A significant editorial on weather stations and data quality

I was surprised to learn today, that one of the most prominent newspapers in the USA, the Orange County Register in the Los Angeles area, carried an editorial of which my work was the subject. It is quite a turnaround from the brush off I got last year by their Science Dude blogger who wrote a story on the warming of Santa Ana, CA.

By the way here is what the official NOAA weather station for Santa Ana looks like, note the a/c heat exchanger exhausts:

Santa Ana Station looking North.  Click for a larger image

The editorial about my work was published in the OC Register on Monday, June 1st. I’ve reposted it below.


Editorial: Cooling down with global-warming data

U.S. and world temperature records are compromised by monitoring station errors.

An Orange County Register editorial

If fighting global warming may cost the economy $9.6 trillion and more than 1 million lost jobs by 2035, as the Heritage Foundation forecasts, it’d be a good idea to be sure there’s a sound basis before making such a massive sacrifice.

We’ve noted before that climate change is occurring as it always has, but the claim that man-made greenhouse gases will cause catastrophic temperature increases is based on questionable science and projections. Man’s contribution to greenhouse gases is minuscule. There are some theories but no convincing proof that increased emissions cause increased temperature.

Now another serious doubt has been raised concerning how much of the 1-degree centigrade increase over the past century allegedly caused by escalating emissions has even occurred.

“We can’t know for sure if global warming is a problem if we can’t trust the data,” said Anthony Watts, veteran broadcast meteorologist, who for three years organized an extensive review of official ground temperature monitoring stations, in conjunction with Dr. Roger Pielke Sr., senior research scientist at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences and professor emeritus of the Department of Atmospheric Science at the University of Colorado.

The study, recently published by the free-market Heartland Institute, inspected 860 of the 1,221 U.S. ground stations that gauge temperature changes. The findings were alarming.

They found 89 percent of stations “fail to meet the National Weather Service’s own siting requirements” that say stations must be located at least 100 feet from artificial heat sources.

“We found stations located next to the exhaust fans of air conditioning units, surrounded by asphalt parking lots and roads, on blistering hot rooftops and near sidewalks and buildings that absorb and radiate heat,” Mr. Watts reported.

Many stations also had added more sensitive measuring devices, heat-generating radio transmission devices and even latex paint to replace original whitewash, resulting in greater heat retention and reflection.

At one location, Mr. Watts said when he “stood next to the temperature sensor, I could feel warm exhaust air from the nearby cell phone tower equipment sheds blowing past me! I realized this official thermometer was recording the temperature of a hot zone . . . and other biasing influences including buildings, air conditioner vents and masonry.”

These influences produce readings higher than actual ambient temperatures, Mr. Watts said. Moreover, the research revealed “major gaps in the data record that were filled in with data from nearby sites, a practice that propagates and compounds errors.”

These inflated, error-prone, tinkered-with temperature recordings are one of several measurements cited by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as evidence man-made global warming is a threat. But the Heartland study concluded, “The U.S. temperature record is unreliable. And since the U.S. record is thought to be ‘the best in the world,’ it follows that the global database is likely similarly compromised and unreliable.”

Before devastating the economy to fix a problem that may not exist, we ought to get the numbers right.


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Congrats, Anthony! Always good to get the word out!

Keith Minto

Yes, good to see that all of that hard work is starting to be appreciated.
“Before devastating the economy to fix a problem that may not exist, we ought to get the numbers right.”…. Wonderful how the thought of approaching tax hikes clarifies the mind.


Well done. Perhaps the tide is turning.

Hank Hancock

Congratulations, Anthony! Thank you for your efforts in bringing the problem of heat bias to the forefront. I hope more media outlets bring your important work to the attention of the public and policy makers.

