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Surfacestations: the punchline

And what a punchline it is. Anthony has finally published the results of his epic Surfacestations project, and it seems that the surface temperature record is as flawed as we thought. Here's some excerpts from the press release.

SAN FRANCISO, CA – A new study about the surface temperature record presented at the 2015 Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union suggests that the 30-year trend of temperatures for the Continental United States (CONUS) since 1979 are about two thirds as strong as officially NOAA temperature trends.

Using NOAA’s U.S. Historical Climatology Network, which comprises 1218 weather stations in the CONUS, the researchers were able to identify a 410 station subset of “unperturbed” stations that have not been moved, had equipment changes, or changes in time of observations, and thus require no “adjustments” to their temperature record to account for these problems. The study focuses on finding trend differences between well sited and poorly sited weather stations, based on a WMO approved metric Leroy (2010)1 for classification and assessment of the quality of the measurements based on proximity to artificial heat sources and heat sinks which affect temperature measurement...

A 410-station subset of U.S. Historical Climatology Network (version 2.5) stations is identified that experienced no changes in time of observation or station moves during the 1979-2008 period. These stations are classified based on proximity to artificial surfaces, buildings, and other such objects with unnatural thermal mass using guidelines established by Leroy (2010)1 . The United States temperature trends estimated from the relatively few stations in the classes with minimal artificial impact are found to be collectively about 2/3 as large as US trends estimated in the classes with greater expected artificial impact. The trend differences are largest for minimum temperatures and are statistically significant even at the regional scale and across different types of instrumentation and degrees of urbanization. The homogeneity adjustments applied by the National Centers for Environmental Information (formerly the National Climatic Data Center) greatly reduce those differences but produce trends that are more consistent with the stations with greater expected artificial impact. Trend differences are not found during the 1999- 2008 sub-period of relatively stable temperatures, suggesting that the observed differences are caused by a physical mechanism that is directly or indirectly caused by changing temperatures...

Lead author Anthony Watts said of the study: “The majority of weather stations used by NOAA to detect climate change temperature signal have been compromised by encroachment of artificial surfaces like concrete, asphalt, and heat sources like air conditioner exhausts. This study demonstrates conclusively that this issue affects temperature trend and that NOAA’s methods are not correcting for this problem, resulting in an inflated temperature trend. It suggests that the trend for U.S. temperature will need to be corrected.” He added: “We also see evidence of this same sort of siting problem around the world at many other official weather stations, suggesting that the same upward bias on trend also manifests itself in the global temperature record”.

The full AGU presentation can be downloaded here:

Much more at Anthony's.

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Reader Comments (114)

This is what led me to reading WUWT.
This is why I chipped in to get him to the AGU event.

It's the honest reason why the thermometers look scary.
Urbanisation is the greatest change in the history of mankind - since we stopped hunter gathering.

It's going to be picked up in every large scale measurement system.
But we forgot about it.

Dec 17, 2015 at 10:28 PM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

I would mention that as a conversational exaggeration that they put them thermometers at traffic lights, but they REALLY DO IT!!

(see pic1 @ WUWT)

Dec 17, 2015 at 10:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterVenusCold

Well done AW on the publication of many years of work!

As will all such 'revelations' in the climate arena, be they alarmist or as in this case sceptical, only time will tell of any ongoing implications.

The sunlight review process has only just begun. Over the next few days there will be some fervent if not frantic activity in search of an Achilles Heel.

The amount of activity will be directly proportional to the number of feathers ruffled!

Dec 17, 2015 at 10:53 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

I think it's not yet published (at least in a sense of "in a peer reviewed magazine"). From WUWT: "We are submitting this to publication in a well respected journal. No, I won’t say which one because we don’t need any attempts at journal gate-keeping like we saw in the Climategate emails."

Dec 17, 2015 at 11:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterSven

Well, glad Anthony is finally getting his work out there. I get the feeling it's been a labour of love! Good idea to get some big names (Christy, Nielsen-Gammon) behind it as it will make it more difficult for the activists to block its publication.

