“This a complicating factor for the homogenization of daily temperature series.”
WUWT first reported on the issues with the KNMI De Bilt weather station in October 2009 here. About that time, Dr. Pielke Sr. and I were given access to a KNMI preliminary report on the siting and subsequent bias problems at De Bilt, but we decided to wait until the final report was available before saying anything about it. Those waiting on GMU/Wegman take note – universities move like molasses, chill. Why is this station important? It just so happens that KNMI De Bilt is the only station in the Netherlands used for NASA GISTEMP, and now it has been shown to have problems related to siting.
Weather specialists from the Wageningen-based Meteo Consult have been expressing their distrust for years, because the KNMI figures in De Bilt were always a bit warmer than in Cabau, 16 km away, where there is also a KNMI thermometer. The position of both places could, according to Meteo Consult, not explain the temperature difference of on average half a degree (Celsius). It was also not taken into account that De Bilt is located in a more built-up, and probably therefore warmer, surroundings than Cabau, near IJsselstein.
Above: GISS Temperature plot for De Bilt KNMI – notice the step function. Click for source data.
To KNMI’s credit, they have conducted an exhaustive parallel study to determine the magnitude of effects from siting changes. The results and their conclusion show clearly that siting does matter.
Dr. Roger Pielke Sr. writes:
There is an important, much-needed, addition to the scientific literature which adds to our conclusions in
Fall, S., A. Watts, J. Nielsen-Gammon, E. Jones, D. Niyogi, J. Christy, and R.A. Pielke Sr., 2011: Analysis of the impacts of station exposure on the U.S. Historical Climatology Network temperatures and temperature trends. J. Geophys. Res., in press. Copyright (2011) American Geophysical Union.
that siting of climate reference stations do matter in terms of long term temperature trends and anomalies. This new report is
(16 MB PDF from KNMI – alternate, faster download here KNMI_DeBilt_WR2011-01)
The summary reads (emphasis added)
Air temperature measurements at the KNMI-observatory in De Bilt are important mainly because the observatory has a long and relatively homogeneous record and because its observations often serve as an indicator of changes in climate for the Netherlands as a whole. Among others, relocations of the temperature measurement sites and (gradual) changes in surroundings influence the measurements. To improve the homogeneity of the long-term temperature record and to study the representativeness of the current measurements, a parallel experiment was carried out at the observatory of KNMI in De Bilt from May 2003 through June 2005.
Five sites at the KNMI-observatory, including the (at that time) operational site WMO 06 260 (further denoted as DB260), were equipped with identical (operational) instruments for measuring temperature and wind speed at a height of 1.5 m (see for an overview of the sites Figure 1.1). The instruments were calibrated each half-year and the calibrations curves were used to correct the data to minimize instrumental errors. With the measurements at the Test4 site (operational site since 25 September 2008) as a reference, the temperature differences between the sites were studied in connection with the local wind speed and its differences and operationally measured weather variables at the KNMI-observatory. In September/October 2004 the area west of the operational site DB260 was renovated and made into a landscaped park. From 1999 onwards that area slowly transformed from grassland into a neglected area with bushes (wasteland). The parallel measurements provided the opportunity to study the impact of this new inhomogeneity in detail.
The results show that changes in surroundings complicate or impede the use of present-day parallel measurements for correcting for site changes in the past. For instance, the (vertical) growth of the bushes in the wasteland area west of DB260, caused increasing temperature differences between the operational site DB260 and four neighboring stations. The effects were most clearly visible in the dry summer of 2003, when the mean monthly maximum temperatures at DB260 were up to about 0.4C larger than those at the reference Test4. This increase was more than counteracted by a decrease in the mean monthly minimum temperature of up to 0.6C. After the renovation of the wasteland area, the temperature differences between DB260 and Test4 became close to zero (< 0.1C). The comparison of DB260 with four neighboring stations showed that the renovation restored to some extent the temperatures of the old situation of before the year 1999. However, the land use west of the DB260 has been changed permanently (no longer grassland as in the period 1951-1999, but landscaped park land with ponds). Therefore, operational measurements at DB260 became problematic and KNMI decided to move the operational site to the Test4 site in September 2008. The Test4 site is the most open of five sites studied in the report.
The results increase our understanding of inter-site temperature differences. One of the most important causes of these differences is the difference in sheltering between sites. Sheltering stimulates the build up of a night-time stable boundary layer, decreases the outgoing long-wave radiation, causes a screen to be in the shade in the hours just after sunrise and before sunset, and increases the radiation error of screens due to decreased natural ventilation. Depending on the degree and nature of the sheltering, the net effect of sheltering on temperatures may be a temperature increase or decrease. DB260 is a sheltered site where the net effect is a decrease of the mean temperature (before the renovation). The former historical site Test1 is an example of a site where the net effect is a temperature increase. The monthly mean minimum temperature at Test1 is up to 1.2C higher than the reference and the maximum temperature is up to 0.5C higher than that at Test4. The mean temperature at Test1 is, however, only slightly higher than the mean at Test4. This is caused by the relatively low temperatures in the hours after sunrise and before sunset, when the screen at Test1 is in the shade. Both the Test1 and Test4 location are probably not affected by the renovation.
The renovation of the wasteland area causes not only a shift of the location of the pdf of the daily temperature differences but also a change in the shape. This means that for the homogenization of daily temperature series it is not sufficient to correct only the mean.
We showed that the magnitude of the inter-site temperature differences strongly depends on wind speed and cloudiness. In general the temperature differences increase with decreasing wind speed and decreasing cloudiness. Site changes directly affect wind speed because they are usually accompanied by changes in sheltering. Some effects, like the built up and (partly) breaking down of the stable boundary layer near the surface, are highly non-linear processes and therefore difficult to model. The fact that these processes are mostly active at low wind speeds (< 1.0 m/s at 1.5 m) further complicates the modeling. Regular cup anemometers are not really suited to measure low wind speeds. Operationally these anemometers have a threshold wind speed of about 0.5 m/s and this threshold wind speed often increases with the time during which the anemometer is in the field. In addition, anemometers are mostly situated at a height of 10 m. During night-time stable conditions the correlation between wind speed at 10 m and wind speed at screen height is weak. This complicates the homogenization of daily temperature series.