How not to measure temperature, part 91: find the official climate thermometer in this photo

It has been awhile since we’ve looked at stations in the United States Historical Climatology Network. Last night I was doing quality control and updates to the database and came across this photo by Surfacestations.org volunteer John W. Slayton. He’s been surveying dozens of stations this summer and has been adding quite a number of USHCN surveys to the database. We all thank him.

This photo has been retouched to minimize the sun glare. Find the thermometer.

Junkyard_MMTS_org

Official NOAA Climate Station of Record, Fillmore, UT - click to enlarge

Give up? Here’s the photo labeled to point it out:

Junkyard_MMTS

Official NOAA Climate Station of Record, Fillmore, UT, looking north - click to enlarge

Here’s another view showing the rain gauge:

Fillmore, UT USHCN Climate Station of Record, looking south - Click for larger image

You can see more photos here at the Surfacestations.org gallery server

The tree shade and the junk makes for an interesting combination of exposure factors. This station is in the backyard of a private observer whom I won’t name. Certainly you can’t fault the observer for the measurement environment, people are free to do with and maintain their property however they wish. And as we’ve seen time and again, NOAA/NWS usually does not concern itself with the measurement environment. As long as the station produces data, they are generally satisfied. However, this sort of arrangement doesn’t always yield a controlled measurement environment.

For example the month the photo was taken, the observer missed only 7 days.

Junkyard_USHCN_july09

July 2009 B91 report for Fillmore, UT USHCN station - click to enlarge

So the question in my mind is: how does the albedo of old tires compare to asphalt?

The surfacestations project is approaching the 90% mark now for the nationwide survey. I’ll post an update in a few days. Papers for peer review are still in process, but my goal is to have the first ready for publication by the end of the year. A combination of illnesses, business duties, and another paper by a co-author has slowed the progress.

75 thoughts on “How not to measure temperature, part 91: find the official climate thermometer in this photo

  1. A picture is worth a thousand words. It describes so beautifully the state of the network — a pile of junk.

  2. No. You find it. I want no part of it. I wonder how many of the local “readers” have died of snakebite?

  3. Not far OT, but I’ve long been hungry for looking at US temperature trend graph(s), drawn with data only from stations of CRN Rating 1 or 1+2.
    Have you ever published such graph(s) Anthony?

    REPLY:
    They’ll be in the upcoming papers. – Anthony

  4. “So the question in my mind is: how does the albedo of old tires compare to asphalt?”
    I think in this case, tire albedo is not as relevant as thermal diffusivity and mass. Tires are good insulators, so they’re not very effective heat sinks, especially given that they are hollow. The trees, completely surrounding the site, are suspect. I wonder how much compost is under all that trash, perking away and giving off heat. And where is the BBQ?

  5. I see Pure Poison picked up on my comment from last week when I spoke about the UAH satellite data set saying “what trend?”
    http://blogs.crikey.com.au/purepoison/2009/10/27/trends-in-temperature/comment-page-1/#comment-15079
    Crikey is a very pro-AGW site, but unlike Real Climate they actually let me post my views. I hope my response was roughly accurate – I was going off the cuff on my understanding of what I have read here and at other sites.
    Oops forgot to thank them for drawing attention to my original comment BRB

  6. tokyoboy (21:48:19) :
    Not far OT, but I’ve long been hungry for looking at US temperature trend graph(s), drawn with data only from stations of CRN Rating 1 or 1+2.
    Have you ever published such graph(s) Anthony?
    REPLY: They’ll be in the upcoming papers. – Anthony

    How do you get around issues of sample size and distribution? The CRN Rating 1 and 2 stations must (one would think?) be few and far between.
    REPLY: With over 80% of the network surveyed, the sample size and distribution is not as big of a problem as it could be. This is why I didn’t quit at 30% as some suggested. Finding the best stations was really the most important part of the survey and that takes time. – Anthony

