Watts' announcement: US temperature records contaminated with urban warming

(Click to enlarge)

Wasn’t quite the bombshell I was expecting, and hardly of ‘global’ significance, but interesting none the less.

UPDATE: In my haste to post this morning, I missed a key point, which Anthony kindly writes to correct:

“This paper means that every surface temperature record national or global must now be examined. See what Dr. Roger Pielke Sr. says here.”

Apologies for the misunderstanding.

Here’s the extract from Anthony’s post:

A reanalysis of U.S. surface station temperatures has been performed using the recently WMO-approved Siting Classification System devised by METEO-France’s Michel Leroy. The new siting classification more accurately characterizes the quality of the location in terms of monitoring long-term spatially representative surface temperature trends. The new analysis demonstrates that reported 1979-2008 U.S. temperature trends are spuriously doubled, with 92% of that over-estimation resulting from erroneous NOAA adjustments of well-sited stations upward. The paper is the first to use the updated siting system which addresses USHCN siting issues and data adjustments.

The new improved assessment, for the years 1979 to 2008, yields a trend of +0.155C per decade from the high quality sites, a +0.248 C per decade trend for poorly sited locations, and a trend of +0.309 C per decade after NOAA adjusts the data. This issue of station siting quality is expected to be an issue with respect to the monitoring of land surface temperature throughout the Global Historical Climate Network and in the BEST network.

One particularly interesting point is that the NOAA adjustments increase the temperatures despite UHI effects. How can they get it so spectacularly wrong (unless there’s an agenda at work in the background – perish the thought)?

Read it all here.

Ironically, this information comes at precisely the time that Richard Muller, of BEST fame, continues to plug the line that his temperature set has “settled the science”:

CALL me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.

My total turnaround, in such a short time, is the result of careful and objective analysis by the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, which I founded with my daughter Elizabeth. Our results show that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases. (source)

Call me cynical, but maybe he’s worked out which side his bread’s buttered.

UPDATE: Morano does the required demolition here. Even Michael Mann is peeved:

“My view is that Muller’s efforts to promote himself by belittling the collective efforts of the entire atmospheric/climate research community over several decades, though, really does the scientific community a disservice. Its great that he’s reaffirmed what we already knew. But for him to pretend that we couldn’t trust this entire scientific field until Richard Muller put his personal stamp of approval on their conclusions is, in my view, a very dangerously misguided philosophical take on how science works. It seems, in the end–quite sadly–that this is all really about Richard Muller’s self-aggrandizement 😦 “

Like I said in a post a while ago, the surface temperature sets are a crock. On that point, we have consensus.


  1. Tim Vandover via Facebook says:

    Just confirming what many people have known. Temperatures have gone up around cities, but down everywhere else!

  2. Ken Ward via Facebook says:

    Its only HOT in the USA right now because We the People are boiling over to get rid of 0bama and his Communist Regime.!!!

    • Frances says:

      Don’t come to Australia then, because we have a commie Prime Minister here, Julia Gillard who is (cough cough) ‘in bed’ with Obama. She has introduced a Carbon Tax here, breaking her election promise. “There Will Be No Carbon Tax Under a Government I Lead”. She is frequently alluded to now as JULIAR,

  3. Dennis Cutting says:

    Wow, so after 250 years,two word wars,countless volcano eruptions ,above ground and below ground nuclear tests,country size bush fires and all other natural disasters the world temperature has changed by only 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit ( what is that in Celsius ?), I would have thought that seven thousand million people breathing out would do that.

  4. Baldrick says:

    Nothing beats pure fact!

    The need to homogenise and rubberise scientific data, in any direction, only lessens its value.

  5. Colin S Tonks via Facebook says:

    It’s the concentration and expansion of urban concrete and bitumen that affects ‘local’ weather. This was confirmed to me by a, now, retired senior meteorologist when I asked why there was a significant difference between the observations at the regional Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) station at the coastal airport and my own observations about 5km further West.
    Concrete and bitumen act as heat-sinks … hotter during the summer months and colder during the Winter months.

    • Dennis Cutting says:

      Absolutely correct, and the amount of tar roads around the world keeps growing. So do we all buy 4wd vehicles and have dirt roads?.
      This question is too hard for the funded scientists to answer ,its easier to just tax people.

  6. Yes Colin, all the madness is based on UHI, not CO2.

  7. Paul Flather Woods via Facebook says:

    Many of the weather stationd used are at airports. FYI an sirport has a HUGE thermal mass in the runways, taxiways, and the ramp. Typical ramp temperatures of 155 deg F are seen. Quackery is prevalent in these reports.

  8. ” … hardly of ‘global’ significance … ”

    Not yet perhaps, but elsewhere similar misuse of stats, tweaking of temperature records (eg BoM’s ACORN series with 1000 or so minima higher than maxima), failure to recognise UHI, massive loss of rural stations (especially in former USSR). Large part of the 250 years measured mainly with glass thermometers, known to over-read with age,
    conversion errors eg integer °F to decimal °C rounded up.

