Death Valley’s “hottest month ever” was likely a product of nearby solar panels and RV’s

The environment around the weather station used to measure the official temperature changed dramatically in the past few years.

There’s this headline circulation in the news, thanks to the Associated Press:

Death Valley sets tentative world record for hottest month 

The natural furnace of California’s Death Valley was on full broil in July, tentatively setting a world record for hottest month ever.

The month’s average temperature was 108.1 degrees (42.28 Celsius), said Todd Lericos, a meteorologist in the Las Vegas office of the National Weather Service.

That roasted the previous record, set in Death Valley in July 2017 when the average was 107.4 degrees (41.89 Celsius).

“It eclipsed the record by quite a bit,” Lericos said, adding that the data is considered preliminary and needs to be reviewed before it goes into official record books.

The temperatures are measured at Furnace Creek in Death Valley National Park, a vast, austere and rugged landscape in the desert of southeastern California that includes Badwater Basin, which at 282 feet (85.9 meters) below sea level is the lowest point in North America.

Among the extreme conditions were four consecutive days reaching a high of 127 degrees (52.7 Celsius) and overnight lows that remained over the century mark.

Full story here

Note the second to last paragraph above: “…in Death Valley National Park” (DVNP). The site is operated by the National Park Service (NPS). Note also in the last paragraph: “…overnight lows that remained over the century mark.” These are two key points.

First, yes there was a weather pattern in July that made much of the southwest hotter than usual. Key word: weather pattern.

But, what really caused the increased average high temperature to be a record setter? The answer is simple; the environment around the weather station used to measure the official temperature changed dramatically in the past few years.

Some background:

DVNP has become a tourist attraction in it’s own right. People seem fascinated by the extreme temperatures here. Fanning the flames of heat, the NPS indulges them, making an outdoor photo-op sign that allows them to be photographed with near record-setting temperatures. I don’t know where the temperature sensor for the sign is, but it is like any time/temperature sign like we’ve seen on banks and stores, it’s liable to be highly inaccurate.


Tourists make a big deal out of the thermometer sign at the Death Valley National Park Furnace Creek Visitor Center. Image:

But, the sign and the site is operated by NPS, not NOAA, so accuracy in temperature measurment isn’t their goal, it’s the visitor experience. Hold that thought.

Visitors have been on the rise at DVNP, likely due to all the fanfare for the 100 year anniversary of the 134°F world record high temperature in 2013.

There was also a big visitor peak around 1997-1999, fueled by news reports of spectacular wildflower blooms then, thanks to moisture brought in by the 1997-1998 super El Niño. Another wildflower driven peak was seen in 2016, due to significant El Niño driven rains.

Graph of DVNP annual visitor traffic. Data source: National Park Service

With a trend of increasing visitors, NPS collects more money from fees, and with that extra money, they have to do something with it to improve the park experience. Remember, their mission is about visitors, even though the extreme temperature is a major attraction, they aren’t tasked with measuring it. While NPS hosts NOAA equipment for that purpose, NOAA has no say about what happens in the DVNP around the thermometer, and that’s the issue here.

The environment where the temperature was measure has changed, dramatically. Not only that, the location of the equipment has changed, and the equipment itself has changed.

I visited DVNP Furnace Creek Visitor Center back in 2007 as part of my surface stations project. Here is the view of the official NOAA thermometer, an MMTS which was poorly-sited (in violation of NOAA’s own rules) near the asphalt driveway.

NOAA MMTS official temperature sensor at the Death Valley National Park Visitor Center in 2007. Photo by A. Watts.

There was also an NPS operated weather station attached to the roof. A big no-no for accurately measuring temperature. Note the palm trees and the parking lot off in the distance to the right. My site survey then included this aerial view:

Google Earth aerial view of DVNP Visitor Center complex from 2007. Locations of weather stations and RV parks added.

The “Location of CRS” points to the Cotton Region Shelter, where the official temperature measurements used to be made before NOAA installed the electronic MMTS thermometer. Note the RV park to the left, which at the time was just gravel, and looks much like the natural earth in the area with a similar albedo.

Fast forward to 2018, and compare the two photos above to ones taken this year.

Thanks to this Google Earth Street View, I can recreate the view of the MMTS photo I took in 2008. The GE imagery says it was captured in May 2012. Labels mine.

DVNP Visitor Center. Former location of NOAA MMTS official temperature sensor.

The MMTS temperature sensor is gone, replaced by what appears to be a cosmetic shield wall for garbage dumpsters.

Note the new solar panels, which weren’t there in 2008 when I visited. NOAA recorded the removal and change of the MMTS as the official thermometer in their HOMR database:


A few months later, they switched the equipment again:


And after testing, they switched again:


There’s lots of changes to the equipment, and the location. This is what it looks like now (annotations mine):

NOAA’s Death Valley Official Weather Station. Image from

Note the air conditioning plant to the south. Visitor Center is to the right.

NOAA did have some concern about nearby vegetation that was lower than 10 degrees in the viewshed of the weather station (due to it blocking wind) so they had it removed.


There’s not much they can do though about the new infrastructure, such as solar panels, parking lots, and air conditioning heat exchanger plants. NOAA doesn’t manage the site, NPS does, and thus is powerless to prevent nearby infrastructure changes.

Now let’s look at the aerial views today:

Aerial view of DVNP Official NOAA weather station, just 74 feet from solar panels installed circa 2010. Note also the newly paved RV park to the west with electrical hookups and the air conditioning heat exchanger from the south.
Wider aerial view of the DVNP official NOAA weather station. Note the irrigated golf course to the south and the second solar panel farm added circa 2009.


Now let’s look at 2005, same view.

Wider aerial view of the DVNP official NOAA weather station from December 2005. Note the irrigated golf course to the south has no solar panel farm, and there are no solar panels at the visitor center. Note also the RV park to the west is gravel, not asphalt paved.

