How not to measure temperature, part 81 – roofing the past in Columbia

Gary Boden sends word today of finding the weather station at the Colmbia, SC Weather Bureau Office, as shown below:

U.S. Weather Bureau Office, Columbia SC. Circa 1915 (NOAA photo library)

U.S. Weather Bureau Office, Columbia SC. Circa 1915 (courtesy of the NOAA photo library)

Note the Stevenson Screen on the roof. This is where daily high and low temperatures were measured. It seems that this was a fairly common practice back then. Here’s the USWB office in Lander, WY in 1906:

The National Weather Service in Lander, WY in 1906 (NOAA library)

The National Weather Service in Lander, WY in 1906 (NOAA library)

I’ve covered other rooftop stations in the USWB COOP network, notably the Sacramento, Eureka, and Baltimore stations. There’s also an oddball rooftop station in Oakland at the Museum. the Baltimore office rooftop location was so bad that the NWS eventually closed it because it was setting new and erroneous weather records. It is not hard to see why:

Baltimore Customs House USHCN
Baltimore USHCN station circa 1990’s photo courtesy NOAA, click for more images

NOAA even wrote a training manual on siting issues, using this station’s high temperature  anomaly as en example of what to avoid


Reference: NOAA Professional Competency Unit 6 (PCU6) manual (PDF)

The photo from Columbia made me curious about how the temperature might be affected by the rooftop location,so I checked the un-homogenized station temperature plot from GISS to see if anything stood out.

columbia_sc_station_plot

The jump downward  between 1956 to 1957 seems to me to be like a “step change” upon simple visual inspection.It may or may not be related to a station move or equipment change.

Unfortunately, NCDC’s MMS metadatabase is down today with a “server” error, as often happens on weekends so I can’t look at their records right now to determine if the station was moved about that time.

But the Columbia NWS office has a writeup of the station history:

The presence of a full-time weather observation site in Columbia began on June 5, 1887 when the Army Signal Corps established a third order station in Columbia in the Old Agricultural Hall near the northwest corner of Gervais and Main Streets. Weather observations remained the responsibility of the Army Signal Corps until October 1, 1891 when the U.S. Weather Bureau assumed the station responsibility.

The first of several moves occurred on June 8, 1895 when the office moved to the Federal Building at the southwest corner of Laurel and Main Streets. The office remained at this location until February 15, 1901.

On February 15, 1901 the office once again was relocated, this time to City Hall at the northwest corner of Gervais and Main Streets. The station was also upgraded from a third order station to a first order station.

On October 1, 1903 the Weather Office relocated once again, this time to the Loan and Exchange Bank Building on the southeast corner of Main and Washington Streets.

March 1, 1905 once again found the Weather Office in a new location, this time in the Weather Bureau Building at the southeast corner of Laurel and Assembly Streets. For over 30 years the Weather Office called this location home.

On March 11, 1934 airline personnel began taking observations at Owens Field Airport, 4 miles southeast of downtown.

By June 3, 1935 the office had once again been relocated. This time the office had been moved to the Sylvan Building on the northeast corner of Main and Hampton Streets.

At Owens Field, Weather Bureau airway observers took over weather observation responsibilities.

The move to the Sylvan Building was short, on August 26, 1936 the Weather Office once again had a new home, this time in the U.S. Courthouse at the southeast corner of Laurel and Assembly Streets. The Weather Office remained at this location through June 1, 1954.

Airline operations were increasing in the Columbia area, especially at Owens Field and Weather Bureau observers assumed greater responsibilities at that location.

On February 14, 1947 the Weather Office moved again, this time from Owens Field to the new Columbia Airport. The move was to an old Army prefab building which was located about one mile east of the present location on the left side of the service road near the intersection with the main airport road. It was just across the street from the lake.

On January 20, 1967 we moved to the present Weather Service Building located east of the main terminal. When the building was dedicated, Karl Johannessen (sp?), Director of NWS Eastern Region, said the COlumbia National Weather Service had been in that “temporary” building for 20 years.

While the office hasn’t moved since 1967, there have been significant changes in the office. One of the most visible changes has been the change in the agency’s name … from the Weather Bureau to the National Weather Service.

As a part of the reorganization of the National Weather Service, more and more of the manual work has been computerized, including routine weather observations. The Automated Surface Observation System (ASOS) was commissioned on December 1, 1995.

Also as a part of the reorganization, the Columbia an Augusta Georgia offices were consolidated on October 1, 1995. Routine weather observations in the Augusta area are provided by ASOS units at both Bush Field and Daniel Field.

