2011-05-11 09:50:20WUWT paper accepted by AGU
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.43.157

The surfacestations.org paper – accepted

After months of work, I’m pleased to announce that the paper that I have jointly written with several co-authors, including Dr. Roger Pielke Senior (who acted in the capacity as corresponding author) has run the peer review gauntlet and has been accepted.

Expect a full press release this week. I’m holding details until the University of Colorado press office has issued the official press release. As you all know, this project was done entirely by volunteers, with no budget, and there were no grants asked for nor provided.

That is something I am proud of, because it shows what citizen scientists can do that NOAA/NCDC couldn’t or wouldn’t, and taxpayers didn’t have to foot the bill. However, there is one last hurdle….

 

According to Dr. Pielke’s executive assistant, Dallas Staley, who is handling the submission detail with the journal, we have page charges we have to pay for because unlike many papers, this has several color photographs and plots.

The bill for the print issuance of the paper in the journal is $2247.00, which is something I can’t cover completely myself. See a snip from the charge sheet.

If you are wondering why I blurred the number, it is simply that given what has transpired, with preemptive strikes by NCDC, and the recent BEST ambush before Congress, I’m simply being cautious. We are preparing an SI, and there will be the ability to replicate the work. The data and code will be made available on the surfacestations.org website. We are also preparing a press package.

Dr. Pielke “could” divert some public funds toward paying this printing charge from his other budgets, but in doing so, it would end the ability for us to claim the project was entirely privately financed from inception to publication.

So I’m asking readers for help in this matter. But please do not feel obligated in any way. Anything you can spare will help. If need be I’ll put anything not covered on a  credit card, but I hope not to go into debt.

Donations accepted: Here
[UPDATE: Goal reached! Thank you everyone! The support of the WUWT readership is most encouraging.]

Thank you all for your consideration, and I especially want to thank everyone who has done surveys and offered help in the behind the scenes capacity.

Stay tuned for the official announcement this week. There are some things we already know from posts here, and there are some surprises too. I’ll have a complete writeup as will Dr. Pielke on his blog which I’ll carry here as well.

2011-05-11 09:55:37
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
64.129.227.4

I hope AGU did a decent job of peer-review.  It's not uncommon that they don't.

2011-05-11 10:02:01
Albatross
Julian Brimelow
stomatalaperture@gmail...
199.126.232.206

Spin, Spin , Spin to start in 3, 2, 1......

2011-05-11 10:05:14Comment
Robert Way

robert_way19@hotmail...
142.162.200.183

Anthony couldn't afford 2000 dollars... somehow I doubt that...

2011-05-11 10:08:06
Albatross
Julian Brimelow
stomatalaperture@gmail...
199.126.232.206

Many of my colleagues who make huge sacrifices in terms of time, family and money in order to conduct their research.  In fact science (at least in my discipline) volunteering and science are synonymous. Watts makes it sound like tax payer's money is a dirty word. 

And I love how they play the "poor" card...trust me, the credit limit on Anthony's credit card is way more than $2250.

Also, I would be concerned about too much "private" funding, I have seen the ill impacts of that in Canada with the oil sands-- controlling the message.

Anyhow, his 'woe are us' attitude is rather annoying.

2011-05-11 10:10:39
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey
yooper49855@hotmail...
97.83.150.37

The AGU that hard up for money?  I know getting funding is a real bee-otch these days, but please! 

Have SOME standards or just close the doors & turn off the lights!

 

AW crying poor is just a joke.  Like petro-checks ever bounce...

2011-05-11 10:11:03The science in his paper
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
124.187.6.188

From what I've seen and heard of this paper, Watts was unable to find warming due to microsite influences. So instead, he's going with the "no trend in diurnal range". Which he'll probably be using to argue "greenhouse signature is shrinking diurnal range (nights warm faster than days) hence no greenhouse signature found in temp record"

Eg - he will seamlessly transition from "it's not happening" to "it's not us" (with narry a mention of all his disinformation on "it's not happening")

2011-05-11 10:12:55
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey
yooper49855@hotmail...
97.83.150.37

Need a pre-emptive post on DTR.

2011-05-11 10:16:18
Albatross
Julian Brimelow
stomatalaperture@gmail...
199.126.232.206

Daniel and John,

I agree, a preemptive strike on the DTR would be an excellent idea, and well advised-- Anthony et al are going to milk this for all it is worth.  Time to put them on the defensive, instead of the science repeatedly being on the defensive or trying to correct misinformation. 

 

"Watts was unable to find warming due to microsite influences"

Really?!  LOL....

2011-05-11 10:20:11
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey
yooper49855@hotmail...
97.83.150.37

UHI = Snipe hunting.

Common snipe (Wattus Antonicus)

Common snipe (wattus antonicus)

2011-05-11 10:25:14DTR
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
64.129.227.4

Watts will just claim his study supercedes any previous studies on DTR, because they didn't account for the "problems" in the temp record.