  7. You may be a Redneck if:
    your MMTS is in your backyard surrounded by old tires, beds, miscellaneous pieces of iron, wood, 50 gallon drums full of??? and other unrecognisable artifacts.
    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

  8. Pehaps they are just ‘streamlining’ the network?
    After all, this current clunky and old fashioned network is so er uhm messy isnt it? All we need is a computer model and a shiny new super computer costing a mere billion dollars and it will be far easier to decide what the temperatures should be, hey presto! No messy network, no need to gather data from reomote locations, just tap a few keys and the shiny new billion dollar computer called ‘deep Gore’ will be able to tell you the ‘adjusted’ temperature anywhere in the world in a few milliseconds, now thats what I call streamlined! Of course no outsider will be given access to the raw data because there wont be any, just a secret special programme devised by that well known computer geek Mr Briffa for which a Nobel prize has already been bought.
    To top this wonderful streamlining off beautifully perhaps a new shiny law making it a criminal offence to actually measure and distribute the old fashioned and clunky and far from streamlined temperature figures so the only source availible will be the deep Gore unit, what could be more streamlined than that?

  9. Man, someone needs to report that location to vector control. Look how green that place is. That means there is water. That means those tires are full of water and probably mosquitoes and other vermin. Sure, a person can keep their property how they wish but they don’t need to be a hazard to the local community. Cement plants will often take old tires for use as fuel and there is one relatively close to just about everywhere.

  10. The photographer, John Slayton, traveled to Idaho and Washington this past summer also. Via e-mail we corresponded about several locations that seem to have disappeared. In one case John went to the end of a road that overlooks Case Inlet (in the S. Puget Sound area) with the Lat/Long indicating the station was just a ways out there! Neither John nor I have been able to find out where the equipment got taken to – if it was re-stationed. Likewise for a station in South Cle Elum, although I did speak with the lady that had that one in her back yard – so at least we know it is gone.
    It is amazing to me that so many of these places have been found and documented. Folks such as John S. are to be congratulated.
    Cheers, John H.

  11. I thought it was inside a burning tire. 😉
    Do you know what a panda cub is doing when the tropical forest is burning? …

    It’s also burning. 😉 (A joke from the Czecho Slovak Superstar, our Pop Idol.)

  12. So the observer missed 7 days? Can he just miss whichever days he wants? Like if it’s cold & miserable, he just won’t bother?

  13. Anybody who keeps their backyard looking like this isn’t going to be concerned about the met station. As well as missing many of the recordings, he (she) probably hangs things on the equipment, especially when bbqing.

  14. I am flabbergasted, in fact my gast has never been so flabbered! Seriously this is appalingly bad for a national network of “anything” should be so poorly maintained! Cassandra King is right, although her Deep Gore is not as good as our Deep Thought, naturally enough, the French-polishing on the oak side panels is quite something you know, & as for the porcelain!

  15. May I be the first to use the standard response: “It doesn’t matter because we adjust for it!” (sarc)
    More great work from an incredible community project. I am in awe that a bunch of volunteers have produced such a huge effort right across the nation. No wonder “team” people get nervous and embarrased that the blogosphere can penetrate “settled science” and ask basic questions that can no longer be brushed off by the standard response.
    Anthony – I trust that you will peerreviewpublishinrecognisedjournals your work. May I also suggest a comprehensive review by the CA team to make it bullet proof? The slightest punctuation mistake will no doubt be sufficient to render any results null and void.

  16. I guess the homeowner is just too safety conscious to keep a barbecue in that yard. Once lit, tires don’t extinguish easily, after all.
    As you point out, the direction of the site bias is completely non-obvious. I think this kind of thing is at least part of the reason for all those detailed siting specs that were ignored so often. If the instruments are sited per spec, then no one has to argue about the bias introduced by a pile of moldering tires.
    I look forward to the reports on the finished project.

