How not to measure temperature, part 85: what Katrina did for temperature measurement

Below is a photo of the USHCN climate station of record in Pascagoula Mississippi. Note the location of the MMTS temperature sensor. The phrase “industrial nightmare” comes to mind.

Photo by volunteer Craig Limesand - click for larger image

But the MMTS didn’t always have this sweet location at the water treatment plant. It was moved there after Hurricane Katrina. Craig interviewed the curator and writes:

“Moved to current location after “the storm” (Katrina), which took place in Aug. 2005. Previous location was over pavement. When I told the plant employee that there were problems with the instrument location, he said the NWS guy didn’t think there was anything wrong with it.”

Well, it’s a tough call; pavement or pipes?

Craig describes the location in his site survey report as:

“MMTS is 6’ north of big water pipe, 12’ east of the brick control building, and 10’ west of a concrete canal. There is a metal track with several hoses attached about 10’ overhead.”

Here’s another photo that shows the “brick control building”:

Click for a larger image

A reminder for the NWS employee from NOAA’s reference on the siting of temperature sensors might be helpful.

The location certainly doesn’t fit the “representative of the area” specification for siting a Cotton Region Shelter in the NOAA/NWS COOP Observers Handbook (PDF available here).

3.1 Shelter Placement. The ground over which the shelter is located should be typical of the surrounding area. A level, open clearing is desirable so the thermometers are freely ventilated by the flow of air. Do not install on a steep slope or in a sheltered hollow unless it is typical of the area, or unless data from that type of topographic location is desired. When possible, the shelter should be no closer than four times the estimated height of any obstruction (tree, fence, building, etc.). Optimally it should be at least 100 feet from any paved or concrete surface. Under no circumstances should a shelter be placed on the roof of a building as this may result in extreme temperature biases.

This aerial view looks representative of the area, right?

Click for interactive aerial view from Microsoft Live Earth

There’s two large heat sinks and plenty of humidity via the aeration ponds to go with that tanks and piping.


While GISS hasn’t caught up with the 2008 record yet, it looks like the new location may already be registering. The above is the USHCN data from that location.

Fortunately, NASA GISS knows just what to do with that temperature data from the waste water treatment plant

– spread it around a bit!


There, that makes the historical temperature record in Pascagoula all clear now, right?

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March 23, 2009 10:53 pm

Yup – right!

March 23, 2009 11:04 pm

Is it really possible to be this dumb? A newly sited sensor, and they put it in the middle of a sewage plant?

March 23, 2009 11:29 pm

Slightly off topic: Has anyone that has a handle on GISS thought of putting the adjustments to the data rather than the data itself (i.e. homogenised minus raw) into the reconstruction model to see exactly how much of the trend is attributable to the adjustments, and to generate some lovely maps of the world to show this in colour?
This struck me as a good idea because I see so many stations where the trend is largely artificial, and the one station in my corner of Europe for around 100 miles is one of these.

March 24, 2009 12:15 am

The blink graph is interesting, looks like the 1925-35 period is a fulcrum and the homegenisation process just swings it about that, pre-25 down, post 35 up, taking a 10th or so off one end and sticking 3/10th or so on at the other.
And the justification for this is what?

March 24, 2009 12:32 am

And these guys (NWS) consider themselves competent? Outsource this work (siting stations) to the private sector and I bet you’d get a much better outcome. They wouldn’t get paid if they didn’t meet guidelines and NWS could audit the work…(or they could outsource the auditing as well).

March 24, 2009 12:34 am

OT The Catlin team are breaking wind at 0.11 km per hour!
[with fond rememberance of ‘The Big Bus’]

stephen richards
March 24, 2009 12:51 am

Is this the worse you have found? It looks like a classic to me.

Lindsay H
March 24, 2009 1:03 am

of topic but you will hate this
stalin would love this

March 24, 2009 1:46 am

What can I say, from what I have seen on this website regarding the quality of the USHCN I regard that this site fits in with the quality of many of the other USHCN sites, namely, “up s*** creek”. Therefore it could be argued to be a representative site.

Neil Crafter
March 24, 2009 1:47 am

They just keep getting better and better! Obviously that cable must be very expensive to keep it so short.
OT, Anthony, the WUWT website just made The Australian newspaper here in OZ, with a mention in an extract from a Christopher Booker article in the Telegraph, referring to the Catlin Adventure. Well done!