2011-05-11 12:22:19Watt timing
Glenn Tamblyn

glenn@thefoodgallery.com...
121.219.166.148

How's that for timing.

I have been working on a post on surface temperature measurement any way, intended as a primer on how its done, looking at the maths. Then looking at GISTEMP in particular based on Hansen & Lebedeff 1987. Then going over the reasons why various allegations against the record don't hold much water. This is a counterpoint to previous posts at SkS on the evidence that they aren't faulty, this tries to explain why they wouldn't be.

Since WUWT is more US based and GISS has been subject to more attacks than HadCru, basing it around GISS seems a good idea.

Expect a draft in 48 hours.

 

2011-05-11 12:23:56
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.43.157

You might get a better clue as to what the paper will say based on what Pielke normally says: My impression is that he will be in the driver's seat.

2011-05-11 12:25:56
Albatross
Julian Brimelow
stomatalaperture@gmail...
199.126.232.206

Anyone know the title of the paper?  I looked at "papers in press" at the AGU site and found nothing.  Surely there must be a version lurking somewhere on the intertubes?

2011-05-11 12:33:04
Albatross
Julian Brimelow
stomatalaperture@gmail...
199.126.232.206

Note how this is being framed.  "We humble little folks can do good science too, and what is more we can show those pros how it should be done".  WUWT regularly challenge the authority and the "ivory tower", nothing wrong there, but belittling and mocking scientists along the way reveals their true agenda-- the IPCC and associated scientists are idiots and wrong, and we humble folks showed 'em.  This kind of mentality resonates very highly with Republican and libertarian types, and is one of the reasons that scientists need to engage in much more outreach and having a few beers with the regular guys and gals.

The Dunning-Kruger is practically oozing out of their veins.  This is also an attempt to push post-normal science, IMHO of course.  If some good science does happen to come of this it is purely b/c of Pielke's involvement, not the deniers at WUWT.  Again, IMHO.

2011-05-11 14:42:33Alby's HO
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
124.187.6.188

"If some good science does happen to come of this it is purely b/c of Pielke's involvement"

Fair call, Alby. I think AW's involvement was supplying the Surface Station's data - the top secret data that only Pielke and Muller were allowed to look at (and AW is already regretting giving it to Muller).

I think the silence from AW on the results not showing an inflated warming trend speaks volumes. If diurnal trends is all he can come up with after all that effort from he and his volunteers, he's coming up pretty empty.

2011-05-11 17:10:56
Riccardo

riccardoreitano@tiscali...
192.84.150.209

A preemptive strike is risky because we do not know much about their data and what they say. Rather, after the paper gets published I'd underline that it is the "swan song" of the microsite influence on temperature trend meme.

In an ideal world we'd have one skeptic argument less :)

2011-05-11 19:17:40
MarkR
Mark Richardson
m.t.richardson2@gmail...
134.225.187.197

"Watts will just claim his study supercedes any previous studies on DTR, because they didn't account for the "problems" in the temp record."

 

Are there any papers looking at expected changes in DTR in the US? I'm pretty sure it's difficult to pick out statistically, especially in some regions.

2011-05-11 21:37:28
logicman

logicman_alf@yahoo.co...
109.158.213.53

Watts is still stuck in the world of science 1.0

Note how he is keeping secrets and compare with Pelto and Hansen who make their papers available for public discussion before peer review - that's science 2.0

Note that in courts of common law jurisdiction there are rules of discovery which are designed to prevent one side turning up in court with 'ambush evidence'.

As to Watts being poor, he's having a laugh.

I just got my statement for the state pension - GBP 27.50 a week.  That will be topped up by state benefits to GBP 130 a week eventually.  Meanwhile, I have to make do.  Do you think Watts would help me out with a loan?  :-)

2011-05-11 23:07:07
grypo

gryposaurus@gmail...
173.69.56.151

dana, john,

 

Without a proper model, isn't his conclusion of "its' not us" (which I don't think is stated implicitly) basically nonsense?  This may be a case, like FMK11, that makes very small statements based on on small amounts of picked data, but then promote it as a big deal.   Whether or not "good" sitting stations of land temps in the continental US have a statisically significant range on day/night temps is for the most part, meaningless, scientifically.  A good paper would explain much more.  There has to be more.  Why would AGU publish this?

2011-05-12 01:04:42
Albatross
Julian Brimelow
stomatalaperture@gmail...
199.126.232.206

Grypo,

I think that they may have also incorporated some NARR (North AMerican Reanalysis) data. 

On second thoughts a pre-emptive strike may not be a god idea-- when I suggested that I was naively thiking that a draft version would be on the web somewhere.

There is going to be an awful lot of squawking by the wattus antonicus (Daniel you are a funny man) going on at WUWT this week, more than usual that is ;)

2011-05-12 02:11:45
Rob Honeycutt

robhon@mac...
98.207.62.223

You can just see the train wreck that is going to result from this paper when it doesn't pass peer review.  Anthony has put all his eggs into one basket and continues to see how many bricks he can balance on it before the whole this is completely and utterly crushed.