I noted they chose 1979-2008, which overlaps the satellite period, but surprised they did not report the satellite trend in the press release and graphics. So I downloaded UAH v6.0 beta which includes a monthly USA48 series (which I guess should be comparable to the contiguous US used in Anthony's study?). Some care is required in the comparison as they are measuring related, but not identical things (near surface air temp vs. lower troposphere).

I was worried they might not have mentioned it because it wasn't too favourable, but it looks quite consistent with their "high quality" station result, at 0.227 deg C trend per decade for the monthly data from 1979 to 2008 inclusive. Gives extra credibility to their work that it is corroborated by other measurements, in my opinion.

Dec 17, 2015 at 11:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterSpence_UK

I am surprised these unadulterated stations were not adjusted upwards, simply to homogenise them with all the ones that were.

Dec 17, 2015 at 11:58 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Yesterday, I happened to drive by the station that I surveyed for the study and wondered, "what ever happened to the surface stations project?" Now I know.

Dec 18, 2015 at 12:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterSpeed

Anthony has made his little Army of Davids proud.

Dec 18, 2015 at 1:10 AM | Unregistered Commentertmitsss

Three cheers!

Makes you wonder how many stations globally make the grade. Makes you wonder how good the older readings are... actually we sort of know already but I didn't want to type cra...

Dec 18, 2015 at 1:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Developing country temp readings will be going up like crazy as they attempt to justify their claim for a portion of the $100bn/yr Climate Reparations.
... $$$ settling the science a possibility

Dec 18, 2015 at 1:56 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Real Computer Adjusted Climate Science Experts will now argue that the white paint used for the Stevenson Screens had been transported in boats using buckets to record sea water temperature, so the paint curdled due to solar flares.

Lewandowsky will prove that curdled paint, is often confused with Obama's Blue Moon Cheese, and relected blue light has confused amateur thermometers readings since before thermometers were invented, which is why the moon landings weren't faked, they just landed on the wrong moon.

If all this sounds unlikely, how likely is it that the Hockey Team will admit a mistake? About as likely as a total eclipse caused by flying pigs, before Obama is UnPresidented

Dec 18, 2015 at 2:00 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

From a purely scientific standpoint, I would be interested to see how the algorithms of the land-based temperature groups perform when the start point of their land-based data was 1979 only, and also how it performs on the satellite data.

I suspect the algorithm(s) continuously adjust the past, based on current data, but also adjust the present, based on past data. They need to front up about how it works, and provide a way for critics to access answers to questions about how their models work. (And no, I don't need Steve Mosher telling me to write my own program to do it before my questions can be considered valid.)

Dec 18, 2015 at 2:10 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

“5. We believe the NOAA/NCDC homogenization adjustment causes well sited stations to be adjusted upwards to match the trends of poorly sited stations.”

Why isn’t this criminal?

Dec 18, 2015 at 2:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon B

Don B, why isn't this criminal? Under UK law, how US scientists fiddle with each other's delicate instruments, it wouldn't be, especially as they did not intend to do it in public.

Dec 18, 2015 at 2:49 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

If my counting is correct, this late in the evening, 36 of the 50 US state all time maximum temperature records were set prior to 1940. Capture this data before homogenization cools the past.

Dec 18, 2015 at 2:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon B

"Anthony has finally published the results of his epic Surfacestations project,"
Really ? In what journal ? Where's the DOI number?

Watts has certainly set up a one-day poster at he AGU meeting , a walk-on act anybody with $65 can perform, but that does not a scientific publication make.

WUWT fans had best hurry , for the AGU Poster Session Guidelines end in the dreaded Cinderella Clause :

Poster Removal
Posters must be removed by 6:30 P.M. Posters remaining after this time will be removed and recycled.

No one can accuse the AGU of exluding scientific dissent, as all it asks is that posters reflect the abstracts sent in for the meeting program.

Easily 97% of geophysicists esteem the afternoon poster sessions the high point of the meeting , since free beer is served .

Dec 18, 2015 at 3:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

"The end of the world isn't what it used to be"

Dec 18, 2015 at 4:34 AM | Unregistered Commenterclipe

Thanks to Clipe for reminding us that end-runs around peer review are as old a problem as the polemic abuse of modeling.

