You may remember a couple of weeks ago I got sideswiped by Ms, Sherri Quammen, who in a letter to the editor called me a “weapon of mass destruction” because I’m actively involved in climate change issues locally. While funny, it did give me the impetus (aka kick in the pants) I needed to get very busy and serious about a project I had been contemplating for some time:
A national repository of weather station site surveys.
ZZZZ Snore, ho hum you say? I’d normally agree, as the subject matter is the stuff of sleep inducers. But there’s a hitch. It seems that the folks at the top of the food chain in climate research didn’t do their homework at the base level, and didn’t bother to do a quality control check on the many weather stations used in the climate records and the computer models used to predict our climate future.
I remember a talk in the spring where Jim Price of CSU had to interrupt (at the behest of a couple of folks that felt a comment about the sun’s role in climate change studies was being ignored was “biased”) the Chico observatory series, Cosmic Hike to give us all a tongue lashing on why Global Warming is “good science”. I asked him a question in front of everybody about how well biases in measurements at weather stations had been accounted for (Jim’s on the IPCC committee) and he said that they had been “carefully accounted for and considered”. I didn’t believe him then, even less now.
Ok back to my summer project. Thanks to Quammen’s inspiration, I got busy putting together a website called www.surfacestations.org for the purpose of doing a nationwide, and hopefully a worldwide audit on the viability of the weather stations used in climate research.
To seed the effort, I’ve been driving around Northern California photographing and logging weather stations, and blogger Russ Steele from Grass Valley has been helping do surveys too. You’ve seen some of them in my blog posts titled: How not to measure temperature.
Some, like Marysville, are just unbelievably badly biased, and to be blunt, the data they produce is simply useless. Yet, they are part of our “official” climate temperature record, and the data is in fact used in the computer models.
So Monday, I go live with the www.surfacestations.org website showcasing some of the US Historical Climate Record sites which is the major framework that global warming science is built upon.
The reaction was immediate and visceral in the science blogosphere. I’d hit a nerve. Some posters called for my “removal”, not knowing that I’m not funded by grants, nor employed by a government agency. I’m funding all this myself, out of my own pocket. I had to chuckle. Some called me an amateur, others said I would taint the outcome, some just ranted (I think maybe Tasker joined in). Many questioned why such an effort was needed at all. The reaction to taking photographs of weather stations to document their conditions raised a stink I never could have predicted. Why? How can something so simple raise so many hackles? Aren’t many climate scientists saying “case closed” and “no more debate”? How could a few pictures threaten this established science?
Well here’s why: Lets use the weather station in Willows at the Tehama Colusa Canal Authority as an example. Its a lights=0 station. A what? Lights=0 means it has no lights around it. Ok so what does that have to do with climate change and temperature measurement? Well, it turns out that Dr. James Hansen of NASA, in creating his USHCN database didn’t actually visit the weather stations to see if they were working well and bias free, but rather conducted an armchair survey where he used nighttime Department of Defense satellite photos to evaluate the potential heat bias from growth around the stations. He figured counting streetlights in a radius would be a good indicator. For stations like Willows, out at the end of Hwy162, yes it works. It also works for out of the way stations like Lake Spaulding, except that the armchair light counting survey didn’t catch the fact the temperature sensor is parked over an aluminum boat next to a building, on a steel tower over a rocky surface. How hot could that be? I presume the boat is there for a fast getaway in case of catastrophic sea level rise.
But this armchair survey didn’t catch things like air conditioners blowing hot exhaust air on sensors, or the Marysville Fire Department parking their vehicles within 6 feet of the sensor, or the fact that Tahoe City had a new tennis court put up 25 feet away and a trash burn barrel located next to the station. And when the really embarrassingly bad weather stations Russ and I documented started showing up, the pro warming folks had to do something because it challenged the very data itself.
The www.surfacestations.org site has been up two days now, and I’m getting hundreds of registrations across the country from people wanting to get involved in the grass roots effort to photograph, measure, catalog and contribute to the database of weather stations. I’m getting inquires from Congress, Policy think tanks, and bloggers worldwide. I even had a mom who’s driving cross country with her daughter contact me to ask how she could participate.
BTW you can sign up to help, its free, easy, and fun too. Find the stations can be a bit of a puzzle, like GPS caching.
I’ve been invited to submit a research paper, and I’m having a lot of fun too. Now I know why I lost the school board election, it was to give me time to do this. Everything happens for a reason...
After months of work,
our paper has been accepted, read summaries on the
paper at these locations:
Dr. Roger Pielke Senior's website here
Dr. John Neilsen-Gammon's website here
Anthony Watts website here
Media Resource - download PDF here
Link to the paper (final print quality), Fall et al 2011 here (updated)
Fall et all 2011 supplementary information here
Surfacestations project reaches 82.5% of the network surveyed. 1007 of 1221 stations have been examined in the USHCN network. The Google Earth map below shows current coverage.
Reference for site ratings: NOAA's Climate Reference Network Site Handbook Section 2.2.1
Sincere thanks to Gary Boden and Barry Wise for this contribution!