I find it curious that the NWS writeup never mentions anything about the rooftop location.They also seem to mix the two station histories (COOP and airport) which as I understand it, are separate stations.

Here is the current USHCN station at the University of South Carolina:

Looks better than a rooftop. More photos here.


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57 thoughts on “How not to measure temperature, part 81 – roofing the past in Columbia

  1. So the owner of this masterpiece is a sailing enthusiast; and he understands the concept of “winds aloft”.

    So much for being 60 inches above the ground.

    George

  2. The most interesting feature of the Columbia record, to me, is the almost constant upward surge starting in 1967. I’d be very curious to know the construction dates of the buildings around the station. There’s a tall building just to the southwest (?) in particular that looks interesting. It casts a long shadow. Another tall building to the northwest (?) has many windows–will the afternoon sun reflect off those windows toward the station? And what is that gezeets on the left edge of photo #Columbia_381944_North_32?

  3. Speaking of Stevenson Screens, did you ever get that paint series wrapped up? – I tried to search through but couldn’t find it.

  4. Jorge:
    The building with windows and connecting walkways is the Bates Dormitory of USC that has two tower sections. The area has been continually upgraded with multiple buildings and a raised walkway. On the first ariel photo the unmarked street is actually a walkway to connect this part of the university with the main campus. The valley that the walkway spans is the fault line from the ancient US and African coast fusion that raised the Applachian mountains. The second ariel photo shows the athletic center which is a large building that also has extensive concrete basketball courts near the unit. And of course the railroad lines that join together with their gravel ballasts. Picture 6 shows the back of the atheletic complex.

  5. Does anyone have a way to find which stations are used to report the current record heat in Australia, including Melbourne?

  6. If I recall from historical references, the weather station in Galveston, pre-1900 was on the roof of the office building housing the local weather bureau.

  7. Columbia is in the hot belt. It includes Florence, S.C., Columbia, Augusta.

    Columbia is the hottest of the lot. Thermal inversions are common and only intensify the heat and humidity. In the summer, it is not uncommon to see 100 Deg F and 90% RH on a daily basis.

  8. I always thought, that differences in measurement on roof-top, mountain-top, city-station, ocean-ship-bases and satellite would cause a difference of more than one centigrade C°; apart from the right statistical processing.
    Fine contribution with smashing pics!

  9. honest question anthony (i am a big skeptic and read this site daily)……but why do the AGW’s say that you aren’t really a meteorologist? wikipedia says the same thing, but they are so hopelessly biased on this issue, i have difficulty taking them seriously…

  10. one of the only reasons i care (because i find the mention of it to fall into the classification of ad hominem fallacy) is that there is a relatively unintelligent poster on one of the boards i frequent who always brings it up if i link to a story here….

  11. While the importance of maintaining continuity at an individual station is crucial to establishing an accurate record, how can the movements of data collection sites be accurately accounted for when long term records are being analyzed? The data points are extremely important to the area they represent. A single data collection station could be very important to local, regional, continental or global analysis depending on the weight the particular station is being given.

  12. Columbia SC is hotter than Hell. I’m serious. I turned down a job there back in 2005 because it jsut wasnlt enough $$$ to live in that heat. It’s really unbearable there in July/August. Imagine Tampa, FL without the afternoon T-storms, and that’s about right.

  13. One of your references to Columbia got me confused at first. I thought you meant Columbia University in NYC. Of course, it’s right around there that GISS has some offices. Right by the Seinfeld diner, actually. It would be pretty darn funny if there were a weather station on the roof. I wonder…Next time I’m at a meeting there, mebbe I can sneak a peek.

  14. I wouldn’t want to base billions in spending on the gypsy habits of the wandering weather station.

  15. To DR…

    The Australian BOM website… Bureau Of Meteorology.

    On the home page map of Australia, click on Victoria. Then you have a page full of options….. down the bottom left there is a heading in blue called ‘Climate Information’, click on ‘Victorian climate averages’. It will give you all the recording centers… Might not be the info you are looking for but what you are looking for should be on BOM’s website.

    G’luck. : )

  16. I’ve been looking at antarctic ice trends to see if Steig’s paper is reasonable. I did a plot of the 30 yr trend at each grid point of monthly data provided by the NSIDC

    One of the problems with Steig is the reporting of warming since 1957, while not reporting the more recent decades of cooling. 30 years is far enough for reality, but not far enough for Steig.