  17. Andrew. You ask: “So the question in my mind is: how does the albedo of old tires compare to asphalt?”
    An observation. I bought one of those laser temperature measurement devices from Bunnings (the Oz equivalent of Home Depot). On the day of the tragic fires in Victoria, I measured the air temperature at our place in the country (far away from the fires) by pointing the device at the sky – 35 deg C. I then pointed it at the ground surface – 65 deg C. We had some tyres sitting there. I pointed it at those – 75 deg C. Really! I was amazed. Presumably asphalt has a similar behaviour.

  18. Re mondo (00:35:20) :
    I was watching the Malaysian MotoGP on Eurosport.
    The commentators noted something along the lines of Air Temperature 31C, Track Temperature 51C!
    That was just beforethe heavens opened and the contents of Lake Huron landed upon the track in about a minute.

  19. Rather than the warming/cooling effects of the environment I suspect that the bigger problem is that the environment changes, if the site is to have any value for recording climate changes. Clearly, it doesn’t look like the owner cares much about keeping the vegetation (or junk) the same over the years.
    It looks like there is a rain gauge there as well. Its siting looks even worse than that of the thermometer. Clearly, the dense vegetation will make the rainfall measurements highly suspicious.
    Elsewhere in the world the temperature is usually measured 2 meters above the ground. That makes the readings somewhat less affected by the ground albedo. Why not also in the US?

  20. The biggest problem at this site is the forest regrowth. I bet overnight minima have been rising like mad.

  21. Not clear if 7 days of readings were missing or if the reader was missing for 7 days…
    “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”

  22. “NOAA/NWS usually does not concern itself with the measurement environment. As long as the station produces data, they are generally satisfied”: so they can have no intellectually serious claim to be pursuing science, then.

  23. “Siting specs? We don’t need no stinkin’ siting specs!”
    From the upcoming movie “The Temperatures of the Sierra Madre”

  24. MMS reports that the sensor has been at this site for only a couple of years so there are two pertinent questions to ask:
    1. What were they thinking when they found this site acceptable?
    2. How did they get the cable threaded under all that junk?
    Your tax dollars at work.

  25. Although the state of a site is quantified, isn’t that for only a given point in time? Is there a record of changes to any given site? For example, sites which are adequate today, may have been less-than-exemplary 5 years ago, or visa-versa.
    Additionally, should any sites prove to be adequate today, does not mean they will stay that way.
    Isn’t there a calibration certificate for these sensors? Along with the cal. cert. shouldn’t there also be a site cert.? I don’t know, maybe this is covered, but when trying to measure variations of less that half a degree, through a short term variation of 50-odd degrees and more, regular certification seems to be a must if this data is going to be used for anything meaningful beyond growing tomatoes.

  26. “The surfacestations project is approaching the 90% mark now for the nationwide survey. I’ll post an update in a few days. Papers for peer review are still in process, but my goal is to have the first ready for publication by the end of the year. A combination of illnesses, business duties, and another paper by a co-author has slowed the progress.”
    …………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
    Excellent work Anthony. It will be interesting to see the response to the finished article….. and the flow on effect thereafter.

  27. As bad as this site looks (and it looks very bad), I would bet its readings are closer to the actual temps, than the rooftop sites, or the ones surrounded by asphault parking lots.
    It doesn’t take much common sense to see that the whole network is suspect, and the adjustments to the record, are more suspect, than the quality of the sites.

  28. “”” jorgekafkazar (22:08:38) :
    “So the question in my mind is: how does the albedo of old tires compare to asphalt?”
    I think in this case, tire albedo is not as relevant as thermal diffusivity and mass. Tires are good insulators, so they’re not very effective heat sinks, especially given that they are hollow. The trees, completely surrounding the site, are suspect. I wonder how much compost is under all that trash, perking away and giving off heat. And where is the BBQ? “””
    The obligatory barbecue is staring you right in the face in the lower right corner of the first picture, and it is still there in the second picture.