The character of the environment around the DVNP offical NOAA weather station has changed quite a bit. Here are the differences from 2005 to present:

  • Station changed from MMTS to CRS then automated, moved closer to visitor center parking lot in September 2012
  • Official NOAA weather station is now just 74 feet west from the parking lot and solar panels above it.
  • RV park to the west has been paved, with new electrical hookups installed, circa 2013, 263 feet away.
  • Official NOAA weather station is just 100 feet from the air conditioning heat exchanger unit to the south.

Here’s what NPS said about the improvements to the RV park:

Improvements in the Furnace Creek Campground include the installation of full hook-up capacity at nineteen campsites, replacement of the entire water and sewer system, a new bathroom in the group site areas, rehabilitation of the current bathrooms, repair of flood damaged areas in the tent walk-in loop, development of three new group sites, and a new check-in kiosk. The proposed fee increase for the full hook-up sites is an attempt to recover the cost of electricity.The nineteen rehabilitated sites now include water, sewer, and electrical hook-ups.

Death Valley National Park started the rehabilitation of Furnace Creek Campground in February 2012 and will near completion at the end of this summer.


So what does this mean for temperature? In addition to the albedo change from gravel to asphalt paving, which will raise nightime temperatures due to the asphalt acting as a heat sink for daytime solar radiation, dumping it back into the atmosphere at night, RVs can now park overnight, and run their air conditioners thanks to the electrical hookups. Who wouldn’t run their AC in a place like that? This means even more waste heat dumped into the environment.

Recently we learned that an “all time record high” in a Scotland recreational area was negated because of a similar situation; an ice cream truck with A/C and generator units was dumping waste heat into the area where the official thermometer was located. Now imagine an RV park with 19 RV’s all running their AC units….that’s a lot of extra heat dumped into the vicinity of the official weather station.

Then there’s the solar panels, ones just 74 feet away, and then the large solar farm to the south. Ironically, these may raise the temperature the most as this scientific study finds:

Large-scale solar power plants raise local temperatures, creating a solar heat island effect that, though much smaller, is similar to that created by urban or industrial areas, according to a new study.

The multidisciplinary team examined the “heat island” effect of solar energy installations using experiments that spanned three different desert ecosystems in Arizona:

  1. a natural desert ecosystem,
  2. the traditional built environment of a parking lot surrounded by buildings and
  3. a photovoltaic (PV) power plant. Prior studies on the “heat island” effect of solar power installations have been confined to just one biome or ecosystem.

For this study, the team defined the heat island effect as the difference in ambient air temperature around the solar power plant compared to that of the surrounding wild desert landscape. Findings demonstrated that temperatures around a  were 5.4-7.2 °F (3-4 °C) warmer than nearby wildlands.


Study:  “The Photovoltaic Heat Island Effect: Larger solar power plants increase local temperatures.”

So, there you have it. In the hottest place on Earth, the effect of recently installed solar panels designed to reduce greenhouse gas emission, is making it even hotter! Could anything be more absurd?

Finally, there’s one other land-use change effect. The irrigated golf course to the south. As a previous study in California has shown, irrigation increases local temperature due to extra humidity in the air, enhancing the moist-enthalpy effect. This extra moisture in the air retains more heat, and raises the night-time low temperatures, which raise the average temperature. In deserts, night-time temperatures can be very cold, due to the super-dry air. But add a big patch of irrigation nearby and voila’, we get an instant increase in night-time temperatures.

Add to the fact that a golf course, to maintain its viability, must irrigate even more when we have naturally occurring heat waves, like we did in July 2018, and the effect is increased even more.

The point of all these land-use changes I’ve illustrated above?

None of these things were there when the original weather station was placed at Furnace Creek. Here’s a photo from 1922 of the station that recorded the worlds hottest ever temperature in 1913:

In this time period, circa 1913-1922 there were

  • No visitor center
  • No nearby solar panels
  • No parking lots
  • No paved RV parks
  • No AC heat exchanger units
  • No golf courses
  • No irrigation

Arguably, these land-use changes all have a cumulative effect on temperature measured in Death Valley. because the environment has changed so much, its folly to think of it as a metric for any climate change, because the forces from the land-use changes are far greater than any posited “climate change”.

But don’t let your lying eyes convince you, let’s look at the data.

According to the AP news article. here was the average temperature for Death Valley, as measured at the DVNP visitor’s center:

The month’s average temperature was 108.1 degrees (42.28 Celsius), said Todd Lericos, a meteorologist in the Las Vegas office of the National Weather Service.

We can check that against a state of the art, US Climate Reference Network station just up the road in Stovepipe Wells, installed in May, 2004. In a press release, NOAA says they have installed a number of these USCRN stations in National Parks:

These preserved and pristine locations provided the perfect opportunity for collaboration with the U.S. Climate Reference Network (USCRN) program, which aims to monitor climate in stable, open landscapes.

In the USCRN “site selection” criteria, NOAA says this:

  • Locations near existing or former observing sites with long records of daily precipitation and maximum and minimum temperature are desirable.

The placement of the Stovepipe wells station was done by NOAA to be able to compare to the original station now at the DVNP Visitor Center, away from the influences that hubub of visitors has on temperature. For anyone who wants to claim that using this station to compare with isn’t valid, you can complain to NOAA. Clearly they chose NOT to put it in the Furnace Creek area, because of this criteria:

  • Sensitivity to the measurement of climate variability and trends: Locations should be representative of the climate of the region, and not heavily influenced by unique local factors. This primary criterion is called spatial representativeness.
  • Long term site stability: Consideration is given to whether the area surrounding the site is likely to experience major change within 50 to 100 years. The risk of human encroachment over time and the chance the site will close due to the sale of the land or other factors are evaluated. Federal, state, and local government land often provide a high stability factor. Population growth patterns are also considered. This primary criteria is called temporal stability.