  17. one of the only reasons i care (because i find the mention of it to fall into the classification of ad hominem fallacy) is that there is a relatively unintelligent poster on one of the boards i frequent who always brings it up if i link to a story here….

    It’s unimportant. That’s the same kind of (often very hi-IQ) idiot who says that Herman Kahn wasn’t an economist (he demolished the club of Rome), or a historian (he invented futurology–not the word, just the field of study), or a military strategist (he invented sane nuclear deterrence policy, which was adopted wholesale by both sides starting in 1960) because he didn’t have some toilet-worthy foolscap that said he was.

    Ignore the pedants, the educated-incapacitated. They love to use their little clubbery and petty snobbery as tools of ignorance to dominate and exclude. And indulge, I might add.

    I have an MA in history. Big deal. 99% of what I know about history has nothing to do with stupidass degrees. Make that 99.9%. And there are millions of folks out there who never got past high school, whose knowledge of history dwarfs mine.

    Anthony is a scientist. How can I tell? Easy. He DOES SCIENCE.

    BTW, you’re right. It is ad hominem, and therefore, by definition, invalid. Also, unworthy.

  18. evanjones (22:59:35) : ” there is a relatively unintelligent poster on one of the boards i frequent who always brings it up if i link to a story here….”

    It’s unimportant. That’s the same kind of (often very hi-IQ) idiot who says that Herman Kahn wasn’t an economist (he demolished the club of Rome), […]
    Anthony is a scientist. How can I tell? Easy. He DOES SCIENCE.

    While I generally agree with your assessment, I’d ‘look to the source’. From:

    http://www.ametsoc.org/amscert/ in the section about the ‘seal’:

    The AMS Seal of Approval was launched in 1957 as a way to recognize on-air meteorologists for their sound delivery of weather information to the general public. Among radio and television meteorologists, the AMS Seal of Approval is sought as a mark of distinction.

    I’ve bolded a couple of words… So what does the group who issued the cert think it is? A certification for meteorologists.

    I also notice that they are no longer accepting application for this cert. That is a very common thing in the life cycle of a professional body. I hold a certification from a professional data processing organization (ICCP). Lifetime cert. They no longer issue them. I hold a lifetime certification (teaching credential, clear) from the State of California at the community college level. They no longer issue them. Certification processes and even individual certifications change over time and the holders of the older certs are often ‘grandfathered’ and don’t need to keep ‘starting over’ every time the agency changes it’s mind.

    So, IMHO, (and apparently in the opinion of the Certifying Body) Anthony is quite definitely a meteorologist. He just didn’t have to jump through the latest incarnation of the certification process.

    Sidebar: One of the reasons for this is laws against age discrimination. I hold no degree in “Computer Science”. There was no such degree when I was starting out. It was math, or electrical engineering, or something else. If you require that anyone who applies for a job with computers show a Computer Science Degree, by definition you are discriminating illegally against older folks.

    So I’m an Economist with lots of computer classes (a technical “minor” of sorts) that the State of California felt had everything needed to teach anything in the field of data processing. (I did have to take some graduate education theory classes and present some materials validating education and experience.)

    Does that lack of a C.S. degree mean I am not a Computer Scientist? That I can not say that I’m a professional computer programmer? Not for a moment.

  19. OT, from the BBC news web site –

    Australian fire death toll rises
    Australian emergency crews are stepping up their efforts to tackle wildfires in the state of Victoria, as the death toll rises to 65. Thousands of firefighters are battling several major fires, and the number of dead is expected to rise. . . .
    . . . Bush fires are common in Australia, but the current blazes are the most deadly since 1983, when 75 people died on a day that became known as Ash Wednesday.
    The Greens Party has said summer fires will only worsen unless the government does more to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

  20. I wonder what sort of results we would get, AGW wise, if it were possible to identify stations that were correctly sited originally, have always been correctly sited in the same location and are still complying with all the standards. I doubt that there is such a weather station. Does anybody know of one?

  21. Sorry to be OT but I was very impressed by the paper by S. Duhau and C. de Jager “The Solar Dynamo and Its Phase Transitions during the Last Millennium” and they now have anew paper out entitled “Forecasting the parameters of sunspot cycle 24 and beyond” which may be of interest to folks. You cna see it here:

    http://www.cdejager.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/2009-forecasting-jastp-71-239.pdf

    Their prediction is that we could see a low cycle 24 (sunspot numbers 68 + or – 17) to be follwoed by a period of low oscillations which could even be similar to a Dalton type minimum.

