A new paper comparing NCDC rural and urban US surface temperature data

Note: See update below, new graph added.

There’s a new paper out by Dr. Edward Long that does some interesting comparisons to NCDC’s raw data (prior to adjustments) that compares rural and urban station data, both raw and adjusted in the CONUS.

The paper is titled Contiguous U.S. Temperature Trends Using NCDC Raw and Adjusted Data for One-Per-State Rural and Urban Station Sets. In it,  Dr. Edward Long states:

“The problem would seem to be the methodologies engendered in treatment for a mix of urban and rural locations; that the ‘adjustment’ protocol appears to accent to a warming effect rather than eliminate it.  This, if correct, leaves serious doubt for whether the rate of increase in temperature found from the adjusted data is due to natural warming trends or warming because of another reason, such as erroneous consideration of the effects of urban warming.”

Here is the comparison of raw rural and urban data:

And here is the comparison of adjusted rural and urban data:

Note that even adjusted urban data has as much as a 0.2 offset from adjusted rural data.

Dr. Long suggests that NCDC’s adjustments eradicated the difference between rural and urban environments, thus hiding urban heating.  The consequence:

“…is a five-fold increase in the rural temperature rate of increase and a slight decrease in the rate of increase of the urban temperature.”

The analysis concludes that NCDC “…has taken liberty to alter the actual rural measured values”.

Thus the adjusted rural values are a systematic increase from the raw values, more and more back into time and a decrease for the more current years.  At the same time the urban temperatures were little, or not, adjusted from their raw values.  The results is an implication of warming that has not occurred in nature, but indeed has occurred in urban surroundings as people gathered more into cities and cities grew in size and became more industrial in nature.  So, in recognizing this aspect, one has to say there has been warming due to man, but it is an urban warming.  The temperatures due to nature itself, at least within the Contiguous U. S., have increased at a non-significant rate and do not appear to have any correspondence to the presence or lack of presence of carbon dioxide.

The paper’s summary reads:

Both raw and adjusted data from the NCDC has been examined for a selected Contiguous U. S. set of rural and urban stations, 48 each or one per State. The raw data provides 0.13 and 0.79 oC/century temperature increase for the rural and urban environments. The adjusted data provides 0.64 and 0.77 oC/century respectively. The rates for the raw data appear to correspond to the historical change of rural and urban U. S. populations and indicate warming is due to urban warming. Comparison of the adjusted data for the rural set to that of the raw data shows a systematic treatment that causes the rural adjusted set’s temperature rate of increase to be 5-fold more than that of the raw data. The adjusted urban data set’s and raw urban data set’s rates of temperature increase are the same. This suggests the consequence of the NCDC’s protocol for adjusting the data is to cause historical data to take on the time-line characteristics of urban data. The consequence intended or not, is to report a false rate of temperature increase for the Contiguous U. S.

The full paper may be found here: Contiguous U.S. Temperature Trends Using NCDC Raw and Adjusted Data for One-Per-State Rural and Urban Station Sets (PDF) and is freely available for viewing and distribution.

Dr. Long also recently wrote a column for The American Thinker titled: A Pending American Temperaturegate

As he points out in that column, Joe D’Aleo and I raised similar concerns inSurface Temperature Records: Policy Driven Deception? (PDF)

UPDATE: A reader asked why divergence started in 1960. Urban growth could be one factor, but given that the paper is about NCDC adjustments, this graph from NOAA is likely germane:

http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/img/climate/research/ushcn/ts.ushcn_anom25_diffs_urb-raw_pg.gif


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Peter of Sydney

Rural readings reflect the real natural climate variability in temperature whereas urban readings are poisoned by various sources. This is an obvious truth. There’s only one explanation why they persistently adjust the rural readings up to match the less useful urban ones instead of adjusting the urban ones to other way. That’s obvious too so I don’t need to explain it.

Carrick

What matters from the perspective of AGW is the temperature trend since 1980. The fact that the adjusted rural data gives almost the same value as the urban is surprising. I think this may be another way of stating, as I have sometimes seen, that the UHI correction overcorrects for urbanization.