Dave Wendt

I would like to add my congratulations and my continuing appreciation for this site and all the work you’ve done, and the honesty and principle with which you handled yourself and matters here. Unfortunately, given some of the craziness chronicled over at Climate Depot, I have to add my hope that revenues generated by the Google ads provides enough additional income to pay for a bodyguard. It would appear that incessant repetition of AGW propaganda is finally succeeding in driving people insane. Dissent from AGW orthodoxy has apparently now become a capital crime to some of it’s more enthusiastic supporters. God help us.


wow, hittin the big time! Well-deserved, indeed, Anthony.
OT, sorry, but after our dust-up/brawl at Climate Progress, I’d feel remiss if I didn’t mention this.
WUWTers were locked out of the thread at the end. Dohgaza (who stops in here, I believe) takes 9 of the last 11 comments. It’s quite bizarre. Like he’s doing the Ali shuffle and knocking down our phantom comments as if they were inflatable pop-ups or something. I don’t know what his relationship to proprietor Joe Romm is, but it was like he was the designated clean-up guy. Really spooky.
I doubt if Anthony will accept Gail’s invitation to her Climate Progress picnic, but if he does he should make sure he’s not on the menu:
“Anthony, do you believe in the death penalty?
I don’t, for many reasons (unfairly applied, mistakes can be made).
But if I did, (do you?) should it be applicable to people who deliberately, mendaciously, foster disastrous climate change by their denialist rhetoric that adds to the political logjam to address it?
I don’t know! But I do, have plenty of space for the ClimateProgressPicnic!”
This is the bookend to the comment early in the thread saying future generations would ” strangle (deniers) in their beds”.
Don’t mean this to distract from Anthony’s moment of well-deserved honor/glory, and sorry Anthony you probably didn’t want to see her quote ever again, but there is something really creepy in the air. NBC’s Tonight, Brian Williams did this gushing like 2-hour White House special where he sounded like a lovelorn schoolgirl. Even Jon Stewart was laughing at it.
Am I crazy, or are we heading towards a very bad place? Please tell me I’m crazy.
REPLY: Unfortunately, you are quite sane. – Anthony


Will the Guardian ever do a write up on monitoring stations?

Mike Bryant

Congratulations Anthony. The word is getting out.
We’re living in bad times, but it’s nice to know that there are so many good people here to help sort things out.


The wind is starting to turn around and people are waking up to reality. Now, if they could only connect the dots and realise how Al Gore is the master of the Big Lie, that will be a major achievement, but your achievement Anthony, is a major one.


Not related but, the blip on the AMSR-E Sea Ice Extent happened again a few days ago (as it has every year at the same date), is there any meaning to this?
REPLY: it is a seasonal data adjustment to account for meltwater which appears on the surface of the ice about this time, causing an offset to make it look like there is more open water than there actually is. – Anthony

Richard deSousa

Let’s hope more newspapers pick up on the OC Register’s op ed piece. The tide could be turning at last!!


So here it is.
This is today’s Left meets the Chicago Way (see Rahm Emanuel).
Intimidation is the name of the game. I’ll bet dollars to donuts this is not a an isolated coincidence.
From now until the Climate Bill comes to a vote, this is going to be the order of the day. (No one will be happier than me if I’m wrong.)
No reflection on you, Anthony, but if I were you I’d double- and triple-check to make sure all my tax returns are squeaky-clean.
(OK, Neill, take off the tin-foil hat…………..slowly.)

Great work, Anthony. The fact that they noticed your work and made an editorial out of it already indicates that mainstream media is slowly “waking up”.


Anthony, please receive incessant loud cheers from the opposite shore of the giant basin!


Great work.
Well done Anthony.
More power to you.

Pierre Gosselin

“…U.S. record is thought to be ‘the best in the world,”
A little bit of nationalism there?
Living in Germany (I am myself a U.S. citizen) and having looked at a couple of stations here myself, I can say firsthand the German stations are nowhere near as badly sited or maintained as the ones Anthony has exposed in the US.
In general, the Germans are real sticklers when it comes to precision, technical excellence and fulfilling norms and standards. I’m sure the same goes for other European countries like Sweden, Austria, Switzerland, etc. If they measure something, you can rely on their numbers. Clearly Anthony has proven that the US system is an utter atrocity
that has only accomplished two things: diminish US scientific integrity and waste billions of taxpayer dollars.
But the underlying point made in this thread is an accurate one. Surface stations are not accurate and their data simply cannot be used to make decisions. We definitely need to get the numbers straight. We have to rely more on the satellite data.

Frank Lansner

This article is priceless, what an achievement!! Congrats!!
I will see if i can spread it around.
Cheers 🙂

Pierre Gosselin

Keith Minto,
LOL! It was Churchill who said:
“Nothing focusses the mind like being shot at”.