  29. “Isn’t there a calibration certificate for these sensors? Along with the cal. cert. shouldn’t there also be a site cert.?”
    It wouldn’t be too much to ask the observers to provide a photo each month of the observing station??
    REPLY: sadly, no on all counts. -A

  30. It is such a perfect metaphor that it could be the opening scene for a novel:
    The data collector was shown the yard where the sensor was housed. The gate hung precariously from one hinge and yielded only grudgingly as he dragged it open. A gentle breeze wafted an odor of rotting vegetation with a pungent scent of old tyres and oil. He moved carefully, placing his feet around the strewn rusting parts of old automobiles. He carefully sidestepped a puddle that glistened with rainbow colors and climbed over the pile of tyres. At last he spyed his goal – the stephenson box was just visible standing 5 feet on a rusty pole, half concealed by some overgrown shrubs that had not known a trimmer’s shears for many forgotten years.
    He removed a cloth from his pocket and brushed the cobwebs from the lock, sending a spider scurring into one of the slatted holes. Without missing a beat, he pulled open the tiny door, shone a flashlight inside and scribbled some figures down onto a notepad. Then he closed the box and retraced his footsteps back out the yard and into the open. This was one of the worst he had come across, but not by much. No matter, he would take the results back to GISS and they would add this to hundreds of other datapoints and publish their global temperature anomalies, and these would be sent to the UN, and the world would be told how everything is getting hotter and everyone must change the way they live.
    But what would the world think, he wondered suddenly, if the world found out that the data being collected was just as so much rubbish? He quickly put the thought out of his mind, climbed into his prius and drove off.

  31. isn’t there something wrong in this picture? i know, there isn’t enough concrete around the temperature sensors to drive the temps to where they naturally should be.

  32. Morgan T (05:38:46) :

    OT
    I checked the national (contiguous U.S) Temperature at NOAA
    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/img/climate/research/2006/ann/Reg110Dv00Elem02_01122006_pg-v2.gif,
    To me it lookes like NOAA says that 1998 was the warmest year in the USA.
    Did not Mcintyre prove that this was not the case?

    S.Mc proved that GISS had made errors.
    If you check the GISS site, you will find that US contiguous 48 temps now have 98 & 34 tying.
    I suspect the problem with NOAA is the switch from USHCN1 to USHCN2, the latest version of which has done away with UHI corrections. TOBs alone can account for the warming in that set.
    DaveE.

  33. Something to consider:
    Natural variation may result in sensitive zonal climate areas responding to natural warming to a greater degree than less sensitive zonal climate areas. For example, desert climates are very sensitive to natural variation, of note are the extreme temperatures between night and day. Is it possible that by mathematically assigned weighting factors unique to sensitive climate zones, the overall global warming trend would disappear?

  34. The reason why I say this is because the 98 El Nino temp rise is not evident in every backyard junkyard. Is there a climate zone pattern to this? With enough data across climate zones, the pattern may not be related as much to tires as it is to that zone’s sensitivity to natural weather pattern variations and trends. In sensitive zones, warmer may be lots warmer (just like at Meachum, Oregon, colder means lots colder) and thus weight the data when it is averaged into a single anomaly. For this to be determined, geologic parameters, both in terms of the general climate zone and the micro climate zones within each zone need to be catagorized and compared to sensor location.

  35. The tire may not matter. The trees could prevent a lot of sun from reaching them. The sensor is a bit close to the … um … shed?
    Probably appropriate if you want to track the climate in junk yards.

  36. Backyard ?
    Looks more like my living room.
    ‘cept for the MMTS, of course. Actually, the BBQ is on the hood of the abandoned car.

