“…someone made this fake form off the original and even forged Oscar Denton’s name on it.”
Readers may recall that last week I noticed differences in the two “official” paper records presented by NOAA/NWS and the National Park Service in their respective web announcements about the 100 year anniversary of the 134°F reading in Greenland Ranch in Death Valley, which is now the all-time highest temperature reading on Earth.
I pointed out that the two paper forms didn’t match. They had different handwriting styles, different notations, different portions filled out, and different numbers is some places. It was a curious puzzle that made me wonder why two different paper records existed. Some readers commented to the effect that looking at such minutiae was a waste of time. But as NWS Las Vegas points out, they took my question seriously once I got their attention.
To get their attention, I had to enlist the help of Dan Vergano and Doyle Rice of USA Today to ask the question since my queries were going unanswered. I thank them for their assistance.
Here is what NWS Las Vegas says, and an image showing all three records follows:
From: Christopher Stachelski – NOAA Federal
Sent: Thursday, July 11, 2013 12:30 PM
To: Rice, Doyle
Cc: Randall Cerveny
Subject: Death Valley 134 Forms
Randy Cerveny informed me you had a question about the multiple Death valley 134 degree forms. In short here’s the whole story on this one as I explained to him. Please let me know if you have any further questions on this.
NWS Las Vegas
After looking at the blog entry from Watts, here’s my findings. On their Facebook page Wednesday, Death Valley posted a photo of the observation form from July 1913. This indeed appears to be a carbon copy of a form from that era.
In 2008, I asked NCDC to furnish our office with a copy of the original 1913 form. The following, which is on their website in the IPS system was what they sent me. http://www1.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/orders/IPS-4467B518-F5E1-46BF-904D-1FF111E11154.pdf
This is clearly not an original form to 1913 as evident by the Weather Bureau being in the Dept. of Commerce on this form when it was in the Dept. of Agriculture. It appears sometime in the 1950s or 1960s someone made this fake form off the original and even forged Oscar Denton’s name on it. After pointing out the discrepancy in the agency I mentioned above, NCDC continued to state this was the only form they had from Greenland Ranch from July 1913.
Starting in 2009 when I took over the climate program at NWS Las Vegas, I asked Charlie Callagan, a ranger at DV who oversaw the weather station and published a report on it with the AMS, about locating some of the missing B-91s cooperative observation forms so the missing data and forms could be filed with NCDC. In addition, I worked with the Datzilla folks at NCDC to clean up a large number of misfiled forms and keying errors within the datasets for Death Valley and Greenland Ranch. During a trip to Death Valley in 2010, I asked Charlie in person about getting a copy of the 1913 observation form. We both went to the Cow Creek library where he went into the archives and provided me with this form – http://www1.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/orders/IPS-F9CF539C-22BA-498D-BBFC-9DF92999FEE4.pdf – which I then sent into NCDC to have filed.
To my knowledge, the co-op observer used carbon forms then. The Borax Company gave many of their original items to NPS. Watts is right that there are differences in the 1913 forms that say Dept. of Agriculture on them. This is the first I know of two Dept. of Ag forms from July 1913. Based on how Oscar filled out the sky conditions on each day while he was an observer in the adjacent months and the form NCDC having from us showing temperatures at observation (the carbon like copy does not), I have reason to believe the copy NCDC has on file that we sent them is the copy of the original one to July 1913. The one NPS has on their Facebook page looks valid and likely is an older form that either Oscar or another Borax Company employee copied to ensure a copy of the original form existed. They may have done such a thing since the writing may have not pressed well in the carbon at the time.
Hope this helps,
I thank Chris Stachelski for answering Doyle Rice’s question, and for the help USA Today writers Dan Vergano and Doyle Rice provided. I was traveling this weekend and didn’t have time to devote to this posting until now, hence the nearly a week delay in reporting it here.
So, it appears there was no nefarious intent, but it just goes to show that paper records can be easily taken for granted as being ‘official’ when they are not. Here are all three side by side. The question is: which one is the real one?
Based on what I read from Chris Stachelski, the one in the middle is. Let’s hope this settles the matter.
The majority of the weather and climate history of the USA exists on paper records like these, and while NOAA/NCDC does attempt to correct for obvious errors in recording and transcriptions, not everything is always what it appears to be. Since NOAA/NWS and NPS made a big public deal out of this record, it follows that something this important should most certainly be certified so that we know which one is the real record, and which ones might be copies or forgeries. From that point forward, only the real record should be displayed.
I think NWS Las Vegas and/or NCDC should put a notice on their website to certify the real paper record for posterity.
One wonders what else remains to be discovered once a curious eye is put the millions of paper records in the climate controlled basement of NCDC.