Another, small, crack in the “concensus”.
I know not what size the “OCR” is, but I’d guess it’s a local/regional paper, unlikely to be staple reading at the breakfast tables of Washington or New York.
Doubtless the nationals still get the articles about Global Warming threatening pets, being caused by fat people, can be ameleorated by drinking less beer & not eating lamb. (Just picking what appear to be the most ludicrous “results”!)

Roger Knights

OT: “Climate Bill Would Help Reduce U.S. Deficit, Federal Budget Office Says
“June 6 (Bloomberg) — U.S. climate legislation approved by a House committee would raise more revenue than it would cost in federal spending through 2019, the Congressional Budget Office said in a report yesterday.
“The budget estimate says the legislation, to cap greenhouse-gas emissions and create a system to trade pollution permits, would raise $845.6 billion, while adding $821.2 billion to federal spending, a $24.4 billion net gain.
“President Barack Obama, during a visit to Germany yesterday, expressed optimism about the legislation, saying the process “is moving forward” in ways that “would have seemed impossible two or three months ago.”
“The $24 billion in surplus over the next decade is far less than the $60 billion a year Obama once said would be available through the system to distribute to consumers through a tax credit to offset any higher energy costs. Republicans who oppose the measure may seize on the costs to consumers to rally opposition while the measure is being considered by several congressional panels.”

Mike Ryan

Totally off topic but this item from the site of the German Embassy in London might provide some amusement:
Obama’s popularity in Germany
5 June 2009
A German production company has announced plans to stage an Obama musical. The announcement followed on the heels of a German toy manufacturer’s decision to market Bo, the Obamas’ pet dog, as a stuffed toy.

Pierre Gosselin

I notice some readers here are awfully and rightfully wary about the designs of the new Administration.
You’re being told stories about the horrors of socialism, government regulation and so on. Socialism has always been something Americans have rejected, and now it seems the socialists have found the ideal instrument (manmade climate catastrophe) to fool the people into accepting it.
Germany here is a socialist country, taxes are high and there’s a lot of regulation. Yet, I’m still living here and don’t plan on moving back to the US anytime soon. So “socialism” can’t be that bad, right?
The question you have to ask yourselves is:
Is the “socialism” now being proposed in the US designed to provide citizens, fairly, with more services and security, or is it designed to reward or punish people depending on how they behave?
If you answer the latter, then you’ve got lots to worry about. It would mean you have a government that is intolerant and authoritarian.


Wu..wu..wu..wu Anthony.
(doing the victory dance)
Just wish I could believe it would penetrate more than a few thick heads on capitol hill.


Death threats from climate extremists are nothing new. Tim Ball had some a few years ago.
“I can tolerate being called a sceptic because all scientists should be sceptics, but then they started calling us deniers, with all the connotations of the Holocaust. That is an obscenity. It has got really nasty and personal.”
Joe Romm allows such threats to be propogated through his blog, and blocks the right of reply to those who disagree.
The Greenshirts are on the march.
Fascists on the attack, no bother worry ’bout that
Fascists on the attack, we will fight them back
-Linden Kwesi Johnson-

Pierre Gosselin

On the subject of measuring temps,
What is the source of data for this map?
and for this one?
Which is better?
Unisys seems to be updated every day, with exact numerical readings given at different locations on the map. Which one should I believe?

UK Sceptic

Climate reality, so long out of fashion, appears to be making a comeback. Well done, Mr. Watts for finally getting the message across that the US temperature record is wrong (and probably everyone else’s too). Let’s hope that common sense prevails.

Jimmy Haigh

For sure the tide is turning. At last, Anthony, all of your excellent work is starting to be realised.
I predict now that it will get very messy and bitter on the AGW side and that lots of metaphorical rats will start deserting that metaphorical ship in droves pretty soon.

Stephen Brown

The Met Office here in the UK is predicting “a barbeque summer”, the pictures of which appear in this article:-
Makes me wonder about how ‘good’ our weather monitoring stations are. I’d be more than willing to survey any UK weather station in Southern England but, apart from stations based inside airport perimeters, I can’t find out where they are.


[“Before devastating the economy to fix a problem that may not exist, we ought to get the numbers right.”]
Yep. It would be a good idea.
It’s nice to see some of the main stream media echoing these sentiments now.
About time.