2011-05-12 02:24:05
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.33.91

Rob,

He says, "has run the peer review gauntlet and has been accepted."

So I would assume that it has already passed the peer-review process.

2011-05-12 02:49:37
Albatross
Julian Brimelow
stomatalaperture@gmail...
199.126.232.206

Neal and Rob,

They have received an invoice for page charges...it will be appearing in press shortly.

 

I expect a kerfuffle afterwards by the authors about how the reviewers allegedly tried to stall them at every step, blah blah blah....

2011-05-12 02:50:48
Rob Honeycutt

robhon@mac...
98.207.62.223

B-zar.  =-/

With as much work already done trying to test Watts surface station data I'm curious what new they could possibly add to their "citizen science project."

2011-05-12 04:31:55
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
64.129.227.4

We'll just have to wait and see what the paper says.  Hopefully they didn't make any broad conclusions about the lack of decreasing DTR undermining AGW, but I suspect they did.

As for why AGU would publish, as I alluded earlier, the journal can be a bit sketchy.  I believe they're the ones who published the McLean et al. (Bob Carter among the co-authors) paper which snuck in a wholly unsupported conclusion that ENSO is causing global warming.  The paper never should have passed peer-review with that concluding statement.  I hope we don't see a replay of that with Watts' paper.

2011-05-12 04:59:00
Rob Honeycutt

robhon@mac...
98.207.62.223

You know what's really bound to raise the hackles of Watts?  The many responses from the broader community of scientists.  We all know Anthony doesn't take criticism well.

2011-05-12 05:37:32
oslo

borchinfolab@gmail...
90.149.33.182

No worries.

Q: So is the United States getting warmer?

A: Yes in terms of the surface air temperature record. We looked at 30-year and 115-year trends, and all groups of stations showed warming trends over those periods.

Q: Has the warming rate been overestimated?

A: The minimum temperature rise appears to have been overestimated, but the maximum temperature rise appears to have been underestimated.

http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/05/11/the-long-awaited-surfacestations-paper/

2011-05-12 06:03:07
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
64.129.227.4

A pre-print of the paper is available here.

An interesting comment from Pielke:

Q: Do the differing trend errors in maximum and minimum temperature matter?

A: They matter quite a bit. Wintertime minimum temperatures help determine plant hardiness, for example, and summertime minimum temperatures are very important for heat wave mortality. Moreover, maximum temperature trends are the better indicator of temperature changes in the rest of the atmosphere, since minimum temperature trends are much more a function of height near the ground and are of less value in diagnosing heat changes higher in the atmosphere; e.g see .

So basically if min temps aren't rising as fast as we thought, it's bad for plants.  If max temps are rising faster, it's bad for people in temrs of heat waves, and it also means the atmosphere is also warming fast.  Very rough conclusions for "skeptics".

Another co-author, John Nielsen-Gammon, makes this comment:

Finally, and perhaps most important, are we really so lucky that the rest of the world would also have its poorly-sited stations have erroneous maximum and minimum temperature trends that just happen to be equal and opposite to each other?

So basically they can still dispute the accuracy of the global temp trend even though the US trend is accurate.

2011-05-12 06:56:56
Rob Honeycutt

robhon@mac...
98.207.62.223

Here's a funny thought...  You think that maybe the real reason Watts was miffed at Muller was that Muller was the one that announced that the Surface Station data shows no effect relative to the trend?  You think that this was so important to Anthony that he wanted to be the one announcing this in front of Congress, even if it's not what he wanted to hear?

Just a thought.

2011-05-12 10:24:29Quick skim of the WUWT paper
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
124.187.6.188

Dana, thanks for the link to the pre-print. Was going to ask Robert Rohde for a copy so you saved me doing that. Will have a detailed read on my iPad later but take-homes from abstract:

"the overall mean temperature trends are nearly identical across site classifications"

"According to the best-sited stations, the diurnal 52 temperature range in the lower 48 states has no century-scale trend"

Further in, he casts doubt on the Menne result by saying the surfacestations data Menne used was obselete:

"A recent study by Menne et al. [2010] used a preliminary classification from the Surface Stations Project, including 40% of the USHCNv2 stations. Approximately one-third of the stations previously classified as good exposure sites were subsequently re-evaluated and found to be poorly sited. The reasons for this reclassification are explained in the subsequent section. Because so few USHCNv2 stations were actually found to be acceptably sited, the sample size at 40% was not fully spatially representative of the continental USA."

Nevertheless, Menne gets it right:

the picture is a similar one, and broadly confirms the more limited findings of Menne et al. [2010] that poorer-sited stations produces larger minimum temperature trends and smaller maximum temperature trends.