March 24, 2009 1:53 am

So .. can somebody point me to …
1) USHCN raw data.
2) The exact methodology used to correct the raw data in enough detail to obtain ANY of the derived data sets myself.

Jim Greig
March 24, 2009 1:55 am

If it weren’t for corrupted data (“How Not to Measure Data, Part” X), or falsified data (“Weather Station Data: Raw or Corrupted”), Hansen, et. al. would have no data with which to work!

Mike McMillan
March 24, 2009 2:03 am

Adam Gallon (00:15:33) :
The blink graph is interesting, looks like the 1925-35 period is a fulcrum and the homogenization process just swings it about that, pre-25 down, post 35 up, taking a 10th or so off one end and sticking 3/10th or so on at the other.
And the justification for this is what?

This particular chart has had an overall downward cooling slope adjusted to a neutral slope. You can’t make make a case with any one chart, because there are about as many adjusted to cooling slopes as adjusted to warming. You can’t spot what’s being done because it looks so random, but when you average all the adjustments for each year over the whole USHCN, you see the insidious creep of global warming is being adjusted into the dataset.
Tweak the homogenization algorithm, check the totaled curve, tweak, check, tweak, check, until you get what you need.
A couple posts ago we had the USHCN total adjustments chart
What we need is the same chart for GISS adjustments, as Mike (23:29:36) : suggested.

Michael D Smith
March 24, 2009 2:07 am

Well, if trailer parks are tornado magnets, sewage treatment plants are MMTS magnets. You’d think a properly run government agency would at least try to work out a deal with Char-Broil to purchase the BBQ grills with the MMTS sensors right up front. Nope. That would be efficient.
I wonder who on this list one should ask about quality control at these stations? It would be interesting to get their own audit results and see how that compares with Anthony’s project. FOI request?

March 24, 2009 2:26 am

OT, but here we go:
Note the picture of the power plant with all that nasty C02 just hanging around it…

March 24, 2009 2:48 am

i try to avoid conspiracies, but when i see the adjustment it is beginning to look like one! how do you adjust this area mostly up???

March 24, 2009 3:00 am

If the Treasury Department and Wall Street would adopt this method of readjusting financial history we might find that we’re a lot better off than we imagined:
“The dollar continued it unprecedented climb against other world currencies……”
” The DJIA again set a new daily high recording its third highest close in the past ten years and making this the most prosperous decade since …..”

Roger Knights
March 24, 2009 3:23 am

“Good enough for government work”!

March 24, 2009 4:01 am

Lucky that they didn’t have a steam line to site it by.

March 24, 2009 4:27 am

Mr. Watts,
I’m was wondering if you’ve also done articles on “How not to measure CO2”. I’ve read that of the volcanic gasses emitted by Mauna Loa, about 20% is CO2. Does the Volcano Observatory adjust their measurements for this naturally occurring volume? QA/QC measures? Is it scientifically sound to use one data point to characterize the entire Earth’s atmosphere? I don’t think so.

March 24, 2009 4:35 am

I wonder how many years of service the NWS ‘government guy’ who sited this station has under his/her belt? I’d be inclined to be forgiving if they were in their probationary period and were still in training when this station was sited. Otherwise, I WANT MY (tax) MONEY BACK!
That said, Anthony, do you happen to have an example of a completely-in-spec station that you could put up for comparison… just to show it actually can be done… at least once?
The shock value of the image of a properly sited station would be like posting “weather porn” :o))

Dan Lee
March 24, 2009 4:50 am

Yet another one. I’m just waiting for some giant piece of legislation to have a tiny amendment quietly added to it that reads something like, “In the interests of national security, climate stations will be off-limits to the public, and people caught photographing them will be harassed and prosecuted.”
The ability to tax carbon is almost within congress’ grasp, so close they’re already discussing how to spend the huge amounts of tax revenue that would be generated from it. I wouldn’t put anything past them to make sure nothing threatens them reaching this goal.
The interests of the Public are slowly giving way to the interests of the State, and it is the interest of the State to tax and control the Public as much as possible.
It has always been the goal of dissent to expose those in power. This project of exposing problems with the climate station siting, which represents one piece of the infrastructure being used to push for carbon taxes, can’t be sitting well with those seeking greater control over the public.
In a perfect world, science discovers truth, and speaks truth to power, and expects that this scientific truth will result in legislation that advances the interests of the Public.
In the real world, in our world, power funds only the “truth” that advances the interests of the State.
Great work on this project Anthony.

