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This will be a quick diary, which I don't really have time to write-- but the story is just too juicy.

One of the many ways we measure temperature is with thermometers.  Many of these thermometers are attached to a large network of 1000+ weather stations located throughout the US.  Some of these show lower temps than those in the vicinity (someone located them just west of a tree, which blocks the sun) while others show higher temps (built nearby a parking lot, which absorbs sun).

Now, a new "study" has shown that the overall, these differences cancel out.  That is, the best-located stations show precisely the same temperature trends as the set of all stations.

Amazingly, this "study" was carried out by a team of dozens (hundreds?) of Global Warming Deniers.

The story begins with a fellow named Anthony Watts, author of the notorious anti-science blog Watt's Up With That.  

Mr. Watts had a hypothesis he wanted to prove-- that (contrary to what scientists everywhere believe) women are actually taller than men.  So he started a blog, and once or twice a week added pictures of a tall woman standing next to a short man-- all the while writing long posts about how the government was either too incompetent or stupid to realize this elementary truth.  He never showed pictures of tall men standing next to short women.

Then, he formed an army of hundreds of volunteers and had them fan out across the country to take pictures of tall women and short men.  They put together a website specifically devoted to collecting pictures from their travels.

No, I'm kidding he didn't do any of that.  He did start a blog, but it was actually devoted to spreading pictures of weather stations that were reporting temperatures that were higher than normal (for example, they were located in a parking lot).  And he formed a team of hundreds of people-- linked together by a web site at surfacestations.org which took pictures of hundreds of stations, and classified them (based on location) as "best", "good", "fair", etc, etc.

Then, he published lots of pictures on his blog of the ones that tended to report higher-than-average temps-- all the while writing long posts about how the government was either too incompetent or stupid to realize its weather stations were overreporting temperatures.  For some reason, Watts never published pictures of sites underreporting temps.

So the NOAA-- which has to devote an increasing amount of its time to dealing with cranks-- said to themselves.  "Hmmm.. what happens if we take this guy's data-- which consists of judgments of dozens (hundreds?) of people, most of whom are a) untrained, b) hate us or c) both-- and see what it says about the temperature record?"

So they ran some calculations(pdf) twice.  The first case (red) show the officially recorded temperatures which average data from all substations (there are two lines because one is an annual average and one is over a longer period).

Then, they took data from the 70 stations that Watts and his motley crew think are "good" or the "best."  That's the blue line, and you can see its essentially the same.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

This is a surprise, since the 70 stations cover only 43% of the country.  Many states are not covered at all.

Mr. Watts has rebutted this story, noting that the 70 stations is actually a few weeks out of date, and the study really ought to be done with the latest data, which would involve 90 stations.  For some reason, he doesn't say whether or not this would make any difference.  

So here is what this band of Global Warming Deniers has demonstrated.

  1.  Many stations in the (underfunded) NOAA are not located in ideal places.  Some are too hot, some are too cold.  But overall, the average temps reported by ideally located stations are the same as the averages temps reported by all stations.
  1.  If you are willing to pick and choose which data you report, you can "prove" that NOAA temp monitors are biased towards heat, or that the media is biased towards covering up the known truth that women are taller than men, or whatever the heck you want.
  1.  US surface temperatures (as measured by the best NOAA stations) are increasing, particularly for the last few decades.

Mr. Watts, of course, did not note any of these conclusions, but instead wrote a long report complaining about how the NOAA's (non-peer reviewed) analysis a) has typos, b) shouldn't have published anything before he published his study, c) didn't properly cite the study which he didn't publish.  Okey-dokey.

We know the US is warming because glaciers are retreating, spring comes earlier, winter comes later, species are migrating north, etc, etc.  And now, thanks to Mr. Watts and his merry band of Global Warming Deniers, we know that the direct record of temperatures stands up quite well to extended scrutiny.

Building on this success, I think Mr. Watts should go from strength to strength, and perhaps run a series proving that fire is actually cold, perhaps by showing a new picture every week showing people walking on hot coals. Or maybe he could prove that gravity actually pulls things up (lots of pictures of helium balloons).

What new project do you think Mr. Watts should devote his talents and energies to?

Originally posted to chapter1 on Wed Jun 24, 2009 at 07:26 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

    •  maybe this would not convince the (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BYw

      general public, but the way I see it... If NOAA really wants to know if all of their stations are producing reliable data, all they have to do is plot each station's trend individually, and versus the mean line for all stations.  