  22. PaulHClark (01:45:56) :

    Please note the pages seem to be juggled in the link to the Duhau de Jager paper as posted i.e. the pages flow 241, 243,242, 244 – so you’ll need to jump around the pdf a bit.

  23. EricH (01:26:20) :
    I wonder what sort of results we would get, AGW wise, if it were possible to identify stations that were correctly sited originally, have always been correctly sited in the same location and are still complying with all the standards. I doubt that there is such a weather station. Does anybody know of one?

    Try Orland, CA

  24. Mike McMillian,

    re your comment on the Australian fires, and wild fires in general.
    I worked for a Co. that built an insert for a Antonov An 124 transport aircraft, the insert would take 110 tons of water and could discharge at predetermined rates, this would have made it the worlds biggest firefighter, it is a perfect aircraft for this type of opperation, the owner of the Company offered the equipment and a contract lease on a An 124 to the Australian Government, the response was ” this large aircraft is not acceptable in Australian airspace as it an atmospheric pollutant” If anybody is interested the equipment is still complete (15 tons with ground based equipment) and other than tests (4) never used, as the boss decided that it was better to let the idiots burn.

  25. Alan Chappell (04:15:06) :

    We had those big Volga-Dnepr freighters coming into Houston for a while, even saw the six-engine version once. Six man cockpit crew – 2 pilots, 2 flight engineers, 1 navigator, and 1 political officer. If it can scoop lake water on the run, that would save a lot of lives and property.

    But the Greens Party has to weigh that against the pollution, which is doubtless more than the “natural” pollution caused by burning trees, brush, houses, 65 people, and uncounted numbers of poisonous critters lurking in the grass.

    Who’d have thought CO2 could cause a fire rather than put it out, especially at trace levels? Counterintuitive, but it’s the politicians’ job to sort these things out for us.

    It’s a tough call.

  26. Melanie Phillips has an article about the “settled science of AGW,” complete with comments at:
    That famous consensus
    http://www.spectator.co.uk/melaniephillips/3332616/that-famous-consensus.thtml.
    ————————————————————-A related article may be partially read at:
    Warming of the Antarctic ice-sheet surface since the 1957 International Geophysical Year, http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v457/n7228/full/nature07669.html.
    ————————————————————-
    Spin can’t hide the facts concerning the hockey stick

    Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick

    June 26, 2006

    http://www.uoguelph.ca/~rmckitri/research/NAS.op-ed.pdf

    ————————————————————-

    Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the Last 2,000 Years, http://www.uoguelph.ca/~rmckitri/research/NRCreport.pdf

    —————————————–

    Statisticians blast Hockey Stick, http://www.uoguelph.ca/~rmckitri/research/WegmanOp-Ed.pdf

    ————————————————————-

    Going cold on Antarctic warming, http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/going_cold_on_antarctic_warming#48360
    ————————————————————-
    Dirty Harry 4: When Harry Met Gill, http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=5054
    ————————————————————-
    Tabloid fossil-fuel shill, http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/fpcomment/archive/2009/02/06/tabloid-fossil-fuel-shill.aspx
    —————————————————
    Mann’s conclusions not to be believed, http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/fpcomment/archive/2009/02/07/mann-s-conclusions-not-to-be-believed.aspx
    ————————————————-
    How do we “know” that 1998 was the warmest year of the millennium? http://www.climateaudit.org/pdf/ohio.pdf

    —————————————————-

    As Mark Twain might have put it, there are three kinds of lies — lies, damned lies and global warming science. – Melanie Phillips

  27. There is an advantage to putting the Stevenson screen on the roof.

    Farther away from the barbeque.

  28. Orland, well sited though it may be, required the past temps to be adjusted downward to meet GISS specifications.

    Yes, to make up for the time before they built that cute little cement path out to it . . .

  29. WEATHER IS NOT CLIMATE!
    FROM RIA Novosti
    http://de.rian.ru/science/20090130/119895504.html

    Translated from the German:

    Expert says climate conclusions simply cannot be drawn based on weather fluctuations.

    Moscow, 30 January (RIA Novosti). The Director of the Russian Hydrometeorological Center, Roman Wilfand, states that the recent changes in weather cannot be used to draw conclusions on global warming. He has reminded Moscovites not to draw any longterm extrapolations from the weather fluctuations in the Russian capital.

    “Climate and weather are two very different things which are measured using two very different timescales. These two concepts simply cannot be connected“, said Wilfand Friday at a roundtable conference in response to questions on climate warming posed by the Moscow Technical Baumann-University.

