BWI snow record rescinded: Another reason why airports aren't the best place to measure climate data

I’ve mentioned problems with airports as climate stations in the past, mostly that they are pockets of UHI that have grown with the 20th century aviation boom. A good example is Chicago O’Hare airport. I’ll bet that many of you don’t know that the ICAO ID for O’Hare, is KORD, and FAA uses ORD which is what you see on airline luggage destination tags. “ORD” has nothing to do with the name O’Hare, which came after the airport was established. It has everything to do with the name “Orchard Field” which is what the airport started out as, which at the time was far more rural than it was now. You can read about its early history here.

Here is what it looked like in the 1940’s:

Looking down runway 22 at Orchard Field - photo circa 1943 - Image courtesy of the Bensenville Community Public Library O'Hare collection

Here’s that same view today from Google Earth:

Looking down runway 22 today - click for larger image

Look at O’Hare today, a sprawling megaplex of concrete and terminals surrounded by urbanization:

Click for interactive view

The weather station location above is designated by the orange pushpin. Here’s a closeup view:

Click for larger image

Note that there’s two electronics equipment buildings nearby with industrial sized a/c exhaust vents. While not USHCN, NCDC metadata lists O’Hare as a Class “A” station, which means it does in fact record climate. Data from O’Hare can be used to adjust other stations with missing nearby data.

The point I’m making with all the photos is that airports are far from static, especially since airline deregulation in the 1980’s. The are just as dynamic as the cities they serve. We measure climate at a great many airports worldwide. E.M. Smith reports that the majority of the GHCN record is from airports.

Even NOAA meteorologists admit that airports aren’t necessarily the best place to measure climate. In a series of stories I did…

How not to measure temperature, part 88 – Honolulu’s Official Temperature ±2

..about the failure of the aviation weather station at Honolulu causing unparalleled record highs, the NOAA Meteorologist there had this to say:

“ASOS…placed for aviation purposes…not necessarily for  climate purposes.”

The key issue here is “aviation purpose, not climate purposes”. The primary mission is to serve the airport. Climate is a secondary or even tertiary consideration. And that’s exactly what happened in the story from the Baltimore Sun below. The observer used FAA guidelines rather than NOAA guidelines to measure snow for the climate record. NOAA doesn’t like the record because he didn’t follow their procedures, so they toss it out.

However, when a new high temp record is set in Honolulu due to faulty equipment, NOAA thinks THAT’s alright to keep in the records:

NOAA: FUBAR high temp/climate records from faulty sensor to remain in place at Honolulu

A nearby station shows the error:

This is your Honolulu Temperature. This is your Honolulu Temperature on ASOS. Any questions?

So it is with some disgust that I provide an excerpt of this article on NOAA rejecting a record snowfall at the BWI airport, where they set up a snow measuring board, but didn’t follow through on procedure. Again, the airport was doing measurements to serve the airport interests, not NOAA.
=====================================

Sat 20 Feb 2010

By Frank D. Roylance

Shawn Durkin, weather station manager who has worked for Pacific Weather Inc. for 16 years, stands on the rooftop location at BWI where Pacific Weather takes its snow measurements, using a snow board, mounted on the bench to his left, and an 8-inch rain gauge, at right. Baltimore Sun photo by Amy Davis / February 18, 2010

A contractor working for the Federal Aviation Administration at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, paid to measure the snow for the aviation industry’s needs, did not follow a separate protocol required by the National Weather Service and the National Climatic Data Center for valid climate data.

So while the contractor measured 28.8 inches of snow during that storm, the National Weather Service has thrown out the reading. Instead, climatologists will rank the storm as “only” 24.8 inches – a number that almost surely understates the “true” total.

Worse, for climatologists, it now appears the weather service’s rules for snow data had been ignored for years at BWI, throwing a cloud over the validity of snow totals as far back as 1998, when the FAA took the job over from the weather service.

Only BWI’s data are known to be affected, but the problem could be more widespread. That possibility has caught the attention of top officials at the FAA.

“We plan to meet with the National Weather Service next week to begin a discussion on making sure that we’re all on the same page in terms of measuring snow accumulations at our airports,” FAA spokesman Jim Peters said. “There will be a national discussion.”

In the meantime, the weather service’s Baltimore- Washington Forecast Office in Sterling, Va., is preparing to convene a committee of climatologists and other experts to review Baltimore’s snowfall records from the 2010 and 2003 storms, and perhaps back to 1998.

“I feel very strongly about historical records and getting the climate data correct,” said James E. Lee, the meteorologist-in-charge at Sterling. “Obviously, with the increased media attention and political attention to climate, it is really up to NOAA [the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, of which the National Weather Service is an agency] to make sure … the climate record is a genuine one, and consistent to the best of our ability.”