  37. Regardless of this sorry picture, I am convinced that the expansion of urban heat islands, where about half of the land-based temp measurements are made, must be creating an upward bias over time. This would be particularly important in the case of suburban locations near major cities where the growth rate is highest.
    I wonder — would be feasible to analyze the official temperature records of some fast-growing suburbs that host temp measurement stations and compare this to the growth rates of building permits for those suburbs? Those permits represent new roofs, roads, driveways, etc. that collect solar radiation and warm the surrounding air by convection and re-radiation more than did the farm fields that they have replaced in many cases. More heat is also contributed by more furnaces, kitchens, air conditioners, lights, automobiles, lawnmowers, etc. Could such analysis determine if there is a definable correlation factor between growth of housing permits and rising local temperature measurements made over a period of several years? Could such a correlation factor then be applied as a correction to official temp measurements being made in growing suburban locations?

  38. OceanTwo (06:23:29) :
    Although the state of a site is quantified, isn’t that for only a given point in time? Is there a record of changes to any given site? For example, sites which are adequate today, may have been less-than-exemplary 5 years ago, or visa-versa.

    Excellent point.
    I.e., the San Antonio International Airport station is listed as a Class 1 site by Anthony (the only one in Texas, the last time I checked). But the sensor was moved to an open grassy area (from near a building) fairly recently. In 1942 the site was moved from a rapidly developing downtown site to a (then) rural airport site. That area has since become surrounded by freeways, newer bigger runways, and massive development (hotels, malls, parking lots, etc.).

  39. That’s a shocking amount of greenery for western Utah.
    Isn’t Millard County next to the Bonneville salt flats?

  40. I wonder what rating this one gets. From the other shots, it appears the structure is unheated. But I guess it can’t be better than a CRN3 in any case. OTOH, I don’t know if it can be rightly rated as CRN4. It has strange problems that make it somewhat difficult to rate.

  41. jorgekafkazar (22:08:38) :
    “So the question in my mind is: how does the albedo of old tires compare to asphalt?”
    I think in this case, tire albedo is not as relevant as thermal diffusivity and mass. Tires are good insulators, so they’re not very effective heat sinks, especially given that they are hollow. The trees, completely surrounding the site, are suspect. I wonder how much compost is under all that trash, perking away and giving off heat. And where is the BBQ?
    jorgekafkazar
    Tires are very good heat sinks, just ask anyone who has ever fought a tire fire or a vehicle fire. You can pour large amounts of water onto a burning tire and it will re-ignite as soon as you remove your hose stream. Once a tire is warm or hot it will hold that heat for a long time.

  42. jorgekafkazar
    Tires are very good heat sinks, just ask anyone who has ever fought a tire fire or a vehicle fire. You can pour large amounts of water onto a burning tire and it will re-ignite as soon as you remove your hose stream. Once a tire is warm or hot it will hold that heat for a long time.
    Yes, a burning tire is difficult to extinguish, but flammability does not make it a good heat sink. Maybe the cord belts within make it hard to extinguish, like those trick candles on a birthday cake that reignite themselves as soon a you blow them out. A tire’s surface, resembling a black body unless it sports a wide whitewall, will absorb heat rediation, but because the tire material is somewhat of an insulator, I doubt the surface heat will penetrate easily, nor be released easily after the heat has had time to penetrate.

  43. Sorry, but I think the owner of this property does bear responsibility. If you’re going to volunteer for something like this, you should be responsible enough to maintain a proper environment for the equipment. Does NOAA or whomever just install the thing and walk away? Or do they give some guidelines to the curators? I can’t imagine they don’t give some instruction, like keep all your junk away from this thing.

  44. How about a test and demonstration of a properly sited MMTS VS an improperly sited one?
    Setup one per specification for a CRN1 rating.
    Setup another one right next to a sidewalk along an asphalt parking lot, with an air conditioner about 9 feet away blowing its warm exhaust at it then pull a car up next to it with a nice and warm engine. Thrown in a BBQ too. Pretty much replicate the conditions of the sensor at that fire station.
    That’ll get some simultaneous realtime data from two sensors as close as practical with the perfectly sited one being the control.