This seems to be the take-home from the paper - the bad stations reduce the downward trend in the diurnal temperature range:

While the opposite-signed differences cancel for average temperature, they magnify differences in trends of the diurnal temperature range. Such trends were significantly different from CRN 1&2 trends for all siting classes and both short-term and century-scale, with the short-term (1979-2008) trend for diurnal temperature range being negative for the most poorly-sited stations and positive for the best-sited stations. The best-sited stations show essentially no long-term trend in diurnal temperature range, while the most poorly-sited stations have a diurnal temperature range trend of -0.4°C/ century.

They cite this piece of rubbish. Ugh!

Watts, A. (2009), Is the U.S. surface temperature record reliable? The Heartland Institute, Chicago, IL. 28 pp.

Turns out global warming is real. It's not "mostly air conditioners". Whodda thunk it?!

2011-05-12 11:18:22
Alex C

coultera@umich...
67.149.101.148

Have there been any studies on the diurnal temperature range that either use a world-wide station dataset or satellite data (preferably the first)?

I wonder how Watts is going to react to having to settle for second (first loser, kekeke).  Denial of his own work?  It does seem very odd that he would publish this paper and at the same time lambast Muller for basically saying the same thing: the average station temperature trend is reliable.  He would certainly have known about the results of his paper during the testimony.  Heck, it was very likely already submitted to the AGU by then.

2011-05-12 11:22:47
Alex C

coultera@umich...
67.149.101.148

To be fair to the authors, citing the Watts publication in 2009 was probably the most legitimate citation they could make with regards to the data or analysis, as Watts hasn't yet published anything about it, nor has he given away his data (whole other issue).  I am myself impressed by the extent of some of the citations that they make, such as on page three.  I'm not used to seeing so many paper names in one block - I actually think it's overdoing it, but whatever.

2011-05-12 12:02:29
Albatross
Julian Brimelow
stomatalaperture@gmail...
199.126.232.206

Why do they look at a century-scale trend, why not the last 30 years or so when AGW really started taking off?

2011-05-12 12:22:44
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey
yooper49855@hotmail...
97.83.150.37

I think they wanted to include the mid-twentieth century warming period in the record, a la FKM 2011.

"It's not a problem because, look:  it's happened before!"

2011-05-12 18:05:06
MarkR
Mark Richardson
m.t.richardson2@gmail...
134.225.187.197

"Have there been any studies on the diurnal temperature range that either use a world-wide station dataset or satellite data (preferably the first)?"

 

It should be possible. Atmospheric temperature sounders tend to be put on sun-synchronous orbiters, which cross the equator at a place twice each day ('ascending' and 'descending' orbits) which are 12h apart. AQUA crosses at 1.36 am and 1.36 pm local time for example.

<i>But</i> that's for atmospheric and not surface temperature trends. I'm not sure if a diurnal temperature range change is expected. AQUA can get sea surface temperatures reasonably well, but I'm not sure if the older MSUs were up to that so maybe the record isn't long enough?

 

 

Watts' paper notes that they don't account properly for instrumentation changes yet, which can perhaps be important. New instruments on weather balloons reduced solar heating, for example, leading to cooler daytime measurements.

 

 

I think a cautiously positive response to this paper is fair. We were pretty confident about surface temperature records before because there was extensive work on them and satellites/weather balloons agreed. The work Watts did was pretty good from a scientific pov because he desperately WANTED to find cooling but couldn't. Can't get better skeptical analysis than that!

But it doesn't yet account for instrumentation changes and it looks at century scale trends rather than shorter term stuff. Might be worth looking into the data (I'm sure Tamino would be up for it).

2011-05-12 18:38:07
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.48.248

If the paper doesn't misrepresent anything, we should welcome this paper. Seriously.

It would be good to catch Watts DOING SOMETHING RIGHT: Maybe we can "hook" him on the feeling of really contributing to science.

It's a long shot; but anyway it gives a bit of contrast to our generally negative coverage of WUWT; which increases our credibility.

 

My prediction: Romm will go unremittingly negative on the whole thing.

2011-05-12 20:06:54
Paul D

chillcast@googlemail...
82.18.130.183

When the Watts paper is published I think John should send Watts an email inviting him to personally enter his paper into the SkS database using the Firefox addon. ;-)

2011-05-12 20:32:56I can imagine Watt's response: explain yourself, sir!
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
124.187.6.188

That's become a bit of a running gag around our household - whenever we joke about someone being overly indignant about something, I use the Watts phrase "explain yourself sah!" (imagine in a clipped English upper class accent - I know Watts is American but it's funnier that way)

2011-05-13 01:09:45
Rob Honeycutt

robhon@mac...
98.207.62.223

If Watts' paper is added to the database you know it's going to have to be added into the pro-AGW side.  The paper clearly states that station siting does not alter median temperature trends.  

Watts has, as far as I understand it, done nothing more than support that the existing data sets are robust.  Maybe there are some nuances within day v night and they say they're doing a follow up paper regarding equipment blah blah blah.  