Unfortunately, the worst example of the misrepresentation of science to the public by the antiwar left has been adopted as a Best Practice by PR flacks on both sides of the climate wars.

Dec 18, 2015 at 4:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

There's always at least one troll who will defend the indefensible.

Dec 18, 2015 at 5:55 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

What kind of buckets charlie ? The RN changed models twice in the last century from oak to canvas and before swithing to the thermometer-friendly insulated item used today.

Dec 18, 2015 at 6:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

Russell, you will just have to wait until the paper has safely passed through the Valley of Death.

“I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow — even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!” and “I will be emailing the journal to tell them I’m having nothing more to do with it until they rid themselves of this troublesome editor.”

Dec 18, 2015 at 7:06 AM | Unregistered Commenterbetapug

"Really ? In what journal ? Where's the DOI number?"

Published at the links provided. It's a fairly predictable conclusion wouldn't you think? It just took a lot of time consuming work to cover all the stations comprehensively.

"It's going to be picked up in every large scale measurement system.
But we forgot about it.

Everyone is aware of urban effects, especially walking across an asphalt car park on a hot sunny calm day. I'm influenced by UHI at the moment on my corrugated iron roofed terrace right now in Mauritius.....

Dec 18, 2015 at 7:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterRob Burton

"From a purely scientific standpoint, I would be interested to see how the algorithms of the land-based temperature groups perform"

Why do you need algorithms as we are talking about really basic data here. Some very basic adjustments may be useful but otherwise just a simple commonsense interpretation of the values should be all that is necessary. Data is Data anything derived from it is interpretation and theory.

Why can't we just get, say the best 100 sites in the world allowing for reasonable coverage in most areas and length of record. That should be pretty good data for land based "global temperature"

Dec 18, 2015 at 7:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterRob Burton

2016 will show the biggest global temperature measurement mistake EVAH!

Dec 18, 2015 at 7:52 AM | Unregistered Commenterssat

I wonder what the full records back to the early 20th century look like and does it validate Steven Goddards findings that the overall trend in the US comes entirely from adjustments. I can't understand why they have held that data back.

Dec 18, 2015 at 8:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Thank you, Russell, for being the voice of reason.

Dec 18, 2015 at 8:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterAila

Physicists and chemists have review journals (Reviews of Modern Physics, Chemical Reviews, for example) in which topics of current interest are reviewed by a respected academic in encyclopedic detail and conclusions drawn . These reviews become the bedrock for future researchers.
It seems that the subject of "homogenisation" has become such a "hot topic" that it should be treated to a review in eg Revs of Geopyhs (I have not admittedly checked whether it has already been done). The question is who should carry out the task .
Alternatively it could be made the subject of PhD theses for young aspiring climate scientists , young enough to still be objective.

Dec 18, 2015 at 8:51 AM | Unregistered Commentermikewaite

I have been saying it for a long time , science 101 tells us that if you cannot accurately measure something you can only guess it no matter gran your theory or much computer power you throw at it . This is turn makes your claims subject to whole load of problems . Worse still when your not even clear on what the problems are , how large their affects and in what direction.

From Atoms to planets , form the speed of light to the speed of snail , in the end your ability to 'know' can be largely down to your ability to measure , and out ability to measure in this area is a long way below that that is required to 'know' this area .
There plenty of reason that weather predictions are so hit and miss and that they cannot even now give one worth a dam for more than 72 hours ahead, I have yet to see any good explanation as to why the same reasons , and perhaps more , do not effect out ability predict climate too other than wishful thinking .

Dec 18, 2015 at 8:51 AM | Unregistered Commenterknr

It's interesting that John Nielsen-Gammon has put his name to this. He was also a co-author of Fall et al 2011 but that paper was less clear-cut on the effect of station siting.

Dec 18, 2015 at 9:07 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

Kudos to Mr. Watts.

What has been uncovered is yes, data tampering of a sort - to what's left of my mind it also indicates incredibly sloppy data gathering by a constipated bureaucracy who very obviously think they can fix things with memos and policy meetings....

