New Study: US Weather Stations Not Biased Toward Warming

Former TV weatherman Anthony Watts has been engaged in an ongoing attack on the reliability of the US network of surface weather stations, claiming that poor placement of the stations has resulted in data that’s biased toward the warm side. Watts set up the website to coordinate photographic evidence of problem stations, and many climatologists have applauded Watts for demonstrating the need to improve the nation’s weather monitoring system.

Typical problems identified at include stations situated near the exhaust of air conditioning units, in asphalt parking lots, and on hot rooftops.

But is Watts correct when he claims that problems with the stations caused a warm bias? Jeff Masters of Wunder Blog reports on a new study from the National Climatic Data Center concluding that the problems identified by Watts and his investigators are real, all right — but that the badly situated stations tend to have a bias toward cooler temperatures: Poorly sited U.S. temperature instruments not responsible for artificial warming.

While Watts’ publication by the Heartland Institute is a valuable source of information on siting problems of the U.S. network of weather stations, the publication did not undergo peer-review—the process whereby three anonymous scientists who are experts in the field review a manuscript submitted for publication, and offer criticisms on the scientific validity of the results, resulting in revisions to the original paper or outright rejection. The Heartland Institute is an advocacy organization that accepts money from corporate benefactors such as the tobacco industry and fossil fuel industry, and publishes non-peer reviewed science that inevitably supports the interests of the groups paying for the studies. Watts did not actually analyze the data to see if taking out the poorly sited surface stations would have a significant impact on the observed 1.1°F increase in U.S. temperatures over the past century. His study would never have been publishable in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

Fortunately, a proper analysis of the impact of these poorly-sited surface stations on the U.S. historical temperature record has now been done by Dr. Matthew Menne and co-authors at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). In a talk at last week’s 90th Annual Meeting of the American Meteorological Society, Dr. Menne reported the results of their new paper just accepted for publication in the Journal of Geophysical Research titled, On the reliability of the U.S. Surface Temperature Record [PDF]. Dr. Menne’s study split the U.S. surface stations into two categories: good (rating 1 or 2) and bad (ratings 3, 4 or 5). They performed the analysis using both the rating provided by, and from an independent rating provided by NOAA personnel. In general, the NOAA-provided ratings coincided with the ratings given by Of the NOAA-rated stations, only 71 stations fell into the “good” siting category, while 454 fell into the “bad” category. According to the authors, though, “the sites with good exposure, though small in number, are reasonably well distributed across the country and, as shown by Vose and Menne [2004], are of sufficient density to obtain a robust estimate of the CONUS average”. Dr. Menne’s study computed the average daily minimum and maximum temperatures from the good sites and poor sites. The results were surprising. While the poor sites had a slightly warmer average minimum temperature than the good sites (by 0.03°C), the average maximum temperature measured at the poor sites was significantly cooler (by 0.14°C) than the good sites. As a result, overall average temperatures measured at the poor sites were cooler than the good sites. This is the opposite of the conclusion reached by Anthony Watts in his 2009 Heartland Institute publication.

Figure 2. Annual average maximum and minimum unadjusted temperature change calculated using (c) maximum and (d) minimum temperatures from good and poor exposure sites (Menne 2010). Poor sites showed a cooler maximum temperature compared to good sites. For minimum temperature, the poor sites were slightly warmer. The net effect was a cool bias in poorly sited stations. The dashed lines are for stations ranked by NOAA, while the solid lines are for the stations ranked by

Andrew Revkin has more, including comments from Anthony Watts: On Weather Stations and Climate Trends.

Jump to top

Create a Page

This is the LGF Pages posting bookmarklet. To use it, drag this button to your browser's bookmark bar, and title it 'LGF Pages' (or whatever you like). Then browse to a site you want to post, select some text on the page to use for a quote, click the bookmarklet, and the Pages posting window will appear with the title, text, and any embedded video or audio files already filled in, ready to go.

Or... you can just click this button to open the Pages posting window right away.

Last updated: 2015-09-11 10:11 am PDT

LGF User's Guide RSS Feeds

Help support Little Green Footballs!

Subscribe now for ad-free access!

Recent Pages
Eclectic Cyborg
Oathkeepers boycott Waffle House for “gun ban”
Everyones favourite armed Militia nutjobs are in the news again this morning. This time they are in a furor over a Waffle House restaurant that told an armed veteran to leave his gun outside when he brought it in. The ...

20 minutes ago
Views: 24 • Comments: 0
Tweets: 0 • Rating: 0
Ramin Jalali
Iran: Athletes are forced to peddling on the streets
When the crumbled economic and social situation in Iran is covered in news most of the times the analytic figures do not illustrate the realty. The maladministration rooted in fundamentalist, tyrannical and corrupt structure of this regime during the past ...

1 hour, 4 minutes ago
Views: 60 • Comments: 0
Tweets: 0 • Rating: -3
Shiplord Kirel
‘In God We Trust’ Now Displayed on Lamesa (Texas) Hospital Ambulances - Story
"All others must have supplemental insurance" LAMESA, TX Medical Arts Hospital in Lamesa adding "In God We Trust" signs on their EMS ambulances. The decision made recently, after Childress and Seagraves police department got theirs."Anyone who gets in the back ...

2 hours, 1 minute ago
Views: 62 • Comments: 0
Tweets: 0 • Rating: 0
I Stand With Planned Parenthood
Gates Foundation Gives New Parents a Year of Paid Leave
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is giving new parents up to a year of paid parental leave. The foundation's new policy, offering both mothers and fathers up to 52 weeks of paid time off during the first year ...

5 hours, 12 minutes ago
Views: 98 • Comments: 0
Tweets: 0 • Rating: 0
New Jersey Among States Considering State-Run IRA Plans
America's retirement statistics are grim: About 40 percent of baby boomers have nothing saved for retirement, about a third of Americans who are currently retired rely on Social Security for almost all of their income, and the outlook for ...

16 hours, 35 minutes ago
Views: 148 • Comments: 0
Tweets: 0 • Rating: 0
Great White Snark
Europe Takes Major Stand Against U.S. Data Surveillance
All we had to do was keep our already existing privacy policies and not let NSA run away with the Patriot Act, FISA and massive unfettered searches of data. A new ruling could make it harder for American organizations to ...

19 hours, 52 minutes ago
Views: 163 • Comments: 1
Tweets: 1 • Rating: 0
Under the Lake Live Thread
Another Two-Parter this time, it promises to be awesome join me here!

3 days, 18 hours ago
Views: 405 • Comments: 25
Tweets: 2 • Rating: 1
Imagine Donald Trump as a Dystopian Sci-Fi Movie Tyrant ( Video )
Here's a video created by folks at the science and sci fi website io9. Its disturbing because Donald Trump really does sound like he could be Dystopian despot! Watch the video and you'll see what I mean. If you're a ...

5 days, 17 hours ago
Views: 482 • Comments: 2
Tweets: 0 • Rating: 2
Paul Canning
World’s Main Security Issue Today Is Russian Poisoned Public Opinion
I have posted before about how Americans seem to be unaware just how much Russians are being told to hate them. In this article Andreas Umland, a Kyiv based analyst and Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Euro-Atlantic ...

5 days, 19 hours ago
Views: 572 • Comments: 0
Tweets: 5 • Rating: 1
The Autumn DIY Project
Ok, so September is not exactly New Year, but as the academic term begins and schools go back following the holidays, it does feel like a fresh start. It can be a good time to tackle new projects, so why ...

1 week, 6 days ago
Views: 672 • Comments: 0
Tweets: 2 • Rating: 0