See temps rise at Sea-Tac

From Cliff Mass, a study that demonstrates how adding a runway generated a hockey stick in temperature difference to surrounding stations. As I’ve been saying for years, the dynamic environment of the airport is the wrong place to measure “climate change”, and in this case, Cliff Mass shows why.

Last week the Seattle Times had a front page story about the Northwest becoming warmer and wetter  based on recently updated climate statistics at Seattle-Tacoma Airport.  But can we use one observing site to reliably determine region climate trends?

Between 2004 and 2008 there was a huge change at the airport, one of the largest construction/earth moving projects in the region in years–the building of a third runway.  In this blog I will ask the question: did the construction of the third runway have an impact on summer temperatures reported from the airport?   My conclusion and that of my colleague Mark Albright is:  it sure looks like it.

But first a few pictures.  Here is a picture of  Sea-Tac before the third runway was installed. I have also indicated the position of the National Weather Service/FAA temperature sensors (their ASOS system) by a blue circle (just to the west of the second runway).

Here are two recent pictures of the current runway situation (with the blue circle showing the sensor position).  Quite a change.

Did the runway change the summer climate at the airport?  My colleague, Mark Albright, calculated the difference in summer temperatures (June, July, August) between Sea-Tac and an average of four nearby official reporting locations (Olympia, McMillan Reservoir near Tacoma, Kent, and Buckley).

Negative means that the neighbors are warmer than Sea-Tac, which you would expect since they are farther inland and generally south of Sea-Tac (which has some cooling influence from the Sound).  You will see that Sea-Tac was generally cooler than those surrounding station (by roughly 1.5F) early in the period. And the slight shift in 2002 had little impact.   But after construction began in 2004 (particularly in 2005 to 2006 when the heavy earth moving occurred) things changed: Sea-Tac temperatures warmed up by roughly 2F so it was the same or warmer than the surrounding, more inland, stations.   I strongly suspect we are seeing the influence of the third runway.

Bottom line:  It really looks that the third runway has significantly warmed summer temperatures at the airport.  Thus, one must be really careful in assuming that any warming there is the result of some kind of greenhouse gas influence.

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Full story at Cliff Mass blog  h/t to WUWT reader “Speed”

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59 thoughts on “See temps rise at Sea-Tac

  1. Excellent! I live in the Seattle area. I had not seen the story in the Seattle Times, as I long ago stopped paying for that biased rag. I’ll be sure to post this data at my place of work and share it with family and friends. Thanks!!!

  2. This is a nice naturally occurring experiment. However, the time period presented seems unnecessarily short and the aggregation of the reference sites could mask what might actually be happening. Can you provide links to the original data that was used?

  3. Of course the black runway and additional exhaust changed the readings? Remember the differential at the Honolulu International Airport that has 2 meteorological stations a mere half mile apart? One near the a runway, the other on natural surface, properly situated. Half a degree differential at noon, with nighttime temperatures even more disparate. Guess which one is used by NOAA? Busted by a local TV station. AGW is dead in Hawaii except by politicians, academics, and crackpot enviros/leftists.
    In this instance, I wonder how this run up compares data from the Vashon Island Airport?

  4. Good article, but the link to the Seattle Times article doesn’t work.
    Given that CRU relies heavily on airports, could post-1950 CRU warming largely just reflect the growth in the aviation industry? Willis Eschenback shook lose their station list back in 2007, and now it looks like a new FOI will let us see their data soon to check this.
    But if airport growth causes warming, why doesn’t bad siting of USHCN cause much except a reduction in the diurnal (max minus min) range, per the new SurfaceStations article?
    REPLY: Link fixed, errant clipboard content, thanks – Anthony

  5. Incredible that this kind of obvious effect is glossed over or denied. It’s so easy to demonstrate. There must be a lot at stake.
    Like the fundamental generalizations about temperature “trends”, perchance?

  6. “blue circle (just to the west of the second runway)”
    I wouldn’t trust the temperature recordings from any sensor beside an airport runway, particularly in the era of jet exhaust and many multiple landings/takeoff each day (unless you’re interested in the temperature at the airport only). That’s like trusting a sensor in the middle of downtown of a large city to record the temperature for a whole “metropolitan region” that includes the city, the outlying suburbs, and a lot of parks.
    I know an anecdote isn’t evidence, but I live in the somewhat built-up suburban area on the south side of a fairly large metropolitan area (we’ve got the roads and shopping centers out here, but also plenty of trees, grass, and open green space). The airport for the metro area is to the east of the city center about as far as I am to the south of it (and is surrounded by wooded areas on three sides, with roads and shopping centers on the 4th). The airport (the official station for the area) regularly has higher night “lows” than I do at my house (we’re at the same altitude, and I don’t live in a valley or hollow). I found this out when I put in at little “weather station” that recorded the highs and lows for the day, among other things. My low is usually about 4 or 5 degrees (F) lower than the low at the airport, or the predicted low (which I suppose is based on the airport temperatures). I’ve even witnesses this when I had to get up before dawn and looked out the back door at the temperature on the large thermometer on my back porch to compare it to the “official” (airport) temperature. At least I now know why I’ve had plants frost-damaged in the spring and fall. Now, any time the predicted low is 40 or lower, even if it’s predicted to be several degrees above freezing, I cover the plants. So far it’s worked.
    I don’t trust any temperature recorded at any large airport to be in any way indicative of the area’s actual temperature.

