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2012 Shatters the US Temperature Record. Fox, Watts, and Spencer Respond by Denying Reality

Posted on 14 January 2013 by dana1981

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) recently announced that 2012 broke the record for the hottest average annual surface temperature for the contiguous United States by a wide margin – a full degree Fahrenheit (Figure 1).  Given that this is a very inconvenient fact for certain groups, we should perhaps not be surprised that the NCDC has come under attack for reporting this year's record.

Most prominently, Fox News ran a story quoting Roy Spencer (a contrarian climate scientist at the University of Alabama at Huntsville [UAH]), Anthony Watts (a blogger and broadcast meteorologist), and Steven Goddard (a pseudonym for a climate blogger who goes to the extreme in denying human-caused global warming), all of whom directly or indirectly accused the NCDC of somehow fudging the data to introduce a false warming trend and make 2012 the record hottest year. 

The biggest irony of all is that 2012 is the hottest year on record for the USA in Spencer's own UAH lower atmosphere temperature dataset, and yet just a week after this announcement he accused NCDC of improper adjustments when their results matched his own.  Without those adjustments, the NCDC record would not match Spencer's UAH dataset nearly as closely.  The UAH continental USA warming trend from 1979 to 2012 is 0.24°C per decade, while the trend in maximum daily unadjusted NCDC data over the same timeframe is just 0.11°C per decade.  Once the adjustments Spencer criticizes are implemented, the NCDC trend becomes much closer to the UAH trend, at 0.21°C per decade (Figure 1).

uah vs. ncdc

Figure 1: UAH continental USA lower troposphere temperature product (version 5.5; blue) vs. NCDC continental USA maximum daily surface temperature unadjusted (black) and adjusted (version 2.5; red), with linear trends from 1979 to 2012 (dashed).

Another major irony is that while these contrarians treat "adjustment" as a bad word, in their own scientific research they admit that such adjustments are actually very important, and Roy Spencer frequently makes similar adjustments to his own UAH temperature dataset.

These are the latest in a long line of efforts by climate contrarians to cast doubt on the accuracy of the instrumental temperature record, because if the temperature record is wrong, then poof – no more global warming to worry about.  If only life were so simple.

How We Know the Temperature Record is Accurate

The accuracy of the instrumental surface temperature record, which is compiled from thousands of thermometers in temperature stations around the country and the planet, has been confirmed time and time again by a number of scientific studies using a variety of different approaches.  Individuals have taken a do-it-yourself approach, comparing the raw, unadjusted temperature data to the final products from NCDC and other scientific organizations (Figure 2).  Skeptical Science's Kevin C put together a do-it-yourself tool so that anybody can try this at home.

Figure 2: Comparison of land-only surface temperature reconstructions, 1900–2009

People have also compared the raw to the adjusted data and found that the adjustments don't make a very big difference in the final temperature record product (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Comparison of global temperatures from raw (dark green) and adjusted (light green) Global Historical Climatology Network (GHCN) v3 data, 1880–2010 (analysis by Zeke Hausfather).

The Koch-funded Berkeley Earth Temperature Station (BEST) project also set out to test the surface temperature record accuracy by creating their own record using a novel and robust methodology (described in detail by Rohde et al.), and arrived at essentially the same result as NCDC (Figure 4).


Figure 4: Land temperature with 1- and 10-year running averages. The shaded regions are the one- and two-standard deviation uncertainties calculated including both statistical and spatial sampling errors. Prior land results from the other groups are also plotted, including NCDC in green.

Measurements made by satellites of the temperature of the lower atmosphere (the lower troposphere, or LT), including by Spencer's UAH group, are also very consistent with the measurements made by thermometers on the ground (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Comparison of temperatures from surface stations and satellite monitoring of the lower troposphere (LT).

The NCDC temperature record has been compared to a number of reanalysis products (climate or weather model simulations of the past that include data assimilation of historical observations) by Vose et al. (2012), which also confirmed its accuracy, concluding,

"For the conterminous United States, the trend in the adjusted [U.S. Historical Climatology Network] (0.327°C/decade) is generally comparable to the ensemble mean of the reanalyses (0.342°C/decade). It is also well within the range of the reanalysis trend estimates (0.280 to 0.437°C/decade)."