Furnace Creek has gone through many changes in the last two decades, so clearly it isn’t a good place to measure climate by NOAA’s own published criteria.

So, let’s look at the data from that USCRN station in Death Valley at Stovepipe Wells.

First, a look at the Stovepipe Wells USCRN location via Google Earth aerial view.

Google Earth Aerial View of USCRN climate monitoring station in Death Valley at 1 mile SW of Stovepipe Wells. One small solar panel is about 625 feet to the WSW, otherwise the area around the station is mostly natural desert.


  • No visitor center
  • No nearby solar panels (there is one small one, about 625 feet away)
  • No parking lots
  • No paved RV parks
  • No AC heat exchanger units
  • No golf courses
  • No irrigation

And, here’s the data from the official well-sited climate monitoring station. I’ve highlighted the mean monthly value, which is the result of averaging all daily high and low temperatures, just like it is done for the DVNP station at the visitor center.


To summarize:

The monthly average temperature at DVNP Visitor center, surrounded by parking lots, solar panels, RV, AC units, and asphalt is: 108.1 degrees

The monthly average temperature at a state-of -the-art climate monitoring station, surrounded by mostly natural desert, sited purposely by NOAA 1 mile away from the town, to get accurate readings is: 106.6 degrees

That’s a 1.5 degree difference in the monthly average, and not a record-breaker. The old record for the monthly average was 107.4 degrees according the NWS official quoted in the AP article.

But, the climate faithful will call it “climate change”, and ignore such inconvenient facts. Would the new claimed record exist without the man-made influences in the measurement environment at Furnace Creek? There’s doubt.

Of course, there’s no long-term climate record at Stovepipe Wells, data only goes back to 2004. But, what we can say is that Stovepipe Wells, by virtue of NOAA’s foresight and criteria, is much more representative of natural climate and weather effects, than the heavily human factor biased Furnace Creek visitor center.

Yet, even for a single month, neither NWS nor the media cites this state of the art USCRN data, preferring to use the highly biased data from Furnace Creek. Why? It supports the global warming narrative.

UPDATE: When you look at the actual data from the DVNP visitor center, something else disturbing emerges – missing data, a lot of it.

For example, this NASA GISS plot of Death Valley station data shows the gaps in yearly data:


Those gaps represent years when there was not enough data to make a yearly average temperature.

And, when you look at this spreadsheet of the historical data (GHCN, courtesy of this download via NASA GISS) you find that there are 20 months of July where there wasn’t enough data to make a monthly average! The data starts in 1911, so that’s 20 months of July data missing out of 117.

Death Valley Station Data (CSV, Excel) Source:

This makes me wonder how valid a month of July comparison for “hottest ever” even is. How do we know there weren’t hotter months of July that weren’t captured?

Since for the vast majority of time the weather station was there, it had to be manually read by an observer (out in the heat at the shelter) it’s quite possible that many days were “just too hot” to make the effort in such scorching temperatures.

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August 2, 2018 12:20 pm

…and they get away with playing us all over 1 degree…when no one should even care

2018 – 1913 = less that 0.1 degree a decade

Reply to  Latitude
August 3, 2018 2:13 am

Hey that’s 10 deg C in a thousand years, do you not care for your great-great-great-great-great-
great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-… grandchildren’s future? How selfish.

“solar panels designed to reduce greenhouse gas emission, is making it even hotter! Could anything be more absurd?”

Not absurd, it’s business. More records, more headlines , more visitors at newly increased fees. Buy more solar to put the other side of then sensors. Rinse and repeat. It’s win-win.

Not absurd, it’s politics. Make death valley warmer, make headlines, shout “AGW is HERE and NOW” , we must act to save the planet !. More solar around heat sensors, more global warming, more money for solar. It’s a win-win. ( For chinese solar manufacturers )

DW Rice
Reply to  Latitude
August 3, 2018 3:49 am

Admittedly there are quite a few missing years, but according to what ‘metANN’ data there is in the linked-to spreadsheet, the decadal warming rate at Death Valley Station since 1912 is +0.2 C/dec.

August 2, 2018 12:26 pm

This wouldn’t even be of note if the lamestream media didn’t hype it out of proportion.
I am getting rather annoyed by the yellow journalism of late.

Reply to  rocketscientist
August 2, 2018 12:41 pm

Actually, it is “Watermelon” journalism… “Green on the outside, red on the inside” ….

Reply to  Marcus
August 2, 2018 1:07 pm

I wouldn’t give that much credit. The media are scrambling like crazy for eye-balls and readership (hence ad sales revenues). In this mad effort they are willing to sacrifice credibility for short term profits. They realize the crassness and lack of critical thought amongst the masses and are grabbing for the brass ring.
Its yet another race-to-the-bottom. Previous races like this lead us into the Spanish-American war when Hearst and Pulitzer abandoned truth in an attempt to control the media market.

Reply to  rocketscientist
August 2, 2018 1:22 pm

They are losing if that’s their tactic. That is the reason I canceled the subscription to my newspaper. Even a recent NATGEO documentary on Yellowstone blamed the increased number of forest fires and decreased number of elk on – Guess what.
While on another documentary I learn that after a 20 year study that the decreased number of Elk was due to the introduction of a non native species of fish in one of the northern lakes that migrated south and replaced the native species that the bears ate and thus the bears started eating Elk.

John Harmsworth
Reply to  rocketscientist
August 2, 2018 3:15 pm

This is much worse! We have declared war on our own economy!

Reply to  rocketscientist
August 2, 2018 7:35 pm
The media are scrambling like crazy for eye-balls and readership (hence ad sales revenues).

And I thought only capitalists would chase revenue! 😮

August 2, 2018 12:30 pm

Metal fence is going to drag in a lot of heat as well.