  7. Gee, you would think adding around 2 million sq ft of runway and tarmac on the other side of the thermometer…………

  8. It is a well known fact that cities are warmer than the surrounding countryside because:
    a) Tarmac is black and absorbs and then radiates away heat
    b) Buildings are heated and some of the heat is lost to the surroundings (change heated buildings to jet engines at an airport and some heat to all heat)
    c) Water runs off tarmac and concrete so each square foot of man-made surface has virtually zero water to evaporate and cool it.
    Common sense tells you that thermometers should be placed in well ventilated areas, with no black body radiators nearby, in the shade.
    Some years ago Newcastle upon Tyne had the dubious distinction of being the worse polluted city in the country by a very wide margin. Why? Because someone put one of the pollution sensors in an underground bus depot, so it was exposed to all the diesel fumes from the large number of buses going in and out. Needless to say when it was moved, Newcastle became one of the least polluted cities in the UK.

  9. A minor point, but the drawings/photos in the article have the runways mis-labeled. The first photo that should have Taxiway “T” as the far left, then Runway 34L in the center, and Runway 34R at the right. This is the “before” status of the airport.
    The second photo, “After” should have Runway 34L at the far left, then Taxiway “T”, then Runway 34C, then Runway 34R at the far right. Essentially, the new runway was added to the far West (left in these photos). By FAA runway naming conventions, the new runway is 34L (for 34 Left), the previous 34L becomes 34C (for 34 Center), and the 34R retains its name.

  10. I clicked Cliff Mass’s link and read his blog post. He notes that he is a believer in GHG based warming and says that it is inevitable. However, he obviously has scruples about using corrupted temp recorders (he clearly doesn’t need this kind of loading of the deck – indeed, if it is to come to pass, then why would anyone need to cook results). This post by an AGW believer is the kind of thing it would be nice to see more of. I know there are a lot of honest believers in the future warming arising from GHG and other causes, like land-use changes. These honest folk should be the debaters from the AGW side – they would make for a meaningful debate. I have no interested position in what finally shakes out. My scepticism is more like outrage at the unabashed fraudsters and tricksters that have kidnapped climate science. It must be tough for the honest practitioners who have found a scientific reason to believe in AGW but have their work tainted and discredited by the position (albeit non hysterical) they share with the “political climate scientists”. Good on you Cliff – you are more likely to convince reasonable people of your position than the performances of the likes of Gore, Hansen, and other coreographed CAGW troopers.

  11. I know an anecdote isn’t evidence,
    An anecdote is a data point. It IS evidence. Depending upon the circumstances, it can be good, unbiased evidence. It just isn’t proof and no one expects it to be. Neither should it be ignored because it is not proof.
    Many a good scientific discovery was made by observing one instance, one anecdote, of the unexpected and and investigating it further.

  12. Seattle Sea-Tac airport runway layout at this link: (the “After” version). Note Taxiway “T” is smaller in width, while the runways are a bit wider.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:00582AD.svg
    From the wiki, about that Taxiway “T” being mistaken by pilots as a runway: (note that “Tango” and “T” identify the same stretch of taxiway)
    “A recurring operational problem at Sea-Tac is misidentification of the westernmost taxiway, Taxiway Tango, as a landing surface. A large “X” has been placed at the north end of the taxiway to prevent confusion, but a number of incidents of aircraft landing on the taxiway have still occurred.[11] The FAA has issued an alert notice dated from August 27, 2009 to September 24, 2009 urging airplanes about taking precautions such as REILs and other visual cues while landing from the north.”