A paper by Anderson et al. (2012) also created a new global surface temperature record reconstruction using 173 records with some type of physical or biological link to global surface temperatures (corals, ice cores, speleothems, lake and ocean sediments, and historical documents).  The study compared their reconstruction to the NCDC instrumental temperature record and found a strong correlation between the two, of 0.76 (Figure 6).

Fig 1

Figure 6: Anderson et al. (2012) Paleo Index (solid) and the merged land-ocean surface temperature anomalies (MLOST, dashed) relative to 1901-2000.

And of course natural thermometers clearly confirm the Earth's general warming trend – vanishing ice, rising oceans, species migrations, earlier arrival of spring, etc.

From these results, it's quite clear that NCDC is not introducing a fake warming trend.  So where does this myth come from?

Critical Data Adjustments

There are a number of adjustments that scientific groups like NCDC have to make to the raw temperature data.  For example, sometimes a temperature station will move, or the time of observation of the thermometer will change, or the type of temperature station will change.  These changes can introduce biases into the instrumental record which are not representative of actual temperature changes, so they must be accounted for and removed in order to get an accurate measurement of actual surface temperature changes.  For further details, see this post and Glenn Tamblyn's excellent four-part series on the surface temperature record.

Coincidentally, a number of these factors have introduced a cooling bias into the surface temperature record in recent decades, and NCDC removes this cool bias with its adjustment methodology.  Certain individuals who want to deny that global warming is happening mischaracterize this removal of cool biases, claiming NCDC is introducing a false warming trend.

In reality the adjustments made by NCDC are based on sound science, and detailed in the peer-reviewed scientific literaure.  Their version 2 temperature dataset and processing steps are described in detail in Menne et al. (2009) and on the NCDC website, and details regarding some recent and relatively small revisions for version 2.5 of their dataset are described in two technical reports (Williams et al. 2012a and 2012b) and on the same NCDC website. 

The general effectiveness of these adjustments has been confirmed by Peterson et al. (2003), Menne et al. (2010), and Fall et al. (2011).  Another paper currently in press, Hausfather et al. (2012), found that the NCDC adjustments are critical in removing the influence of artificial artificial heat sources on the thermometers (the urban heat island effect).

"...urbanization accounts for 14% to 21% of the rise in unadjusted minimum temperatures since 1895 and 6% to 9% since 1960. The USHCN-Version 2 homogenization process effectively removes this urban signal such that it becomes insignificant during the last 50-80 years."

In short, the adjustments made by NCDC to the raw temperature data are scientifically justified, very important, supported in the scientific literature, and their effectiveness has been confirmed by a wide variety of different approaches.

Watts' False Accusations Ignite the Myth

The specific accusations about NCDC falsifying data to make 2012 the hottest year on record in the USA originated on Anthony Watts' blog, where after finding discrepancies between temperatures listed in NCDC's past monthly State of the Climate reports, and those in its climate database.  Watts immediately accused NCDC of "keep[ing] two separate sets of climate books for the USA", rather than simply contacting them to ask for an explanation. 

That's what I did, and NCDC provided the following response, explaining that the discrepancy was due to the recent switch from version 2 to version 2.5 of their methodology in October 2012 (as discussed above):

"It is totally inappropriate to mix values from different data bases to identify records.  This is exactly what Anthony Watts has done.  He selected the mean monthly temperatures from an older data base (version 2 USHCN) and compared it to mean monthly temperatures in a newer data base (version 2.5 USHCN).  This is a fatal error.  For example, the US average temperature of July  2012 is the record warmest within both data bases.  Values in version 2.5 are different from version 2.0 for two reasons.  Different base periods are used in the two data bases to compute normals, which affect the monthly mean temperatures for all years.  Second, an improved correction algorithm has been applied to the newer data base.  NCDC has notified users on our web site back in September of 2012 of the differences in the two data sets.  All of NOAA NCDC analyses are based on peer-reviewed published work.  Please see [this website] for more details."

Contrarian Contradictions

Spencer's Own Adjustments

Ironically, Roy Spencer's own UAH temperature record adjustment methodology has undergone a large number of major revisions:

UAH corrections 

Major corrections to the UAH temperature trend over the years.

