NOAA's 'Janus moment' – while claiming 'The American public can be confident in NOAA’s long-standing surface temperature record', they fund an experiment to investigate the effects of station siting and heat sinks/sources on temperature data

NOAA’s impersonation of the two faced god Janus just proved my point about station siting issues with their actions that speak louder than words.

While there’s all this caterwauling about my PBS News hour interview, and my statements were apparently so threatening that NOAA itself asked PBS to publish a rebuttal in their apologetic story about having my interview, in the real world, NOAA is actually taking my concerns seriously and funding a research project to study my concern. But NOAA of course wouldn’t own up to that on PBS, instead they wrote essentially “all is well, nothing to see here, move along”.

Here’s Spencer Michels  commentary and NOAA’s statement as published at the PBS website yesterday:

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Let’s start on the question of whether temperature data is flawed. That was raised by Watts, and his views on that are being heavily criticized on the web today.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration wrote a response to us and stands by its record on temperature data. Here is what NOAA sent:

The American public can be confident in NOAA’s long-standing surface temperature record, one of the world’s most comprehensive, accurate and trusted data sets. This record has been constructed through many innovative methods to test the robustness of the climate data record developed and made openly available for all to inspect by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. Numerous peer-reviewed studies conclusively show that U.S. temperatures have risen and continue to rise with recent widespread record-setting temperatures in the USA. There is no doubt that NOAA’s temperature record is scientifically sound and reliable. To ensure accuracy of the record, scientists use peer-reviewed methods to account for all potential inaccuracies in the temperature readings such as changes in station location, instrumentation and replacement and urban heat effects.

Specifically, NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center published a scientific peer-reviewed paper (Menne, et al., 2010) that compared trends from stations that were considered well-sited and stations that received lower ratings on siting conditions, which found that the U.S. average temperature trend is not inflated by poor station siting. A subsequent research study led by university and private sector scientists reached the same conclusion (Fall et al. 2011). Additionally, the Department of Commerce Inspector General reviewed the US Historical Climatology Network dataset in July 2010 and concluded that “the respondents to our inquiries about the use of and adjustments to the USHCN data generally expressed confidence in the [USHCN] Version 2 dataset.”

Looking ahead to the next century, NOAA has implemented the U.S. Climate Reference Network (USCRN) – with 114 stations across the contiguous United States located in pristine, well-sited areas. Comparing several years of trends from the well-sited USCRN stations with USHCN shows that the temperature trends closely correspond – again validating the accuracy of the USHCN U.S. temperature record.

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Now, while NOAA is claiming at PBS that the surface temperature record is “accurate” and “The American public can be confident in NOAA’s long-standing surface temperature record…” they quietly fund a new project to look into EXACTLY the questions I’ve been raising. It’s a Janus moment for NOAA.

From the USCRN Annual Report: http://www1.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/uscrn/publications/annual_reports/FY11_USCRN_Annual_Report.pdf

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5.1.3 Planning for Thermal Impacts Experiment

Initial funding was provided this year by the USRCRN Program for a multi-year experiment to better understand the thermal impacts of buildings with parking lots on air temperature measurements. A site near the offices of ATDD will be instrumented to measure accurately the air temperature and other variables at multiple distances from the potential thermal heat source, corresponding to the distances from thermal sources used in classifying USCRN stations (Figure 7).

This study will have several applied and practical outcomes. Determining the downwind range of influence of a typical building will be important for understanding built environment impacts on surface air temperature measurements. Other measurements of radiation and heat fluxes will help illuminate the physical processes responsible for any detected heat transfers. Finally, this information will help influence future USCRN/USRCRN siting decisions. Additional insight is being sought by collaborating with National Weather Service (NWS) and National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) on extensions of the basic project. This effort promises to be greatly useful to understanding climate quality temperature measurements and how they can be influenced by the station site environment.

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So why would NOAA say “all is well” with the surface temperature record, on one hand to PBS, while on the other hand fund a project to examine exactly my issues that they say “don’t matter”? It seems they took Spencer Michels and PBS for a ride with their Janus duplicity.