  13. An excerpt from:
    Lights, action, lies
    by Peter Smith
    July 17, 2011
    ——————————————————————————–
    The government climate infomercial they didn’t use.
    ——————————————————————————–
    Wayne: I can hardly speak I am so excited. It is really an invisible tax. It taxes a colourless gas; we’ll call it pollution, which nobody can see. That’s the real beauty of it. Because it can’t be seen we’ll need lots of agencies, authorities, programs, initiatives, schemes and funds to deal with it. Look we’ll need a Climate Change Authority, a Clean Energy Regulator, a Clean Energy Finance Corporation, an Australian Renewable Energy Agency, a roped in Productivity Commission, an Energy Security Council, a Remote Indigenous Energy Program, a Jobs and Competitiveness Program, a Low Carbon Communities program, a Low Income Energy Efficiency Program, a Household Energy and Financial Sustainability Scheme, a Carbon Farming Initiative, a Carbon Farming Futures program, an Energy Security Fund and a Biodiversity Fund, the list goes on and on. It’s so long I am sure I have missed some.
    (Wayne takes a deep breath.)
    Literally tens of thousands of new Labor-voting public servants will be needed to administer the new qangos and boondoggles and calculate how much of the invisible gas different businesses produce or alternatively don’t produce and how much different businesses will get for not producing it or producing less of it or for reducing it or to make up for being taxed for producing it and how much particular categories of people should get for paying higher prices because some businesses of our choosing are producing it being taxed and increasing their prices. I don’t know how much legislation and regulation will be needed. It will run into many thousands of pages.
    Julia: That is truly amazing Wayne! It is a Labor government’s dream come true – billions of dollars coming in billions of dollar being doled out as we choose. If only communist Eastern Europe had of thought of it, the commissars might still be in charge. (The PM sighs.)

  14. Of course 1981-2010 will be warmer on avg than 1970-2000. The former nicely correlates to a warm PDO. Watch the avg temp drop when 1991-2020 can be evaluated.

  15. Airport data is adequately precise, and exactly what pilots need. The location of the sensors is intended to report the actual runway conditions, which can be critical for computing landing and takeoff distances, and maximum load capacity of the aircraft. The idea that this should be used to record climate data is absurd. Only if you are looking for bad data to support what you know to be a failed premise would you use such a questionable source. Most airport data, whether from ASOS/AWOS or old, manually recorded data, should be purged from the climate data records. An exception might be records from before runways were paved, which might be an interesting idea for a comparison if the dates of runway paving can be located (or the dates could be determined from a step-change in the temperature data).

  16. I used to fly 747 ‘s for qantas. The temperature I need to calculate my takeoff performance is the temperature about 10-12ft above the runway. The temperature in farmer Brown’s fields 2 mls away is useless. Airport temperatures are by definition the highest in the area, to use them for climate calculations is fraud.

  17. THEY always warned us about run(a)way global warming…..so now we have proof!
    What more could you ask for…… ?????

  18. Yes, reduced evaporation has a big local warming effect.
    Regarding anectodes:
    The plural of anectodes is not data, but a single anectode can lead to many good ideas and quality data, if you do science.

  19. Charlie Foxtrot says:
    July 17, 2011 at 11:13 am
    “… intended to report the actual runway conditions, which can be critical for computing landing and takeoff distances, and maximum load capacity of the aircraft.”
    And pretty handy in determining how hot/cold it’s going to be when you get your colonoscopy over at the TSA area.