Beyond the examples of poor siting - many of the sites are scruffy and in an inexcusable state of disrepair - Herman Miller office chairs patently trump a bit of due diligence....

It is simply unacceptable that a private citizen (with the requisite skills and experience) at their own cost should have to go around evaluating a publicly funded monitoring system - doubly unacceptable that the system in question has proven to be comprehensively compromised by incredibly poor methodology and triply unacceptable that the goons in charge have seemingly chosen to deliberately massage ropey data to fit with an agenda of policy based evidence making.

Dec 18, 2015 at 9:31 AM | Registered Commentertomo

After NOAAs patently absurd adjustments to eliminate the 'pause' by throwing away the only good sea surface temperature data in favour of rank bad data, their credibility was already at an all time low.

Dec 18, 2015 at 9:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG


..."Anthony has finally published the results of his epic Surfacestations project,"
Really ? In what journal ? Where's the DOI number?...

Why should we make this information available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?

(after Dr Phil Jones)

Dec 18, 2015 at 9:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

Be interesting to see a comparison with the 410 stations and the Satellite temps where they both have coverage and see who well they match, recognising that the Satellite temps are not air temps just off the ground.

Dec 18, 2015 at 10:04 AM | Registered CommenterBreath of Fresh Air

Great news that sceptics have at last moved beyond simply throwing stones at the "official" temperature reconstructions and have done their own, suggesting at first sight that some of the stone throwing was justified. The US was always the place to start, given that temperatures there are being highly oversampled spatially from a climatological point of view, allowing the luxury of just discarding any data that needs adjustment.

Hopefully this will inspire others to look at other areas, such as Europe and Australia.

Dec 18, 2015 at 10:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterMikky

Evan jones answered that on WUWT comments. Apparently the trend is 10% lower than satellites; ie closer to what theory predicts.

Dec 18, 2015 at 10:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

At the top it says 'San Franciso'. It's spelled incorrectly on WUWT as well. Sloppy.

Dec 18, 2015 at 10:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterANH

US taxpayers really ought to be seeking retrospective downward adjustments of Hockey Team salaries, to homogenise them with those made redundant.

Dec 18, 2015 at 10:15 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Could we all just agree science by press release isn't science? While people may like the conclusions Anthony Watts posted at WUWT, he hasn't actually published anything. He hasn't shared any data. He hasn't shown any analysis. Heck, he hasn't even released a paper for people to read. All he's done is issue what he calls a very important press release to declare he got some results that nobody can possibly check for themselves.

Now, he does say at some unspecified and unknowable point in the future, he'll release the stuff necessary for people to examine his work. There's no knowing when that will wind up being though, and until it happens, nobody can do anything to check any of his results.

This isn't how science is supposed to work. A person could completely fabricate a set of results then issue a very important press release telling everyone about them and encouraging people to spread the word while having no intention of ever releasing anything to support his claims because he never had anything. I'm not saying that's what happened here, but it'd be impossible to tell the difference.

If people don't hate any data or analyses for people to look at, then they don't have anything important to issue a press release for. That's all there is to it. If Anthony wanted to just post an update on the project to let people know where things stand, that'd have been fine, but issuing what he claims to have been a very important press release when he knew he had nothing for people to actually examine was wrong.

Dec 18, 2015 at 10:18 AM | Registered CommenterBrandon Shollenberger

Bish - and it seems that the surface temperature record is as flawed as we thought.

Spence_UK - 0.227 deg C trend per decade for the monthly data from 1979 to 2008 inclusive

So even Watts' no doubt carefully-mined stations (He's applied bits of Leroy 2010 he likes and ignored others, such as slopes and shading, no doubt this will be justified when this Watts et al 2012 is eventually fit for publication LOL) . gives a straight -line trend of 2.2C a century.

Not sure this is much cause for comfort.

Dec 18, 2015 at 10:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhil Clarke

Oh crap, that's twice I've agreed with Brandon in a fortnight.