I predict that unless they figure in surface area of heat sinks/sources as well as distance, the experiment will show no significant effects. Of course, given what we’ve seen, that may be the goal.

We’ve already learned about what happens when you figure in distance AND surface area of biasing elements around climate monitoring stations and published about it here in my announcement of Watts et al 2012. Not looking at the surface area issue is why Menne et al 2010 and Fall et al 2011 found no significant effects. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has endorsed this as the new standard for station siting analysis:

World Meteorological Organization Commission for Instruments and Methods of Observation, Fifteenth session, (CIMO-XV, 2010) WMO publication Number 1064, available online at: http://www.wmo.int/pages/prog/www/CIMO/CIMO15-WMO1064/1064_en.pdf

See Michel Leroy’s study listed in there. When we applied Leroy’s surface area metrics to the siting bias equation, bingo, station siting effects popped right out:

Our new reanalysis (taking into account the TOBS issue raised) says the siting related heat sink/source effect is real and affects not only the absolute temperatures (for record highs/lows) but also the trend of temperatures. NOAA compounds the issue by making adjustments that mask the problem, and make it worse.

I’ll have more in a future post. (h/t to Steve Mosher)

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I so hope this ruckus doesn’t affect the impartiality of your 2012 paper’s reviewers.
Good luck and keep up the good work.

Mpaul

The way modern science works is you fund people to publish papers that support your pre-arrived at conclusions. The scientists know the drill and make sure they perform properly. I suspect NOAA is simply funding a paper that shows that the record is “robust” and beyond criticism.

intrepid_wanders

Yep, as Dr. Spencer notes:
“1) even at “zero” population density (rural siting), the USHCN temperatures are on average warmer than their Climate Reference Network counterparts, by close to 0.5 deg. C in summer.
2) across all USHCN stations, from rural to urban, they average 0.9 deg. C warmer than USCRN (which approaches Anthony Watt’s 2 deg. F estimate for July 2012).
This evidence suggests that much of the reported U.S. warming in the last 100+ years could be spurious, assuming that thermometer measurements made around 1880-1900 were largely free of spurious warming effects. This is a serious issue that NOAA needs to address in an open and transparent manner.”
http://www.drroyspencer.com/2012/08/spurious-warmth-in-noaas-ushcn-from-comparison-to-uscrn/

Pat Frank

NOAA: “all potential inaccuracies in the temperature readings such as changes in station location, instrumentation and replacement and urban heat effects.
But nothing about the systematic sensor measurement error documented in the literature. Systematic measurement error can’t be separated from data. When it correlates among nearby sites, as systematic temperature sensor error will do, cross-comparisons do not distinguish good data from systematically erroneous data.
It’s criminal that only now is NOAA starting to address siting issues. The sources of error in surface air temperature measurements should have been fully investigated beginning 20 years ago, when AGW became such a big issue. Instead of taking professional care, NOAA winged the whole thing, pandered to alarm, and purveyed garbage as diamonds. Negligence on that scale and for that long is indistinguishable from incompetence. The whole lot deserves to be fired.

Scott Finegan

Starting off by putting the sensor over brown dirt. The vegetation doesn’t appear to be representative.
Experiment appears to line up to the NNE side of the building. There is less sun on that side, than the SE side.
The closest sensor while over asphalt, is at the corner of the building. The angle of the building minimizes reflected heat from the building to that sensor.