  20. There are some obvious questions one should raise about any analysis.
    The months reported are 25% of the year. In that time you see a 2F jump.
    What about the other months? Well, we dont know because the report has no data sources.
    Lets assume that if the other months were just as bad they would be reported, but they’ve been left out. On the assumption that the other 75% of the year shows no difference between airport and non airport, then our 2F for 25% of the year suddenly gets chopped down to .5F you can go figure what number that is in C. Simply, on an ANNUAL basis we have no been shown the different. But it gets worse. Lets suppose that the airport is 2F warmer than the 4 stations selected for the FULL year. A generous assumption since we’ve only been shown 3 months.
    What happens when you spatially average 5 sites,One which is 2F warmer than the average of the other 4? what happens to that 2F? well, its 20% or .4F. I leave it to you to turn that into C. Now what happens when you average that one airport with all the sites with 500km ( a 5 degree grid )? its contribution to the average gets diminished even more. It’s not enough to show the corruption of one airport during one season. We KNOW that we can find cases where the change in land effects the temperatures. What we want to PROVE is that these changes are widespread. We want to prove that they change the GLOBAL average. Now we can assume as a THEORY, that this should be the case; but we dont prove that theory by looking at single cases. We have to look at all airports. The story there is different. I’ll save that for another day.
    Back now to the problem with this analysis. What does the other 75% of the year look like?
    In order to see what the other 75% of the year looked like, one has to have the data source. But the article doesnt show the data source. NCDC is mentioned but NCDC has all sorts of data sources. I feel like I’m working with CRU who told us “the data is out there”
    The source that gets used for climate studies is GHCN.
    So we can look there to see if we find the data sources used
    Id Lat Lon Elevation Name
    4473 42500450945 47.1694 -122.0036 208.8 BUCKLEY 1 NE
    4474 42500451233 47.4144 -121.7561 475.5 CEDAR LAKE
    4475 42500451276 46.7200 -122.9528 56.4 CENTRALIA
    4476 42500451484 48.9672 -122.3292 19.5 CLEARBROOK
    4477 42500451504 47.1856 -120.9469 585.2 CLE ELUM
    4478 42500451630 48.5472 -117.9019 474.6 COLVILLE
    4479 42500451666 48.5467 -119.7492 707.1 CONCONULLY
    4480 42500451939 47.3706 -123.1600 6.4 CUSHMAN POWERHOUSE 2
    4481 42500452007 47.6503 -118.1456 743.7 DAVENPORT
    4482 42500452030 46.3153 -118.0022 474.6 DAYTON 1 WSW
    4483 42500452505 46.9692 -120.5400 451.1 ELLENSBURG
    4484 42500452675 47.9753 -122.1950 18.3 EVERETT
    4485 42500452914 47.9558 -124.3539 106.7 FORKS 1 E
    4486 42500453222 45.8081 -120.8428 499.9 GOLDENDALE
    4487 42500454154 46.2111 -119.1011 118.9 KENNEWICK
    4489 42500454764 46.7492 -121.8120 841.9 LONGMIRE RAINIER NPS
    4490 42500454769 46.1506 -122.9164 3.7 LONGVIEW
    4491 42500455224 47.1358 -122.2558 176.5 MC MILLIN RSVR
    4492 42500455946 48.9114 -117.8069 423.7 NORTHPORT
    4493 42500456039 47.3286 -118.6997 466.3 ODESSA
    4495 42500456610 46.4686 -117.5894 579.1 POMEROY
    4496 42500456624 48.1139 -123.4317 27.4 PORT ANGELES
    4497 42500456678 48.1161 -122.7586 30.5 PORT TOWNSEND
    4498 42500456789 46.7564 -117.1911 775.7 PULLMAN 2 NW
    4499 42500456914 46.6533 -123.7300 9.1 RAYMOND 2 S
    4500 42500457059 47.1139 -118.3772 557.8 RITZVILLE 1 SSE
    4501 42500457267 47.0894 -117.5931 592.8 SAINT JOHN
    4502 42500457458 47.6500 -122.3000 5.8 SEATTLE URBAN SITE
    4503 42500457507 48.4958 -122.2355 18.3 SEDRO WOOLLEY
    4504 42500457773 47.5414 -121.8361 134.1 SNOQUALMIE FALLS
    4505 42500457938 47.6217 -117.5281 717.2 SPOKANE INTL AP
    4506 42500458059 48.3511 -120.7267 387.1 STEHEKIN 4 NW
    4507 42500458207 46.3236 -120.0103 227.7 SUNNYSIDE
    4508 42500458773 45.6778 -122.6519 64.0 VANCOUVER 4 NNE
    4509 42500458928 46.1000 -118.2833 355.4 WALLA WALLA FAA AP
    4510 42500459012 47.6478 -120.0697 798.6 WATERVILLE
    4511 42500459074 47.4247 -120.3150 195.1 WENATCHEE
    4512 42500459238 47.7569 -118.6775 679.7 WILBUR
    4513 42500459376 48.4539 -120.1936 534.9 WINTHROP 1 WSW
    5093 42572698000 45.6000 -122.6000 12.0 PORTLAND/INT
    5095 42572698006 45.6200 -121.1500 73.0 DALLESPORT/FCWOS AP
    5096 42572698009 45.7000 -121.9000 30.0 CASCADE LOCKS
    5130 42572781000 46.5700 -120.5300 325.0 YAKIMA/YAKIMA
    5131 42572781005 47.4000 -120.2000 375.0 WENATCHEE/PANGBORN FIELD
    5132 42572784003 47.1800 -119.3200 360.0 MOSES LAKE/GRANT CO
    5133 42572784004 47.3200 -119.5200 383.0 EPHRATA/AIRPORT FCWOS
    5135 42572786003 47.6300 -117.6500 743.0 FAIRCHILD/AFB
    5137 42572792000 46.9700 -122.9000 61.0 OLYMPIA WA
    5140 42572793001 47.2800 -121.3300 1209.0 STAMPEDE PASS/WSMO
    5141 42572793003 47.5000 -122.5000 70.0 VASHON ISLAND
    5142 42572793006 47.6500 -122.3000 5.0 SEATTLE/PORTAGE BAY
    5143 42572793008 47.6800 -122.2700 12.0 SEATTLE/NAS
    5145 42572797000 47.9500 -124.5500 62.0 QUILLAYUTE WA
    5150 42574201007 48.8000 -122.5300 45.0 BELLINGHAM/INTL AP
    5151 42574206002 47.1500 -122.4800 88.0 TACOMA/MC CHORD AFB
    Sea Tac is at
    47.446317,-122.301865
    Apparently not in GHCN. is Kent in there ? dunno. doesnt appear to be.
    And it doesnt look like its in GISS
    http://data.giss.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/gistemp/findstation.py?lat=47.6&lon=-122.33&datatype=gistemp&data_set=2
    When the data and the methods for this study get published, then we have something we can look at. It could be interesting . Until such time we have something that I lend as much credibility to as a Mann paper. No data, no code, no reason to respond much beyond what I’ve done here.
    In any case perhaps folks can point to the data sources and show how those sources get used in any global average.