Reply to  Fred250
August 3, 2018 11:22 am

That piece of air conditioning apparatus is not just a heat exchanger, it appears to be a cooling tower, that uses evaporative cooling to reject the heat from the building, so it’s doing the same thing as the golf course except much closer to the weather station.

August 2, 2018 12:33 pm

I love visiting Death Valley in the Winter months. I recommend staying in Shoshone
cause of the warm springs pool there and who can forget the Crow Bar.

Juan Slayton
Reply to  Alvin Warwas
August 2, 2018 1:30 pm

Winter is OK, dress warmly. I and a couple of fellow bikers camped out in Furnace Creek in November back around 1967. We like to froze to death. My recommendation: Go in the summer. (Memorial Day is close enough.) Go in from the west, through Wildrose Canyon, directly to Mahogany Flats campground in the Panamints. At 8200 feet, the temperature is temperate; you have a magnificent view of the basin sweltering below.

A shame there is no long term record of temperatures in the Panamints. It would be interesting to compare long term trend differences between the valley floor and the adjacent mountains. Kind of like what Spencer did for the San Joaquin and the Sierra Nevada.

Beta Blocker
Reply to  Alvin Warwas
August 2, 2018 2:16 pm

I spent the summer of 1974 living in Shoshone while working for a company doing mining claim field work and mineral deposit prospecting in and around the national monument.

One afternoon in August, I pulled into Furnace Creek to get some equipment parts from the Caterpillar dealer there. The outside thermometer in his equipment yard read 142 F. Inside his air conditioned office, I was completely drenched in sweat in less than a minute’s time.

Our evenings in Shoshone were sometimes spent at the Crowbar Saloon whenever the TV translator south of town failed, as it often did. Or maybe the lack of television was simply an excuse to spend the evening at the bar.

Back in the 1970’s, the town had about a hundred people living in it. But I see from Wikipedia that its population has now fallen to about thirty. Not that the town looks much different from having lost two-thirds of its residents.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Alvin Warwas
August 3, 2018 6:30 am

I spent 30 days at Ft Irwin, just south of Death Valley, in August 1983, for desert training.

It was hot, but didn’t seem exceptionally so. Though we had some anomalous weather. It rained more in that 30 days than the previous 10 years combined. Lots of flash floods, lots of suspended training. I was in a scout platoon, so we were almost always out on our own. We’d just find some high ground and enjoy the show.

August 2, 2018 12:54 pm

Yet, even for a single month, neither NWS nor the media cites this state of the art USCRN data, preferring to use the highly biased data from Furnace Creek. Why?

If it bleeds it leads. link Boring news doesn’t produce ratings. Only record temperatures are newsworthy. Tabloid journalism at its best.

Dave Bidwell
August 2, 2018 12:56 pm

Uncertainty in the measurement? Graph the two “records” with error bars and would you still conclude that, “…it eclipsed the record by quite a bit?”

August 2, 2018 12:57 pm

You ain’t seen muffin’ yet. Just wait till they get done “adjusting” it.

Reply to  shrnfr
August 2, 2018 1:13 pm

Not familiar with the idiom “You ain’t seen muffin yet.”
BTO (Bachman Turner Overdrive) had a different take on it with their hit song “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet” which might be a bit more fitting.

Reply to  rocketscientist
August 2, 2018 3:07 pm

But not as filling.

Bruce Cobb
Reply to  MarkW
August 2, 2018 3:55 pm

Great taste, though.

Reply to  rocketscientist
August 2, 2018 4:37 pm

I donut know about what you speak, but I am told that they like to cook the data a bit. That fact got a rise out of me to be sure. I kinda figured it would be the yeast I could do to call them out about it. Those guys will do anything for the dough.

Mary Brown
Reply to  rocketscientist
August 2, 2018 8:13 pm

Buh buh buh buh baby

Reply to  shrnfr
August 5, 2018 1:16 pm

shrnfr — comment seems half baked, better though than over cooked…. e.g. the temp data.

August 2, 2018 12:58 pm

Jeff Masters is breathless! LOL

August 2, 2018 1:07 pm

[snip wildly off-topic – careful Marcus, you are reverting to your former ways that caused me to show you the door for over a year. -Anthony]

honest liberty
Reply to  Marcus
August 2, 2018 2:11 pm

rearranged…. SCRAM-U!

August 2, 2018 1:53 pm

News Flash!!! Record daytime temperatures are evidence CO2 ISN’T causing the warming. Record high temperatures require energy to be added to the system, and BTW, CO2 is transparent to incoming warming visible radiation. Record daytime temperatures are evidence that more solar radiation is reaching the earth’s surface, and is evidence CO2 IS NOT the cause of the warming. CO2 traps OUTGOING radiation and could never cause a record high, it can only slow cooling.

Reply to  CO2isLife
August 2, 2018 3:08 pm

Heat is trying to escape 24/7, not just when the sun is down.

John Harmsworth
Reply to  MarkW
August 2, 2018 3:24 pm

I agree. High air temps are momentary, especially in dry desert air. That heat is headed upward and gone. That’s why deserts cool off so dramatically at night.

Reply to  MarkW
August 3, 2018 10:49 am

First there is a scale issue. The energy needed to warm something is astronomical compared to the energy of the LWIR that CO2 thermalizes. 13 to 18 micron LWIR has the black body temp of -80 degree C. Second, the CO2 signature would be a narrowing of the spread between the peak day and peak nighttime temperature. CO2 once again slows the cooling, it doesn’t cause warming. The earth first has to be warmed before you can trap the outgoing radiation. Third, without water vapor in the atmosphere, most of the LWIR between 13 and 18 has a near direct shot out of the atmosphere, so CO2 may actually cause the rate of cooling to increase INCREASE like it does in the Stratosphere. Radiation is far faster than conduction and convection.