The problem at BWI came to light Feb. 6, as snow accumulations reported at the airport passed 26 inches. They seemed poised to break the record set in February 2003 – the storm listed on Sterling’s Web site as Baltimore’s biggest.

But when reporters called asking about a new record, Lee said that because of measurement errors by an FAA contractor at BWI, the two-day storm total would be pegged at “only” 24.8 inches. He had discarded a 28.8-inch measurement from BWI because it was the sum of hourly measurements throughout the storm – a method invalid for climatological data.

Even at 24.8 inches, Lee said, the storm total beat the previous two-day record of 24.4 inches, set at BWI during two days of the four-day 2003 event. “I’m convinced that was the most amount of snow Baltimore has seen [from a two-day storm] in recorded history.”

But Lee had to use the most conservative reading from the airport – a “snow depth” measurement of the total on the ground when the storm ended, after hours of compaction.

The FAA requires its observers to take hourly snow measurements and wipe the boards clean after each hour, adding the totals as they go. That provides pilots with better real-time information about changing conditions. But it virtually eliminates compaction and so inflates accumulation. Climatologists require measurements every six hours, striking a balance between the hourly and snow depth readings. Some airports maintain separate snow boards for the different protocols. But not BWI.

Richard Carlson, vice president of Pacific Weather Inc., said his company has experienced weather observers at 20 U.S. airports, including eight at BWI. Pacific has held the contract there since 2008.

“We follow the FAA manual … and that is the guide book on how these meteorological observations are to be taken,” Carlson said. “We had heard about the six-hour measuring thing, but … if you have high winds at all, this really is not going to work.”

Read the full article at the Baltimore Sun

Read Frank Roylance’s blog on MarylandWeather.com

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89 thoughts on “BWI snow record rescinded: Another reason why airports aren't the best place to measure climate data

  1. Every time I reade one of these stories, I’m reminded of the DEW line worker who recorded weather for the station reports during the ’60s, and readily admits that on nasty weather days (or for other reasons), would simply write in what seemed reasonable based on what it felt like, and what it was like the last time he took an actual reading…

    REPLY:
    You can read that story right here on WUWT:
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2008/07/17/fabricating-temperatures-on-the-dew-line/

  2. Anthony, some little typo’s:
    Both typo’s in the second line under the airport photo’s:
    The pint I’m making = The point I’m making
    The are just as dynamic = They are just as dynamic

  3. Ohare has only been the “official” recording station for Chicago for about 30 years. Beofre that it was at Midway airport which is completely surrounded by industrial and residential. Pilots call it the Bullseye because of how tight the takeoffs and landings are.
    Midway was only the “official” station from the 1950’s to mid 70’s. Before that ( 1880’s to 1950’s ) it moved around quite a bit but it was almost always within a half mile of Lake Michigan which obviously tempers the summer heat.
    As any Chicagoan knows from the weather forecasters here, “it will be cooler by the lake” is a common phrase.
    Also, where the weather station is at OHare is not only close to those buildings but only a couple hundred feet from the end of that runway where landing planes are coming right over the top of it. But I’m sure there is no effect whatsoever.

  4. Nit picking time
    “The pint I’m making with all the photos is that airports are far from static”
    “point”
    All though I could go for a pint.
    Serious question.
    Have there been any studies done in documenting the difference in temps with and without air conditioning units that close t the equipment?

  5. This is another incredible story how NOAA is bending it’s own rules at the cost of reliability of data sets.
    Is this happening on purpose or is it due to incredible incompetence.
    Whatever the reason, these problems must be addressed.
    This is a job for the responsible Inspector General or else a Public Inquiry.
    We are fed up with being screwed with our own tax money!
    [snip]

  6. I work across the street from BWI, and was at my office during the entire storm. Our various measurements were very close to 30 inches, this was from the center of a grassy area in front of our building. Obviously totals vary, but 24 less then 1/2 mile away is likely too low based on my first hand observations and measurements.

  7. Anthony: a few typos:
    The pint I’m making with all the photos
    The primary mission is to server the airport.
    So it is with some disgust that I provide this excerpts

  8. Sorry – found a few more typos: (hope you don’t mind me pointing them out)
    The key issue here is “avaiation purpose
    NOAA doesn’t like the record becuase
    where they setup a snow measuring board — should be set up (two words)

  9. As a local observing this winter’s record snowfall, I was astounded by the wide variations of recorded amounts. During the storm of 5-6 February, Elkridge, Maryland, a location roughly three ( 3 ) miles distant from BWI reported snowfall of 38.3″. It is difficult to reconcile that amount with the now “official” snowfall of 24.8′ at BWI.
    http://www.erh.noaa.gov/lwx/events/?event=20100206

  10. A classic double standard. If the data supports AGW keep it. If it doesn’t then don’t use it.
    By the way, in the video they said the airport thermometer’s accuracy was only 2 degrees, so when it says 90, it could be 88 or it could be 92. But the claimed temperature rise for the 20th century is only .7C or about 1.25F. How do you measure 1.25 degrees with a thermometer that is only accurate to +/-2 degrees? They should stop using that data for climate determinations.
    BTW2 How accurate is a typical weather station thermometer?