  21. The Weather Underground has a page where you can track live temperatures in any major US city. There are multiple stations reporting from different locations in each urban area. It is common to see differences of up to 10F in the same city at the same time.
    A British research team that researched UHI found differences up to 14F. The further into a city they would travel, the warmer the readings. Concentric circles of heat, like nesting domes of ever increasing heat the nearer to a city center.
    Anthropogenic Urban Warming, just not catastrophic.

  22. To make an approximation of the effect of the airport changes, assume that the Sea-Tac record for the last 5 years was biased upwards (due to the new runway) by 2 deg F, and unchanged for the previous time. [This seems a reasonable first-order interpretation of the figure.] The effect of this bias upon the 1981-2010 average is 2 deg F * (5 years/30 years), or one-third of a deg F. The difference between the 1981-2010 average and that of 1971-2000, is about 0.5 deg F per the Seattle Times article (60.3 minus 59.8).
    It appears the new construction represents a majority of the measured temperature change. Thank you Cliff Mass for your observations and analysis.

  23. Edim says:
    July 17, 2011 at 12:08 pm
    “if you do science.”
    Should be emblazoned on the forehead of anyone claiming to be a climate scientist! The AGW balloon would have had so many holes poked in it initially, it would never have floated!

  24. “It is a well known fact that cities are warmer than the surrounding countryside because:
    a) Tarmac is black and absorbs and then radiates away heat…”
    Theoretically, this should produce a one-time jump in temperatures, and the long term trend thenceforth should be unaffected. In practice, growth in urban population and traffic will create a rising trend overlay. Also, the latter or any small temperature trend will be amplified by the presence of asphalt.

  25. If one puts a couple of well-placed breaks the letters of the name of the graph (seatacheat) we get: seat-a-cheat.

  26. Steven Mosher says:
    July 17, 2011 at 12:44 pm
    “What happens when you spatially average 5 sites,One which is 2F warmer than the average of the other 4? what happens to that 2F? well, its 20% or .4F.”

    Math 101 FAIL.
    Let’s try a theoretical example:
    Site 1, let’s say Sea-Tac; 15F
    Site 2: Anywhere; 12F
    Site 3: Somewhere; 13F
    Site 4: Everywhere; 14F
    Site 5: Nowhere; 13F
    Site 1 is 2F warmer than the average of the other 4. No matter how you try and twist the data there is no way it can be diluted to 0.4F The only place 20% can be dericved from is if all sites are added together, then the new average is 20% of the total, not Site 1 being 20% of the total. In this case that is 20% of 67F or 13.25F
    Sorry but even here Site 1 is still 1.75F warmer than the new average, but the new average has been modified by the site that is being investigated. Another FAIL.

  27. Having worked at YYZ for nearly 32 years, I’m surprised nobody has mentioned the effect of burning rubber on temp readings.

  28. Don’t forget that many airports were originally called airfields.
    These were flat rural or semi-rural fields with the grass, wheat, or corn flattened
    to provide dirt “runways”.
    With a couple of hangers and a few outbuildings added, that’s where the
    temperature, wind direction and speed, and cloud cover and precipitation
    measurements began for these facilities, with or without the use of
    modern Stevenson screens.
    Today, you not only have the tarmac or concrete runways taking the
    place of the dirt landing strips, but also the terminals, large hangers,
    taxi areas added to the urban heat island effect.
    Then one has to take a slightly wider view of the infrastructure
    that’s been built up to support the activities at the “airport”… the
    shipping company buildings, trucking terminals, state or interstate
    highways leading to/from the “airport” etc. and then you
    can worry about what influence prop wash and jet exhaust might have
    on the ambient atmosphere near ground level inside an “airport”.
    R.M.B on July 17th at 11:36 am, above:
    Airport temperatures are by definition the highest in the area, to use them for climate calculations is fraud.
    …pretty much says it all.
    If the only information you’re studying is airport temperatures by
    themselves or comparing them to/against the other readings in the area
    their useful.
    To batch airport temperature information in with region rural or
    semi-urban readings for general climactic interpretation is to skew
    the data to the warm side… and really poor methodology.
    Cliff Mass could make the same report from almost any modern
    airport.

  29. Cliff Mass is highly competent and ethical. However, his grants in large part come from
    NSF. When he says he believes in AGW, so what. Sod do I, but know that AGW is not a major driver of weather. If Mass disputed AGW, in effect he would be pissing in his rice bowl. Put his comments about AGW in context.

  30. It is no surprise that the local AGW crowd and it’s mouthpiece, the Seattle Times, would run with this nonsense. I wonder what the readings at the Renton, Boeing Field, and Everett airports, in close proximity to SeaTac, were over the same time period?