Not one of those sampling locations is in that green belt around the location. The surface looks to be slightly green in the picture, but in some way surface treated. Plowed. Now what’s going to happen in summer when that dry brown dirt is in the sun? Hmmm?
I suggest finding a place nearby in the trees and putting a station there. I think it would be fascinating as a true control on the ‘experiment’…
In short, it isn’t just the buildings that matter, it is the surface changes too.
This is widely seen in the actual temperature data, that mostly comes from airports now. Look at any airport. Buildings are far away, but the surface is all concrete, asphalt / tarmac, and dirt. Sometimes brown plowed dirt. Sometimes dead stubble. Sometimes short grasses if you are in a wet place that doesn’t have a weed problem. ( I’ve found several airports bidding folks to kill the weeds, plough the surface, etc. They want a bare or nearly bare weed-free surface.)
What they are doing here, IMHO looking at the picture, is recreating that same airport like environment. Looked at from above, it has high similarities. Cluster of buildings surrounded by tarmac. Plowed field. Concrete ribbon ‘nearby’ with fuel burn. If I were trying to make an airport analog, I doubt I could do much better (other than adding vertical air mixing).
I don’t know how much money it would take, but buying a bit of dirt with trees nearby and instrumenting it with identical equipment would be a great way to “police” this “study”…

Not much reflected heat on the north side of a steel building.
IMO, we should be studying what causes UHI, because from what I have read lack of evapotranspiration (humidity) and reflected heat are the main causes. And by the look of this location they will not detect much of either of these 2 effects.

Auto

Hmmmmm.
“The American public can be confident in NOAA’s long-standing surface temperature record . . . . ” [per their statement quoted above].
‘Can’ be confident.
The American public can beliveve every word uttered by a politician.
The American public can think that cutting the deficit actully reduces the amount of money owed [like the public of the United Kingdom, too. My sucker compatriots, in thrall to a load of Euro-bedazzle politicians (see apove).]
The Russian public can have confidence in the democratic credentials of whoever succeeds Tsar Vladimir I (Of the Putin dynasty).
Any wined-up fifteen year-old can trust the intentions of the older man . . . .
Can – but, perhaps, might be wiser not to.
Or has a decade of Tony Blur, Saviour of the Planet, Victor of lots of wars, and Gordon Brown’s bestest friend ever, left me just a bit cynical?

Rob

Storage radiators in the 60`s were popular in the UK, they were made of bricks and absorbed heat during the night (cheap off peak electric) then omitted that heat during the day, seems NOAA have no idea how this works.

Paul Coppin

A site near the offices of ATDD will be instrumented to measure accurately the air temperature and other variables at multiple distances from the potential thermal heat source, corresponding to the distances from thermal sources used in classifying USCRN stations
One site? For all the good it will do, save the money, use inverse-square law, apply positive fudge, and call it “corrected” …

John@EF

Good thing Watts et. al. 2012, documenting the spurious doubling of the claimed temperature trend, will be released in a week or two …
REPLY: No claims were made of this except by you. As you know publishing in journals is a long and arduous process. – Anthony

Jeff D.

Did I miss a post showing new information on the TOBS that was being addressed for Anthony’s new paper?? In the above post he alluded to it ” Our new reanalysis (taking into account the TOBS issue raised) “

Gunga Din

I hope this study is an honest examination of siting issues that would lead to improvement but I suspect it is a study designed to be able to claim they’ve studied the siting issue and there’s no problem.

I’m being stalked by something called ad-choices at the top of the page which won’t let me opt out. I’ll be back at WUWT when they’ve gone.

Ian W

This is the wrong approach. NOAA has stated that their temperature metrics are accurate and take account of all the possible siting induced errors. Fine. Let us all agree that NOAA is correct and take them at their word.
Now make a report to NOAA’s auditors and GAO that NOAA is wasting money on a research project to obtain figures that they have stated they already have and have accounted for in their super accurate USHCN. This proposed new siting project is unjustifiable and is therefore a direct waste of government funds.

LazyTeenager

So why would NOAA say “all is well” with the surface temperature record, on one hand to PBS, while on the other hand fund a project to examine exactly my issues that they say “don’t matter”?
————
It’s called checking and rechecking your work.

Bob, Missoula

The real test would be to get permission to place your own equipment next to theirs and do a dual study. Compare the outcomes when the studies are done, if there is a difference each side must defend their findings.

A govt agency investigating itself. Yeah, that’ll work

LazyTeenager

I predict that unless they figure in surface area of heat sinks/sources as well as distance, the experiment will show no significant effects. Of course, given what we’ve seen, that may be the goal.
————
What if this study does not give the result that you want?