John Harmsworth
Reply to  CO2isLife
August 2, 2018 3:22 pm

In fact, record daily temperatures are virtually always an indication of low humidity. Whatever amount of solar energy is arriving is evidenced in the air temperature as there is no moisture to hold any on the total enthalpy.
Daytime highs are thus not representative of a greater abundance of energy unless the comparative high had similar absolute humidity.
Part of the problem with this AGW crap is that the SJW’s who scream at the sun over it don’t even understand the properties of air.

August 2, 2018 1:55 pm

Outstanding and thorough analysis Anthony! Thank you!

Nick Stokes
August 2, 2018 2:02 pm

“That’s a 1.5 degree difference in the monthly average”
According to this site, the Stovepipe Wells site is at an altitude of 23 m. Furnace Creek is at -54m, a difference of 77 m.

honest liberty
Reply to  Nick Stokes
August 2, 2018 2:16 pm

Ok, that is fair. Although, I don’t know how significant that elevation gain is related to sea level. Does it matter?
I know in the densely concretized jungle of Denver, it is almost always 5-6 degrees hotter than Arvada, a scant 10ish miles northwest and a few 100 feet higher. Arvada is also sub-urban with a small downtown and tons of grass/trees as its nearly all neighborhood.

I think you pose a good point. However, would you at the same time discount the significant changes (proximity to solar/infrastructure + humidity effect from golf course)?
Is it fair that there may be a bit of both factoring here? What would the difference 300ft make? .3 degrees on average? I honestly don’t know.

honest liberty
Reply to  honest liberty
August 2, 2018 2:24 pm

Anthony, I went to respond to your comment but it dissappeared. In case people are wondering what the heck I was referencing

Honest liberty
Reply to  Nick Stokes
August 2, 2018 2:21 pm

My computer showed your response Anthony, thanks! Hey I was close!

Reply to  Nick Stokes
August 2, 2018 2:23 pm

The difference of 77m ( 250 ft) would account for only .5 °C decrease due to lapse rate.
Yeah, all the hot air must be sinking into the Furnace Creek depression…NOT.

Nick Stokes
Reply to  Anthony Watts
August 2, 2018 2:48 pm

“While that might be an argument to discount the comparison”
Well, more positively, it puts Furnace Creek and the CRN station in quite good agreement.

Nick Stokes
Reply to  Anthony Watts
August 2, 2018 3:10 pm

” you didn’t comment on this part. If there’s 20 missing July’s in the record”
Data is missing in the homogenised plot that you show. But the unadjusted data seems much better:

comment image

Reply to  Nick Stokes
August 2, 2018 3:18 pm

Different source, similar graph.

comment image

Reply to  Anthony Watts
August 2, 2018 4:59 pm

Anthony: “What’s the source…”

ACIS, though it might be a good idea to compare with the dailies from and a few other sources. The supposedly-raw sources don’t always match.

I chose 1939 as start point since there were no Julys missing data for max temps from then until now, and I chose to display max as that is what the media is currently focusing on.

Reply to  Anthony Watts
August 2, 2018 3:48 pm

GISS seems to be creating data where there isn’t any

Well, that never happens.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Nick Stokes
August 3, 2018 1:57 pm

The 1930’s and 1998 are high points on your chart.

Why is it that the global temperature charts don’t show those years as high points?

Nick Stokes
Reply to  Anthony Watts
August 2, 2018 3:36 pm

Here is the actual TAVG raw data, as recorded on GHCN, for JUly’s in Death Valley, starting 1900, ending 2018. 42.23 °C (2018) is the max in the list.

    NA    NA    NA    NA    NA    NA    NA    NA    NA    NA    NA 37.92
 35.10 37.03 38.45    NA 39.06 41.81 36.99 38.74 38.14 38.94    NA 37.22
 39.31 37.81 38.12 40.89 37.68 41.50    NA 39.16 37.81 41.19 38.95 37.39
 38.79 38.99 37.88 38.18 37.80 37.93 40.55 38.40 36.47 38.43 37.21 38.13
 37.45 39.37 38.24 39.37 38.26 40.32 39.44 37.46 37.43 37.90 38.33 41.29
 40.27 40.40 38.15 38.42 38.86 36.95 37.78 39.49 38.40 38.77 39.69 39.86
 39.82 39.40 38.51 38.38 38.32 38.87 38.35 37.66 38.69 39.07 36.13 36.23
 37.54 39.15 36.49 35.77 39.62 39.25 39.02 37.41 36.43 37.22 40.22 38.20
 40.06 36.29 38.32 37.41 38.35 38.17 41.26 40.91 39.05 41.51 41.70 41.11
[40.66 40.67 40.92 38.53 39.26 40.78 40.03 37.25 40.70 41.89 42.23
Nick Stokes
Reply to  Anthony Watts
August 2, 2018 4:11 pm

The July’s data for station 42500042319 is from the GHCN Monthly unadjusted V3 file here. The NOAA sheet is here.

Nick Stokes
Reply to  Anthony Watts
August 2, 2018 4:27 pm

“So why is GISS missing so much data?”
The unadjusted GISS is missing much less. But also it is annual data. So missing years may still have July data.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
August 3, 2018 2:05 am

Nick Stokes re “…actual TAVG raw data…”

TAVG at Death Valley is derived from TMAX and TMIN. How do you get “actual TAVG raw data” for July 1911-2018 when 22 of those years are missing TMIN for some days?

Dave Freer
Reply to  Nick Stokes
August 2, 2018 4:45 pm

Ok Nick let’s get this straight: Are you saying the infrastructure – the tarmac, the aircons, the humidifying of the atmosphere have no effect? Yes/No? All the squirming – which you do as predictably as summer comes rolling around, does not alter the fact that these are known to to create heat islands.

honest liberty
Reply to  Dave Freer
August 3, 2018 7:14 am

Dave- good luck getting Nick to answer that question.
I’ve already responded to him politely, even saying I think he has a point.
Did he respond?
of course not.