  31. From WonkyPedia. The airport was added to in 1959 to allow the use of jet engined aircraft. Will be interesting to compare the trend at the airport with nearby stations in light of this upgrade.
    regards

  32. I think the sensor should be moved to inside the main terminal where the temp is more stable and away from the nasty CO2 gas

  33. Jantar.
    The way averages are done in a regional average.
    5 sites. they are all 10.
    site 5 has 2F of positive bias.
    What does that do to a regional average?
    How do we ( cru, giss, etc ) calculate regional averages?
    tada! something like what you see below
    Truth, without the bias is 10.
    with a 2F bias at one site????
    site 1: 10, site 2: 10, site 3: 10, site 4: 10, site 5: 12
    10+10+10+10+12 = 52
    52 / 5 = 10.4
    So if site 5 has 2F of Bias, when you average it with other the 2F of bias becomes…….
    .4F of bias.
    Then, of course, the 2F wasnt for the WHOLE YEAR. its 25% of the year.
    so… damn, you are down to 1/100ths of F
    WORSE YET. this is a step change. It doesnt impact the trend very much.
    you go figure that math

  34. The article stressed that the 30-year average for Seattle has gone up, now that the 1970s have been replaced by the 2000’s in the “climatic” average. Perhaps Mass could compute the annual average for Sea-Tac (NWS KSEA) for both 1970-1999 and 1980-2009 (or 1971-2000 etc depending on how NWS does it), all 12 months max/min average, and then do the same calculation for the average of the 4 comparison stations. The 2000’s are probably warmer than the cool 1970’s, so the later averages are probably higher. But Mass’s figures seem to show that the touted SeaTac rise overstates regional temperature change.
    There’s about a 1.8 dF difference for half the 2000’s in Mass’s graph after the runway was added. If the difference was constant in the 1970s, the SeaTac 30-year average should look overstated by about 0.3dF or about 0.2 dC.
    Then it would be interesting to go back and compare to the 1940’s or 50’s, which may have been warmer than the 70’s.

  35. Why do I suspect that this issue will trigger a massively funded research project to determine whether or not airports are anthropogenic??

  36. This doesn’t relate directly to sea-tac, but our local weather station is just south of the long runway at Cheyenne (CYS). We have had rain every day this week, heavy at times, and it is simply oppressive here today–hot and humid. Yet the official reading shows that RH was 36% this morning, declined to 27% at noon, and has, as of this post (7pm local), risen back to 39%. This is too dry to feel as sticky as it is all around the city, and especially around the city periphery. I’m a couple of miles beyond city limits to the east. I just pulled out my sling psychrometer and it shows 58% (wet bulb = 70F, dry bulb=82).
    Does this seem reasonable to anyone out there? Is the airport being warmer and drier a reasonable observation? Can anyone quantify the plus-minus on a sling psychrometer?

  37. I know it has been 6 years since I left Everett, and I dont have a date on the picture up there, but I seem to remember quite a bit less snow on Rainier when I left. Just sayin’….

  38. For England through the 20th century up until the 80s, GISS use 50 or so stations comprising of a mixture of rural, urban and a small number of airports. Then through the 80s up until the 00’s, these bottleneck into 9 or 10 airport stations (some of the station names don’t reflect this). I was looking into this a few months ago and was surprised to find that all stations currently used by GISS in England are located at airports. There is no valid reason for doing this (unless, I imagine, you are mining for an enhanced warming trend), as many of the airport records don’t even begin until the 80s. I wanted to see how this reduction in the number and nature of stations correlated with the difference between GISS and other datasets through the late C20th warming period, but got sidetracked by work, and can’t remember the exact numbers.. If anyone with more statistical skill than me is interested however, it might be a worthwhile investigation. I can try to find the information I collated.

  39. Roger Sowell says:
    July 17, 2011 at 10:58 am

    “A recurring operational problem at Sea-Tac is misidentification of the westernmost taxiway, Taxiway Tango, as a landing surface. A large “X” has been placed at the north end of the taxiway to prevent confusion, but a number of incidents of aircraft landing on the taxiway have still occurred.

    To expound on an OT comment – a friend of mine was flying into a Connecticut airport, I think on the way to some airshow and had a conversation with the tower that went something like:
    Tower: Clear to land runway X (okay, not sure exactly what it was called).
    Wes: Please repeat runway.
    Tower: Clear to land runway X.
    Wes: Do you have a visual on me?
    Tower: Sorry, clear to land runway 24. (Or something with a sensible compass heading, I don’t recall which airport, otherwise I would have read one from Google maps.
    Being a CT airport, a lot of traffic was corporate jets and helicopters. Helicopters were parked along a taxiway. Wes was flying a biplane and was so slow that the tower flight controller assumed he was flying a helicopter!
    Aside to the pilots here – sorry for however badly I messed that up…. Actually, it might have not been a biplane, but it was old, slow, and obviously not the usual fare.