      Then just look for outliers.  They don't need to do any extensive, or expensive study.  

      If there are some stations that show up consistently above or below the mean line, then they can go to those stations and find out why.

      "My greatest strength, I guess it would be my humility. Greatest weakness, it's possible that I'm a little too awesome." -Barack Obama 10/16/08

      by Hopeful Skeptic on Wed Jun 24, 2009 at 10:43:01 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  oh yeah.. what's the meaning of the question mark (0+ / 0-)

      and the arrow pointing to "1228" in the figure legend?

      "My greatest strength, I guess it would be my humility. Greatest weakness, it's possible that I'm a little too awesome." -Barack Obama 10/16/08

      by Hopeful Skeptic on Wed Jun 24, 2009 at 10:44:48 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for this ... (8+ / 0-)

    enlightening and amusing at the same time.

    By the way, a complaint (perhaps).  When citing anti-science syndrome sufferers, I think it sensible to provide links not directly to their deceptive sites but to link through, first, to someone providing some critical thinking/examination to their deception.  For WUWT (Watt's Up with That) I think the best reference is to Diagnosing a victim of anti-science syndrome (ASS) which opens ...

    [Note: Watts Up With That, one of the web's most anti-scientific blogs, is a finalist for the Weblog awards "Best Science Blog" (see "Weblog Awards duped by deniers -- again!"). Even more farcically, early voting suggests Watts has a chance of winning (see here). Since the fine science blog Pharyngula is doing well in the voting, I'd now suggest voting for it.]

    In this post I’m going to present the general diagnosis for "anti-science syndrome" (ASS). Like most syndromes, ASS is a collection of symptoms that individually may not be serious, but taken together can be quite dangerous — at least it can be dangerous to the health and well-being of humanity if enough people actually believe the victims.

    One tell-tale symptom of ASS is that a website or a writer focuses their climate attacks on non-scientists. If that non-scientist is Al Gore, this symptom alone may be definitive.

    The other key symptoms involve the repetition of long-debunked denier talking points, commonly without links to supporting material. Such repetition, which can border on the pathological, is a clear warning sign.

    Scientists who kept restating and republishing things that had been widely debunked in the scientific literature for many, many years would quickly be diagnosed with ASS

    The full discussion is worth a read.

  •  Good illustration that if you are too uninformed (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose, chapter1

    to figure out what good science is, then you won't know what bad science is either. And Mr. Watts ended up accidentally helping to prove that NOAA was right.

    What a lucky knucklehead.

    "I'm a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will" - Antonio Gramsci (-6.15, -6.75)

    by ewmorr on Wed Jun 24, 2009 at 07:35:56 AM PDT

  •  i actually thought surface stations (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Wee Mama, dennisl, chapter1, Ohio Max

    was a good project.

    if you have a hypothesis, go out and prove it, or have it disproven. seems science worked for both groups, even if one group didn't get their hypothesis proven.

    (+0.12, -3.33) I didn't vote for the Unitary Exec. Not sure what some of you folks voted for!

    by terrypinder on Wed Jun 24, 2009 at 07:39:47 AM PDT

    •  It is, in many ways, a good project (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RunawayRose, terrypinder

      Apparently a lot of these stations haven't been checked.

      They do some things right, such as publishing methodology and preliminary data.  That NOAA was able to run calculations using their data says good things about the surface stations data collection and transparency.

      However, they (or at least Watts) selectively report their data, ignoring results which contradict their previously held beliefs.  This what causes all the problems and changes it from science to alchemy.

  •  What a cool project! (0+ / 0-)
    Sort of-

    I don't mean that insane rambling typoed waste of precious cyber-space, oh  no no. You could get thousands of temp reports a day in an honest effort.  Cool idea + bias towards the data = crappy execution

    I am not now nor do I know a meteorologist. But it sounds like if it were real it might be a cool thing to do.

    It was 86% @ 9:18 am in Shawnee Ok. = damn

    They want to break down the white, Christian, male power structure - O'Reilly ........ Yes We Can - President Obama

    by Arthur Wolf on Wed Jun 24, 2009 at 07:52:12 AM PDT

  •  I was just at 9 AM swim lessons. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Wee Mama, Big Tex
    I promise you this Earth is warming.

    A little something for the weathermen, there.  