If the work leading to this graph is valid, it’s beautiful. It actually shows that they change together and isolates the “average” urban effect.
It happens to confirm all my expectations. For example, the urban effect is mostly occurring in the last 50 years and gives 0.6 deg C or so.
By the way, that’s exactly how much I expected to the urban contribution to the data in Prague Clementinum:
http://motls.blogspot.com/2010/02/climate-czechgate-pragues-klementinum.html
When you subtract 0.6 °C from recent temperature, to get a corresponding guess for the countryside around Prague, you will actually see that Prague has slightly cooled between 1800 and today.
Best wishes
Lubos

TanGeng

How robust is this methodology? Looking at the paper here’s the selection criteria for rural/urban?
“In the context of this paper, ‘rural’ means a station whose location is with no more than one dwelling in its vicinity or at the outer boundary of a small community whose population does not exceed a small multiple of a thousand residents. The second set consists of stations with ‘urban’ locations. In the context of this paper, ‘urban’ means a station at the site of a sizeable airport, an industrial area within a city, or near the center of a well-populated city with industrial activity.”
As for stations selected, they seemed to have picked 48 and one from each state. I would have expected something like one in each of the 5×5 grids that was mapped out. 5×5 grids of course are poor representations of geography and climate zones.
By inspection a few standout. On the rural side Bedford, MA (suburb) and Kingston, RI (URI main campus)
Overall, the urban selection looks like it’s in a different climate zone. For example Yosemite vs Pasadena.
An interesting study certainly does raise some methodology questions about the NCDC plot, but I think a better better study should be demanded.
Anthony, do you have any idea what the station count for the NCDC raw data? If there are more stations then this could be a sampling issue. Doesn’t seem to hurt to include more stations and especially stations in similar climate zones.

Steveta_uk

I think the author is looking at the data from the wrong perspective.
The primary fact to remember is that “global warming” is a social phenomenon, so the impacts in the lives of individual people is what really counts.
As the move of populations from rural to urban locations accelerated over the last century, then clearly the social impact of warming in urban areas has become increasingly important. It therefore is perfectly reasonable to weight temperature readings to match the number of people affected, thus giving the rural readings very low significance due the to low populations.
So you see, when you apply the proper perspective of a social scientist, it is perfectly reasonable, and only a hard scientist like a physicist would fail to see this!

Not so much a smoking gun but an exhaust trail left by an ICBM!

Roger Knights

Wow! This will be big. (Just wanted to get in the first comment, as with Climategate.)
PS: Someone please pursue the suspicious winter icebreaking in Hudson Bay.

DCC

That is incredible! If it holds up, it blows the whole AGW theory to kingdom come. If the UK Met review of surface stations shows the same problems. it’s all over.

CodeTech

So, just so I’m clear:
Instead of adjusting the urban stations down to counteract the artificial heat retention in an urban setting, they instead adjusted the rural stations up. Is there anyone who can’t see how that is wrong? Is it any surprise that the “average” temperature then shows an increase?
Isn’t this what “we” have been claiming was being done all along?

A very graphical example of fraud, obvious even to a child.
Or should we call it politely “a convenient lie”?
Impostors have been denounced. No honest, self-respecting scientist or journalist can continue to insist that AGW theory is based on facts. Nevertheless, many scientists and journalists are still pushing this red herring. Why?
Money is the most powerful drug, it does wonders with the perception of reality. Especially when it’s other people’s money.

Peter Miller

In a real world, not one in the mind of a climate alarmist, the rural area readings would not need adjusting and the urban ones would need a downward adjustment of at least 0.5-1.0 degrees C.
Almost the opposite has happened here.
So the question is clearly: With only one comparison of urban and rural temperatures per state, how representative are the figures, or is this ‘cherry picking’ like so much of the alarmist data?
If it can be demonstrated that these figures are truly representative, then the climate establishment is clearly guilty of fraud on a massive scale.

Daniel

It is nothing new on this paper. Almost everybody knows that they do this kind of “trick”. Just look at part 3 of this video from Finnish TV about CRU. They are talking about exact same “trick” on Russian rural and urban station data.
part 1:

part 2:

part 3:

John Hooper

Sounds very convincing, but what about Roy Spencer’s recent satellite analysis?
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/02/20/spencer-developing-a-new-satellite-based-surface-temperature-set/
Kind of nullifies everything doesn’t it?

Mooloo

As for stations selected, they seemed to have picked 48 and one from each state. I would have expected something like one in each of the 5×5 grids that was mapped out. 5×5 grids of course are poor representations of geography and climate zones.
So your “correction” for allegedly poor methodology is … wait for it … a methodology you acknowledge to be poor.
The 5×5 grids are a meaningless abstraction. They should be ignored IMO.
There is only one answer to this paper. To show that urban stations and rural stations do not differ in the manner shown. I doubt they can actually do that, even with cherry picking.
If the AGW crowd cannot show that rural stations do not show warming correlating to CO2, then the allegation that the USA is warming due to CO2 is going to be hard to maintain. By “hard” I mean, of course, near impossible.