There is of course nothing wrong with making these adjustments; quite the contrary.  Science advances, we learn, and we improve our understanding and methods.  But for Spencer to criticize NCDC for making the same sorts of scientifically justified adjustments is hypocritical and self-contradictory.

spencer v spencer

image created by John Cook

Watts' Criminal Accusations

For his part, Anthony Watts suggested to Fox that NCDC's adjustments are essentially criminal, even though he was a co-author on the Fall et al. (2011) paper which confirmed the general accuracy of the instrumental surface temperature record, and noted that the types of adjustments made by NCDC are necessary.

watts vs. watts

image created by John Cook

In both cases it would be hard to understand how these contradictory statements could come from the same person, except such contradictory arguments are the norm for climate contrarians.

Temperature Record is Reliable When Convenient

Additionally, the last mainstream media climate myth we addressed just last week incorrectly claimed that global warming has 'stalled', based almost exclusively on the instrumental surface temperature record (and a climate model run, which contrarians also claim are unreliable).  Now contrarians are arguing that the temperature record is unreliable.  Which is it?  The instrumental temperature record can't be both the basis of an argument one week and completely unreliable the next week.

Yes, 2012 Was the Hottest Year on Record in the USA

To sum up,

  • The accuracy of the surface temperature record has been confirmed time and time again by a wide variety of methods, including comparisons with do-it-yourself temperature analyses, with satellite measurements, and with natural thermometers.
  • Scientific groups like NCDC make necessary, scientifically-justified adjustments to the raw data in order to remove biases introduced by factors like changes in temperature station locations, time of observations, and types of instrumentation. 
  • These adjustments are published in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, and their effectiveness has been confirmed by numerous peer-reviewed studies.
  • Spencer's own UAH group has made many revisions to its own data adjustment methodology as well.
  • If climate contrarians dispute the validity of any of the adjustments made by NCDC, they should subject their criticisms to the scientific peer-review process rather than making unsubstantiated and unjustified accusations of malfeasance in the mainstream media.
  • The contrarians making these accusations are contradicting their own results and previous research, which support the effectiveness and importance of the adjustments made by NCDC.

Overall, the contrarians have given us no reason to doubt the accuracy of the instrumental surface temperature record or the fact that 2012 was the hottest year on record in the continental United States.  In fact, this result is consistent with Roy Spencer's own UAH dataset.  We are instead left with just another mainstream media article full of denial, unsubstantiated assertions, contradictions, and conspiracy theories, misinforming the general public, and delaying our efforts to actually solve the climate problem by denying the reality that it exists and is a grave threat.

 Also see this excellent post on the subject by Josh Timmer at Ars Technica.

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 54:

  1. Very well written indeed. Interesting how Spencer always finds the need for revisions when the UAH temp data start going into record territory.
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  2. Watts: "In the business and trading world, people go to jail for such manipulations of data." I believe libel is a crime.
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  3. Lars: In case you have not noticed only a token few now serve time for fraudulent behaviour in the financial world... The term is "Too big to jail"...
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  4. I am happy to see that you have called them out for their lies. This is a very long "battle" that society will have to fight against human induced global warming. It doesn't make it any easier when we have people/organizations such as Watts, FOX, Heartland, Bastardi, and others that don't have any qualms about openly lying. They need to be called out..... "The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is." Winston Churchill...
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    Moderator Response: [RH] Please avoid all caps (changed to italics).
  5. Great post as usual I am full of admiration and very well done. I am aware that freedom of speech is of paramount importance in the US, but is there no law to stop these contrarians from peddling their lies and defaming scientists? Presumably they have very clever lawyers who vet their statements very carefully? Possibly the good news is that they look increasingly idiotic? Big oil will loose trillions of dollars in unusable reserves if climate change is accepted, so it's not surprising they will use any weapon to discredit AGM. Sorry rant over! StB
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  6. StBarnabas - we're pretty big on free speech in the USA. It's pretty hard to say anything bad enough to lose a lawsuit over. As a result, it seems like the UK and Australia hold their media to a higher standard of factual accuracy than we do, from what I've seen. There's plenty of garbage in the media in those countries, but at least the offenders tend to get slapped on the wrist when their articles are blatantly factually wrong.
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  7. Watts often uses data from different sources to support his arguments. Last summer he compared IMS sea ice extent, which is defined as all extent with detected ice, and compared it to NCDC Sea Ice extent, defined as all extent containing greater than 15% ice, to argue a new extent record had not been set. In the end it did not matter, even the all ice extent was much lower than the previous 15% extent. The NCDC commented and tried to explain the problem but Watts refused to acknowledge that he had made a mistake.
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  8. One minor quibble: Anthony Watts (a blogger and meteorologist) He might think he is a meteorologist, but you guys? I don't think so.
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  9. OzDoc @8, he is a TV weather man, which means he is a (broadcast) meteorologist, and holds an American Meterological Society Seal (retired) to prove it. He studied meteorology and electrical engineering at Purdue University, but did not graduate. Make of that what you will.
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  10. It seems to me there has to be something "interesting" going on psychologically with the thought processes of the Watts and Spencers of the world. Being intelligent people they must know how disingenuous their anti-mainstream-climate science arguments appear when they are completely dismantled (as in this response to their claims). Maybe after walking themselves out on the climate change denial plank to such an extent, and finding no face-saving way to stop, cheered on by people that don’t really care about the science but just don’t want to believe there is a problem, they can only hope for a miracle (mainstream science somehow "missed something" and it’s not going to be that bad, etc). At least according to this hypothesis they are not bad people.
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  11. by "this response" I mean dana1981's post, not my comment
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  12. Roger D @#10, "It seems to me there has to be something "interesting" going on psychologically with the thought processes of the Watts and Spencers of the world." Denial is a thought process. Not a rational one but still it involves thinking. "...cheered on by people that don’t really care about the science but just don’t want to believe there is a problem..." They are the same as the people who cheer them on. The only difference is in the role they play in the game of deception. "At least according to this hypothesis they are not bad people." Hannah Arendt's saying about the banality of evil comes to mind.
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  13. I think the reason deniers want to discredit this record is because it cuts the legs out from under the "1934 is the hottest year on record" myth. The myth rebutal for "1934 is the hottest year on record" now needs to be updated with this new record.
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  14. This isn't the first time Spencer has complained about supposed problems with a surface record while ignoring the excellent match it gave to his satellite lower troposphere record. Last year he was on about population density and the UHI effect, pretending that a growing population was responsible for the trend in the surface data. It was pointed out back then (first comment on his post, in fact) that the UAH satellite record independently confirms the NCDC's instrumental record, and that he was getting a different answer with his own population-based "adjustments" because his adjustments were wrong. He couldn't formulate a response, it seems. Now he appears to be cycling through the whole "adjustments!" phase of denialist objections. He's always trying to revise other people's records downwards. Perhaps he should ask himself why his lower troposphere data should be warming an order of magnitude faster than the Earth below it before striking out on any new endeavor to fiddle with other data sets.
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  15. WheelsOC #14 - right on cue, Spencer has a blog post today again trying to blame global warming on the UHI effect.