  •  I've lived here in North Texas (0+ / 0-)

    long enough to witness climate change, so I have very little patience for people who deny that it's taking place.  Couldn't tell you the last time that we got anything more here in the Dallas area than a little bit of sleet/ice, or the occasional light dusting of snow, but I remember when I was a child that we would have actual winters, and even occasionally snow in significant amounts.  My mother would make us kids put bread bags on over out shoes before we went out in the snow so our feet wouldn't get wet.  But we had a blast playing in the snow, something that I doubt a lot of kids living in this area get to do at all these days unless they take a winter vacation elsewhere.  It's kind of bittersweet thinking back on the fun we had building snowmen and pelting each other in the head with snowballs, because I wonder how much longer children are going to be able to do that here on Earth before the planet becomes so warm that snow no longer falls anywhere.

    As for summers, well, I doubt you'd have any trouble convincing someone who's lived through a summer here in Dallas about the idea that the planet is getting warmer.  It's always been hot during the day - still remember the heat wave we had back in 1980 - but it seems to stay hot in the evenings as well, moreso than when I was younger.  I'm sure this would all be considered anecdotal by a global warming denier, but for me it's personal confirmation of what the data is showing.

    •  Something from downthread (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Big Tex

      a mention about the time of day for the readings. I'd like to know more about the Earth holding onto heat through the night cycle. Readings throughout the day AND the night would tell us SO much more.

      I'm only a few hours from Dallas and I can confirm your story. We had practically no winter at all this year in this part of the country.

      So, even as poorly as they collected, examined, discarded and interpreted the numbers it still didn't workout for them. Is it any wonder that they have to lie all the time to get their way?

      The truth has a liberal bias-
          - Stephen Colbert

      They want to break down the white, Christian, male power structure - O'Reilly ........ Yes We Can - President Obama

      by Arthur Wolf on Wed Jun 24, 2009 at 09:01:26 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Surface Stations (0+ / 0-)

    Mr. Watts has rebutted this story, noting that the 70 stations is actually a few weeks out of date, and the study really ought to be done with the latest data, which would involve 90 stations.  For some reason, he doesn't say whether or not this would make any difference.  

    The numbers of stations involved at this point don't make a damn bit of difference.  An analysis which gave a similar result as the NOAA survey was performed ages ago by one of Watts ex-fans (on about 1/3 of the stations).  Watts could have done the same kind of thing himself, but he knows what answer would be and the longer he stalls the longer his work looks like a refutation of AGW.  

  •  One point (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    chapter1

    "Some of these show lower temps than those in the vicinity (someone located them just west of a tree, which blocks the sun)"

    Only in the AM

    But yea they're full of shit.

    "Chickens are a decent people..."

    by Ex Real Republican on Wed Jun 24, 2009 at 08:19:04 AM PDT

    •  Good catch (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Arthur Wolf

      and I actually meant to write east of a tree, so it would be shielded from the hot afternoon sun.  (Incidentally, this example was taken from the NOAA response).

      In any event, whether this example would reduce temps in the AM or PM, it would still reduce daily averages somewhat, rendering such a station colder than it should be.

    •  When you average it over time (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BYw

      you will get a slightly lower average temp than if it was not close to a tree.  Indeed, trees are terrible for measuring local temps because they have a cooling effect.  They respirate, which generally cools the area down.  And the shade, plus the change in cross-sectional area causes winds to change direction around them, again makes them cooler.

      But once again, this would only tend to advance the argument that AGW is supported by the data.

  •  From NOAA report: Disclaimer. (0+ / 0-)

    Q. What can we say about poor siting’s impact on national temperature trends?
    A. We are limited in what we can say due to limited information about station siting. Surfacestations.org has examined about 70% of the 1221 stations in NOAA’s Historical Climatology Network (USHCN). According to their web site of early June 2009, they classified 70 USHCN version 2 stations as good or best (class 1 or 2). The criteria used to make that classification is based on NOAA’s Climate Reference Network Site Handbook so the criteria are clear. But, as many different individuals participated in the site evaluations, with varying levels of expertise, the degree of standardization and reproducibility of this process is unknown.

    "They" don't draw any real conclusions from this prelimanary work.  I will be looking forward to the complete study.

  •  Global Warming is the Wrong Issue (0+ / 0-)

    We are at or past peak oil.

    We are going to use the rest regardless.

    The issue is how are we going to feed over six billion people on this planet without oil.

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