Andrew30

Steveta_uk (00:38:35) :
“the social impact of warming in urban areas has become increasingly important.”
Not a lot of glaciers in cities, no really major swamps, lakes or fish stocks either. No coral reefs or forests that I have noticed.
“thus giving the rural readings very low significance due the to low populations.”
I don’t think they grow a lot of food in cities.
So what is “significance” to an urban population?
Clearly you don’t think that it is food.
Are we going to have to call this new “significance” Human Induced Social Warming?

Marie

“That is incredible! If it holds up, it blows the whole AGW theory to kingdom come. If the UK Met review of surface stations shows the same problems. it’s all over.”
DCC – the UK Met office? Don’t hold your breath

crosspatch

This paper validates a belief I have held for a long time. They are “removing” UHI by apparently adjusting rural temperatures up rather than adjusting urban temperatures down. This is also easier to accomplish when you remove rural stations wholesale from the record and increasingly rely on urban stations for setting the temperature calculation for large areas.
Until this is thoroughly investigated, the current surface data should not be used. It is my personal belief that the satellite data are the only reliable temperature reading we currently have available and it goes back only to 1979.
This whole thing is just sickening. If the average citizen understood how they data have been manipulated and the extent to which they have been sold a bill of goods, there would be a run on pitchforks and torches.

Andrew30

Steveta_uk (00:38:35) :
We can reduce Human Induced Social Warming by installing few clean coals fired generating stations and distributing air conditioners.
We can increase Human Induced Social Warming by distributing sleeping bags and Guinness.
Social Warming, you perhaps trying to move the goal posts?

Dave Wendt

It appears from the graphs that for at least the last 5yrs the urban values were actually adjusted up. WUWT?

John Wright

Steveta_uk (00:38:35) :
“I think the author is looking at the data from the wrong perspective.
The primary fact to remember is that “global warming” is a social phenomenon, so the impacts in the lives of individual people is what really counts.
As the move of populations from rural to urban locations accelerated over the last century, then clearly the social impact of warming in urban areas has become increasingly important. It therefore is perfectly reasonable to weight temperature readings to match the number of people affected, thus giving the rural readings very low significance due the to low populations.
So you see, when you apply the proper perspective of a social scientist, it is perfectly reasonable, and only a hard scientist like a physicist would fail to see this!”
————————————————————
So the social scientist’s proper perspective is to compare apples with oranges? Thanks for the tip.

Peter Sørensen

I think another issue has to be considered. Rural stations are not imune to change of land use. A rural area might change from forest to corn field or from grassland to forrest. Those changes will have a huge effect on the measured temperatures.

wayne

And it’s simple math (right Pamela, not maths).
Assuming cities occupy 5% of the US land area, then adjusted combined slope should be something near:
0.13 * (100%-5%) + 0.79 * 5% = 0.163 oC/cy
When in reality only rural temperatures should be used, period, giving 0.13 oC/cy if we want to know if the globe is warming, not if cities are warming.

Another shoe drops…
I suspect the increasing trend from a rural lifestyle to urbanisation over the past few generations makes the UHI seem ‘normal’ to politicians increasingly separated from the countryside and the natural world. Couple this to the background of Marxist control-freakery that most UK New Labour politicians spring from and their adherence to AGW is no surprise. As a class, these men and women see no reason why everything in the environment can’t be controlled, when every person who has some experience of rural life knows the environment, including the climate, is supremely indifferent to Man.
As an example of the law of unexpected consequences, farmers in the Yorkshire Dales are paid by government agencies to ‘winter’ sheep rather than turning them out to forage for themselves on the high moors. As a consequence, wild birds native to the moors are in decline due to the absence of the sheep, who once dug through snow to expose grazing and thus allowed the birds access to ground-based fodder.
Climate is largely a mystery, as yet, but dishonest selection and manipulation of basic data is only useful for fooling some of the public for some of the time and will (hopefully) bite the manipulators on the backside some time soon.

dearieme

“appears to accent to a”: presumably he meant, or wrote, “appears to accentuate”?

Ian Holton

That adjustment of rural trend up to match urban trend is the exact opposite of what should have been done in any “country, continent or global temperature set”, that attempts to investigate any real temperature trends caused by CO2 or any other greenhouse gas. I am amazed at what they appear to have done! Surely the incorrectness of their adjustment was plain to see when they were doing it!