    Pulling over my 10c from the warm-up article:

    Cudos to those who called the connection with BEST.
    I am encouraged because the Watts et al draft paper confirms the statistical errors (that I didn’t make as a presumably dangerous post-grad back in the 70′s) and all my subsequent suspicions about the nature of the data regarding UHI etc.

  9. Skeptikal says:

    I’m sure that “Climate Change Inc.” will do everything they can to discredit this paper.

  10. James Doogue via Facebook says:

    You couldn’t have misunderstood the importance of this paper more! Basically, using the new globally approved classification, the amount of real warming that has occurred since industrialisation cannot be characterised as anything other than what we would expect from natural variability. Not unprecedented, not any deal at all! So apart from some localised UHI, move on, nothing to see here!

  11. Like I said, James, I was rushing to post something early before other commitments took over… apologies. I have updated the post.

  12. Luke Warm says:

    Simon, it took awhile for the significance of the new Watts et al 2012 paper to sink in for me as well. But it is possibly shattering for the warmist cause. It was interesting to see the comments today in the Age, poster after poster was making reference to Watts et al 2012 to discredit the warmist propaganda the article carried. The article also made reference to Watts and to Dr Judith Curry as dissenting voices. This is new territory for the Age. Usually they are a 100% unquestioning mouthpiece for the CAGW crew (But noting the article was still a skewed piece – just check the headline blurb about the reformed sceptic).

  13. johanna says:

    I think some commenters are missing the point. The existence of UHI is pretty much universally accepted. What Watts et al have done is use state of the art methodology (accepted by the World Metereological Organisation) to re-evaluate the classification and weighting of weather stations. They have also demonstrated that the methods being used to produce ‘average’ temperatures are statistically flawed – instead of adjusting according to the most reliable stations, they have used the worst ones to taint the best ones. And, the bad ones outnumber the good ones about 2:1.

    The result is that all the stations getting jet engine blasts, in the middle of concrete carparks etc are treated as more indicative than those which are correctly positioned, leading to exaggerated warming (twice as much, in fact). This is the junk that has been fed into countless computer models.

    It is a remarkable achievement, and if validated will provide a robust methodology for similar exercises in other countries.

  14. Remember that temperature recording accuracy for most of the past century has been +/- .5 deg C. This is almost double the claimed temperature change. CRU’s averages to 0.001 deg are an utter farce. More measurements do not add to data accuracy. It is impossible to say whether there really has been any warming and certainly nothing to suggest man has effected anything other than UHI.

  15. As far as I can see the main novelty is that the weather station classification scheme of Leroy (2010) is better than Leroy (1999).

    It would have been more elegant if Watts had stated in his press release that the differences between stations of various qualities he found in the temperature trends are only visible in the raw data. In the homogenized (adjusted) data the trends are about the same for all quality classes. No more sign of errors due to the urban heat island.

    That the trend is stronger in the homogenized data is no surprise, the transition to automatic weather stations during the study period has caused an artificial cooling in the raw data.

    For a bit more detailed “review”, please visit my blog.

  16. “How can they get it so … wrong?” Have you ever spent time with college or high school students who are replicating and experiment or among whom several teams are conducting the same experiment and have divergent results? One response is to “fudge” the data – “adjust” actual data to bring it closer to what it “ought to be.” Alternatively, if you have a team of scientists who are convinced that that they understand a natural mechanism, a mechanism which is complex and difficult to measure resulting in data of variable quality, and an adjustment system is developed to “fix” bad data, AND that system yields results that are in congruence with expectations, the easiest response will be to be happy with results. There is no motive to check to be sure the adjustment system is working properly.

    I have found critical flaws in commercial statistical packages implementations of extremely simple statistic measures, where the results “looked reasonable” but were simply wrong. There is no need to assume conspiracy or malfeasance where normal human inertia does the job.

  17. mwsmith says:

    Watts’ main point has already been addressed by Muller:

    “We carefully studied issues raised by climate change sceptics: biases from urban heating (we duplicated our results using rural data alone); from data selection (previous groups selected less than 20 per cent of the available temperature stations; we used almost 100 per cent), from poor station quality (we separately analysed good stations and poor ones), and from human intervention and data adjustment (our work is completely automated and hands-off).”

    ACM’s response? “Call me cynical, but maybe he’s worked out which side his bread’s buttered.” Morano’s so-called “demolition” is a series of quotes from sceptics such as Lord Monckton, whose bread is buttered on both sides by the likes of Gina Rinehart.

    Muller was a supporter of AGW but in 2009 he became a sceptic (perhaps he read Australian Climate Madness – hooraaaaay!). He decided to see for himself, so he set up an elaborate research project that proved to his satisfaction that AGW theory is basically correct, even though he’d been funded by the Koch brothers. Seems to me that further research is needed in order to back up or disprove his findings.

    [REPLY – My bias is no worse than yours. You are prepared to accept what Muller says about his exclusion of poorly sited station data at face value. As you (rightly) say, more research needed. And Muller was NEVER a sceptic.]

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