  11. They need to re-evaluate all temp station placements ( the sooner the better) it seems all the info compiled from these stations is a waste of time and obtaining an accurate conclusion still awaits to be found.

  12. I live within 8 miles of BWI and I took a tape measure out to the back yard several times during the storm. I recall measuring 25 and 26″ when I was doing my checks toward the end of the storm. However, another location near BWI in Elkridge, MD (~4 mi west) recorded 35″ of snow. I do recall the snow totals acculating that day and I remember hearing 24″ of snow recorded in late morning when is did not stop snowing heavily until late in the afternoon. This article explains what probably happend. The real oddity for me is that the storm that followed about 4 days later only left ~8-10 of snow where we live but there were 19″ recorded at the airport. I guess we were just on the other side of the rain-snow line.
    I’ve lived in this area for 30 years and I’ve seen the snow record go from the mid fifties to the low sixtie for snow totals just in the last decade and now its running at just ofer 80″ and still counting. The thought has occured to me that given the high variability of snow totals in this area (due to the rain-snow line often running along I-95) are we just looking at a noisy signal? It would also be quite interesting to look at the liquid precipitations totals over the years to see if that is increasing or its it just a bit colder and are we piling on more of the light fluffy stuff.

  13. Have you ever felt a jet blast when one takes off? I was cleaned off my bike when a kid near Heathrow near London, so powerful and hot, it must fan out across the ground and heat up the whole area, there were no jets in 1940.

  14. You know, if they have THIS much trouble measuring something as straightforward as snowfall–up to four INCHES of divergence between reported and declared–why should I believe they can measure the ambient temperature of Siberia a thousand years ago to a tenth of a degree with fossilized trees????
    I’m sorry but I can’t bring myself to even contemplate AGW as a serious science.

  15. It will be interesting to see when ‘robust’ is first used regarding these measurements or the information extracted from the data.

  16. Here in inland area of Northeast Ohio we have another
    problem establishing “records” for snowfall and snow cover.
    The Hiram, Ohio station, one of two used to establish the
    “climate” measurements for Portage County, Ohio, has
    some fearsome figures for the Number of Consecutive
    Days with Daily Snow Cover >= 1.0″
    :
    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/ussc/USSCAppController?action=snowcover_consec&state=33&station=HIRAM&coopid=333780
    I seriously doubt we had 440 consecutive days of snow
    cover in any January, 760 days in any
    February, or 870 days in any March no matter
    what century you check in the past 1,000 years.
    The same applies to the spurious numbers NOAA has posted
    for the November and December continuous snow coverage
    numbers.
    Obviously our little spate of continuous snow cover
    running from January 29, 2010, through February 28,
    2010, won’t be a statistical “record”.
    These weird numbers make it easy to prove
    statistically that the annual number
    of days of continuous snow coverage has been going
    down since the 1960s.
    You can add sloppy data entry to the station site
    and measurement procedural problems the NCDC/NOAA
    has with their (our) data bases.

  17. The weather is not climate.
    So weather stations for weather measurements, and climate stations for climate monitoring? Keep them separated?

  18. Excellent. Thanks greatly to Anthony & the volunteers “transparency” is finding it’s way at least into weather station observations. Maybe the station evaluations will go national (dare say international?) and more reliable data can be collected? Only if the scrutiny continues for sure!

  19. The angle of repose of snow will vary due to moisture, temperature, and crystal shape (all inter-related). The snow board appears to be about 24 inches wide, is it wide enough to measure a 28 inch snow fall of extremely dry powdery snow in the presence of even a slight breeze? The question here is: Is the equipment up to the task, period?
    I can see the heat from the rooftop further changing the characteristics of the snow. Higher wind exposure on a rooftop doesn’t help.

  20. What the message here seems to be that it’s a bad idea to take weather info from airports for the purpose of climate, as the weather info at airports concerns aviation.
    So, when NOAA shuts down nearby sensors and relies on the airport, it’s game over for accuracy.
    I can see the future, and it looks something like this:
    Baltimore June 28, 2011: High 84-93, which breaks last years record High 85-94.

  21. Sorry to be pedantic, but bad grammar spoils the reading and dilutes the message.
    1940s and and 1980s should not have an apostrophe before the s.
    Other than that – I enjoy every word I read on WUST!
    REPLY: WUWT

  22. Allright, that’s it, the pint comment got me.
    Downtown Brown, Lost Coast Brewery.
    I feel better already.

  23. Thanks to everyone who pointed out the typos. Family duty called this Sunday and I had to finish the article w/o doing a second proofreading pass.