Mid term census report of the Surface Stations Project: Is the U.S. Surface Temperature Record Reliable? - click cover image at left to download a PDF document. Now at 80%, and with a majority sample that is spatially well distributed, a full analysis will be coming in the next few months. We will however continue to survey stations in the hope of locating more CRN1 and CRN2 stations due to their rarity.
The upcoming papers will feature statistical analysis of the nationwide USHCN network in the context of siting.
Direct link to PDF of the report is here
HELP NEEDED FOR SURVEYS IN THE FOLLOWING STATES:
Kansas, Nebraska, Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri, North Dakota, Idaho, South Dakota, Texas.
Excerpt graphics from the report are below:
Station quality ratings obtained from NOAA/NCDC via this source:
Climate Reference Network Rating Guide - adopted from NCDC Climate Reference Network Handbook, 2002, specifications for siting (section 2.2.1) of NOAA's new Climate Reference Network:Class 1 (CRN1)- Flat and horizontal ground surrounded by a clear surface with a slope below 1/3 (<19deg). Grass/low vegetation ground cover <10 centimeters high. Sensors located at least 100 meters from artificial heating or reflecting surfaces, such as buildings, concrete surfaces, and parking lots. Far from large bodies of water, except if it is representative of the area, and then located at least 100 meters away. No shading when the sun elevation >3 degrees.
Class 2 (CRN2) - Same as Class 1 with the following differences. Surrounding Vegetation <25 centimeters. No artificial heating sources within 30m. No shading for a sun elevation >5deg.
Class 3 (CRN3) (error >=1C) - Same as Class 2, except no artificial heating sources within 10 meters.
Class 4 (CRN4) (error >= 2C) - Artificial heating sources <10 meters.
Class 5 (CRN5) (error >= 5C) - Temperature sensor located next to/above an artificial heating source, such a building, roof top, parking lot, or concrete surface."
Site launched on 06/04/07
Progress as of 11/04/2011
USHCN Sites surveyed so far:
USHCN Sites rated so far:
USHCN Sites remaining:
"This is a very important need for the climate science community, and you are encouraged to obtain this photographic documentation if you can, and also share with the new website under development by Anthony Watts"
- Roger Pielke Sr., University of Colorado, June 1st, 2007
Nevada USHCN surveys completed
California USHCN surveys completed! See all California stations here
Louisiana has only three stations left, Franklin, Lafayette, and Plain Dealing Any takers?
A look at how changes in paint on Stevenson Screens may have affected temperature measurement.
Now Online: Conference presentation given at CIRES/UCAR on 8/29/07 describing this project and the methods used to assign station site quality ratings, along with examples of many site issues seen thus far. Click to view slideshow
Special recognition to five volunteers; Bob Thompson, Eric Gamberg, Russ Steele, David Smith, and Don Kostuch, who turned summer travels into survey expeditions. Don Kostuch has surveyed more stations, and covered a broader geographic area than any other surveyor. Thanks to all!
Here is a well maintained and well sited USHCN station:
Graph is from NASA GISS - see it full size
|Click pictures for complete site surveys of these stations|
|Here is a not-so-well maintained or well sited USHCN station:
Graph is from NASA GISS - see it full size
This site in Marysville, CA has been around for about the same amount of time, but
has been encroached upon by growth in a most serious way by micro-site effects.
What you'll find here
A catastrophe involving such a large object takes time to unfold. After the Titanic struck the iceberg, water gushed into the starboard side of the ship near its prow. Although the flow of water was large, it took a couple of hours to cause the ship to sink because of its enormous size. As it filled, the prow slowly sank into the ocean, raising the stern. At around 2:18 am the ship suddenly broke in two. The forward section sank to the bottom of the ocean, while the aft section floated vertically briefly before disappearing beneath the waves and following the prow to the bottom.
When the Titanic collided with the iceberg, it set in train a sequence of events that continued for more than two hours until the ship reached a new equilibrium on the ocean bottom. This process can be used as an illustration of the catastrophe of Noah’s Flood, which engulfed our globe.
The Flood began, according to the Bible with a breaking up of the fountains of the great deep, and the opening of the windows of heaven (Genesis 7:11). The Flood involved a train of events that followed a logical sequence of cause and effect, until the earth reached a new equilibrium. Because the earth is so much larger than the Titanic, the catastrophe of the Flood took much longer to unfold. The Bible records it lasted for just over 12 months. Ongoing climatic effects continued for hundreds of years.
During Noah’s Flood, vast quantities of water moved over the surface of the earth, eroding the landscape and depositing sediment in enormous sedimentary basins. This redistribution of mass caused movement of the earth’s plates. This in turn generated huge volumes of molten magma, the movement of which further redistributed mass on the globe—laterally and radially. The cooling of the magma also affected the movement of plates and ocean levels. Through the process some parts of the earth’s crust gradually sank lower and others rose, until the earth eventually reached a new equilibrium, which we enjoy today.
Geological history is often presented as a list of disconnected events. We read about sedimentation, erosion, mountain building, volcanic eruptions, and ice ages, each separated from the other by tens of millions of years. With so much time between events they seem to be unrelated. However, by looking at geology as the unfolding of one huge catastrophe that overtook our globe, we can begin to connect the dots.