Temperature expert comes out swinging

This National Weather Service image shows an instrument that is meant to be an example of what a modern temperature recording instrument should look like and how it should be set up but in fact the sensor is incorrectly sited (too close to a tree). I found the image randomly when searching for an image of an MMTS, and it is a wonderful indication of how problematic the U.S. temperature record really is.

There is a realm that the overwhelming majority of Americans have never visited. In that realm there are several operative truths:

  1. It matters how you measure atmospheric temperature
  2. It matters what you do to temperature data after you record it
  3. The United States is in possession of the best temperature-measuring system in the world
  4. The United States temperature-measuring system is deeply flawed
  5. The ways that various august United States scientific agencies deal with the deeply flawed temperature data are themselves deeply flawed

That realm I’m referring to is the climate change blogosphere. The King of the Climate Change Blogosphere is Anthony Watts, a meteorologist who was horrified when he started looking at temperature measuring stations a few years back and has been horrified ever since.

While Watts assembled an army of volunteers, quite literally, to assist in the recording of problems associated with temperature stations all over the United States, he also started to accumulate an impressively large following in the blogosphere. It turns out that there are more weather, climate, and science geeks than meet the eye.

But this reflection is not for them. Rather, it is for the non-climate obsessed, the hundreds of millions of regular folks who have, through no fault of their own, come to believe that the temperature data being discussed by New York Times reporters, CNN anchors, university professors, and politicians (including Al Gore), was sacrosanct. I mean, this had to be a no brainer – that you could trust scientists working after the splitting of the atom and travel to the Moon to operate thermometers correctly, right? Well, not so much.

Ironically, this very week, yet another seemingly unassailable study by the renowned Berkeley physicist Richard Muller linking temperature rise to manmade carbon dioxide emissions was out, being touted in The New York Times. Did we have to question the actual data that such studies and articles were based upon – weren’t we beyond this?

Sadly, we did have to, and we weren’t beyond this.

Parrying the efforts of Muller to dismiss questions about the temperature record, Watts announced the forthcoming submission of an article showcasing his work on the grim status of the U.S. temperature recording network. The article had been co-authored by Steve McIntyre, likely the climate change skeptic most feared by mainstream climate scientists, and satellite-temperature-recording expert John Christy of the University of Alabama at Huntsville.

Watts and his co-authors’ findings were extraordinary: of the warming alleged by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, fully half was produced by either faulty measurements or extraneous upward adjustments of temperature. The fact that temperature data is routinely adjusted, at all, is one of the givens in the realm visited by so few people. In fact, one of the principal activities of both NASA and NOAA’s climatologists is precisely to adjust temperature. Again, this is known and accepted (although questioned) in the climate geek community and something like an urban legend, on a good day, among regular folk.

Remember: The shoddy temperature recording and data adjustments taking place in the U.S. are as good as it gets. Known temperature-measuring issues, particularly having to do with ever-larger, ever-warmer airports around the world, may well play an even larger role in the supposedly catastrophic warming that still has yet to generate the kinds of warmth scientists see evidence of from earlier climate periods. Even Muller in his Times piece admitted that the Medieval Warm Period a thousand years ago may have been as warm – or warmer – than today.

Will Watts’ academic paper bring the reality of the ugly but seemingly invisible debates about temperature being had on a near-daily basis into the public eye? In e-mail response to my questions, Watts said he hoped it would. “I also expect bureaucracy to resist addressing the issue,” he wrote. “For example when I first started this project in June 2007 within two weeks of announcing it, NCDC shut down access to the public database. I had to make legal arguments to get it restored. Likewise when my paper came out in 2009 NOAA went around quietly closing some of the most embarrassing stations that I highlighted, but made no notice to anyone.”

To buy the only book detailing Anthony Watts’ work, click here.

About Harold Ambler

I am a lifelong environmentalist. I started my journalism career at The New Yorker, where I worked as a copy editor. Since then, my own work has appeared in The New York Daily News, The National Review Online, The Atlantic Wire, The Huffington Post, The Berkeley Daily Planet, The Providence Journal, Brown Alumni Monthly, The Narragansett Times, Rhode Island Monthly, and Providence Business News.
This entry was posted in Anthony Watts, Climate change, medieval warm period, Richard Muller and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Temperature expert comes out swinging

  1. Billy Liar says:

    Well done! Needed doing.

  2. omanuel says:

    Thank you, Harold.

    Unfortunately, we cannot trust anything government-supported scientists report, . . .