  24. I looked up the Environment Canada website to find out how snow is measured in Canada. The information at the website is very general so there is no indication of the locus of where the data is collected.
    Usually, the snow amount or the depth of accumulated snow is measured using a snow ruler. The measurements are made at several points which appear representative of the immediate area, and then averaged.
    Coincidentally, a similar article was published today in the Montreal Gazette:
    http://www2.canada.com/montrealgazette/features/weatherwatch/story.html?id=d63549e6-65d7-4709-9df3-d71d9f701733
    I also found another article on snowfall measurement from St. John, New Brunswick from Jan. 5, 2010.
    http://telegraphjournal.canadaeast.com/rss/article/909791
    As in the US, Environment Canada seems to rely on airport weather stations. However, there is no mention of waiting 6 hours to record the actual snow fall. I am not sure what exactly that achieves scientifically, especially if rain starts falling in the interim. Does it increase some version of accuracy?
    I do know that what most people are interested in is the depth of the snow to be shovelled, and whether it is dense, wet snow or light, dry snow.

  25. “Family duty called…”
    A.K.A.
    “The Canada vs USA hockey game for Gold is on…”
    🙂
    John M Reynolds
    REPLY: I care for hockey about as much as I care for curling. Visiting relatives are more powerful than sports, and twice on Sundays. – Anthony

  26. One more typo:
    ICAO designation is KORD. FAA uses ORD.
    REPLY: Yeah, that’s what I meant. Fixed. – Anthony

  27. Anthony,
    No need to apologize for typos. I seem to manage several with every comment – despite being a prof with a bit of spare time due to sabbatical – and I’m sure we all understand that this is the peril of written communication. What matters far more to all of us are the ideas you are sharing. We’re just glad to be able to contribute in a small way in catching your tiny goofs.

  28. So, not only are weather forecasts little but exercises in the art of guessing, but they can’t even measure the stuff of which weather is made. What else is new? As for the measure of snow, I think that metric by itself is meaningless without knowing the water content of the snow. After a season that’s been mostly nice dry powder that’s easy to shovel (just push it to the side of the drive), I just finished shoveling several inches of high water content snow; can’t push it — have to really shovel the stuff and toss the loads a few feet to clear the drive.
    Once again we see the data as measured being adjusted after the fact. And again, what else is new?

  29. vjones (14:18:44) :
    Electronic wind sensor: No moving parts.
    Sounds like an invitation to a disaster. When the instrument malfunctions, there’s no warning, just bad data.
    Oh, and those electronics are foolproof. Seen them at FWS .

  30. what’s up with all the grammar and spell checking? you would think that some folks have nothing else to do than pick nits

  31. ” the National Weather Service has thrown out the reading”
    “throwing a cloud over the validity of snow totals as far back as 1998, when the FAA took the job over from the weather service.”
    Hogwash
    This is as valid as their fixed temp stations.
    Did the FAA take over all of the airport stations? or just ORD?
    “hottest decade”

  32. Of course snowfall is highly variable. So is rainfall, cloud cover, humidity, temperature, wind speed and direction, . This was given as the reason meteorologists use pressure for their charts as it is the most consistent meteorological variable least affected by micro siting issues.
    That’s what we were taught on meteorologist course at the Australian BoM in 1971.

  33. Actually the ORD stands for Orchard Douglas. It was a Douglas site for building airplanes. The original site for WX measurements in Chicago was Midway, MDW. When they changed to ORD the temperature was a couple of degrees cooler so I bet they adjusted it to make up for the difference.
    My Father said when he first went to Midway it was in the middle of a cornfield. I flew B-727s into Midway and you could see the televisions in the buildings from the runway, no change in the temperature caused by this difference i am sure!
    There was a accident at Midway many years ago in a storm. The tower could not see the airplane so they asked where the airplane was. The answer was,” If the street signs are correct we are at 55th and Cicero.”

  34. I find the constant nitpicking of very minor and insignificant points in Anthony’s spelling and grammar very tiresome and juvenile.
    The import of his and his guest writer’s posts are very clear and the writing is concise and fully understandable.
    A very appreciated quality from this layman.
    WUWT is a fast moving blog with immense amounts of fast moving and free flowing information being constantly placed before us often on an hour by hour basis and this from just one unpaid man with limited resources and with small number of dedicated unpaid volunteers as backups and contributors, not a vast empire staffed by hundreds.
    WUWT is not a highly edited textbook where a close editorial scrutiny is required to ensure precise accuracy that is without reproach so please lay off the nitpicking scrutiny for insignificant spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors that some here seem to love to indulge in.
    Value WUWT for it’s marvelous, up to date and open access to a whole range of climate, weather and science based items and for the freedom and quality of the contributions of it’s many highly qualified science and professionally based commenters just as the rest of us do.