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  16. dana @15, I beg to differ. The more recent blogpost blames 50% of the heating on industrial waste heat; which has the advantage that it is not necessarily confined to urban centers, and hence cannot be shot down by the fact that the warming shows in the satellite record. Of course, to set up his argument he must assume that all air over the continental United States remains permanently over the continental United States (so that the industrial heat is not dispersed); that industrial waste heat is always in excess of any heat dissipation to space, regardless of how hot the Earth is; and, either that physics is different over the CONUS, so that the greenhouse warming present everywhere else has no impact over the CONUS, or that there are large hidden industrial centers in the North Pole to explain the massive heating there. (I told Santa that robot factories powered by nuclear power stations was a mistake.) I can only assume the motivation of the blog was a desire to dine at Milliways.
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  17. Given his history, why do we still care what Watts says? The time has come to stop listening to him and his fellow denialists.
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  18. goes another contrarian argument.
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  19. Erm - that should be "POOF!"
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  20. Roger D, I think the operative description is, “Although many of us may think of ourselves as thinking creatures that feel, biologically we are feeling creatures that think” ― Jill Bolte Taylor, My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey Despite efforts to train in logic, math, etc., the brain is not a deterministic automaton; the same input is not guaranteed to produce the same results. I think it is common for people to not be aware of when the emotional aspects of their minds block information, or block recognition of conflicting information. Even when a conflict is pointed out by someone else, a common response is to form the believe that the other person simply doesn't understand the situation as well as you do. It can be difficult to know when another is aware of what they are doing.
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  21. John Brookes, I lost interest in what Watts had to say some time ago, but the fact remains that there are many who do still care, and what they think has an effect on the future we all share. So, in that sense, having someone continue to correct Watts' misinformation is useful, necessary even.
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  22. @dana1981 The US has become a crazy place. Seemed a lot more sensible when I was doing my PhD there (Carter was president). The Arke and Wilson vs Fox case is simply extraordinary. It seems Not only can Fox lie and distort the truth It can force reporters to do so against their will Fire them if they refuse And Fox can be awarded damages if they try to take it to court for unfair dismissal Makes me glad I returned to Europe! Here if the Mail is found to lie there will be a retraction in small print in some obscure part of the newspaper.
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  23. StBarnabas @22 If you make a complaint against the Express, you get nowhere because they have opted out of the Press Complaints Committee. I know - I've tried. Basically they can say what they think will sell, as long as the people that they are being libellous about won't or can't sue. The Express is the biggest climate denial newspaper in the UK, regularly attacking the Met Office and the IPCC. They buy their weather forecasts from Piers Corbyn. How I wish that Skeptical Science would do a feature about him.
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  24. Somewhat off topic but it was mentioned in the article - what's Steven Goddard's real name?
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  25. Cornelius @23 The Express is below my radar. Even further in the gutter than the mail. The UK system is by no means perfect! I thought Corbyn had lost credibility years ago, still a colourful character. Should have taken up Astrology
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  26. Whenever there’s a discussion about the accuracy of the temperature record, I’m reminded of Tamino’s punishing takedown of AW’s Surface Stations.Org site
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  27. There goes Watts trying to directly compare temp anomalies that use different baseline periods *again*. This must be the fourth time he's been caught doing it, and you can't explain it to him. That's why he loves the satellite records vs. the land based ones - they have lower anomalies because they have more recent baseline periods. And to him, that means temps aren't increasing as much in the satellite records. Poor, deluded Tony. I used to read WUWT more regularly out of a sort of morbid curiosity to see what hijinks they were up to. But now I rarely bother because the cyber-bullying in the comments gets my blood pressure up. I mostly just read the Tamino takedowns of Tisdale et. al.
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    Moderator Response: [RH] Adjusted unnecessary inflammatory acronym.
  28. Anthony Watts is no meteorologist. Doesn't even know what a polar low is.
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  29. Re: Moderator response in 27: You do realize that noting the obvious edit is funnier and perhaps more effective at conveying the gist of the joke in the acronym than the original acronym... I do concur that WUWT is now unreadable (even for laughs) as it has descended to being a glorified echo-chamber... With this latest nonsense Tony Willard may have finally jumped the shark... One can only hope..
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    Moderator Response: [RH] Rock and a hard place, I guess.
  30. Re: 29 I hear ya.... I do tip my cap, SKS does an excellent and even handed job of moderation and it is a tough job...
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  31. These so called "records" are pretty much meaningless, as are most temperature measurements. This was best put by a meteorologist with the Australian Bureau of Meteorolgy when commenting on Fiday's hot day in Sydney (which also broke supposed records): “Without a sea breeze it meant we had westerly winds billowing across the city, gathering heat off the roads and concrete buildings” Read more: Nice to see a reasonable explanation for a change rather than all the (--snip--). Thus, whether its the highest recorded temperature or not, the fact that the heat is significantly increased by development puts paid to any argument that its particularly hotter than ever before.
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    Moderator Response: (Rob P) Inflammatory snipped.