One station. One direction. No rigor.
Priceless… the study will have no value at all.
Also, we musn’t do anything on a scale large enought that might show up an Urban Heat Island signature, should we?

Gerry Parker

If you were to analyse the comments from the folks who have so vigorously objected, I wonder if you’d be able to statistically detect the organized opposition from common phrases and wording? That is to say, it has been shown the Team has set up a Rapid Response group for such events, I expect that includes swamping NPR and associated comments, and there appears to be a common script being used repeatedly.
And no, I don’t think the moon landings were faked.
Gerry Parker

Martin457

There should be reflection in June and part of July to the North side of the buildings there. Not much though.

D Boehm

Bob, Missoula says:
“The real test would be to get permission to place your own equipment next to theirs and do a dual study.”
Their response to that request would be interesting in itself.

John@EF

REPLY: No claims were made of this except by you. As you know publishing in journals is a long and arduous process. – Anthony
=====
“Release” is not the same as “publish”. Maybe I’m not using the proper terminology. Last I knew you stated that, baring significant unexpected issues, you’d have a submittable revised version of your paper ready before the end of September. Is that your schedule? Will you be publishing it on WUWT, as you did with the initial version? Do you know which journal will be handling the peer review process?

mfo

“Comparing several years of trends from the well-sited USCRN stations with USHCN shows that the temperature trends closely correspond……” is not quite the same as part 5.4.1 of the USCRN annual report, which states that, “the magnitude of the difference between the U.S. Historical Climatology Network Version 2 (USHCN v2) monthly temperature departures for the U.S and those for USCRN would be expected to decline over time as USCRN better resolves the national climate signal with more stations.”
Why don’t they just give the research money to Anthony Watts who is already doing the research to help him to continue with the research? That is what a well run business in the private sector would do.

temp

LazyTeenager says:
“What if this study does not give the result that you want?”
The study is clearly designed to produce the results they are looking for… also
LazyTeenager says:
“It’s called checking and rechecking your work.”
Normally one checks and rechecks before they make huge claims saying everything is perfect and such. When suddenly everyone is questioning your work and you make a huge claim… and then start checking and rechecking, thats generally viewed correctly as one or more of the following
1. Not having faith in your work.
2. Not having done proper checks in the first place.
3. Doing your best to cover up any problems found.
4. Doing damage control because you know you’ve been caught.

D Boehm

mfo says:
“Why don’t they just give the research money to Anthony Watts who is already doing the research to help him to continue with the research? That is what a well run business in the private sector would do.”
I think Anthony should submit a bid, at half the USHCN budget for the new ‘well sited stations’. No doubt there would be plenty of profit in such a bid, and USHCN would have a hard time explaining how they are not wasting taxpayer funds. Plus, Anthony is honest. Not so sure about USHCN.

John@EF says:
September 19, 2012 at 1:58 pm
Do you know which journal will be handling the peer review process?

I’m sure he does. Thanks for your interest. Now naff off.
Browser ad-choices nonsense solved. A tweak on the firewall has blocked them.

jeanparisot

I wonder what the temperature record looks like if every undocumented adjustment is removed?

AndyG55

One building DOES NOT equate to urban expansion ! DOH !!!!!

I hope you get a good portion of that government money for all the work you have done on the subject. If you had not done what you have done they wouldn’t be doing what they are doing.

Steven Hill

Just moved my sensor over to the air conditioner by the grill and furnace exhaust, think it will alter the temp. data? Nah, my data is always correct in my mind.

Steven Hill

Now that I think of it, when we setup a station in high school it was in a field away from everything. We should have placed it by the parking lot and Hasen would have thought it was warming in 1977.

John@EF

tallbloke says:
September 19, 2012 at 2:14 pm
… I’m sure he does. Thanks for your interest. Now naff off.
======
Thanks for the informative response. You’re obviously knowledgeable regarding the status of Watt et al. 2012. Do you have any information to share relative to my other two questions?

