Friday, March 14, 2008

Anthony Watts' presentation of work on U.S. temperature network

Anthony Watts has posted an excellent overview of the important effort he is leading to survey the U.S.-based temperature stations used to calculate global temperature. The overview is in the form of a powerpoint presentation he delivered at the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change in New York City.

The presentation is available here. If you do nothing else, be sure to look at all the pictures of the temperature stations in the presentation. It is quite evident that the U.S. temperature network, probably the best maintained in the world, is a complete mess. It's not at all clear to me that we know what the global temperature is or whether it is going up, down, or staying the same.

Take a look at this site from Staunton, VA (I choose this one, because I've actually been to the site myself).

It is surrounded by concrete and asphalt. This clearly introduces a warming bias into the record. None of this really matters for the original purpose for which these temperature stations exist, i.e., to provide the locals with weather data. It's really of no consequence if your local weatherman reports a high temperature of 95 degrees, when in fact it was only 93 degrees. Nobody is likely to notice the difference.

It's an altogether different thing, however, when the global average temperature, calculated from this highly flawed network, is used to justify a wholesale (not to mention costly) alteration of our current energy system. And remember, we're talking a change in global temperature of a mere 0.7 degrees C over the last 100 years. Given the problems with the temperature stations uncovered by Watts, it might be that the entire 0.7 degrees is due to bad siting.

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