Laws of Nature

Dear Anthony,
I just had a look at the paper, it is worth reading in the original!
He lists the individual stations, do you have them in your database and can you comment on the individual quality?
Also, can you comment on his selection criteria of using “one station” of each per state? It somehow seems to overrepresent the costal area!?
However I think the two figures with the interanual trends are worthy to be included in post article about it. It is true, that the interanual trend for both sets are very similar giving the study a lot of credit!
All the best,
LoN

George Turner

I’m not so sure on this one. If the adjusted graph is correct, every year since 1990 should’ve been proclaimed hotter than 1934, which still stands as the record even in their own adjusted stats.

John Whitman

””””’Peter of Sydney (00:16:28) :
There’s only one explanation why they persistently adjust the rural readings up to match the less useful urban ones instead of adjusting the urban ones to other way.”””””
Peter,
It is obvious. There no need to say. And it is likely to be the beginning of NCDC’s (NOAA’s) undoing.
Now we look back on the 21 Feb WUWT post by Willis Eschenbach titled “Fudged Fevers in the Frozen North”. We (at least I) were struggling with understanding why GISS/NASA made the counterintuitive temperature adjustments to Anchorage (urban) and Matanuska (rural then recently possibly urban) that they did. The explanation could simply be very similar to the “obvious” explanation of why NCDC/NOAA did the adjustments that were shown in the paper by Dr Edward Long.
First Hadley/CRU dataset has problems, now NCDC/NOAA has problems and GISS/NASA datasheet is being looked at but preliminary signals is they also have problems.
The problems increasingly appear to be intentional AGW biased manipulation of temperature datasets via their adjustment of raw data.
To all three datasets! There is some implication there that I hesitate to go to . . . . .
John

Robinson

In other news, something astounding has happened: a part of the Arctic shelf broke off and the Scientist in the know said it isn’t directly linked to `climate change’.

The calving itself hasn’t been directly linked to climate change but it is related to the natural processes occurring on the ice sheet,” said Rob Massom, a senior scientist at the Australian Antarctic Division and the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre in Hobart, Tasmania.

I’m shocked, upset and, frankly rather bemused by this turn of events.

peter

Looks like an open and shut case, which no doubt, the MSM will leave in lost luggage.
Good Job the MET office is to re-examine 160 years of global temperature records following the ‘climategate’ scandal…. but wait…
“Vicky Pope, Head of Climate Change Advice, at the Met Office, said the new global temperature analyses would not change the trend of global warming.”
…maybe not

Cold Englishman

This has always been a no brainer. Anyone with a car dashboard thermometer can do this.
In my case, I worked for years in central London at night, and at 3 a.m. in Trafalgar, the temp would be 5C, driving home westwards, it would be 3C at Heathrow, 4c at Slough, 3 at Maidenhead, 2 at Reading, and 0C at Newbury.
This same pattern was common winter or summer.

John Hooper

Quote from author’s American Thinker piece:
We have been repeatedly told (perhaps “lectured” is a better word) the past twenty years that global warming is occurring. With Climategate and subsequent confessions and bailouts by scientists at the CRU, Penn State, Arizona State, IPCC, et al., we are learning that little to none of the factual content in their “peer reviewed” articles is true.
The Medieval Warming Period did occur, and it was warmer than currently; the oceans are not going to flood the plains; and the Arctic Ocean may not be turning into a summer water park. Of course, the mainstream media, especially in the United States, has reported little of this news, and President Obama appears not to be well-informed. But now the global warming story grows more interesting because here in America, we may have our own little “gate.” I will call it ATG, for “American Temperaturegate.”

In case you assumed he might be a partisan observer.

I’ve said it before, the AGW concensus/conspiracy is falling apart in front of our eyes. The trouble will be the true believers – scientists and laypeople who continue believing despite the evidence and agitate for needless changes to be made.

son of mulder

There will be complaints that the 2 subsets of sites were cherry picked. How much extra work is needed to analyse all rural vs all urban raw data? Also look at the 10 fastest and slowest increasing rural sites and the 10 fastest and slowest increasing urban sites, contrast and compare, to see what physical characteristics likely place them in that position if they are significantly different from their cohort growth.

Kilted Mushroom

No smoking gun. Nothing definitive. Not global. Small study. Have to do better.