The long and short seems to be exactly what Muller said, that UHI does not have much effect on the data.

2011-05-13 01:15:54
Rob Honeycutt

robhon@mac...
98.207.62.223

Neal, I think you are RIGHT on target there, saying to hook Anthony into doing something right.  I was over at WUWT congratulating him on his paper.  He's still mentally mired in the minutia of the station data but, again, I think the big take away from the paper is that station siting does NOT alter the results of the surface station data.  

I told Anthony that his work is important because in science it's equally as important to know what does NOT have an effect as much as what DOES have an effect.  His paper clearly tells us that station siting does NOT have an effect on the data.

Thank you very much Anthony Watts for clarifying this for the entire scientific community.

2011-05-13 01:24:33post
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
69.230.97.203

When it comes out, we could even do a post on it.  I'm sure Romm will come off gloating that they confirmed the warming trend.  I suggest we congratulate the authors on getting their work published, on a valuable contribution to the temp record, but emphasize that they confirmed its accuracy, which we expected (because of satellite measurements and natural warming indicators).

2011-05-13 03:16:47
Ari Jokimäki

arijmaki@yahoo...
91.154.111.66

On the other hand, there are no good reasons from scientific point of view to advertise this paper over the hundreds of other papers published every week. If the paper has merit, then why not write about it, but if it's just another paper saying something we've already known for ages, then why bother to give them visibility (and more importantly, credibility)?

2011-05-13 03:21:56
Albatross
Julian Brimelow
stomatalaperture@gmail...
199.126.232.206

When I was musing earlier (before the release), I had no idea that Nielsen-Gammon and Niyogi were co-authors.  These guys are respected scientists and straight shooters.  That said, I am perplexed that Nielsen-Gammon suggests that these findings may not apply elsewhere,

"are we really so lucky that the rest of the world would also have its poorly-sited stations have erroneous maximum and minimum temperature trends that just happen to be equal and opposite to each other?"

I find this statement puzzling and sadly, probably fodder for the "skeptics". The study included sites using a variety of instrumentation, shelters, siting issues, climate zones and eco regions.  The whole gambit. I strongly suspect that a similar study conducted in say Eurasia or Australia would come to the same conclusions. 

Pity that deniers are going to spin this paper's findings, that is what really, really irks me.

If Romm  tries to trash this paper that would be, IMHO, counterproductive.  Say it how it is, give credit where credit is due and perhaps rub it in a little that this essentially confirms that the warming is not an artifact of siting issues and that it the findings of Menne et al.

2011-05-13 03:33:23
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.48.248

Ari,

It's like hoisting them on their own petard.

But it has to be played very straight-faced.

2011-05-13 03:41:31
Rob Honeycutt

robhon@mac...
98.207.62.223

This whole thing boils down nicely too.  

Watts et al 2011 (if that's what we're calling it) states that station siting does not affect median temperature measurements.

So, it's a pro-AGW paper.

2011-05-13 03:54:55
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.48.248

If you look at the comments at WUWT, they're so busy donating towards the page fees and high-fiving that only two of the comments mention ANYTHING about the CONTENT/IMPLICATIONS of the paper!

In other words: They seem completely oblivious to the fact that the paper says that GW is real.

Two or three voices are expecting to hear "outrage" from the mainstream-climate-science side.

This is why we have to:

- Welcome their contribution, and

- Explain clearly what the paper is saying.

2011-05-13 04:04:02Commentary on paper by Nielsen-Gammon, quoted on WUWT
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.48.248

Climate Abyss

Weather and climate issues with John Nielsen-Gammon

Something for Everyone: Fall et al. 2011

As you may have heard, the long-awaited peer-reviewed analysis of the results of the SurfaceStations.org project has finally been released. I can’t wait to see the dueling headlines. Some will argue that the take-home message should be: Poor Station Siting Strongly Effects Temperature Trend Measurements, and will laugh at the idea that we can say with sufficient accuracy what has happened to our climate. Others will argue that the take-home message should be: Poor Station Siting Has No Effect on Temperature Trend Measurements, and will laugh at all the effort expended on a null result. Both sides will find solid evidence for their points of view in the paper. How can that be? How can one paper support opposing conclusions?

First off, when you see a plot of historic temperature anomalies averaged over the United States or over the globe, you’re almost certainly looking at something derived from “mean temperatures”. The daily mean temperature is simply the average of the maximum and minimum temperatures.

Siting issues will affect maximum and minimum temperatures differently. For example, a shade tree overhanging the instrument shelter will make the maximum temperatures cooler and the minimum temperatures warmer. An air conditioner near the instrument shelter will make both maximum and minimum temperatures warmer, but probably have the biggest effect on minimum temperatures.

It’s possible that such siting problems might alter the temperature trend measured at a particular station, but clearly there will be a big effect if the siting characteristics change over time. Add an air conditioning unit, and temperatures go up. Add a tree, and the diurnal temperature range (the difference between the daily maximum and minimum temperatures) goes down.