“I think you pose a good point. However, would you at the same time discount the significant changes (proximity to solar/infrastructure + humidity effect from golf course)?
Is it fair that there may be a bit of both factoring here? What would the difference 300ft make? .3 degrees on average? I honestly don’t know.”
August 2, 2018 2:16 pm

That is yet another piece of evidence to stack away in the Nick Stokes obfuscation bin.

I tell the guy he poses a good point, sincerely. I then asked him whether there could be a contribution between factors, with no response. He just wants to parrot the narrative rather than having honest conversations about the full context.

Nick Stokes
Reply to  honest liberty
August 3, 2018 1:05 pm

Sorry, had a busy day yesterday. But Anthony had set out the lapse rate – 9.8 C/km, or about 1.35°F for 252 ft.

As to whether this infrastructure made a difference – I just pointed out that if you allow for the altitude difference, Stovepipe Wells and Furnace Creek are in good agreement.

John Harmsworth
Reply to  Anthony Watts
August 2, 2018 3:26 pm

I think we need some ship intake measurements from Death Valley! Those are accurate!

Brian R
Reply to  Anthony Watts
August 2, 2018 3:38 pm

I think lapse rate is used completely wrong in climate science.

The lapse rate calculation is for a single location and altitudes directly above that location. It should never be used for locations that are miles apart. There are too many local factors that contribute its temperature.

Yes, altitude does play a part. But one should not just throw in a lapse rate when looking at temperatures for sites miles apart. In this case Stovepipe Wells is about 18 miles from Furnace Creek.

Reply to  Anthony Watts
August 2, 2018 4:26 pm

Anthony, the dry adiabatic lapse rate is for neutral atmospheric stability, which is not going to be very common in a desert valley. On sunny days, the near-surface lapse rate will be super-adiabatic most of the daylight period, while at night there will often be a strong temperature inversion, especially with light wind speeds. Also, at night cold air is more dense and with light winds will drain to lower altitudes leaving warmer air at higher altitudes (for altitude variations no more than about 100-200 meters). So during the daylight hours, the altitude difference may not matter as much as at night. With the Furnace Creek site at lower altitude than the Stovepipe Wells CRN site, it may tend to get cold (not as hot?) air drainage at night and, if all other siting aspects were equal, it should be cooler (less hot?) at night.

Mary brown
Reply to  Nick Stokes
August 2, 2018 8:17 pm

Would be intetesting, and easy, to pair the two sites and see if their is a divergence. That is, of course, what homogenization routines are supposed to do

Reply to  Mary brown
August 3, 2018 11:47 am

Anthony, even though Stovepipe Wells has a short history, can you do a daily difference comparison between it and the DVNP records? Many, even most of the land use changes you noted occurred after the beginning of the CRN data set. So we should see a divergence between the two?

honest liberty
August 2, 2018 2:08 pm

and look at that unadjusted data, dang near flat lined trend.

John MacDonald
August 2, 2018 2:19 pm

Anthony, good write-up and general conclusions. However, I’d be careful of comparing Furnace Creek and Stovepipe wells very closely. The latter is about 20 miles and 300 feet higher in elevation. I’ll bet the wind regime is much different also.
When its hot in both places, its hot. But my poorly calibrated body thermostat often feels it is noticeably hotter at Furnace Creek.
Major take away for me: USCRN has an impossible job. I’d believe their data more if all stations were centered on 1/4 section parcels of bare dirt that will never change. And each township would have one.
Maybe an article on the specification for siting USCRN stations would be interesting.

Mary Brown
Reply to  John MacDonald
August 2, 2018 8:24 pm

Then it would depend on thw type of dirt

Nick Stokes
August 2, 2018 2:27 pm

77 m is 252 feet – i make the difference 1.36 F

Reply to  Nick Stokes
August 2, 2018 2:56 pm

Theoretical lapse rates are great–in the open atmosphere. In the near-surface boundary layer, they’re far less reliable. The sensors at both locations are nearly the same distance above the surface, whose thermalization ultimately heats the air.

August 2, 2018 2:31 pm

Dang, this excellent post made me thirsty…

steve case
August 2, 2018 2:42 pm

Best time to visit Death Valley is not summer! Rained when we were there three years ago:

comment image

Reply to  steve case
August 2, 2018 4:34 pm

We were there in 2005 and the most surprise was the amount of water and vegetation from springs at Furnace Creek. Relative humidity was 17%. We spent the night on 21 April and according to my notes the high (mercury thermometer) was 88F, low 64F, probably trailer influenced. RV s leak a lot, think of all that cold air they are losing. It is a big park with well separated sites (we were in 101) a lot farther away than the panels, wonder how the wind worked along any variation in water table. They’ve even got fish in that part of the world.

The vegetation doesn’t look all that different in Google Earth history.

steve case
Reply to  HDHoese
August 2, 2018 7:44 pm

Our tour included the fish, but I never did see them.

August 2, 2018 2:47 pm

It’s a dry heat. It only felt like 118°.

August 2, 2018 2:48 pm

The history isn’t very alarming.

Years in which highest recorded temperature reached 129:
1913, 1960, 1998, 2005, 2007, 2013, 2018

Recorded maximum temperatures from July 9, 1913 through July 13, 1913:
129.0, 134.0, 129.0, 130.0, 131.0

1913 is the only year during which recorded temperatures exceeded 129F.

Bruce Cobb
August 2, 2018 3:04 pm

How many times do we have to tell them: weather, not climate? Sheesh. The stupid, it burns.

John Harmsworth
August 2, 2018 3:13 pm

According to AGW and every newspaper in the world, life itself is impossible at 131F. Why do those people look alive and as if they are having fun? Fake news, I guess. They are actually dead but were so shocked by the heat that they didn’t have a chance to fall down. Like the victims of Pompei!

August 2, 2018 3:22 pm

Would be interesting if a science organization were to take compare the trends of rural and urban stations. Maybe even the compare the trends of the best-placed stations with the worst.