  45. I had a neighbor with a yard like that.
    Truly a sight for sore eyes.
    The images would make a great storyline in the nightly news.
    This is prime Copenhagen material.
    Or, better yet, How the West was Lost.

  46. jorgekafkazar (22:08:38) :
    “So the question in my mind is: how does the albedo of old tires compare to asphalt?”
    I think in this case, tire albedo is not as relevant as thermal diffusivity and mass. Tires are good insulators, so they’re not very effective heat sinks, especially given that they are hollow.

    Tires are excellent heat sinks. Placing an MRE (Meal, Ready to Eat — “three lies for the price of one”) on a truck tire for ten minutes will get it so hot, you’ll singe your taste buds. Which, if you’re eating an MRE, isn’t necessarily a bad thing…

  47. Greg E. (22:57:47)
    I’m with you on the need for actual testing. Curiously, despite its present-day junkyard siting, the Filmore data (available only through 2004) shows no evidence of non-climatic effects in a battery of tests in both the time and frequency domains. It’s really one of the “cleanest” records in Utah! Micro-siting issues can make for shocking photos, but the proof has to be in the pudding.

  48. Don’t you see the inherent beauty in this high quality setting? When something brakes on the weather station you can probably find a spare part lying around.

  49. The same can be said of ‘accurate buoy data’ for the NOAA’s National Buoy Data Center.
    So many of the buoy sensors are inop. Though due to difficulty in getting manpower out to remote locales to repair/ troubleshoot them – were left with the ‘Good enough for Government work’ mantra.
    Lastly, when in Antarctica I volunteered with another person to be flown out to remote weather sites to dig out some of these sensors.
    Suffice to say, some of these sensors were ‘insulated’ with snowpack/ ice crystals/ grapple from years of wind and the like. Temperature, wind and other associated data WAS effected.

  50. I was out of state when this thread was started, so I missed it until Dan Murphy called my attention to it today. I think I need to write a few words on behalf of the station observer. It’s been a few months since I talked to him, but my memory and impressions are these: He describes himself as an 80 year old farmer. I don’t think he is in physical shape to maintain the site, which he has had since 1977. Oversight of the station has been bounced around between various NOAA offices, and he has not had the help he has requested; he is currently trying to get rid of it. Notwithstanding this, he was cordial, and readily took time to show me around when I appeared at his front door unannounced.
    My personal opinion: NOAA is probably having trouble finding anyone to do what this man has done for many years: spend time and effort, without pay, to perform a public service. If the government is so bold as to arm twist the old-timers into trying to continue what has become an unreasonable charity, they ought at least give some assistence to maintaining the site. The gentleman should be commended, not ridiculed.

  51. I often wonder if the good ole USA has simply Jumped the shark
    As a Father of 2 young girls I often ask myself if they & our family wouldn’t be better off growing up in Europe, Holland , France etc ..
    In the USA less than 1.5 of americans hold 97 %+ of the wealth & the common thought is Everyone else needs to just shut up & if they get even the stalest of crumbs for life ( Piss poor Education & Little to no medical care ) Well that’s good enough !
    Even more amazing is that 25% of the population are either so blinded by hate / cult like religious intollerance , are ill informed to the point of bieng just numb or Just so deeply ignorant ( 4th generation Stupid ) that they have been duped into FIRMLY believing this the best way to run the country & its a Democarcy in which they live !
    ” Listen here you sineveling pieces of human garbage ,” We are all Better off as Americans when we- The Mega Wealthy control All the Power , All the Information & make 100 % of the decisions for you
    & we will Always tell you “The truth” & whats really best for your future
    ( Its Nothing, btw )
    Now rise to the flag & salute ! ( Here is some News & info -That we have approved for you to watch )
    & Remember anyone who tells you differently is just a ” Lazy Un patriotic Liberal minded sissy who hates you !
    Now go eat shit mmmmmmmm tastes good …Right !

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