  40. Steven Mosher says:
    July 17, 2011 at 12:44 pm
    How about the fact that this airport proves that whoever monitors that data station has no standards whatsoever? Do you have some reason to believe that the people who monitor other data stations are any better? Who is ultimately responsible for all data stations? To whom can we complain about their standards? And, oh yes, are there any standards? What are they? Is there no standard that says “Surrounding a station with asphalt that is used by jetliners requires moving the station.”
    If our temperature reporting regime is a Keystone Kop operation at best, then it has to be rebuilt by responsible people who behave transparently. Otherwise, all the surface temperature data is trash. I believe it is trash.
    I really don’t care about statistical magic. I care about holding people responsible for mismanagement? Do you?

  41. When you surround a station by adding a new runway or taxiway on one side of it, the change in temperature reading would not be from the new asphalt alone. The added traffic on one side of the station would also have an impact and that traffic increases incrementally, not in a step wise fashion.

  42. http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/05/11/the-long-awaited-surfacestations-paper/#comment-658282
    Mosher 5/11 13:28
    how MUCH of the .8C is due to changes we have made to the atmosphere?
    ….
    So one way to get the debate you want is to put your numbers down.
    1. UHI ( ~.1c)
    2. NV ( ~.3c)
    3. GHG (.4c)
    or any such thing, subject to some constraints.

    Back on May 11, you challenged some of us to put down there estimate for how much of the total warming is do the “changes we made in the atmosphere”, lumping all that into GHG (Green house gasses) as opposed to NV (Natural Variablility), and UHI (Urban Heat Island).
    You challenged us and some of put down values or ranges. Where is yours? Whas the 0.1, 0.3, 0.4 your estimate or only an example?
    I do not believe it is fair to look at UHI alone.
    In addition to UHI issues at city scale, there are real surfacestation historical biases that the sufacestations.org project is all about.
    So there are at least 4 elements:
    UHI,
    SSHB (surface station historical bias),
    NV (Natural variability), and
    GHG.
    The Sea-Tac anecdote is real data about SSHB. It shows station biases are real factors, independent of UHI effects.
    Do all stations have this effect? No. But it is equally ridiculous to suggest that this is a one-off and no other station suffers this bias. JJB MKI’s post above would indicate that potentially the effect of SSHB might be increasing over time as the number of stations is reduced over time and concentrated around airports with growth in traffic (another sampling bias — you cannot collect data at airports that are closed.)
    Then, of course, the 2F wasnt for the WHOLE YEAR. its 25% of the year.
    so… damn, you are down to 1/100ths of F

    You did mean a tenth of a degree, didn’t you?
    And while you point out that the data in incomplete,
    you get 2 deg F for 3 months of the year,
    you make the assumption that the rest of the year it is zero. There is no basis for that. Do not assume zero where null (missing) is appropriate.
    The key point of the observation is that for at least part of the calendar year, the SSHB at SeaTac is NOT ZERO, not Less than zero, and significantly positive enough to warrent caution in future studies.
    And while we are at it, let’s separate out UHI effects at city scale from SSHB at line of sight scale.

  43. Kevin Kilty says:
    July 17, 2011 at 6:16 pm
    … our local weather station is just south of the long runway at Cheyenne (CYS). … it is simply oppressive here today–hot and humid. Yet the official reading shows that RH was 36% this morning, declined to 27% at noon, and has, as of this post (7pm local), risen back to 39%. This is too dry to feel as sticky as it is all around the city, and especially around the city periphery. I’m a couple of miles beyond city limits to the east. I just pulled out my sling psychrometer and it shows 58% (wet bulb = 70F, dry bulb=82).
    New England meteorologists do a good job of ignoring relative humidity and focus on dew points. even in Houston, the relative humidity is quite low on an afternoon with the temperature above 100°F.
    Dewpoints above 60°F are annoying to people with scandinavian genes, above 70°F it’s getting oppresive, and above 80°F it’s time to get out of the sweat box.
    According to http://www.wunderground.com/cgi-bin/findweather/hdfForecast?query=kcys , CYS currently has a dew point of 60°F, likely humid for Wyoming. Nearby non-commercial stations report values like 58°F to 62°F, so I’d say KCYS is probably right.
    According to http://www.4wx.com/wxcalc/wetbulb.php , 82/70 dry/wet at sea level is dew point 64, RH 55%. At 6000 feet elevation, let’s call it 24″ Hg, that give a dew point of 65, RH 57%.
    Humid if you aren’t used to it. Delightful if you’re from Houston. One handy thing about the dew point is that it’s often close to the low temp the next night. Once air temp drops to the dew point, dew formation releases a lot of heat, slowing down the temperature fall.
    Currently at KHOU (midnight or so) 83 °F, 73°F dew point.

  44. For our study Cliff Mass and I used the DS 3220 monthly data set available from NCDC. The 4 comparison sites used are the four coop/ASOS sites with a complete record from 1996-2010 and located within a radius of about 45 miles of SeaTac Airport. We started at 1996 so as to restrict the airport data to the ASOS era. Both Olympia and SeaTac ASOS installations became operational during early summer 1996.
    -mark albright
    U of Washington

  45. pat says:
    Remember the differential at the Honolulu International Airport that has 2 meteorological stations a mere half mile apart? One near the a runway, the other on natural surface, properly situated. Half a degree differential at noon, with nighttime temperatures even more disparate. Guess which one is used by NOAA?
    This also makes a complete nonsense of “homogenization” of data gathered from sites with hundreds of kilometres between them.
    It also needs to be remembered that meteorological stations at airports are there to provide relevent information to pilots rather than weather forcasters or climate “scientists”.