    Please note that record-breaking heat has increased, and will continue to increase, in frequency and severity, as the Earth warms further. This should be transparently obvious.

    Clearly other non-climate related factors (such as weather fluctuations) play a part in record-breaking temperatures too.
  32. Backslider @31, so your explanation of the new maximum temperature record at Dunedoo is the failure of sea breezes, and the temperature increase from the wind blowing across all those roads its 836 inhabitants have built? Presumably that is also the explanation for the new maximum temperature at Curtin Springs. And so on for all of the more than 34 new maximum temperature records set in Australian since January 1st. (More than 34 because M Hrerrera has not caught up with the new record at Observatory Hill on Friday). Perhaps you might want to consider that local geography cannot explain a national heat wave. Or that previous records set at Observatory Hill were also set when hot westerlies prevented the onset of sea breezes. Perhaps you might even want to consider that your desperaton to throw out the data shows clearly that the data refutes your (--snip--) views.
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    Moderator Response: (Rob P) Inflammatory snipped.
  33. Well gee Tom, you present yourself as such a thinker. Let me remind you that when the real records were set, when birds and bats were falling out of the sky in their millions, we did not have the urban sprawl of Sydney's Western Suburbs... which is the prime source of extra heat on its way to Observatory Hill..... as explained by a qualified Meteorologist in Sydney itself. You can deny experts all you like, it does not prove anything.
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    Moderator Response: (Rob P) All Caps (now removed) are a contravention of the comments policy. No more thanks.
  34. I might also remind you Tom that climate events do not constitute climate change. You will find this to be the prevalent view among scientists. While some may indeed be new records, these will always be arguable and uncertain for a number of very good reasons, the primary reason being that many previous measurements, while at the same time describing horrific events such as animals dying, birds and bats falling out of the sky and many people perishing, were measured in the shade, not a little hot box sitting out in the sun as we now have with Stevenson screens.
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  35. Actually, backslider, Tom is pretty good with the critical thinking. You may want to check out this post. The SST animation suggests pretty strongly that the heat was hardly local. Your responses need to step it up a notch. Bring the data. The rhetoric is empty.
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  36. Backslider @33 & @34: 1) I grew up in the outback (Mount Isa) so I know when accounts have been grossly exaggerated. The accounts of bird deaths are clearly so. Curiously, the accounts of bird deaths seem to include no deaths from heat alone. So, I'm not inclined to take sensationalized anecdote (they are after all reported in newspapers) over official records. 2) "In the shade" is a very variable quantity. Is it in the shade under a Morton Bay Fig, or under a Ghost Gum? The former provides full shade, while the later does not. Or perhaps it was "in the shade" in a tent house, in which case the maximum day time temperature recorded would have been well above that recorded in a Stevenson Screen. The point here is not that it has never been hotter in Australia. It may well have been, but without reliable records we cannot know. What we do know is that the first eight days of 2013 were all rated in the hottest 20 days since 1910, and that one of them was the hottest on record. We also know that that was not because of a lack of sea breazes or potential urban heat island effect in Sydney. You may be desperate to scrabble for any reason not to consider any implications of the recent heat wave. I prefer a more measured view.
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  37. @Tom - you might just sit down and take the time to actually look at the temperature records, rather than (-snip-). For example, Sydney has had two hot days this month and everybody is screaming "heat wave due to climate change". Tommy rot. (-snip-)? (-snip-). The explorers who took those measurements (and made those reports) were scientists, using calibrated equipment which has been acknowledged as accurate - (-snip-). You may be certain that their shade was a great deal cooler than the little hot box known as a Stevenson screen. I challenge you: Try it - put the two together and see just how much hotter the Stevenson readings are. (-snip-)
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    Moderator Response: [DB] Inflammatory and sloganeering snipped. Please stick to the science with less rhetoric. And please familiarize yourself with this site's Comments Policy. Complaints about moderation are summarily deleted. Also, if you cannot maintain a civil tone in this discussion than further moderation will ensue.
  38. What has made this recent heat wave in Australia unusual is its scope in terms of the area affected and the duration, respectively. The latter was unprecedented in the record. From Dr. Masters' blog: "The nation's [Australia's] average high temperature exceeded 102°F (39°C) for seven consecutive days January 2 - 8, 2013--the first time that has happened since record keeping began in 1910. To put this remarkable streak in perspective, the previous record of four consecutive days with a national average high temperature in excess of 102°F (39°C) has occurred once only (1973), and only two other years have had three such days in a row--1972 and 2002." [Source] Expect much more, and worse, in the future folks.