Reply to  Anthony Watts
August 2, 2018 8:22 pm
Reply to  Alley
August 3, 2018 6:43 am

Lots of work, none of it good.

Reply to  MarkW
August 3, 2018 11:22 am

So you are back to not trusting scientists when you don’t like the results. Everyone was looking forward to having an independent group of skeptics perform their own work and without government money, but when the results came back suddenly it’s “none of it good.”

So what is good work? Must the results fit your preconceived notions? Did Curry not do a good job? Was Muller not adamant enough about how poor a job he though other scientists were doing?

Reply to  Alley
August 3, 2018 3:17 pm

There are many ways to do a poor job of estimating regional geophysical time-series from variously corrupted in situ climate data, and only a few insightful ones. BEST, which lacks geophysical signal expertise on its team to match its masterful in PR, maximizes usage of unvetted snippets of data, but simply fails to provide any genuine insight.

Reply to  1sky1
August 3, 2018 4:48 pm

Corrupted data? So how is it that the best stations show the same trend?

Reply to  Anthony Watts
August 4, 2018 6:44 am

I am correct. Much work was done on grading the sensors and the results of each.

Look at page 4. Can you tell which classification of stations is showing more warming? Nope.

[NOPE, the “nope is on you” They used old, outdated, incomplete data, using a different site rating system that has been superseded. You are simply ignorant of the [current] status of things and my 2015 study is in fact using all of the updated methodologies they didn’t. They don’t have the newer ratings data from us either. Best to simply admit you’ve made a mistake and move on- Anthony]

Reply to  Alley
August 5, 2018 5:29 am

Maybe give your latest list to climate scientists and see what they find. Peer reviewed studies are what I’m interested in. Would BEST run your latest list?

Philip Schaeffer
Reply to  Anthony Watts
August 6, 2018 2:37 am

Anthony, has everything been published that would be necessary for someone to replicate your work on that (and I don’t mean in just a general sense)?

Reply to  Philip Schaeffer
August 6, 2018 5:15 am

Philip, BEST has performed studies on rural vs urban, as well as station quality. There work is completely transparent and was performed by skeptics who sought to disprove the consensus.

Philip Schaeffer
Reply to  Alley
August 6, 2018 8:54 pm

I know what BEST have done. I’m asking Anthony if he has actually published everything (all the data and calculations) necessary for someone else to be able to replicate his work, and understand it deeply enough to look for potential flaws.

Reply to  Alley
August 3, 2018 5:31 pm

I wouldn’t call that “work”.

John Bell
August 2, 2018 3:36 pm

There is a local (Utica, Michigan) weather station that always seems to read high or way high, and I would love to go inspect the site.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  John Bell
August 2, 2018 5:59 pm

It’s at Selfridge Air National Guard Base. The unit appears to be about 500 feet from the center line of the main runway. It’s a couple thousand feet to the nearest building. It’s not too far westward of Anchor Bay which is part of Lake St Clair.

August 2, 2018 4:02 pm

Good, thorough research.

August 2, 2018 4:04 pm

I think it’s a bit of a stretch to say it’s likely due in part to RVs. Not a lot of camping going on there this time of year. Other factors such as the new asphalt? Sure that makes sense. Truth is it has been a very warm summer in California.

Reply to  Anthony Watts
August 2, 2018 6:05 pm

Warming forestalls the inevitable cooling that could destroy what we know as civilization.

Reply to  BillJ
August 3, 2018 2:31 pm

More than a bit of a stretch. There are only 18 electric sites at furnace creek. The NPS does take reservation during the summer.

However, try to get a reservation for one of these sites in November. When we stayed in our motor home we went with full hookups because we needed to run the washer. Used a cloths line for drying and it only took minutes.

Michael Jankowski
August 2, 2018 6:12 pm

Irrigated golf course could do a bit of cooling…but doesn’t look like it’s been getting irrigated too much in the latest (brown) pic.

Loren Wilson
August 2, 2018 6:26 pm

I checked the specs on the sensor used for these measurements. It is ±0.4°C over the range of 5 to 40°C. Not very accurate (precision is ±0.01°C) for a modern thermometer.

Steven Fraser
Reply to  Loren Wilson
August 2, 2018 8:21 pm

How about at 45C and 50C?

August 2, 2018 6:33 pm

It used to be that people with common sense, avoided Death Valley in the summer. For minor reasons, of course, e.g. the NPS parks sites were closed for the season.
Those palm trees are date palms and produce excellent dates. I stock up whenever I am nearby.

“Now imagine an RV park with 19 RV’s all running their AC units….that’s a lot of extra heat dumped into the vicinity of the official weather station.”

Nineteen full hookup sites for RVs. Lots of partial hookup sites for RVs, on asphalt.

Furnace Creek (NPS Campground)
Death Valley National Park, California
53 Reviews | 0 Q&A | 4 Photos
Furnace Creek (NPS Campground)
Death Valley National Park, California
Sites: 136

A total of 136 RV sites at the NPS Furnace Creek site.

“Finally, there’s one other land-use change effect. The irrigated golf course to the south.”

Irrigated golf course!?

N.B. The oleander in the foreground.
Oleander is a lovely very toxic plant identified as invasive in Death Valley National Park.

U.S. National Parks where reported invasive:
Death Valley National Park (California)
Lake Mead National Park (Nevada)”

N.B. 2: Long lush grassy drives. And California pretends they are short of water?
Then, there is the question of where is this water drawn from and what is the mineral load of that water.

Especially, in Death Valley.

Dubbed “white gold,” borax is the mineral most synonymous with Death Valley. Discovered here during the 1870s, borax had more than 100 commercial uses — from detergents to preserving meats.

