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article published in Quadrant Magazine June 25 2010

Check Australian measurements - NOW

by Des Moore

June 25, 2010

Basic faults revealed in US temperature measurements
Australia’s measurements also need checking

Anthony Watts, who has worked for 25 years in the US as a meteorologist, is currently touring Australian cities outlining (mainly) the serious (in)accuracies in US temperature measurements. His conclusions on the US suggest there is a need for an assessment of Australian temperature measurements. The tour, which has been arranged and financed by the Climate Sceptics group headed by Leon Ashby, involves Professor Bob Carter and Mr David Archibald as active participants.

Watts’ tour coincides with further “fightbacks” by warmist scientists in the face of what ABC commentator Eleanor Hall has described as “a so-far highly successful campaign by climate skeptics”. According to Hall, a closed door meeting of scientists was held in Sydney on 19-20 June to try to work out how to “shift public attitudes” on climate change by publicizing what are believed to be the facts of climate science. The meeting was apparently attended by Australia’s Chief Scientist as well as representatives from the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology. CSIRO is in fact conducting an active warmist campaign on several fronts (see inter alia CSIRO’s “Denialist” Slide Show, 20 June, Quadrant Online).

Watts has already been subjected to an attempt to shout him down when lecturing in Brisbane (see Fireworks Down Under, 17 June, Quadrant Online). But his presentation at the Institute for Private Enterprise on 22 June was received peacefully by a large audience and followed by a lengthy and informative question period.

The key message conveyed by Watts is that the official published data in the United States considerably overstates the extent of the current temperature level and the extent to which it has increased over the past century. He has reached this conclusion after a survey of about 80 per cent of the 1,221 US temperature measurement stations.

Watts said that, with help from volunteers, those temperature measurement stations had been photographed and classified according to whether they meet government specifications regarding which direction to face and how far they should be from heating sources or even walls.

Guess what? According to Watts, only 11 per cent meet those specifications and his presentation backed this up with examples from many photos showing that the locations of the stations have exposed them to significant artificial warming effects. These included locations next to the exhaust fans of air conditioning units, surrounded by asphalt parking lots and roads, on blistering-hot rooftops, near sidewalks and buildings that absorb and radiate heat, and at wastewater treatment plants (where the process of waste digestion causes temperatures to be higher than in surrounding areas).

Thus 89 percent of the stations surveyed fail to meet the National Weather Service’s own siting requirements that stations must be 30 meters or more away from an artificial heating or radiating/reflecting heat source.

What is the likely overall effect on US temperatures of these (and other) defects in weather stations? Watts told the audience that he is still working on an estimate of that. However, one test he has made provides an indication of the possible extent.

The test was to put side by side older stations that used whitewash and newer ones using latex paint. He found that, over a period, the latter, newer model had an average of 0.3 degree Fahrenheit higher maximum temperatures and 0.8 degree Fahrenheit higher minimum temperatures. Given that the estimated global warming of the past century is 1.2 degrees Fahrenheit (0.7 degree Centigrade), the implication is that (where it exists) this difference in paint alone would account for a major proportion of the rise in temperature.

Not surprisingly, the response in the US by the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) has been that their “preliminary analysis” showed no appreciable corruption of data. It claimed that “The linear trend in adjusted temperature series over the period examined was nearly identical between the stations with good siting and the stations with poor siting, with the stations having poor siting showing slightly less warming.” Watts argues that the NCDC has not in fact undertaken any comprehensive analysis and has been caught out.

 Watts has summarised the outcome of his survey in a paper 'Is the U.S. Surface Temperature Record Reliable?', published in March, as follows:

In other words, 9 of every 10 stations are likely reporting higher or rising temperatures because they are badly sited. It gets worse. We observed that changes in the technology of temperature stations over time also has caused them to report a false warming trend. We found major gaps in the data record that were filled in with data from nearby sites, a practice that propagates and compounds errors. We found that adjustments to the data by both NOAA and another government agency, NASA, cause recent temperatures to look even higher. The conclusion is inescapable: the U.S. temperature record is unreliable. The errors in the record exceed by a wide margin the purported rise in temperature of 0.7º C (about 1.2º F) during the twentieth century. Consequently, this record should not be cited as evidence of any trend in temperature that may have occurred across the U.S. during the past century. Since the U.S. record is thought to be ‘the best in the world’, it follows that the global database is likely similarly compromised and unreliable.

Watts’ assessment raises similar questions about the accuracy of measurement of temperatures in Australia. The Bureau of Meteorology has published what it describes as a “high quality” series of temperatures for Australia since 1910. This series has involved significant adjustments to the raw data collected from weather stations, supposedly to take account of possible urban heating effects (as found by Watts in the US) and other adjustments when stations have been moved. However, the adjusted series was compiled by two scientists one of whom was a lead author of the IPCC report. The series also differs markedly from the temperatures published for Australia by the IPCC, which uses the raw data. No explanation has been given by the BOM as to why the IPCC has not accepted the high quality series.

It remains to be seen what policy will now be adopted by Prime Minister Julia Gillard. In her initial press conference she confirmed her belief in the dangerous warming thesis. At the same time she acknowledged that the Government had failed to secure a “community consensus” and indicated she would be working to achieve that. This suggests a “softening” in the Rudd approach and could conceivably provide the basis for an independent public inquiry into the science or at the least into the temperature measurement series.

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