Over two and a half years after the Climategate scandal fundamentally undermined public confidence in the theory of manmade climate change, questions are continuing to be raised regarding the means used for collecting data for evaluating global warming, and the process of peer review that evaluates the climate studies.
The latest challenge confronting advocates of the theory of global warming is a study coauthored by Anthony Watts, a former television meteorologist, president of IntelliWeather, and a "convert" to the ranks of the skeptics of manmade global warming. In 2007, Watts founded SurfaceStations.org, a site which evaluates the weather stations gathering data used to model changes in global temperatures, because of concerns regarding the accuracy of the data.
Why would the location of the stations matter? Because the growth and spread of the population of the United States could cause localized changes in temperature without having a larger — even global— effect. For example, measurements from a location that was once in the middle of a field might now be surrounded by blacktop; in such a situation, the world has not necessarily gotten warmer but the area around the monitoring equipment certainly has.
The existence of such poorly-placed monitoring equipment is far from hypothetical: an article for FoxNews.com cited several examples:
That problem of poorly sited stations thanks to “encroaching urbanity” — locations near asphalt, air conditioning and airports — is well established. A sensor in Marysville, Calif., sits in a parking lot at a fire station next to an air conditioner exhaust and a cell tower. One in Redding, Calif., is housed in a box that also contains a halogen light bulb, which could emit warmth directly onto the gauge.
The study conducted by Watts and his colleagues (An area and distance weighted analysis of the impacts of station exposure on the U.S. Historical Climatology Network temperatures and temperature trends) draws on the SurfaceStation data to reach several significant conclusions, including the following points:
• The analysis demonstrates clearly that siting quality matters. Well sited stations consistently show a significantly cooler trend than poorly sited stations, no matter which class of station is used for a baseline, and also when using no baseline at all. …
• It is demonstrated that stations with poor microsite (Class 3, 4, 5) ratings have significantly higher warming trends than well sited stations (Class 1, 2): This is true for, all nine geographical areas of all five data samples. The odds of this result having occurred randomly are quite small. ...
• Not only does the NOAA USCHNv2 adjustment process fail to adjust poorly sited stations downward to match the well sited stations, but actually adjusts the well sited stations upwards to match the poorly sited stations.
• In addition to this, it is demonstrated that urban sites warm more rapidly than semi-urban sites, which in turn warm more rapidly than rural sites. Since a disproportionate percentage of stations are urban (10%) and semi-urban (25%) when compared with the actual topography of the U.S., this further exaggerates Tmean trends.
• NOAA adjustments procedure fails to address these issues. Instead, poorly sited station trends are adjusted sharply upward (not downward), and well sited stations are adjusted upward to match the already-adjusted poor stations. Well sited rural stations show a warming nearly three times greater after NOAA adjustment is applied.
In other words, the study determined that not only are many monitoring stations poorly placed, the erroneous data generated by the poorly-placed urban sites is actually being used to adjust the data gathered at better-situated rural sites. What is the result? “The new analysis demonstrates that reported 1979-2008 U.S. temperature trends are spuriously doubled, with 92% of that over-estimation resulting from erroneous NOAA adjustments of well-sited stations upward.”
Study Shows Global Warming Data Skewed by Bad Monitoring