During the peak of borax mining in the 1880s, the famous 20-Mule Team wagons hauled 20 million pounds of this mineral 165 miles to the closest train link in Mojave. Later, as the trademark of the Pacific Coast Borax Co., the mule teams emerged as a symbol of Death Valley.”

Death Valley did not run out of borax, nor many other solubles concentrated by the arid environment. Besides increasing the surface alkali and salt loads, one wonders if high mineral content water fosters kidney stone growth.

John of Cloverdale, WA, Australia
August 2, 2018 6:36 pm

Well researched. Thanks Anthony.

August 2, 2018 6:37 pm

I don’t know how anyone could stand it there. Here in the Edmonton area I start burning up when the temperature gets up to 80 F.

Norman Hasty
August 2, 2018 7:37 pm

I think I remember a WUWT article about a station in Death Valley being moved to an area called “The Oven” . Does anyone else recall that?

Mary Brown
August 2, 2018 8:10 pm

I am sure the GISS homogenization routines will automatically detect the surge in temperature vs nearby stations and adjust the temperature lower, right? Or is that just a one way street?

August 2, 2018 8:17 pm

Until they figure out a way to grow a hectare of green grass in Death Valley, the data coming from the station violates siting guidelines.

August 2, 2018 9:16 pm

To be fair, the July 2018 temp at stovepipe is ~1 degree higher than the July 2017 temp at the same location.

As i was doing some background reading i came across this interesting tidbit…

“Back in the first part of the 20th century, it was standard procedure by the U.S. Weather Bureau officials to place cotton-region thermometer shelters above grass (or other vegetated ground cover). Even in the Mojave Desert, many, if not most, of the early weather stations were above non-natural, irrigated grassy areas. This undoubtedly caused lower maximums and minimums in temperature! The “above grass” rule was relaxed into the mid-to-late 20th century. The original thinking back then was that thermometer shelter placement above grass would provide better, more consistent and comparable temperature data and records among all stations. ”

Gee, I’m sure glad NOAA and NASA take such care to cool the past temperature record for TOBS when something like this goes uncorrected.

Philip Schaeffer
August 2, 2018 9:25 pm

Well, here is one for the citizen scientists!

Get some properly designed temperature measuring and logging devices. Place one as near to the existing site as possible. Place another, or a few if you like, in better locations. See how much they vary from each other.

For bonus points, do enough measurements in enough spots to quantify the distance from the artificial heat island that it’s effects can still be detected, and how much difference being upwind or downwind of it makes.

Heck, do it for a whole bunch of sites! I’d get involved with something like that just for the sake of doing something interesting.

August 2, 2018 10:49 pm

Good work WUWT. Detailed, accurate and thorough.

Evgeny Gavrilov
August 3, 2018 1:25 am

Stovepipe Wells has lower mean July temperature because this place is located above sea level! And average temperature calculated from every 5 minutes meteo data, at Furnace Creek – meteo data every 1 HOUR! There ase big difference.

Steve O
August 3, 2018 4:34 am

If the DVNP wants to establish that the surrounding infrastructure doesn’t impact readings, they can set up another weather station 200 yards away from everything, and show the world that the readings are the same. If it turns out that way.

August 3, 2018 5:13 am

Death Valley Days — hosted by Ronald Reagan…..

William Wilson
August 3, 2018 6:58 am

I was working with data from a 10 meter tower and came up with a plot of temperature vs. wind direction. The height masked the effects of nearby buildings, trees and solar field. There was a significant drop in temperature from the NW, typical cold front winds.
It would be interesting to get the data from the Campbell Scientific station and do a characterization of this site.

August 3, 2018 12:34 pm

I follow the temperature at Barstow-Daggett Airport in the Mojave Desert at elevation 1925 ft. The period of record extends 75 years from 1944 – 2018. They just recorded their warmest July on record at +4.5 F above normal. The average max temperature of 107.7 was +3.5 F above normal, while the average min temperature of 78.9 was +5.6 F above normal. Here are the top 5 warmest July’s since 1944:

1) 2018 93.3 F
2) 2006 93.0
3) 2002 92.9
4) 2017 92.5
5) 2013 92.1

MEAN 88.8

75) 1987 83.6

The location of Barstow-Daggett Airport is 34.853682, -116.787020. Cut and paste into google maps to see details of the ASOS exposure.

August 3, 2018 2:53 pm

What has the weird geology and even weirder people in little North America have Death Valley to do with long term global temperatures? ANS: Not a lot, even if the change was significant, which it isn’t as others observe. The Great Basin is truly weird. ASa former skier I recall the vertical from the bottom of Death Valley to Telscope peak was 11,000 feet, and the differentials are increasing in the Ridge and Basin geology of the Great Basin – right? . Seriously aberant.

Joe Armstrong
August 6, 2018 5:35 pm

We had the opportunity to visit a different national park about 10 days ago. We were at Arches NP just north of Moab, Utah. For the four days we were there the temp in the car registered 100 -102. Arches is in the high desert, about 5,000 ft. The climate is arid and while there are patches of vegetation, there is lots of sand and rock debris.

As we left the park, I observed the weather station. It was on flat, desert land and appeared to be about 50 feet south of the visitor center and 75 feet west of an employee parking lot, 15 spaces, probably about half full. The station was painted white. The were no cars or ice cream trucks idling next to the site and it appeared that the HVAC on the visitor center for a fair distance away.

Later, I checked weather records for the park. What I found was:
Record high for July 105º in 1989
Daily Record highs for July 99º – 105º
All the year of the earliest recorded record high was 1953 and the latest was 1994.
The highs for all the days we were in the park were 99 and 100º.

At least in Arches, it seems like record high temps have been remarkably stable with no July daily records set of 24 years, since 1994.

Jeff B
August 7, 2018 3:02 pm

Are those gaps in the data where Michael Mann and the team insert high temps?

August 10, 2018 12:12 pm

I’m wondering why there is an irrigated golf course in Death Valley.

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