Sydney Sceptic

Wow, that’s an impressive fudge-factor! 🙂
Where’s good ol’ Gav to spin this one?

wayne job

Thank you Dr Long, this awful AGW scam needs very fast closure. The politics need to be stopped dead in their tracks.
The world has enough trouble with out a doomsday scenario. The rational among us can then pursue the perpetrators of this fraud.

H.R.

When did Dr. Long start reading WUWT and CA? The findings come as no surprise to regulars on this blog.
Anyhoo, Dr. Long’s work can actually be peer reviewed, which is more than can me said for all of those pal reviewed charts that show “WAGTD real soon now.”

David

I think there is a real problem with his methodology that needs to be overcome. Given the disparity in size between the states (Texas is 174 times the size of Rhode Island) there must be a better way to represent the whole US than to select one rural and one urban station per state. Also Dr Long will be open to attack on the same grounds as Mann, in that he is using a very selective data set. Given that, I suspect his hypothesis is correct, that the algoreithms have adjusted rural temperatures upwards as a novel way of dealing with the UHI, enabling their advocates to argue that Anthony’s findings are false, as rural temperatures apparently rise as fast as urban ones, and neatly dispose of the obviously real UHI effect in similar style to the MWP.

Capn Jack.

Bang.

wayne

So others don’t have to calculate or question the missing factor:
(from: A Pending American Temperaturegate)
Using from the last decade of the 19th century to 2006 from NCDC and reverse-engineering to the “rural+urban” temperature rates implied, you get that they are using 59% as the percent of land covered by cities if using raw data and 50% as the percent of land covered by cities if using adjusted data. This is assuming that city temperature slopes would linearly revert back to the rural rate if all cities didn’t exist at all.
Raw:
Urban = 59%
0.11 * (100%-Urban) + 0.72 * Urban = 0.47 oC/cy
Adjusted:
Urban = 50%
0.58 * (100%-Urban) + 0.72 * Urban = 0.65 oC/cy
Don’t buy it. There is more open, rural land in the U.S. than 41% or 50%, your pick.
Steveta_uk (00:38:35) :
But I really don’t care if it’s a few degrees hotter on your patio, surrounded by streets, houses, your house, your air conditioner, and fences; I care answering the question if the entire globe is getting warmer or not. So far the answer to me is no. When I sit on my patio I’m smart enough to know why it is a few degrees hotter, because it is surrounded by streets, houses, my house, my air conditioner, and fences. Seems you are so worried about your personal square yard that surrounds and follows you around that you would decimate the economies of the world to make it the right temperature in your backyard. You can live in your perspective of a social scientist if you want to, sorry, not me.

Robert of Ottawa

I’d like to see this carried out on all Anthony’s surveyed sites, limited to the CN 1 & 2 quality stations; that’ll avoid accusations of cherry picking.
Good work though. I’m still astonished at how dishonest the crimatologists have been; so brazen.

Has to be done to match their climate model predictions I suppose. Blatant fraud really.

Hee HAw, Catlin expedition 2010 soon underway. http://bushynews.com/?p=201

rbateman

Having looked at 4 Northern Calif. and 2 Southern Oregon rural stations as compared to 2 Northern Calif. urban stations going back beyond 1900, I agree with the findings of this paper.
It’s an exhaustive task to sift through the mountain of data for just one site, which is how they have gotten away with such shennanigans for so long.
If you haven’t spent time there, I highly recommend you visit NCDC’s original document archives.

Don Keiller

But it is not “peer-reveived”

b.poli

The argument against this paper will be a political one: It is not peer- or pal-rewieved, not done by ‘real’ scientists, not published in a “leading scientific” publisher’s house.
Is there somewhere a ranking of publishers? Those with misconducts in publishing (CRU-mails)? Those which demand access to all data and software of all papers? Those which do not? Those which collaborate in hiding declines? ……..

Chris Wright

When I first looked at the two graphs I completely missed their significance. It seemed that the second graph showed that they had done a good job. The adjustments had almost eliminated the difference between rural and urban.
But then I realised the awful truth. They had adjusted the rural values *up* to almost match the urban values!
This is so bad that it only leaves one question. Was this due to sheer incompetence? Or fraud? Either way, whoever is responsible should be held to account. Hopefully we won’t have to wait too long….
Chris

Instead of adjusting the urban stations down to counteract the artificial heat retention in an urban setting, they instead adjusted the rural stations up.
And it appears they ignore the disparity in total area between urban and rural environments, too. There’s a reason the term “Urban Heat Island” was coined…

MattN

Wow…that graph says everything…