cheaper to put them out than to allow them to burn, then global CO2 emissions could be greatly reduced. Any by greatly, I mean the fires in only four countries amount to all the emissions of all the automobiles on the planet.

Tom Jefferson

It is Not “Historical” Data for Temperature and GASES
It IS “HISTERICAL” Data for Temperature and GASES
Get Real.
But this is quite amusing.
Except for the government control and wasting $40 Trillion.
The Earth is Billions of years old.
You are all arguing over “TRENDS” based upon an
infinitly short stretch of time.
Basing any decisions on such a nano data sample is moronic.
Acknowledging that GISS, Gore, Hansen, et al have been incompetent and fraudulent in data sampling, collection and decimation is material. – They ALL should be PERP walked.

anna v

OT, but interesting BBC article:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7733509.stm
Under-ice flood speeds up glacier
By Jonathan Amos
Science reporter, BBC News
Byrd Glacier (Nasa/Landsat)
The Byrd Glacier is about 135km long and 24km wide
Great floods beneath the Antarctic ice sheet can now be linked directly to the speed at which that ice moves towards the ocean, scientists say.

Diffidently the truth is acknowledged:
Scientists have known about subglacial lakes in Antarctica for half a century. There are more than 150; and the biggest, Lake Vostok, is the size of Lake Ontario in North America.
Despite being capped by, in some cases, several kilometres of ice, the lakes’ contents stay liquid because of warm spots in the underlying rock.
It was always thought, however, that these lakes were stagnant bodies, containing waters that were perhaps unaltered for millions of years.

Warm spots, not to be named as volcanic activity.
But also encouragingly:
Cause and effect
It should be stressed the events seen at Byrd are not of themselves climate-related. The lakes probably flood and drain on a regular basis that has nothing to do with atmospheric or ocean warming.

But:
However, the scientists say the mechanisms involved need to be understood so the knowledge can be applied to those ice masses which are being exposed to warmer temperatures, such as in Greenland.

hyonmin

Obama is in agreement with Hansen and Gore. We have not done enough and we need change. We need to roll back CO2 by 80% in the year 2050. Forget physical reality only political reality counts. Great work, who would have believed such a crazy placement but then who would have believed in the current U.S. death wish.

I lived four years in Tucson…in my younger years. I kept in shape by jogging around the city park in the central part of town. There on the corner of 22nd street….was a sponsored weather station. I jogged by it over 1,000 times in four years. The temp gauge was about four feet away from the AC unit on th side of this RV trailer. The entire arrangement was surrounded by concrete and pavement. The gauge had to be showing a temp that was three degrees hotter than reality. Twenty years have passed…and I doubt anyone ever changed anything.

Pierre Gosselin

Umm…about the y axis on the chart…. could be get a gif that compares the two data sets with a range of 6.5-12.5? That way the visual comparison will be valid. I agree with TerryC, we need to avoid this kind of thing. This is what the AGW crazy guys do. We have to behave better than them.

An Inquirer

Tom Carter (08:53:13) :
“Has anyone performed an analysis of USA temperature trends (1950-2008 ?)using the untainted, unadjusted, temperature data available from ACCURATE weather stations . . .”
This issue has been discussed before. See http://wattsupwiththat.com/2008/11/13/gistemps-gavin-schmidt-credits-wuwt-community-with-spotting-the-error/
John V compared the anomalies of CRN 1&2 stations with the GISTEMP anomalies and came to the conclusion that for some reason, the adjustment algorithm in GISS produces the same outcome as quality stations do. A few notes on this. First, John V has been very open about his data, procedures, and potential pitfalls. Second, I do not know if anyone has verified or duplicated John V’s work which should not be difficult for a modeler to do. Third, pitfalls include lack of geographic dispersion, U.S. focus, and small sample size — on the sample size issue, I understand that John V initially used CRN 1&2 stations which numbered only 17 at the time and that sample size does not produce statistically valid results; so he then included CRN 3 stations, bring the sample size to 50, with the same results.
Fourth, given that GISS procedures are so bizzare, lacking quality control, and producing counter-intuitive results, John V’s conclusions are unexpected, and I would love to see an audit on John V’s work. In contrast to GISS folks, it seems that John V would welcome an audit.

JoeH

Every time I read this, “The United States Historical Climatology Network (USHCN) is a high quality, moderate-sized data set of daily and monthly records of basic meteorological variables from over 1000 observing stations across the 48 contiguous United States,” or Anthony post’s a site review, I am prompted to ask how many for real high qualtiy sites are required to evaluate the surface temperature trends in the U.S.? Is it 100, 13, 86,133, 167? Do 1,000 sites, even if they were perfectly sited and maintained, give us a better answer than 500 or 200 sites of the same quality?
Anyone? Anyone? Buehler?

B Kerr

M White
“Perhaps its the treasury that sites weather stations?”
Where are the UK weather stations?
Have you any idea where they are?
I downloaded a list from MET OFFICE.
The list had more weather stations in Lerwick than there are in the USA.
Where are all the UK sites?
Can anyone help?