Big siting changes started in the late 1980s, as the thermometer of choice went from a standard liquid-in-glass thermometer to MMTS, a sensor that required electricity. Quite frequently, the measurement site ended up closer to buildings because that’s where the electricity was.

In an ideal world, you’ll have records of all these changes, and you’ll have observations taken simultaneously at the old and new sites so that you’ll know what difference it makes. But as you may have noticed, ours is not an ideal world.

Correcting for such changes is a job that falls to the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). Their techniques for making adjustments to the data to correct for such problems have become more and more sophisticated over the years. First, they make the obvious correction for time-of-observation bias (if your daily observation time is in the afternoon, you’ll double-count maxes; if it’s in the morning, you’ll double-count mins), then the rest of it is based on comparing a station to its neighbors and looking for sudden jumps or steadily diverging records. If the difference is big enough, they estimate the difference and adjust for it; “big enough” is fairly small if the jump happens to coincide with a documented change of the station characteristics, but the bar is set higher if there was no known change.

The Fall et al. 2011 paper used the SurfaceStations.org ratings of the quality of the individual USHCN stations and asked some basic questions: Does the temperature measured at a site depend on the siting quality? Does the trend measured over time depend on siting quality? Do the NCDC adjustments correct for differences in siting quality? Note that Fall et al. didn’t attempt to distinguish from effects due to siting quality itself and effects due to instrument changes, nor did they look at larger-scale effects like urbanization.

Here, in brief, are the answers: The poorest sites tend to be warmer. The minimum temperatures are warming faster at poorer sites than at better sites. The maximum temperatures are warming slower at poorer sites than at better sites. The adjustments reduce the differences by about half. The two effects are roughly equal and opposite so the mean temperature is rising at about the same rate across sites of different quality while the diurnal temperature range shows the biggest difference across sites.

On the one hand, this seems to be confirmation of the quality of the temperature record. All types of sites show the same mean temperature trend, so there’s no change necessary to our estimates of observed historical temperature trends in the United States.

On the other hand, there are several warning flags raised by this study. First, station siting is indeed important for the maximum and minimum temperature measurements. Second, the adjustments are only partly correcting the temperature record. Third, since the adjustments use data from all surrounding stations, there’s the danger that the mean trends are dominated by data from the poorer stations. (Less than ten percent of the USHCN stations are sited well enough to be considered appropriate for climate trend measurements.) Finally, and perhaps most important, are we really so lucky that the rest of the world would also have its poorly-sited stations have erroneous maximum and minimum temperature trends that just happen to be equal and opposite to each other?

So if you thought that the temperature record in the US was lousy, well for mean temperatures in particular it may not be too bad. (Note: regional conditions may vary.) And if you thought that the adjusted station data had eliminated effects due to poor siting, well for most temperature variables there’s still a ways to go. I’m glad we now have the Climate Reference Network, which should at least guarantee accurate trend measurements going forward.

By the way, if you’ve downloaded the paper you may have noticed that I’m one of the authors. My involvement was mainly in the statistical analysis, and I’ll discuss the statistics of the paper in another post very soon. There’s also a lot more in the paper than my brief summary implies, and I’ll go into some of those issues later too.

Note: I’m still working without automatic comment notification, and I’m traveling besides. So please be patient; comments may take several hours to be approved and posted.

2011-05-13 04:10:07from the discussion above
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.48.248

"I can’t wait to see the dueling headlines. Some will argue that the take-home message should be: Poor Station Siting Strongly Effects Temperature Trend Measurements, and will laugh at the idea that we can say with sufficient accuracy what has happened to our climate. Others will argue that the take-home message should be: Poor Station Siting Has No Effect on Temperature Trend Measurements, and will laugh at all the effort expended on a null result. Both sides will find solid evidence for their points of view in the paper. How can that be? How can one paper support opposing conclusions?"

We need to get on top of this situation.

In particular, I'm not quite getting this point: "Finally, and perhaps most important, are we really so lucky that the rest of the world would also have its poorly-sited stations have erroneous maximum and minimum temperature trends that just happen to be equal and opposite to each other?"

2011-05-13 04:37:14
Albatross
Julian Brimelow
stomatalaperture@gmail...
199.126.232.206

Thanks for the post Neal,

Re your final comment.  I agree, see my comment up thread, 13 May 2011, 3:21 AM.

As for competing headlines, here is one from Nielsen-Gammon's blog post:

"...This seems to be confirmation of the quality of the temperature record. All types of sites show the same mean temperature trend, so there’s no change necessary to our estimates of observed historical temperature trends in the United States."

And the Wattoids are high-fiving over that?  At the end of the day global SATs from thermometers (with all their issues) agree incredibly well with measurements of lower troposphere temperatures (with all their issues).  Both systems are imperfect, yet are in excellent agreement.  the deniers just cannot escape that fact.

This study does, however raise some pertinent flags and meteorological agencies should heed those.