Mike Loe
March 24, 2009 4:57 am

What is “the governments” scientific , as opposed to political, explanation for raising some data points and lowering others ? You’d think with all of the reconstruction billions that were poured into this area that they could have at least purchased 400 square feet of land, cleared the trees, fenced the area and placed the sensor in the middle. We have a government run be nitwits!

March 24, 2009 5:03 am

[snip – off topic]

March 24, 2009 5:11 am

There’s only one word for this climate station. Unbelievable!

March 24, 2009 5:17 am

[snip – off topic]

Frank K.
March 24, 2009 5:59 am

Anthony – Thanks again for your on-going series on “How not to measure temperature…”. I think I’ve seen it all, until the next one.
I light of the dreadful state of the climate monitoring network, is it possible to begin an audit of NOAA’s funding for this? Surely, over the years they’ve been given millions of taxpayer dollars ostensibly to maintain an upgrade the system. Where has all this money gone? Are we paying for some people to sit in their offices to write research papers and go on conference trips to Bali rather than improve siting and equipment? I know the the NCDC has a new climate monitoring system ready to roll out – has that been implemented yet? I guess Tom Karl is too busy giving awards to Jim Hansen to be bothered with this…

pablo an ex pat
March 24, 2009 6:10 am

[snip – off topic]

March 24, 2009 6:11 am

Why do most of the shelters / MMTS supports shown in this series have a bad case of the “leanies”? Doesn’t anyone at NWS own or know how to use a level?

March 24, 2009 6:13 am

It seems obvious that the NWS and it’s employees could not care less about these siting issues. The only real world standards seem to be “stick the d*mn thing anywhere you feel like it, we don’t care.”
And why should they care? It’s no longer about data – whatever data is needed will be manufactured post-reading. At the measurement step, they just need a number and any old number will do as long as it can be varnished with some thin veneer of credibility.
This reminds me of an investigation into an industrial accident in which it was revealed that the foreman had been regularly reporting numbers to the head office from a piece of equipment that had been broken for over a month. When the investigator asked him to explain this, the foreman said simply “They wanted a number, so I gave ’em a number. As long as they got a number, they were happy.”
I submit that this is the only actual standard the NWS has anymore.

March 24, 2009 6:13 am

O/T, but further to the foxnews story et al, this is pretty scary:
NASA’s James Hansen warns, “democratic process isn’t working” in climate change fight:

March 24, 2009 6:15 am

[snip -off topic]

March 24, 2009 6:19 am

Those are not hoses in the “track”, they are electrical cable, laid in cable tray. Certainly could be some electromagnetic interference there..dont know if that could screw with the instruments…

March 24, 2009 6:22 am

It appears to me that much of the problem with siting of temperature sensors may have to do with accessibility. In this wireless age why can’t we develop a standardized remote sensing package that can be installed properly, independent of easy human accessibility, and monitored remotely. We could even use solar power cells to power it or a little windmill on top. This would also solve the time-of-day problem.
Good use for some of that stimulus money I think.

March 24, 2009 6:33 am

Anthony, great work again, and thanks to Craig Limesand for the photos and interview. Mind-boggling.
So, how much does it cost to install one of these weather stations *correctly*? There’s the measuring hardware, the enclosure, fencing, land preparation, trenching, cable, and some sort of indoor monitoring unit? Do they have a standard lease agreement for long-term use of the land within the fence?
REPLY: It is more about finding a good location than cost. This is a volunteer network, so the available volunteer pool often dictates placement. Even so, getting the MMTS away from buildings is the cost of a rented trencher to lay the cable a few tens to a hundred feet away. Something rarely done. – Anthony