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  39. It's funny how old temperature records are considered suspect when they show warming, but are made by "scientists, using calibrated equipment which has been acknowledged as accurate" when they show high temperatures in the past. Anyway, my favourite is Darwin and the change that happened during WWII. :-)
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  40. "the first time that has happened since record keeping began in 1910" Since record keeping accepted by you began you mean. We have records since the first fleet in fact, kept by reputable scientists using well calibrated equipment and a far more sane method of measuring which is totally at odds with a Stevenson hot box. Try sitting in your car in forty degree heat with the windows down - that's what a Stevenson box is like.
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  41. @JasonB - Exactly where have I said that old temperature records are suspect? Or do you think that your "scientific" generalisation fits just because you want it to? Old records show global warming do they?.... I don't think so. They show a far hotter Australia way back in the 1700's
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  42. @Jason - Let me be clear. In my very logical opinion, a Stevenson box is the most unscientific contraption ever invented. I don't actually accept any of their readings as being close to accurate. The biggest flaw with modern climatology is all the unscientific generalisation and adjustments being made, which ultimately are based only upon opinion. "Oh yes, I think we should deduct a degree or two here and perhaps add a couple over there". That, in truth, is what we have. A far better measure is to collate records only from areas that have not subsequently become urbanised. Then we would have a far clearer picture of the true situation. Then we would havesomething that I could regard as perhaps a little closer to scientific (except for Stevenson screens). Alas, we do not have that.
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  43. And yes JasonB, the equipment., even from the 1700's has been acknowledged as very accurate by very real modern day scientists.....
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  44. Backslider @37: 1) You may not be able to get your head out of Sydney, but the rest of Australia can. We (those Australian's outside of Sydney) are talking about a heat wave not because of two very hot days in Sydney, but because of 46 individual maximum temperature records in Australia so far in 2013; and because of repeated Australian mean maximum temperatures at or near record levels. 2) The early explorers were not scientists, but ex-Navy or Army officers like Charles Sturt and Burke with the occasional surveyor like Wills. (And for non-Australian's, please read up on the Burke and Wills expedition to see just how absurd is this suggestion that because records were taken by explorers, they were taken with unusual competence.) Charles Sturt was, of course, very competent, but the suggestion that measurements made on thermometers packed and carried very day, then set up in an ad hoc fashion in tents or in the partial shade provided by eucalypt trees, and at an unknown distance from the ground should be more accurate than that provided by Stevenson Screened instruments is absurd. 3) I do not have to make a comparison between Stevenson Screened instruments and others. It has already been done:
    "In view of the implications for the assessment of climatic changes since the mid-nineteenth century, systematic changes of exposure of thermometers at land stations are reviewed. Particular emphasis is laid on changes of exposure during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century when shelters often differed considerably from the Stevenson screens, and variants thereof, which have been prevalent during the past few decades. It is concluded that little overall bias in land surface air temperature has accumulated since the late nineteenth century: however, the earliest extratropical data may have been biased typically 0.2°C warm in summer and by day, and similarly cold in winter and by night, relative to modern observations. Furthermore, there is likely to have been a warm bias in the tropics in the early twentieth century: this bias, implied by comparisons between Stevenson screens and the tropical sheds then in use, is confirmed by comparisons between coastal land surface air temperatures and nearby marine surface temperatures, and was probably of the order of 0.2°C."
    See also here for comparisons between modern methods. I also know, as you obviously do not, that temperatures taken in the shade in poorly ventilated locations locations, or unusually close to the ground can exceed temperatures recorded in Stevenson Screens by up to ten or 15 degrees. That is why it is now law in Australia that you are not permitted to leave unattended children in parked cars. Poor house design in outback and subtropical Australia can easily result in internal temperatures several degrees above that found in neigbouring Stevenson Screened instruments, as indeed can internal temperatures in tents, particularly tents lacking a fly. @38, living in Mount Isa, I know from personal experience that the numbers of birds described as dying are way in excess of the carrying capacity of the land they are described as dying in. I also know that hyperbole is a favoured technique in Australian story telling. You do the maths. So many birds they snapped the branches of the trees, according to one account. Which makes a good yarn, and a better one when some (--snipped--) can't recognize when a yarn is being spun.
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    Moderator Response: (Rob P) Inflammatory snipped.
  45. Backslider @41:
    "We have records since the first fleet in fact, kept by reputable scientists using well calibrated equipment and a far more sane method of measuring which is totally at odds with a Stevenson hot box."