Congratulations on the extra exposure Anthony.
But wait, more congratulations are due. I just had to go look at dhogaza’s blog. It looks as though the Acolytes have made you the new “anti science” (or is that anti Christ – I get confused).


Congrat’s Anthony, I hope things will turn around for our country. I have been checkig out Utube and there is a lot of AGW mockery going on everything from cartoons to music videos and comedians. Maybe this will be used in those efforts as well. There are a lot people really concerned with this, but it is not reaching the ears of our Great Nation’s leaders. Any Congrats again on this very celebratory day. I am siging off now to install my new HD4890 Video graphics card, so excited it is very top notch at a reasonable price. I only regret that I purchased it in a Japanese DIY computer store, not an store in the USA. I had to do it though, for I am stationed overseas in Okinawa Japan. May God bless and keep you.


The tide is turning. There is no global warming when the globe is in fact cooling. What you have acheived, Anthony, is to put fresh wind in the voices of the millions who are questioning the Agenda of AGW.


tallbloke (02:13:27) :
They may control much of the media, they may control the politics (for now) and they may control the canvas, but they do not control the climate.
It hates them.

Your station survey deserves far more accolades than this–still, positive press form the People’s Republic of California is most impressive. Congratulations.
“The budget estimate says the legislation, to cap greenhouse-gas emissions and create a system to trade pollution permits, would raise $845.6 billion, while adding $821.2 billion to federal spending, a $24.4 billion net gain.”
Opponents might care to note this “net gain” is less than has been–and will be spent–on Government Motors, and pales in contrast to the $ trillions Obama has spent.


Very appropriate lead-in picture for this article. Nice how the shelter door faces west, right into the afternoon sun.


Congrats also on your recent promotion by the Acolytes. It appears that you are now the new “Anti Science”
Amongst the many sinning attributes of “The Anti Science” we discover “He’s not even a good photographer …”


Pierre Gosselin (02:22:25) :
On the subject of measuring temps,
What is the source of data for this map?
and for this one?
Which is better?
Unisys seems to be updated every day, with exact numerical readings given at different locations on the map. Which one should I believe?

Don’t know if it’s just the colour palette on my pc, but the NOAA seems to be using a bright orange colour for the +1-1.5C range which is bolder than the oranges for the +3.5-5C range. Makes it look like the ocean is hotter than it really is.

Ron de Haan

Bulls eye!!!, congratulations Anthony.


the legislation, to cap greenhouse-gas emissions and create a system to trade pollution permits, would raise $845.6 billion, while adding $821.2 billion to federal spending, a $24.4 billion net gain.
Who’s doing their stats? Michael Mann or Michael Mouse?


Anthony – :thu: onya mate.

Jim Papsdorf

Great News !!!! Now lets see where else this shows up. I sent this item on to Drudge.
They are carrying the following item right now:
“FAA Could Close 20 Weather Offices
By Steve Vogel and Ed O’Keefe
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, June 5, 2009
The federal government yesterday moved forward with a controversial proposal that would close weather offices at 20 regional air traffic control centers around the country and instead provide controllers with forecasts from two central units in Maryland and Missouri.
The consolidation plan came under immediate fire from unions representing National Weather Service employees and air traffic controllers, which charged that the change will endanger aviation safety.
“Air traffic controllers will no longer have the immediate expertise of an on-site meteorologist to advise them where to route aircraft experiencing difficulty when weather conditions play a critical role in that decision,” said Dan Sobien, president of the National Weather Service Employees Organization. ……..”
I wonder if these are the few stations that are in compliance ?????

Adam Gallon (01:51:00) :
I know not what size the “OCR” is, but I’d guess it’s a local/regional paper, unlikely to be staple reading at the breakfast tables of Washington or New York.

Orange County California has a population over 3,121,00. The OCR has an average daily circulation of over 250,000 with a Sunday circulation of over 312,000. Facts all easily obtained. That’s a tad larger than a “Mayberry” paper.
I reckon the OC folks aren’t exactly reading the Washington Post or New York Times at breakfast either. Sorta like how we in North Carolina don’t generally read the New York Times or Washington Post at breakfast.

