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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?