    My, the joys of being a Sydney-sider and imagining that Sydney is all of Australia. Anyway, more importantly, name these "reputable scientists" and their scientific qualifications. You will in fact find that they are, in the early period, army or navy officers with a pro-forma interest in accurate temperature records using instruments of far inferior quality to those today.
    "Try sitting in your car in forty degree heat with the windows down - that's what a Stevenson box is like."
    Do you even know what a Stevenson Screen is? They are double louvred on all sides so that there is no impediment to passing breezes, and no possibility of accumulating heat through restricted convection. The proper comparison is sitting under an extensive wooden roof guaranteeing full shade but not restricting any air flow. I tire of you now. You have done nothing but regurgitate talking points from Jonova without any apparent understanding of what you are talking about. What is more, you are demonstratably making up claims to bolster your case with no knowledge of the relevant facts ("respected scientists", "explorers ... were scientists"). You are adding nothing useful this conversation except for those with a taste for the absurd.
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  46. Regarding the outrageous (and unsupported claim) made by poster "backslider" about Stevenson screens. The fact of the matter is that, if anything, Stevenson screens have a slight cool bias when compared against the reference instruments. From a World Meteorological Organization report. (conducted in Australia as it happens): "It has been recognised since the early part of the century (Koppen 1913) that the Stevenson screen impacts significantly on the temperature measured. Its large thermal mass results in a large thermal lag and as a consequence underestimates the maximum and minimum temperature. Despite this it remains a useful screen." Other field tests have made similar findings, see here for example. Stevenson screens are not the problem here, it is some people's ignorance and denial about global warming that is the real problem.
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  47. Well worth noting the utter lack of support for Backslider's claims, especially the allegations of impropriety made in the second paragraph of #42. In science, Backslider, we require evidence. You don't appear to have anything but your incredulity. A more measured take on Australia's heatwave comes from this informative article in The Conversation, written by the BoM, and published the morning before Sydney broke it's all-time high temperature record. Particular attention might be drawn to the ratio of high to low temperature records, and the ratio of night-time to daytime temperature records, consistent with the expected effect of an enhanced greenhouse effect. Others can probably highlight the links to studies showing how rural stations also show warming and are an integrl part of temperature monitoring. I'd like to draw attention to measures that cannot be attributed to UHI - the near-universal retreat of mountain glaciers, the melt in Arctic sea ice, the temperature of the lower troposphere, and the shifting poleward of species. The tough truth is, when conditions are right, heat records are much, much more likely to fall than cold records in our warming world.
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  48. Backslider at #34:
    I might also remind you Tom that climate events do not constitute climate change.
    Even with the most generous of concessions, this is not true. A single climate event, if sufficiently extreme, can indicate a change in climate by simple fact of the nature of its extremity. And a particular trend in the nature of "climate events" can certainly "constitute" climate change. At #42:
    In my very logical opinion, a Stevenson box is the most unscientific contraption ever invented. I don't actually accept any of their readings as being close to accurate.
    With due respect, there is little that resembles logic in your opinion. 1) Stevenson invented the screen in 1864, and it was introduced into Australia in the 1880s, with almost universal use by the first decade of the 20th century. Therefore the use of the screen was prevalent before any appreciable signal from human-caused global warming. 2) Even if there was a warming bias resulting from a Stevenson screen (and as Albatross notes at #46 the bias is actually in the opposite direction), the nature of the bias in the temperature record would be consistent across time. And as the use of Stevenson screens pre-dates global warming, there is no change in the nature of the temperature record resulting from any bias - and certainly not in a warming direction. You may not accept the data obtained from Stevenson screens as "being close to accurate", but the data do not have any regard for your opinion. Even if a bias exists it is systematic, rendering your protestation moot. Interesting churning of a denialist meme though - I was unaware of this particular nonsense from Watts and Codling until you dragged it here.
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  49. I perused through Backslider's posts and I did not see a single real scientific reference. Plenty of rethoric with words such as "very", "unscientific", "qualified" and what not. No analysis, no peer-reviewed paper, nothing. How am I to take it seriously? I'll add that arguing Urban Heat Island when the temp records are across the entire country is a rather amusing stand. Ironic that this happens on a thread about denying reality.
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  50. Oh, come on DB! The entertainment value . . . sigh. Maybe we should have a deleted comments thread--one that doesn't get aggregated into the "all comments" stream.
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    Moderator Response: [DB] Patience. Such a thing is in development.

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