I wonder if anyone has ever figured out that having a sampling station at say, 50′ AGL (above ground level) may obtain a more REALISTIC local Atmospheric temp than ANY ground station within the level of the “boundary layer”…?? In point of fact, a comparison between “standard” stations (over various ground conditions, versus a MATCHED station, 50′ high, would be interesting. I think I’ll get a remote sensor put up in one of my 90′ high oak trees!
Max

David Ball

If I read Steven Mosher’s semi-cryptic hint correctly, this is not supposed to matter. Apparently it does. Mosher?

clipe

E.M.Smith says:
September 19, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Extreme example of not uncommon “hot brakes” after landing. Not to mention burning rubber.

Gunga Din

LazyTeenager says:
September 19, 2012 at 1:36 pm
So why would NOAA say “all is well” with the surface temperature record, on one hand to PBS, while on the other hand fund a project to examine exactly my issues that they say “don’t matter”?
————
It’s called checking and rechecking your work.
======================================================
It’s also called CYA.
(If only they’d rechecked Hanson and Mann!)

As usual we have the PR tail wagging the rational dog. Most of what NOAA says is little more than smoke and mirrors. What I find most disconcerting is the lack of rationality and civility being shown by the all sides in of these debates. That is to be expected what the issue is essentially faith based.

DesertYote

Title works with the “J” removed also.

David Ball

LT’s posts need some viagra or something. Sure are flaccid lately.

David Ball

DesertYote says:
September 19, 2012 at 3:15 pm
8^D

And for the NewsHour doubling down (or tripling down) on the NOAA coming to their rescue, pull the slider on this video of their 9/18 broadcast yesterday to the 53 minute 05 second point (after the obligatory opening 30 second commercial allows you): http://www.pbs.org/newshour/video/archive/2012/09/18/index.html There is not web transcript for this little bit at the end or their program.

stevenmosher

There are some other studies that might be of interest to folks
I’ve sent one to Anthony on average SUHI for large cities ( over 1 million) about 400 cities
studied. And there is some work coming out on small cities and the role of city size and Shape!
not a simple problem.
and there is another one.. more later.
maybe Antony will compose a seperate page and folks can contribute there favorite papers. a resource page

David Ball says:
September 19, 2012 at 3:20 pm
DesertYote says:
September 19, 2012 at 3:15 pm
8^D

Cracked, cheeky, and best covered up…

clipe

DesertYote says:
September 19, 2012 at 3:15 pm
Title works with the “J” removed also.

http://www.news.com.au/realestate/selling/roads-by-any-other-name-would-sell-as-sweet/story-fndbawks-1226470718882

EM. Smith there is a study of the micro climate at an airport. hard to find but its out there.
For folks who worry about jet exhaust one place to start to get an idea of how the temperatures fall off as a function of distance you can start with ground safety documents.
Like the one below around pages 6-6-13
http://www.airbus.com/fileadmin/media_gallery/files/tech_data/AC/Airbus-AC_A340-500_600_Dec11.pdf
Of course that doesnt answer all the questions, but it gives you idea of how quickly the temperature falls off in the plume. There are other documents showing that, but again
you need to look in the right places ( defense publications ) where there is a reason
to measure how quickly a temperature field dissipates.
And you can just look at the surface temperature from space. Also, instructive. Wind , low buildings, and low surface roughness..all interesting

MattE

At least you have to give them props for looking into it. They could just go “Hansen,” bury their head in the sand and declare it a perfect record.

I hope they do a couple of things:
1. I’m sure there are still a few Cotton shelters out there. Maybe they could “pair-up” the CRS with the MMTS (Maximum-Minimum Temperature System) and see if there is a difference between the two. With that, they’d have a better handle on the cross-over of stations.
2. Make sure they have a good data-logger. With minute-by-minute data, they can see if their TOB corrections are valid.
BTW, is there temp data already in the system for that location? Would be nice to see the current history (before they start the study).