Will Media Ever Investigate Accuracy of Weather Stations?

Assume for a moment there was evidence some weather stations around the country were underestimating mean temperatures. Would a media fixated on expanding climate change alarmism investigate and report this phenomenon to demonstrate that the planet was actually warmer than people think?

“60 Minutes,” “20/20,” and “Dateline” would have all done rather lengthy exposés into the matter, correct?

Well, a former meteorologist for the CBS-TV affiliate KHSL in Redding, California, by the name of Anthony Watts has examined 48 of the 1221 weather stations in the 48 lower states, and found irregularities that could be skewing the data upward.

Watts reported his first startling finding on this subject at his “Watts Up With That?” website on May 9, 2007 (emphasis added throughout):

To get an idea of the measurement environment that exists today at stations used to gather climate data, I visited the Chico State University Fram on Hegan Lane, south of the city, to do a site survey in the format done by Dr. Roger Pielke of Colorado State University. This station is part of the US Historical Climate Network of weather stations that have been used as the source for surface temperature data in many climate models and studies. There were some interesting discoveries.

[…]

1.       There are missing louvers on the north side of the [Cotton Region Shelter] containing the automated data logger and temp/dp sensor

2.       There is clear evidence that both shelters have been repainted with latex paint, including brush marks and drip marks.

3.       There is an asphalt road that curves around the site, from the southwest to the southeast

4.       The surface at the site is  mixture of gravel, soil, and debris. There is no grass.

5.       There is a water filled evapo-transpiration pan within  10 feet of each CRS, its lineage seems to indicate it goes back to the establishment of the site in 1963

6.       The fiberglass composite NEMA electronics enclosure containing the data logger, radio modem, and solar battery charger are placed inside the CRS within 6-8 inches of the temperature/dp sensor. The 12 volt gel cel battery is also inside the CRS. These items may introduce a heat bias from the operating electronics.

Watts was kind enough to include pictures of the site surveyed.

Since this point, Watts has visited many other weather stations (please visit www.surfacestations.org for all of his observations) with findings such as the following in Marysville, California:

Today I visited Marysville's Fire Station, just off Hwy 70 at 9th and B Street, where they have the station of record for the city using the MMTS electronic sensor installed by the National Weather Service. The data from this station is part of the USHCN (US Historical Climatological Network) and is used in the computer modeling used to predict climate change.

The Marysville station is located behind the fire department building on a patio and is probably the worst site visited so far. In addition to the sensor being surrounded by asphalt and concrete, its also within 10 feet of buildings, and within 8 feet of a large metal cell tower that could be felt reflecting sunlight/heat. And worst of all, air conditioning units on the cell tower electronics buildings vent warm air within 10 feet of the sensor. Oh and lets not forget the portable BBQ the firefighters use a "couple times a week." The area has been constantly added to, what was once a grass rear yard was turned to a parking lot, then more buildings added, then a cell tower with one, then two electronics buildings and the air conditioners...no report on how long the firefighters were BBQ'ing back there, when they figured out why I was asking all the questions they clammed up.

I can tell you with certainty, the temperature data from this station is useless.

To give you an idea of just how useless, take a look at the picture of this weather station:

                           

Here are the mean temperature recorded by the Marysville station since the early 1900s:

                           

Yet, as Watts pointed out, there’s another station 50 miles away in Orland, California, which is not surrounded by buildings, air conditioners, asphalt, a parking lot, or a cell tower. Take a look at a picture of how a weather station should be set up, and the insert of mean temperatures reported from said station which are quite different than from the Marysville station just 50 miles away:

                              

As Watts correctly pointed out, “Its [sic] obvious that Marysville is measuring UHI (Urban Heat Island) effects.”

What this means is that the Marysville station is defeating the purpose of placing a temperature recorder outside of a major metropolitan area by creating an environment that looks nothing like a rural one. As a result, it is quite likely that the temperature readings at Marysville are being upwardly skewed by the environs.

As you might imagine, these are but two examples of sites visited by Watts, and the reader is encouraged to go here and here for more of his research.

Yet, the bigger question is why haven’t journalists looked into this matter? Isn’t this considered newsworthy?

Bill Steigerwald of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review certainly believes so given his Sunday article on this subject (emphasis added):

To assure accuracy, stations (essentially older thermometers in little four-legged wooden sheds or digital thermometers mounted on poles) should be 100 feet from buildings, not placed on hot concrete, etc. But as photos on Watts' site show, the station in Forest Grove, Ore., stands 10 feet from an air-conditioning exhaust vent. In Roseburg, Ore., it's on a rooftop near an AC unit. In Tahoe, Calif., it's next to a drum where trash is burned.

Watts, who says he's a man of facts and science, isn't jumping to any rash conclusions based on the 40-some weather stations his volunteers have checked so far. But he said Tuesday that what he's finding raises doubts about NOAA's past and current temperature reports.

"I believe we will be able to demonstrate that some of the global warming increase is not from CO2 but from localized changes in the temperature-measurement environment."

Any questions as to why major media outlets are not at all concerned with the accuracy of America’s weather stations? 

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.