  35. So how do they handle all those surface stations that are not properly sited? Toss out the measurements?


  36. peterk (14:50:44) :
    what’s up with all the grammar and spell checking? you would think that some folks have nothing else to do than pick nits

    Failure to capitalize; failure to punctuate.
    20 Quatloos per item in the tip jar …
    (We’re not Peter Perfect are we?)
    .
    .

  37. …………………Al is back. He’s decided to publish one page of wishwashy ‘scientific’ rebuttal and 2 pages of nonsense he made up while looking out of the window on his Gulfstream VII flight back from the Apple convention. There is progress however: He’s decided not to mention CO2.

  38. Yes. Drop the spell check issues unless it comes out Chinese. It’s amazing what you can blame on a typo but as there is no agenda here, no need to worry.

  39. I miss Manuel already. His Iron sun and all that(what ever that is-still can’t figure out what the hell he’s barking on about!). Can I petition for a month long ban instead of life time. I’m sure he’ll behave in the future. It’s just to see a fellow realist get a smack down here at WUWT.
    REPLY: I dunno. I warned him about it many times. He just kept trying to sneak in stuff and I got tired of his thread bombing. I will say this for him he was courteous. – Anthony

  40. ………………..paul jackson (14:47:07) :
    WOW simply WOW, ASOS temp sensors are at best +- 2 degrees F! You’d do as well to use the temperature for a bank sign
    PAUL: You can go over to WUWT 2007/3 there is an excellent article from a guy called Lon on accuracy of thermometers.

  41. Measuring snow depth is subjective. The Canadian way described earlier is an accepted practice. The more important factor is water content which I am assuming they measured correctly. Snowfall depth can vary greatly over short distances. So can rainfall. I’m sure its happend where those observers were standing in sunshine watching a thunderstorm at the end of the runway.

  42. It is clear the government cannot be trusted with science. Like academia, it has been taken over by left-wing crackpots.

  43. WOT Canada rules the ice, Excellent US team second in hockey.
    Sucessful winter olympics in an el nino year in Vancouver, contrary to the warmest hysterics wishes.
    Closing celebration at 6:00 PM (18:00 hrs) should be spectacular.

  44. David Segesta – Your comment made me remember back in the early to mid 70’s that the local weatherman stated on TV that the temperature sensor at Washington National Airport was off by 2 degrees to the cold side. So if the temperature read 32 degrees it was actually 34 degrees. If I remember correctly this had went on for appox. 2 yrs. before the problem was found and the sensor fixed. I would be interested to know if the temperatures recorded during the faulty sensor time were corrected.

  45. kadaka (13:17:50) :
    Really you could have fooled me. They take temperature measurements and then statistically aggregate them to determine climate. Weather is real, climate is statistics.

  46. Dallas Fort Worth [DFW] airport was just a cow-pasture in 1977, since then an airport and a small 30 to 40 K city has grown up.
    Even with perfect placement of the ground station the UHI is far from negligible. After 1977 you see a rise in temperature because of the growth of the city.
    Fifteen miles away a small naval air station doesn’t show any warming. It was semi urban in 1977 and there was no substantial construction.
    The readings of DFW seem to be about 4 o F higher than in my suburban Dallas back yard. I do not live in the country!
    Just for the fun of it I took temperatures from downtown Dallas to a city park and then out to the country as fast as I could legally drive. The difference was 7 o F and the city park was 2 o F below the high. UHI is alive and well in Dallas.

  47. R.S.Brown (13:16:27) : “MAX” consecutive days of snow
    This number ‘MAX’ must be an accumulated count across years. That is: because January has 31 days, if three Januarys in a row have snow on every day except on the very last day of the 3rd year then the accumulated count would be 92 days [ (31 x 3) – 1 ].
    I did not find a definition but I did check a few other stations and for those where snow is common in January the number is often >31.

  48. RE: Typo’s
    IMO, it’s about putting out a professional product.
    We are all here reviewing it, so let’s get it right.
    Anthony, (IMHO) is WAY overworked, let’s help him out.
    Post a typo fix comment, then tell the mods NOT TO POST IT.

  49. Here is a plea I made about Canberra airport Australia. Can someone help me with the physics units – too long since I was confused by power, work, energy, BTUs, joules etc. Original scenario follows, can be applied to O’Hare of course.
    “Can someone please do the calculations? At Canberra there are 250,000 people a year lifted (say) 100 m above ground before the aircraft leaves the perimeter. A Jumbo carrying 350 people weighs about 350 tonnes, so give each person a weight of a tonne. Give the airport a generous area of 16 sq km.
    Calculate how much energy is needed to do the lift, then multiply it by 2 for landings and taxi.
    Convert into heat measurement like watt per sq m , or better still, temp in deg c. Then spread it over the main hours of use of the airport, say 7 am to 9 pm to see if the temp change is enough to create a measurable effect.”
    There have been many mentions in blogs of aircraft fuel combustion adding onto temperature records, but I’ve not seen a semi-quantitative estimate to confirm or deny that we are in the right ball park.

