If you read the post at Deltoid superficially, you might get the impression that ex-weatherman and blogger Anthony Watts had scored a massive own goal. The bottom line is that he probably has, but the story is complicated, with some wriggle room.
Since 2007 Watts has been on about the siting of NOAA climate stations in the USA. Many, he found, were next to heat sources, heat sinks, and had been surrounded by urbanization during the decades of their operation. In June 2007 he started the surfacestations.org project after similar concerns were found by Dr. Roger Pielke Snr of the University of Colorado. With the help of volunteers the project surveyed over 1000 of the 1221 United States Historical Climatological Network (USHCN) stations and rated them for quality on a 5-point scale. Watts visited 100 sites himself.
You’ve probably heard the complaint a thousand times that this siting problem boosts the average temperature for the Unites States as measured by agencies such as NOAA and NASA. The official line was that there were anomalies due to siting, but they cancelled each other out. Some of the sites were now on irrigated lawns, but the photos that appeared on sceptic/denialist blogs were invariably in positions where heat was a problem, like an asphalt car park.
Moreover, I understand that the authorities used statistical techniques to compensate for siting problems, raising the spectre of warmists fiddling with the original data. Not just honest scientists doing the best they can in the real world with limited resources.
A study by NOAA took the surfacestations.org ratings and compared the raw data from the poor stations with that of the good stations. In a peer-reviewed paper in early 2010 they found that the poor stations rated the daily minimums slightly higher and the maximums lower, with an overall slight cooling bias. Read about it at Skeptical Science.
Naturally Watts wouldn’t trust the warmists at NOAA. He’s gained access to the raw data and was running his own investigation. This resulted in a peer-reviewed paper with some real scientists, including sceptics/contrarians Roger Pielke Snr and John Christy, which has now been accepted for publication.
the biases in maximum and minimum temperature trends are fortuitously of opposite sign, but about the same magnitude, so they cancel each other
The question is how much it matters. To global temperature, given the results and given the small patch the US occupies on the planet’s surface, not at all, which is why I’ve never taken much interest in the kerfuffle. It does matter to local trends within the US, however. NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) has established a modern network of 114 sites ‘going forward’ as they say, known as the U.S. Climate Reference Network (USCRN).
There has been an interesting side-story which I reported at Climate Clippings 23 (see heading From BEST to worst), which I’ve repeated here.
A certain Berkeley astrophysicist, Richard Muller, has been critical of temperature records, both the reconstructed records of Hockey Stick fame and the modern instrumental record. He set up the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project (BEST) to create a new definitive record working from the same data, which everyone knows is adjusted for various reasons.
There was much hope invested in this project by the sceptics, including Anthony Watts. This is what Muller found, according to preliminary advice to Congress:
Follow the links at Tamino to see how the BEST has become the worst.
For a fuller account see The Economist (thanks for the heads-up, wilful), where we find that the so-called ‘bad temperature station’ complaint is also a load of cobblers.
Of course Muller’s evidence to Congress was a preliminary finding, not a peer-reviewed scientific paper. Watts was quite cranky about it as you can see from his comment on BEST and letter to Congress.
Meanwhile on The Science Show, Robyn Williams talks to John Cook and Haydn Washington about their new book Climate Change Denial: Heads in the Sand. Bob Carr, who launched the book, gives his thoughts here. Carr says that the “bulk of the book assembles and rebuts the arguments of climate change deniers.” Should be a handy reference. Apparently a copy will be sent to every Federal politician.
For an historical account I suspect that the new book by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming would be the place to go.
Go here to listen to an excellent interview of Naomi Orestes by Richard Fidler. I liked the bit where she said that people are entitled to their own opinion, but not to their own facts. And, broadly, the facts are well-established.
Update: See also Curt Stager’s Deep Future: The Next 100,000 Years of Life on Earth published by Scribe. He says the optimistic scenario is that it would take 100,000 years for the planet to return to ‘normal’ if we get CO2 under control quickly.