  46. Steven Mosher said, “There are some obvious questions one should raise about any analysis.
    The months reported are 25% of the year. In that time you see a 2F jump.
    What about the other months? Well, we dont know because the report has no data sources.”
    The Cliff Mass post was in response to a story in the Seattle Times, not a complete and detailed climatological study. It was designed to educate the public about a potential problem and to call into question a story in the main stream media.

    Last week the Seattle Times had a front page story about the Northwest becoming warmer and wetter based on recently updated climate statistics at Seattle-Tacoma Airport. But can we use one observing site to reliably determine region climate trends? In my previous blog I noted that this is a real problem: one site is not necessarily representative of a region and besides it might have observing issues. And Sea Tac has such issues in spades: changes in the local environment, changes in sensors, and changing positions of the sensors.

    Perhaps it would be more effective if you posted your criticism at Cliff’s blog. It’s more likely to be read by Cliff and his audience than a comment here.

  47. With regard to anecdotes, in medicine it was always said that one case = “in my experience”, two cases = “in my extensive experience” and three cases = “in my personal series”

  48. Steven Mosher says:
    July 17, 2011 at 5:01 pm
    WORSE YET. this is a step change.
    Anyone familiar with Seatac and the surrounding area would tell you it’s an asphalt pavers dream. Seatac and the Surrounding area seem to have an unlimited budget for endlessly adding asphalt. I live 15 miles away. A few years ago the ‘impervious surface’ standard for residential lots was lowered to 50%.
    Of course being the industrious person I am I added parking for a 3rd car and a trailer plus a 800 sq ft deck for a total of an additional 1,400 sq ft of impervious, heat absorbing surface. The temperature in my backyard is always at least 5F higher then the airport. I would estimate the average household in my neighborhood has added at least 500sq of impervious surface in the last 10 years.
    The local homeowners association also gave up it’s insistence on cedar roofing shingles and pretty much everyone has replaced their cedar roofs with nice, maintenance free asphalt shingles.
    Of course we could always fall back on the Mount Rainier readings as Mt Rainier has a population of zero but there is a wonderful new visitors center there with a nice big asphalt parking lot.
    Sorry Steve, the only way to accurately calculate urban heat island is knowing how many square feet of asphalt and concrete are laid down in relation to the surrounding thermometer over time.
    Comparing UHI polluted thermometers to UHI polluted thermometers doesn’t tell much of a story.

  49. I think it would be interesting to install a real-time temperature monitoring system in the acquisition housing, with 5 second sampling. I’ll bet that you can see the change in temp when an aircraft departs or lands. I’ll also bet that it’s a fast rise/slow decay phenomenon.

  50. Ric Werme says:
    July 17, 2011 at 9:44 pm
    Kevin Kilty says:
    July 17, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    Thanks for your response.

  51. Last winter whilst I was freezing to death in Canada is was having an argument, I did not remember it being that cold but I was told I am getting old and can’t take the cold anymore. I decided to check that day, that hour, the Canadian met office keep those figures going back to 1953. I was wrong, the temp was about the same, I averaged it out for every ten years, there was a spike of one degree in the 90’s, it went down a fraction of a degree in the 70’s but I noticed that all the earliest weather stations and most of the current ones are at airports. In 1953 there was hardly any airtravel, that is the one mode that has grown bigger than any other, more runways and parking lots have been built there than anywhere else, miles and miles of black absorbing the sun. The met office says they make adjustments for it but I wonder who and how.

  52. Andrew Harding says:
    b) Buildings are heated and some of the heat is lost to the surroundings (change heated buildings to jet engines at an airport and some heat to all heat)
    Both cities and airports have cars, buses, trucks, etc. In addition airports have all sorts of service vehicles.
    Airport buildings typically have extensive HVAC systems. There’s also often a requirement to produce chilled “ready meals” in large quantities on site.
    Just about every jet and turboprop aircraft comes with a gas turbine APU. This puts out hot air when running.

  53. a lot of nit-picking non-sense
    every glassier on the planet IS melting
    and the incidence of extreme weather all over the
    planet IS increasing
    the big picture says
    you foolish human need to change course
    it is the direct descendants
    of the men who built the petro-economy
    who have the capitol to do it
    but not their grate-grandfather’s
    skills, imagination, or moxie
    so here we sit stewing
    and arguing about the god given right
    to be pigs and hog the earth’s resources
    while the power shifts to those with
    skills, imagination and moxie
    the deniers are like Nero
    and soon your fiddles
    will be untunable
    what will you do
    THEN????

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