  50. Here is a bit of trivia for airport identifiers. All U.S. airports that have ICAO identifiers have weather reporting equipment, and all of these airports have three letter FAA designators that omit the leading “K” from the ICAO identifier(except for in Alaska and Hawaii where the first ICAO letter is a “P”). Airports that don’t have weather reporting contain at last one numeral (example S67).

  51. Either kadaka has the driest sense of humor, or he’s the twin of that guy that said the polar bears are melting, or whateverthehellhesaidwasmelting. Loved the comment on the other thread referring to whateverthehellhesaidwasmelting saying that the Antarctic was melting at an accelerated pace and that it was worse than we thought, and I might add, just compared to 3 months ago!

  52. Reminds me of the time I was in food research and monitoring the plant production quality of a new hot extruded dry product which went into a 5 lb bag.
    If the product wasn’t cooled to 140 F before it went into the bag, excessive moisture would be given off and condense onto the cooler inner bag surface. This could lead to mold.
    One plant technician was proudly showing me the data he took over many hours and the temperature never went over 140F.
    I watched his method.
    He took a 5 lb pound bag from the production line and inserted a metal dial thermometer in the product. I watched as the dial temperature rapidly neared 140 F. Quickly, he pulled the dial out of the bag and recorded 138 F.
    “You should leave the thermometer in the bag until it stabilizes”, I said.
    He shook his head in dismay at my ignorance.
    “No, no, I can’t do that! If I do, the temperature will go over 140 F and we’ll have to reject the packaged product.”
    He was very pleased and diligent about his “methodical” testing method.
    I think he could have had a great career at CRU in East Anglia or at Hansen’s NOAA.

  53. Many years ago I worked casually for a Sydney City Council department that insisted on complete public attendance figures for all its branches.
    Because “attendance” was never defined – and really meant nothing at all – it was possible to vary the numbers massively. One simply wrote down what one thought was desired, though one was never told to do this.
    It was a bit like a fearless and impartial newspaper editor who never takes direction from the owner…He never needs to!
    It’s such a naughty world.

  54. If alarmists *really* want to be taken seriously, the least that could happen is a lot of the money being poured into research could be directed towards better quality control.
    One would think that’s a wise move, considering the whole-of-life-on-earth altering decisions being made over analysis of the data being collected.


  55. lws (16:09:33) :
    Dallas Fort Worth [DFW] airport was just a cow-pasture in 1977, since then an airport and a small 30 to 40 K city has grown up.

    Well, I do remember there was Greater Southwest International Airport ((IATA: GSW, ICAO: KGSW) in the area just to the south of where DFW airport is now (accounts say from 1953 until 1972).
    Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (or DFW) opened in 1974 on property adjacent to the north side of the airport; I think I still have an old sectional from those days sans DFW.
    History of GSW
    .
    .

  56. Geoff Sherrington (16:34:50) :
    That seems like a lot of work for little gain. There will be many other sources of energy input in your 16 sq. km. area. Even then that will be only part of the problem. Then to make use of the concept you would have to apply yet another adjustment to the temperatures measured there. Why?
    The measurements at airports serve their purpose, namely, contributing to the safe operation of aircraft. If climate science needs precise temperature measurement, and I’m not convinced it does, then it needs to disconnect from such a proxy as it currently is linked to.

  57. Interesting about Chicago O’Hare being Orchard-Douglas, but did you know BWI was originally called Friendship when it was built in the 50’s?
    As far as snow depth goes it can be very variable over even relatively small areas. Washington National is down in a river valley (the Potomac) on an area of land that was originally called Gravelly Point. Comparing measurements made to the surrounding areas is certainly problematic.

  58. Since you mentioned Honolulu Airport in your article and I work only about 5 or 6 miles from there I will tell you that it is located in a heavily populated area of Hawaii. On Oahu, there is only so much land with which to build our cities. I live on the Windward side of Oahu about 2 miles from Kaneohe Marine Corps Base, the other airport.
    As you can see here the airport is located in a heavily urban section of the city. Not only that but it also contains Hickam Air Force Base and routinely flies C5 transport planes as well as 747’s from Japan, China and Australia as well as several inter-island jets daily.
    Turns out that the NWS weather station is right in the middle of the runways here. Wow! So all of you are thinking right now that Hawaii is warm and we have beach weather since you saw all the nice pictures from yesterdays Tsunami. Bah! It is freakin cold today and I am wearing shorts and a long sleeve shirt and slippers and I am freezing my a$$ off! Well, freezing in Hawaii is 65 degrees…
    You all are probably better off using the Pacific Tsunami Center’s weather station than that of the Honolulu Airport.
    Aloha!