    The weather expert did admit that global warming is a real “undisputed fact”.

    The Director of the Weather Service Centre cited the international UN expert panel for climate research (IPCC), who claims the temperature over the last 50 years has risen at a rate 0.13 degrees C per decade. This does not imply any linear trend with regards to temperature increase, said Wilfand. For example 2008 has been the coldest year since the start of the 21st century.

    Also, temperatures in various regions around the world have gone up at different rates, said the expert. As temperatures in Eastern Siberia and in the Far East have risen at a rate of 0.5 to 0.6 C per decade, it has only been 0.4 C in Western Siberia, said Wilfand.

    The greatest temperature increase of 2 to 3°C was registered in the region of the Karasee this decade.

  30. evanjones (09:16:41) :

    As Mark Twain might have put it, there are three kinds of lies

    Liars, damnliars, and outliers.

  31. What is the necessity of averaging local, regional, national and international global temperatures? Isn’t it now possible to read, by satellite, the emission spectrum the Earth and determine the average temperature? Probably not. I suspect that different regions of the Earth’s surface emit radiation centered at different frequencies. Does averaging the temperatures at the poles, the equator and all in between yield any useful information?

    I have space on my house roof for a Stevenson’s Screen, between the air conditioner and the wood-stove chimney. There is adequate capacity in each of two computers capable of the running the GISS temperature adjustment algorerhythm necessary to meet the stringent temperature standards of astronomer Hansen.

    Would averaging the temperature in the North Valley and the temperature in Death Valley provide a useful temperature?

    Temperatures are local, not global. Climates are regional, not global.

  32. “Climate and weather are two very different things which are measured using two very different timescales. These two concepts simply cannot be connected“, said Wilfand Friday at a roundtable conference in response to questions on climate warming posed by the Moscow Technical Baumann-University.

    The weather expert did admit that global warming is a real “undisputed fact”.

  33. There is a crucial difference between global warming and AGW.

    Global warming is acknowledged to exist. On the other hand, AGW is unproven. It is only found in the fevered imaginations of computer modelers.

  34. But Smokey, if there are areas on the planet that did not experience global warming, how can you say global warming exists? If there are areas of the Arctic sea ice that have not experienced anomaly change, how can it be said that the Arctic is melting? Global averages are like coming up with the global average for a kid’s personality in order to predict future personalities. Can’t be done. No two kids are alike.

  35. Smokey (10:58:32) :

    There is a crucial difference between global warming and AGW.

    Global warming is acknowledged to exist. On the other hand, AGW is unproven. It is only found in the fevered imaginations of computer modelers.

    Er, no, it’s in the minds of those with a basic understanding of the physics, including Roy Spencer and Richard Lindzen, for example. An understanding of the physics has nothing to do with modeling.

  36. john b & evanjones, thank you for the links. Will enjoy reading them while knitting the latest batch of mittens. Found some humor already: “Special considerations will be made for areas with considerable snowfall and snow depth.”

  37. There’s also the simple “100-foot rule” used (or, unfortunately, not used) for a long time.

    That means you need to be 100 ft. (30 m.) away from heat sinks (pavement, buildings, etc.) and waste heat (air conditioning vents, motor traffic, heated buildings, etc.). Rooftops are a BIG no-no.

    (A roadway retains and radiates heat; just look at some of those infrared photos sometime.)

  38. Note that the chimney is upwind (prevailing wind direction shown?) of the Stevenson screen in the photo of the U.S. Weather Bureau Office, Columbia SC. Circa 1915. It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if there was another chimney on the other side of the building to heat the other side of the building.

    My guess is that even 93 years ago, the recorded lows were not as low as actual temperatures.

  39. “I worked for a Co. that built an insert for a Antonov An 124 transport aircraft, …. the owner of the Company offered the equipment and a contract lease on a An 124 to the Australian Government, …. as the boss decided that it was better to let the idiots burn.”

    To say that your post is inappropriate, tasteless and heartless would be the understatement of the century … “let the idiots burn” … is your boss applauding the death of hundreds of Australians, including children? Are YOU applauding the death of hundreds of Australians, including children?

    And for the record we have heavy lift helicopter fire bombers for fighting fires and they work better than any flipping Antonov would.

    And the complete idiocy of the comment is best illustrated by the vague reference to “the Australian Government” – what “Australian Government” would that be, given that fire fighting is run by non-government entities on a State basis? Sadly I suspect the comment reflects the general quality of the blog and the people adding their comments.

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