Curious

The gas flare here is not the only issue. The cylindrical tank to the left is an anaerobic digester. These are typically heated to 95 degrees F using the biogas generated by the digestion process. As this gas is a free byproduct, and would be flared if not used to heat the digester, these concrete walled tanks are typically not insulated. The tank here looks to be about 500,000 gallons, and in my part of the world (northern Illinois) on the design coldest day, heat loss from a tank like this would be around 300,000 to 400,000 Btu per hour. That is quite a bit of influence on the surrounding area.

Ray Reynolds

I don’t know if lawns require watering in Clarinda, Iowa but if some of these site are, like this one, out in the middle of a lawn and under a automatic sprinkler system.
I would guess the average annual temperature is near mainline water temp….well, cept when they have the flame thrower stoked up.

Philip_B

, I am prompted to ask how many for real high qualtiy sites are required to evaluate the surface temperature trends in the U.S.?
60 ‘randomly’ located stations would be sufficient to determine the temperature trend for the whole of the USA or any area for that matter.
BTW, the main problem with the current network is that none of the stations is ‘randomly’ located. It doesn’t matter how many non-random sited stations you have if you don’t know what biases the non-random siting introduces. Which is the surface stations problem in a nutshell.

Ed Scott

All accurate temperatures are computer generated, using GISS algorerithms.
Heritage Foundation Blasts Obama’s Climate Message
“Few challenges facing America and the world are more urgent than combating climate change,” Obama said. “Many of you are working to confront this challenge. But too often, Washington has failed to show the same kind of leadership. That will change when I take office.”
http://www.newsmax.com/insidecover/Heritage_obama_climate/2008/11/19/153043.html

Leon Brozyna

@George E. Smith (10:19:58)
Good points on that business of blink comparators. What we’re seeing in that image is not so much about temperature trends but about types of adjustments. I suppose if someone was really curious, they could go back to the source and do their own temperature comparison.
And extra kudos to those volunteers who document sites located at wastewater treatment plants. Some days those facilities can be quite aromatic.

George E. Smith

“” Steve (12:36:28) :
Umm…about the y axis on the chart…. could be get a gif that compares the two data sets with a range of 6.5-12.5? That way the visual comparison will be valid. I agree with TerryC, we need to avoid this kind of thing. This is what the AGW crazy guys do. We have to behave better than them. “”
Steve I have to disagree. what is missing is the underlying assumption that the vertical scale, is actually a temperature scale; it isn’t it’s an “anomaly” scale, and the units just happen to be in degrees. the numbers are quite arbitrary since they refer to some baseline that itself was never measured accurately in terms of something real like the internationally recognised SI units of temperature.
So you can’t believe that the numbers are real, other than relative to the same plot; the scale difference is nothing more than a readjustment of some baseline.

steven mosher

Mike C. the lights=24 datum is NOT used to adjust data. That is the brightness index which is not used in any processing step. The datum you want to look for is the unlit/dim/bright field. Unlit stations ( regardless of population) are used to adjust dim and bright stations ( rregardless of population)

evanjones

GISS. Where homgenization meets pasteurization.
The .gif that keeps on giving.

CyberZombie

GISS. Where homgenization meets pasteurization.
The .gif that keeps on giving.

hehe

Chris

The temperature anomaly map for Oct 2008 from UAH is out.
http://climate.uah.edu/oct2008.htm
Interesting that it’s got the hotspot in western Russia, but no equivalent to the massive dark blotch in Siberia.
c.f.
http://wattsupwiththat.files.wordpress.com/2008/11/gistemp_after_october_correction.gif

Mike Bryant

Chris,
There is nothing alarming about the UAH anomaly map. I wonder how NASA would respond to questions about this disparity?
Mike

Graeme Rodaughan

I think that “crosspatch (10:08:21) :” raises and interesting point wrt the double bind for Hansen.
If true, he will be strongly motivated to continue his behaviour. The problem for Hansen is that the real world appears to have stopped warming and may even be entering a cooling phase of unknown extent. If the cooling continues the disparity between his data/models/pronouncements and peoples experience of cold weather will begin to be too wide – and people will begin to notice.
If Hansen’s credibility drops as a consequence, so will the credibility of GISS data which is the foundation of a lot of the AGW meme.
I would not be suprised if AGW does get exposed – that Hansen will become the patsy/fallguy of the politically well connected AGW proponents who will simply claim that they were “deceived” by Hansen’s “scandalous medacity” – Hansen will be crucified.
The stakes are very high for someone playing Hansens game.

Graeme Rodaughan

If Hansens’ head ever rolls – so will those who work for him.
REPLY: He’d be more useful to society if he recognized the limits of the surface system and produced a product that was not fraught with so many issues, and took more external influences into account. As it stands now he uses questionable data and methods as a soapbox.- Anthony