March 24, 2009 6:35 am

Anthony are there any sites that are correct that were there 50 to 100 years ago that haven’t been moved?JI just found out James Hanson is head of GISS.Just when I thought i’d seen it all the EPA says global warming is a public danger.Then from the White House they say it’s first step in regulating carbon dioxide.QUICK EVERYONE HOLD YOUR BREATH WE ARE HEATING UP THE WORLD.

pablo an ex pat
March 24, 2009 6:49 am

[snip – off topic]

Pearland Aggie
March 24, 2009 6:51 am

OT, but this is awfully interesting….
The Available Evidence Does Not Support Fossil Fuels as the Source of Increasing Concentrations of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide (Part 1)

Gary Plyler
March 24, 2009 6:54 am

I think everyone visiting Anthony’s site should look at the pictures of all of weather monitoring sites in their home states,
adn pick their favorite. Being from Washington state, this is my favorite:
Port Angeles, Washington. It’s a hoot! I can’t wait for our government to tax energy 2-trillion dollars based on data partially supported by the Port Angeles MMTS, NOT.

March 24, 2009 6:54 am

I am sure Cuba it is one of the less contaminating countries in the world…a good example to follow

Etienne R
March 24, 2009 7:13 am

Interesting – everything seems pretty much stable for a while, then I see a big drop in 1958 (or so) in average temperatures; from that year, the trend is upwards.
What happened in 1958 – did they relocate the station, or perhaps that’s when the plant was built?

March 24, 2009 7:29 am

It continues, and I don’t know why, to amaze me just how inept some of our public servants are. While we take the proper measurement of weather information serious, it is painfully obvious that our friends at NOAA could care less.
Keep up the excellent work Anthony…we will continue to follow these crazy cases of improper siting.

March 24, 2009 7:53 am

Sylvia (06:33:49)
Please excuse my ignorance on exactly what a MMTS is and how it needs to be installed but in this day and age does it have to be hard-wired? If we can sense atmospheric temps using a satelite (certainly a wireless device) why can’t transmit weather data from an MMTS using wireless technology (no trenching, etc.)?

Retired Engineer
March 24, 2009 8:04 am

“In the interests of national security, climate stations will be off-limits to the public, and people caught photographing them will be harassed and prosecuted.”
As a photographer relative of mine has discovered, it is already illegal in some states to photograph public buildings and in some cases, public parks. He is convinced he could win in court, but when a guy with a gun tells you to pack up and get out, you get out.
Don’t solve the problem, just change the rules.

D Caldwell
March 24, 2009 9:00 am

Since the surface sensor network and all the associated adjustments continue to show what they already know is happening, there will not be any official investigation of its accuracy. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
The ARGO data was obviously wrong since it showed the oceans cooling in a direct contradiction of what the GCM’s say is actually happening. Since that can’t be the case, they did an intense investigation, found the “problem”, and “fixed” the data.

John F. Hultquist
March 24, 2009 9:27 am

Gary Plyler (06:54:47)
I’m from the dry side of WA State.
Seems the Port Angeles, WA weather station was put on top of a pole because of “repeated acts of vandalism” along the walk-way at City Hall. These reports suggest that, more often than not, the least of the priorities for a station’s location is providing accurate information.
I’ve yet to go look at our local weather stations but know one is at the sewage treatment facility south of the town and one at the small airport north of the town. If and when we get a nice day, I may go investigate.

George E. Smith
March 24, 2009 12:49 pm

Well that one is surely a humdinger. You could make it a bit worse by putting the device next to the pipes from a geo-thermal power plant.
Does this scene remind one of Jurascic park ?

Paul Vaughan
March 24, 2009 1:57 pm

This story reminded me of daily temperature data (in degrees Celsius) for a weather station (in a jurisdiction that will remain anonymous). These are not the exact data – but they convey the most striking aspect of the trend:
5, 3, 2, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 1, 4, 3, 6, 2, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 3, 2, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0 …
For those who think in Farenheit, 0 is the freezing point in Celsius – and during those strings of 0’s I assure you the temperature went below zero (to varying extents on different days). The technician can’t fool you so easily when the data are for your own locality.

Leon Brozyna
March 24, 2009 2:11 pm

Whoops — they did it again!
That blinker comparison shows ’em adjusting the early years down and later years up. No wonder there’s global warming. They get funny data due to bad siting giving warmer readings than in the surrounding area and then they adjust it even more upwards.
My tax dollars hard at work.