Dec 18, 2015 at 10:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhil Clarke

Brandon Shollenberger, he's had to announce this now because he made a presentation at the AGU. It would have been a slap in face to sceptics if he hadn't shared with us what he shared there. To us this is a big announcement. I'm sure that if this had been a warmist paper it would have been rushed through publication to link with the presentation and you'd know whether his promise to release the data was genuine. It's ironic that sceptics have to provide data to prove credibility where 'genuine climate scientists' don't. Maybe if you arranged a few million for Anthony (like the Shukla guy got) he could work a bit faster on these things, otherwise, stop whining.

Dec 18, 2015 at 10:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Brandon Shollenberger, It's a press release for a presentation he's making today. The data is not released with a press release.
It's released (or should be) at the end of the presentation.

You know what would happen if he gave away his work early.
NOAA would alter the metadata of the critical stations, claim the work is out of date and so block publication.

Meaning the project has to start again to be blocked again and thus there would be no accountability or scientific progress.

(My father had a similar problem when comparing the datasets, HADCrut and GISS. Everytime it was about to get through peer review one or the other would be updated slightly and the paper had to resubmit).

Dec 18, 2015 at 10:39 AM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

Mikky, unfortunately, Hockey Team players and their cheerleaders will merely bleat that this work has not been peer approved by Hockey Team approved experts, and published in a Hockey Team approved psyientific journal, by a fully salaried Hockey Team approved editor.

They will also point out that one of the researchers once owned a car with an oil leak, and had to buy oil, from an oil company. Some of unadjusted data originated during the Cold War, when temperatures were cooler anyway, as every Hockey Team player knows, and anyone who disagrees is just relying on anecdotal historical evidence.

This will be presented as conclusive proof to President Obama by White House Hockey Team Science expert John Holdren.

Dec 18, 2015 at 10:40 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie


Dec 18, 2015 at 10:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterDaveR

Phil Clarke, the research is purely on the most recent US data - one might assume that it is more accurate than the majority of data sets across the globe and over two and a half centuries. I'm assuming that this paper isn't to demonstrate what the global figures might be but to erode the certainty in the whole system.

Dec 18, 2015 at 10:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Aila, at 8.32 a.m. says: "Thank you, Russell, for being the voice of reason."

The truth is that for many of us who visit this site, the story looks like good news, as it appears to support our views and confirm some of our suspicions. The intelligent response from us should be to await the detail, analyse it as sceptically as we would analyse information we doubt from "the other side" (and sadly there are sides in what should be a scientific debate). Having done that, we should form a more definite conclusion.

Climate alarmists, who don't like the story, should say: "That's interesting. It casts doubt on what I thought before, so I need to study it carefully and see if it's credible, or whether I can properly dismiss it because it's full of holes." But Russell's response (supported by AIia and Brandon) is immediately to attack it. How predictable. That, Aila, is not the "voice of reason". It is the voice of unreason. It is a sad echo of the Catholic church attacking Galileo. It is the sound of the true believer dogmatically attacking anything which challenges his or her religion.

Dec 18, 2015 at 10:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterMark Hodgson

Brandon, your comments on following the correct scientific method, and not publishing science via press release, are noted, and fair and reasonable in all fields of science.

Unfortunately Hockey Team players have consistently moved the goal posts in Computer Adjusted Climate Science, and adjusted the bars (errors or otherwise) to such an extent, that nobody knows what constitutes a level playing field on Krakatoa any more, and in which century to look.

Dec 18, 2015 at 10:56 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

M Courtney, there has been a paper submitted to a journal but as yet there is no news on where and when or even if it will be published. I doubt the data will be published before the paper comes out or Watts et al decide that it's not going to be. I got the impression that the chances of publication aren't bad.

Dec 18, 2015 at 11:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

"Now, he does say at some unspecified and unknowable point in the future, he'll release the stuff necessary for people to examine his work. There's no knowing when that will wind up being though, and until it happens, nobody can do anything to check any of his results."

Maybe you might like the same suggestion to Michael Mann, Brandon?

Dec 18, 2015 at 11:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

Judith Curry writes favourably of Anthony's study, here :-

Dec 18, 2015 at 11:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

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