    Until leaders of the scientific community and world leaders address unambiguous evidence that government funds were used to manipulate and/or hide experimental data and observations that falsified government-backed models of energy stored in the “cores of atoms and stars”:

    1. The AGW (anthropologic global warming) model of CO2-induced global warming [1,2]
    _ _http://tinyurl.com/yhyhn77; http://tinyurl.com/bmmbf2u

    2. Hideki Yukawa’s model of the “cores of atoms” [3,4]

    3. Fred Hoyle’s model of the “cores of stars” [5-7]


    [1] Robert Rohde, et al. for the Novim Group, “A new estimate of the average Earth surface land temperature spanning 1753-2011”, Journal of Geophysical Research (submitted July 2012) http://berkeleyearth.org/pdf/results-paper-july-8.pdf

    [2] Vaclav Klaus, Blue Planet in Green Shackles (Competitive Enterprise Institute, first edition (2007) http://tinyurl.com/5z4j6g

    [3] Hideki Yukawa, Introduction to Quantum Mechanics (1946); Introduction to the Theory of Elementary Particles (1948) http://www.nndb.com/people/759/000099462

    [4] Oliver K. Manuel, “Neutron repulsion,” The Apeiron Journal 19, 123-150 (2012) http://tinyurl.com/7t5ojrn

    [5] Fred Hoyle, “The chemical composition of the stars,” Monthly Notices Royal Astronomical Society 106, 255-59 (1946); The synthesis of the elements from hydrogen,” ibid. 106, 343-83 (1946)

    [6] Fred Hoyle, Home Is Where the Wind Blows: Chapters from a Cosmologist’s Life (University Science Books, 1994, 441 pages], pages 153-154

    [7] CSPAN recording of NASA releasing data in 1998 that were collected in 1995:

    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel
    Former NASA Principal
    Investigator for Apollo

  3. Brian H says:

    The “doubling” is just for the same-site comparisons. When you look at the total national figures offered by NOAA at about 4°C/century and then compare to the cleanest of the raw data, the multiplier is more like twelve. 0.34°C/century is the best real number available! Part of the data distortion was adjusting these clean records to match the worst of the urban ones.

    As the late Hal Lewis said, “…the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, … has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist.”

  4. Anonymous says:

    Readers: You realise that this site is a polemic, right? good.
    It amazes me what people do when supposed facts do not fit their personal worldview.
    When questioning certain assumptions would challenge their understanding of how the world works, they are unwilling to question them, and look for every possible other explanation.

    The question is would changing the chemical properties of the atmosphere change its thermal properties? it seems reasonable that it would.
    Has there been a recent warming trend? most published data suggests that there has.
    Is there a correlation between the increase in atmospheric co2 levels and this warming trend? published, peer reviewed studies suggest that there is.
    Can the observed warming trend be explained by the observed increase in co2 (remember correlation ≠ causation)? Attempts at simulating the earth-atmosphere-ocean system appear to suggest that it can.
    Is this warming trend a problem? depends on where you live, mostly (although it might also cause some food supply problems by moving the prime crop-growing areas away from where the established farmland is).

    What about the arguments for the other side?
    Is it all a great global conspiracy? It would be pretty amazing if it was – all that work consistently fabricating results, somehow influencing the peer review system, and keeping it up for decades – all to raise the profile of climatology a little above its use in agriculture, insurance, financial speculation, urban water supply planning, etc.
    It just seems quite hard to believe all of that, particularly as it is not occurring in other areas of science. There also just doesn’t seem to be the reward out there to justify the time and resources required for this kind of conspiracy.

    Or maybe it is all a giant stuff-up and everyone’s too embarrassed to admit it?
    This sees rather unlikely, many researchers will jump at the chance to find a stuff-up in others work. (remember these guys compete for funding, and climatologists work on more than just ‘global warming’). A stuff-up of this scale, going on for so long would also be unprecedented in the modern history of science.

    Do some political and environmental groups use ‘global warming’ as part of their political message? yes, as it tends to support their worldview. (see above) Any political group will do this.

    Do some sections of the media exaggerate the effects of warming? of course, its what those sections of the media tend to do.
    But this doesn’t make something false. There were many exaggerated reports about (for example) the exhaustion of IPV4 space, but it IS still a problem, and would have significant negative impacts on the internet if nothing was done about it, just not quite the effects claimed in the media reports.

    If the effects and trends are still considered too uncertain, then more research needs to be conducted to resolve the uncertainty. This would mean more funding for that research (pesky scientists win again).

    Maybe I am just talking nonsense, or maybe I am not.

    • Harold Ambler says:

      The facts which do not agree with your personal agenda are: Earth has warmed, cyclically, to higher temperatures than in 2012, throughout the current Ice Age that began 3 million years ago (and long before that). Attributing this old behavior to new phenomena is not a logically infallible position. In fact, it is a logically weak position. Just so we’re clear.

      If I ever do create a world conspiracy, I’ll make sure I have plenty of people on my side who are willing to be anonymous.

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