2011-05-13 04:37:50
Rob Honeycutt

robhon@mac...
98.207.62.223

Neal...  I'm not quite getting his point there either.  Do they teach courses in sarcasm in science at MIT?

2011-05-13 04:51:38
Alex C

coultera@umich...
67.149.101.148

The study also raises the issue of what appears to be an increasing diurnal temperature range - the better sited stations show an increasing DTR, which indicates that heat is not being kept in due to an enhanced GHE.  We should also address this issue the paper brings up, not just focus on the single topic of the reliability of the station data.  Watts went for gold and failed, but still got a consolation award.

2011-05-13 04:57:56
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.48.248

I think we need someone to do a careful, fair & balanced presentation of what IS and what IS NOT implied in this paper. If you look at the site from whence I stole the commentary, you can already see people spinning the interpretation. We should come out with a definitive summary, that takes all points into account from both sides.

2011-05-13 07:25:06
Riccardo

riccardoreitano@tiscali...
93.147.82.184

I tend to agree with Neal about how to deal with this paper.
This kind of systematic studies are important and worth the effort. They give informations on some details and suggest a way to make things better. They are barely quoted in the litterature and never seen by the larger public. The only reason why we're talking about it is that it comes from well known deniers/skeptics.
I read the paper with good intentions because I think (naively?) that Pielke Sr. in someway guarantees the quality. I don't think he's going to disrupt his reputation trying to push unsupported ideas/data.

Now the paper. The only significant differences in trends are found for unadjusted or tob-only adjusted data and for CRN 5 stations, i.e. stations placed directly on asphalt and the like (fig.3). The same applies to temperatures relative to NARR. Read the paper skipping the parts where they talk about unadjusted data or CRN5 stations and you're left with almost nothing. Even the DTR between CRN 1&2 and 3&4 is significant only because of the spatial distribution of the stations (fig. 4b, 1&2 proxies stations).
In a few words, they had essentially nothing in their hand and tried to "squeeze the data" to find something "exciting" worth publication. The message reduces to: 1) apart from CRN5 stations (6% of the total), no significant microsite influeces have been found; 2) adjustments work fine for all stations but CRN 5.
Nothing new, though no one looked at it in such details before. This work should have been done by the relevant US agencies, but it's expensive and very time consuming.
In a honest world, the temperature record argument would quitely disappear. I won't hold my breath, though.

2011-05-13 07:36:21
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.48.248

Riccardo,

Can you critique, specifically, from the comment log:

"Instrumental temperature data for the pre-satellite era (1850-1980) have been so widely, systematically, and unidirectionally tampered with that it cannot be credibly asserted there has been any significant “global warming” in the 20th century.”

“All terrestrial surface-temperature databases exhibit very serious problems that render them useless for determining accurate long-term temperature trends.”

“Contamination by urbanization, changes in land use, improper siting, and inadequately-calibrated instrument upgrades further overstates warming.”

“Numerous peer-reviewed papers in recent years have shown the overstatement of observed longer term warming is 30-50% from heat-island contamination alone.”

2011-05-13 08:15:07
Riccardo

riccardoreitano@tiscali...
93.147.82.184

Actually the paper itself and the Nielsen-Gammon blog post explicitly contraddict these claims . That comment is ironic.

They found the same trend, as consequence the temperature datasets are accurate, they are contaminated but the adjustments do a good job (save the CRN5). The last claim is not addressed explicitly by the paper, but the fact that after the adjustment they found no differences means that the heat island effect is accurately accounted for.

2011-05-13 13:30:07Strategy
Glenn Tamblyn

glenn@thefoodgallery.com...
124.180.223.122

The Watts/Pielke paper is not only a victory, but also a major opportunity. In responding to it I feel we (and everyone else on the Pro-AGW side) need to play this with an absolutely straight bat. We must absolutely resist having one iota of an 'I Told You So' tone. This isn't about AnthonyWalkOnWaterWatts and his ego.

As we have discussed before, this is as always, about the Lurkers. And the facts are simple. Questions about the temperature record motivated a whole bunch of people to go out across the US doing saome actually valid research. What they found was that the standards of the US weather station network are actually pretty crappy. And lots more people supported them in that endeavour. Their assumption was probably that this had an impact on the temperature analysis when in fact it has been shown that it doesn't. But it was still a question worth investigating.

So now the 'peoples research project', analysed by 'the peoples champions' has produced a bit of reasonable science. Yes poor station quality has an impact on lesser factors in climate like DTR but the broad conclusions of rising temps has been given another bit of support - by 'the people', not 'those scientists'.

Right now or soon there will be a lot of disappointed and perhaps disillusioned folks out there. They thought this would support their beliefs and it didn't. For some this will just harden their opposition. Others may drift away and become disengaged - even that is a win of sorts compared to opposing. But for others it may cause them to question their doubts and reevaluate. Paricularly since this new insight is comiing from a, relatively, in their eyes more trustworthy source, the people, not the Guvnmt or The Scientists.