March 24, 2009 2:35 pm

It amazes me that the quality of these temperature sensors is so suspect.
How in their right mind could anyone have placed them where they are?
Then they massage the data till they get a ‘statistical’ reality that they can use to promote their agenda?

March 24, 2009 3:17 pm

” dearieme (04:01:26) :
Lucky that they didn’t have a steam line to site it by.”
They did try but it was too far from the sewage plant 😉

March 24, 2009 4:18 pm

schnurrp (04:13:35) :
OT: UK population must fall to 30m (…)
“(Porritt) one of Gordon Brown’s leading green advisers, is to warn that Britain must drastically reduce its population if it is to build a sustainable society.”
“Porritt is winning scientific backing. Professor Chris Rapley, director of the Science Museum, will use the OPT conference, to be held at the Royal Statistical Society, to warn that population growth could help derail attempts to cut greenhouse gas emissions. ”
“Many experts believe that, since Europeans and Americans have such a lopsided impact on the environment, the world would benefit more from reducing their populations than by making cuts in developing countries.”

Of course we, the disposable 50%, will just walk quietly into the fires. Just got to love Profs of (X) – they really do believe that they will be part of the remaining 50% when the carbon settles.
Profs! .. its called GENOCIDE and it is a precursor to WAR

March 24, 2009 4:25 pm

schnurrp (06:22:43) :
It appears to me that much of the problem with siting of temperature sensors may have to do with accessibility. In this wireless age why can’t we develop a standardized remote sensing package that can be installed properly, independent of easy human accessibility, and monitored remotely. We could even use solar power cells to power it or a little windmill on top. This would also solve the time-of-day problem.
Good use for some of that stimulus money I think.
The problem with that is that if the government actually got ‘real numbers’, they wouldn’t use them anyway because it would probably reduce their justification in raising taxes on every form of energy in the name of reducing co2 to stop imaginary AGW

March 24, 2009 4:32 pm

It’s clear that it’s not Open Science if the specific methods of data collection and massaging (statical games with the data) are not FULLY specified with all the steps clearly spelled out for all to see.

March 24, 2009 5:35 pm

@Gary Plyler (06:54:47) :
“[…] Being from Washington state, this is my favorite:
Port Angeles, Washington. It’s a hoot! […]”
OMG!!! (G = Gaia, in newspeak)
I think it may also have the record for area of surrounding blacktop. It looks like several hundred feet of blacktop in any direction you care to go from the… well, I was going to call it a surface station, but it’s up so high, I think its data may be part of the satellite record ;o)
Nice one!

March 24, 2009 8:11 pm

Combining Katrina and another recent post about galactic cosmic rays, any thoughts on whether the massive huricane season of 2005 could have had anything to do with the massive space/cosmic ray explosion December 27 2004

March 24, 2009 10:37 pm

schnurrp (07:53:24). I thought about the wireless options, too, but then I read an article about the ease of hacking into the Smart Grid wireless electric power system that Obama is funding, and I decided not even to broach the subject.
My guess is there is probably a stockpile of the equipment and cable for surface stations somewhere in a warehouse and what is lacking is the motivation and/or means to travel the country and repair or re-situate the stations. With luck and more hard work, Anthony and his volunteers may just turn that tide and inspire the various agencies to care about the quality of their data, let alone the data collection devices. One can hope.
In the meantime, I’m striving to learn enough to understand the posts here (and the comments — Leif takes a few readings and then I look things up and read again…) so I can, if the opportunity arises, do my part.

March 25, 2009 6:25 am

Sylvia (22:37:49) :
I’ll have to read up on the Smart Grid. Not familiar with that. As for remote wireless temp sensing, it’s not exactly a national security issue on par with the power grid and I don’t yet believe that there is actually a conspiracy to shift temps up to promote AGW. I still tend to believe that laziness and indifference and lack of initiative is behind most of the errors. I hope I’m right.
Think how valuable continuous weather data from properly sighted sensors fed into computers would be. Well within our technical capabilities IMHO.

March 25, 2009 6:41 am

3×2 (16:18:45) :
The only proper way to communicate such sentiments, IMHO, is in a suicide note.

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