  59. Dang! Couldn’t get the links to appear correctly. Can anyone send me a vowel? Or at least a direction on how to post the links?
    [Reply: the easiest way is to cut ‘n’ paste the link from the address bar to its own separate line in the post, like this:
    http://wattsupwiththat.com
    With no characters connected on either end. It will appear as a link. ~dbs, mod.]

  60. I remember a story about twenty years ago about a change in snowfall measurement methods from a human observer to a mechanical device. It was recognized at that time that the two methods were not equivalent, and my memory is that the sum of hourly accumulations by the human observer was perceived to be the main reason. I also recall that the concern about the change was great enough that they budgeted for several years to run both methods side-by-side. Perhaps someone who was in the profession at the time can be found to provide details. It seems to me that there’s more than simply the two protocols for human observers that has to be taken into account. Perhaps a case of apples, oranges, and bananas?

  61. “vigilantfish (14:07:47)
    Usually, the snow amount or the depth of accumulated snow is measured using a snow ruler.”
    got to be quick to use one of those before it melts in your hand!

  62. D.R. Williams (18:27:31) : a change in snowfall measurement methods from a human observer to a mechanical device.
    Sometime last year snow sensors entered the conversation on WUWT. At the moment I don’t find my comment. It had to do with the Washington stations:
    http://www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov/snotel/Washington/washington.html
    and the general topic. As I recall, early equipment was less reliable than the current models. Here is a link to a commercial site:
    http://www.rickly.com/MI/SnowCover.htm#Ultrasonic%20Snow%20Depth%20Sensor

  63. Re: John F. Hultquist (16:14:47) :
    John,
    I guess you and I created so much traffic we crashed the server
    for the NCDC/NOAA snowcorver database.
    At this writing, no matter what state you select from:
    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/ussc/USSCAppController?action=map
    You get the red letter diagnotic “Error Occurred Connecting
    to the Database”.
    I was going to show you the maximum consecutive
    days of snow cover numbers from the Ravenna_2 station about
    20 miles south of Hiram… they didn’t have strange monthly
    totals.
    Let’s be paranoid and assume “they” read WUWT !

  64. lws (16:09:33) :
    Would that same measurement hold for all 12 months?
    i.e.- is the UHI a constant, or does it reach a max in summer and a min in winter?
    Repeat the experiment.

  65. Surely weather stations were never installed to give measurements to a tenth of a degree. No one knew when they were installed this idea that they could be used to determine the global average temperature. So all that is indicated is an approximate temperature at each point in the temperature field and that was the intention. Trying to correlate them with each other over a hundred years is surely a delusion of the highest order. Here Canberra there are three that are used across a small city. They regularly show a difference of a couple of degrees so all you can do is say the temperature was x within a degree or two. Normally no one will care.

  66. Anthony Watts (13:58:34) :
    “Thanks to everyone who pointed out the typos. Family duty called this Sunday and I had to finish the article w/o doing a second proofreading pass.”
    Better excuse than my “drunken typing” one A 😉
    On Topic…Makes me wonder, would any of the RAF stations data have been used during the 1970s?
    I ask because I remember, at a V Bomber base in the UK, the method used to clear snow from the perimeter and main runway was very efficient and utilized a refuelling tanker truck, which pushed a “trolley” on which were mounted two old jet engines. The exhaust was funnelled down to a couple of inches above the tarmac. An operators cabin was mounted between the two engine!
    The truck would push the trolley up and down the runway and simply blast the snow away. The heated tarmac also slowed down anymore snow still falling. These units would run for hours on end but the swine would never let me have a go at running one! One hell of a way to generate a UHI!
    and if you do not believe me ….http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v170/KMCLEAN/RAFMRD2.jpg lol, happy days of long ago

  67. Why even bother to use temperatures taken at airports to incorporate into the mean global temperature? It makes just as much sense as taking readings at major motorways or withing active volcanes. It’s crap science at best and corrupt science at worst.

  68. Why even bother to use temperatures taken at airports to incorporate into the mean global temperature? It makes just as much sense as taking readings at major motorways or withing active volcanoes. It’s crap science at best and corrupt science at worst.

  69. jgfox (16:49:10) :
    ….
    I watched his method.
    He took a 5 lb pound bag from the production line and inserted a metal dial thermometer in the product. I watched as the dial temperature rapidly neared 140 F. Quickly, he pulled the dial out of the bag and recorded 138 F.
    “You should leave the thermometer in the bag until it stabilizes”, I said.
    He shook his head in dismay at my ignorance.
    “No, no, I can’t do that! If I do, the temperature will go over 140 F and we’ll have to reject the packaged product.”
    He was very pleased and diligent about his “methodical” testing method.
    I think he could have had a great career at CRU in East Anglia or at Hansen’s NOAA.”
    I have worked in a great variety of industries and seen this sort of thing too often. I once queried why a reputable organisation had 3000 electrical failures a year recorded during inspections. 1000 would have been more like it. When I questioned the electrician he said ‘when I find a fault I record it but I check the fault another two times to make sure and record those as failures as well’.
    I think that’s why people like us are sceptics.
    cheers David