They may be more open to thinking that, hey, if the scientists were right about this all along, then maybe my distrust of them wrt other aspects of AGW needs to be reevaluated as well.

This is a potential gold-mine in swaying public opinion, particularly in the US.

But only if we get the psychology of this right. Having any tone that is even remotely triumphal or rubbing peoples noses in it could be counterproductive. Sure, we would love to stick it to Ants, but we are indirectly doing the same thing to all the Lurkers who have supported this. And amongst them are many who may be swayed. But only if we don't humiliate them or piss them off.

So no 'I Told You So' tone, not even a patronising pat on the head 'Gee thanks for that' tone. Absolutely straight bat. 'This is an important piece of research that has provided needed confirmation of the robustness of our conclusions about climate change. Well done to all' 

Sure we might like to put AntsInHisPants down, but if giving Wattsies the Nobel Peace Prize will solve Global Warming I'll be on a plane to Oslo tomorrow to start kicking heads to make it happen.

So, in (private) conversations with other bloggers, climate scientists etc perhaps we should be arguing that this should be played completely straight bat. This is too good an opportunity to waste on point scoring.

As I said earlier I have two substantial posts nearly ready (Late tonight for a draft if this 2 finger typist can get enough time) on how the temperature is calculated and importantly why and thus why problems with stations etc don't have the impact people think they do, perhaps because of peoples unconscious but wrong assumptions about it is actually calculated. I won't include any discussion of the Watts/Pielke paper - its just serendipity that I happened to have these in the pipeline when the paper came out. Then perhaps a follow on post from someone like Dana later specifically about the paper, maybe also linking in BEST's preliminary posts as well.

There might be an advantage to my name being on the first posts. I have only published one post here before so I am not as 'tainted' as being one of 'Cooks acolytes'.

There is a lot to be gained from this if we can reign in some of our justified animus towards Watts.

On the other hand, if other deniers like Monckton try to jump on this and spin it we can go after them with hob-nailed boots. They are trying to misrepresent 'the peoples science'!

 

2011-05-13 16:38:52
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.40.61

I agree with Glenn's proposal.

I just want to point out that our presentation must have more than a summary, but must also have a walk-through of the results, so that it is clear that "counter-stories", such as the one that I excerpted from a comment log, are just incorrect.

2011-05-13 16:43:22Rob et al.: Update on my question to John N-G
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.40.61
Neal J. King says:

John,

I’m not quite getting this point: “Finally, and perhaps most important, are we really so lucky that the rest of the world would also have its poorly-sited stations have erroneous maximum and minimum temperature trends that just happen to be equal and opposite to each other?”

Could you unpack that a bit?

[Neal - We know that siting affects maxes and mins in different ways. It is likely that most impediments to poor siting affects maxes and mins differently. It is likely that the magnitude of each effect is dependent on climatic conditions (humidity and clouds, for example). Finally, the mix of siting impediments in the US does not necessarily match the mix of siting impediments in the rest of the world. This is why my expectation for siting dependence on mean temperatures worldwide is larger than the near-zero value for the United States. That said, I don't know whether the bias will be positive or negative, and the magnitude is almost certainly somewhere in between the US max bias and US min bias. - John N-G]

2011-05-13 17:05:38
Riccardo

riccardoreitano@tiscali...
192.84.150.209

Even though the min and max temperature trends errors happened to cancel by chance in US, contrary to Nielsen-Gammon I do not expect much of a difference worldwide. I can't see any reason why a thermometer in a parking lot should behave differently in, say, Europe or India.

What should be done is a coherent classification and check of all the stations throughout the world and eventually drop the CRN 5; the ones that have been shown to not being adjusted properly. A huge task but something that could be done with the help of the WMO.

Maybe I should post this comment on Nielsen-Gammon blog to see his reply to the highlighting that only CRN 5 stations are problematic.

2011-05-13 17:09:58
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.40.61

Riccardo,

JNG suggests that the mix of different site-based biases should differ: % of parking lots in India vs. US, for example.

Yes, go ahead and post at the NG site. I gave the link above.

2011-05-14 09:44:40
Andy S

skucea@telus...
66.183.161.140

If anyone is interested in doing a DTR post you may be interested in this paper which noted that observed DTRs are shrinking faster than the models predict. (From a suggestion by blogger Things Break elsewhere).

Personally, I think that the best approach to the Fall et al paper is to ignore it or to faintly praise it. A controversialist like Watts fears mainstream praise more than harsh criticism. If Watts is ever so stupid to say that his DTR observation disproves AGW, then I guess he'll get plenty of attention anyway, which propably means he's certain to.

2011-05-14 10:01:42
Albatross
Julian Brimelow
stomatalaperture@gmail...
199.126.232.206

The findings in the Zhou and Dickinson (2010) paper are err, shall we say inconvenient for the Watts crowd.....

Good find.