Tom in Florida

“Before devastating the economy to fix a problem that may not exist, we ought to get the numbers right.”
Quote of the Year nomination!!!!

Congratulations, bravo Anthony and volunteers.
However, I cannot find a link to your published study either here eg under Projects, or at Surface Stations website (unless I’ve missed the obvious). Please do put links upfront – as I want to pass on word! thanks…


First things first. Congratulations Mr. Watts — well done.
Roger Knights (01:54:48) :
Maybe someone could explain that article to me. I had to read it three times and I am still not sure what it meant.
This is what I think it means: With all the horse-trading that has been done to give emission credits to various industries, the Gov’t will take in only $24 billion over ten years. Far less than planned and far less than the original proposed value of the emission taxes. I am not sure that is the take home message the author intended, but that is what I got. If I could say one thing to the author of that piece, “Well — duh.”


“If fighting global warming may cost the economy $9.6 trillion and more than 1 million lost jobs by 2035, as the Heritage Foundation forecasts, it’d be a good idea to be sure there’s a sound basis before making such a massive sacrifice”.
So refreshing to hear.
Snowing here in North Dakota


What? Did i actually sense a bit of doubt in the wording of the article that there may be some problems with the “science” of global warming crazies? Good for you for fueling further debate on this “closed” subject!

don't tarp me bro

Thanks for the picture of the weather station. I realise that roof can hit 140 degrees and the temp falls 20 degrees under just a little breeze. The pseudo scientist claim pictures are not scientific data but they use pictures for measuring ice in terms of acreage. Ice thickness is the same as the picture. It is NOT level below the surface but they assume it is. There are currents. Next issue in measurement,. No one seems to extensivley measure under water temps in the artic. Again dealing with volcanic activity and currents, how do they control variables other than air?
Yes it is a very non scientific statement to call some one anti sciece. How do they gater data on a person to see if they accept or even study using the scintific method? Is their data analysys scientific? Is their experiment well designed?
I will give an example. Do we have a control group planet with same materials as the earth and people but no fire? No man caused combustion?

Orange County is a fairly rich, conservative, area of S. California. It has a U.C. Campus (with business school, and ag department focused on Oranges) and is generally considered to be more influential than its size would justify.
It is most decidedly not a “Mayberry”. These are “Wall Street Journal” and “Investors Business Daily” folks (with some “Ag Report” folks hanging on against the tide of ubranization…). Oh, and maybe a bit of L.A. Times (though I’ve never actually met anyone who reads it…)
$24 Billion / 10 years = $2.4 Billion / year. They will have at least a couple of $Billion error in the estimates (and the error is always toward more spending and less income…). Ignoring for the moment that this is a rounding error on one single departments budget: The error band and inflation will eat all this. The Feds will have no net income from the program. It’s a bust.
Obama knows this. He just started to propose a VAT to be done in addition to the income tax. He’s been told that the check book is empty, the Chinese are no longer funding the credit card, and the taxpayer is broke… so he’s looking for taxes that can be hidden or collected by a business on the Governments behalf, and preferably a hidden tax. He has not yet figured out that even if not one single soul noticed the tax, the level of extraction of money from the productive economy into the consumption economy of Government that would be needed to feed his dreams would break the economy and render tax receipts much lower.
Oh well.
They will figure it out when we are broken on the floor… He is clearly thinking like a miner, not like a farmer…


“Man’s contribution to greenhouse gases is miniscule”. Now that, though strictly true, is a deceptive or ignorant statement. Either the writer didn’t understand that CO2, generally understood, though incorrectly, to be the dominant greenhouse gas has probably been significantly increased by man, or was trying to play on the ignorance of his readership of the effect of the change of a particular greenhouse gas. I may well be over reading it because the rest of the editorial is lucid and spot on.
I certainly hope and pray that the tide on AGW has turned. The increasing skeptical tone nationally and internationally is way overdue, and welcome. The parodies now parading out, as in To Think George Will Saw it on Mulberry Street are just glorious, too. I think, though, that one of the most important signs are the sort of psychotic break you see at Climate Progress and the like. Dhogaza is a highly committed and informed and effective thug for the coterie still defending the indefensible. Last year, about this time, I told Dano that he had a chance to become a famous fool; all he had to do was stop restraining himself as the false paradigm that CO2=AGW splinters.