  70. @Pete H (23:34:22)
    Totally off topic, but your story about clearing runways with jet engines reminded me about a tale my Dad told me about the ‘old days’ of train maintenance in the UK.
    Occasionally, a big diesel would be brought in with a seized engine (piston jammed tight in combustion cylinder). I would listen with wide eyes as my dad explained how they’d disconnect the crankshaft, drill and tap a thread into the top of the exposed piston, then screw an eyebolt in. They would then position an overhead crane over the engine and connect a hook to the eyebolt. Then they’d use the crane to bounce the train up and down on the tracks (up to six inches) until bits of the the piston came flying out everywhere whilst folk ran for cover!
    To this day, I can still vividly picture this crazily effective procedure in my mind!

  71. I’ll give you that going back and changing recorded data sounds fishy. However, at least they have an esablished, repeatable protocol and follow it. While “revoking” (or apparently “revising down”) a record doesn’t seem like the best way to go about it to me, NOAA is at least pointing to a valid reason why the measurement was in error (compaction that is not accounted for in an hourly sum method). This seems to me a major improvement in comparison to many of the major “offenders” in climate science, who provided results of our “global temperature” without any repeatable method to get it.
    Not everyone at NOAA, or NASA, or even CRU (probably) is a bad guy. This is a very interesting post, but let’s not bash the folks that are trying to do things right. Question them, sure. But accept a pretty decent answer as to why, I will.

  72. Re: HereticFringe (16:35:49): The FAA designators are used mostly (only??) for U.S. baggage. The ICAO designation is more structured and identifies the airfield internationally, and as such is commonly used in weather reports and ICAO documents.
    And just to set other comments straight, airfield temperature readings are recording (surprise!) temperature at the airport regardless if caused by jet exhaust, concrete, or nature. Pilots are thus able to accurately calculate the length of take off runs – a matter of public safety.

  73. MikeO (23:34:54) :
    And to think that they rebuilt the old ‘ghan line from Adelaide to Alice because it was alway being washed out down by Lake Eyre, so now it gets washed out between Alice and Darwin instead.
    Bring back the camels!

  74. Why use any urban or airport weather stations for climate research purposes?
    Are there not enough rural stations to obtain a statistically significant result?
    One should need only measurement stations that are well distributed around the globe to measure global temperature. They would not need to be close together.
    I personally doubt that there is any correct way to adjust for the urban heat island effect because there are too many variables, they change during the day, and there is no practical way to record their changes over time.

  75. ROM (14:58:09) :
    I find the constant nitpicking of very minor and insignificant points in Anthony’s spelling and grammar very tiresome and juvenile.
    The import of his and his guest writer’s posts are very clear and the writing is concise and fully understandable.
    A very appreciated quality from this layman.
    WUWT is a fast moving blog with immense amounts of fast moving and free flowing information being constantly placed before us often on an hour by hour basis and this from just one unpaid man with limited resources and with small number of dedicated unpaid volunteers as backups and contributors, not a vast empire staffed by hundreds.
    WUWT is not a highly edited textbook where a close editorial scrutiny is required to ensure precise accuracy that is without reproach so please lay off the nitpicking scrutiny for insignificant spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors that some here seem to love to indulge in.
    Value WUWT for it’s marvelous, up to date and open access to a whole range of climate, weather and science based items and for the freedom and quality of the contributions of it’s many highly qualified science and professionally based commenters just as the rest of us do.
    —————————
    ROM, it’s not nitpicking – it’s just that a well-written entry will look better to newcomers. I don’t submit simple corrections in the hope of seeing my comment appear- indeed I would rather they did not – and I know as a professional myself that I appreciate it when others find my mistakes so I can correct them before other people see them. I guess I should request Anthony to not post my ‘correction’ comments.

  76. ROM (14:58:09) : 28/02
    I find the constant nitpicking of very minor and insignificant points in Anthony’s spelling and grammar very tiresome and juvenile. … Value WUWT for it’s marvelous, up to date …”

    That would be “its”.
    His, hers, its;
    he’s, she’s, it’s.
    😀 LOL 😉 🙂

  77. latitude (14:52:45) :
    ” the National Weather Service has thrown out the reading”
    “throwing a cloud over the validity of snow totals as far back as 1998, when the FAA took the job over from the weather service.”
    Hogwash
    This is as valid as their fixed temp stations.
    Did the FAA take over all of the airport stations? or just ORD?
    “hottest decade”
    The FAA pretty much DID take over all the airport weather stations. I was working at the KBHM weather station in 1995 when the contract changed from NWS to FAA. Climatological accuracy has not been the same since…

  78. I note that the GISS chart accompanying the Orland weather station is not the same as that currently shown by GISS: the current chart is curtailed:Why?

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