Warming Temperature Measurements Polluted by Bad Data, Research Confirms

Published May 16, 2019

For years, I have written about the poor quality control exercised by government entities promoting the theory human fossil fuel use is causing dangerous climate change. When federal agencies in the United States, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), university researchers, and weather agencies abroad, aren’t outright manipulating data (as numerous previous issues of Climate Change Weekly and other Heartland Institute publications show they’ve done) to prove their assertion the Earth is warming rapidly and to a dangerous degree, they are using data from severely compromised sources.

A recent report in the Journal of the American Meteorological Society (JAMS) reconfirms the latter claim, showing NOAA has underestimated the extent to which the heat island effect has compromised its recorded temperatures.

Two features about this work are of particular note: (1) two of the researchers involved in the study actually work for NOAA, the organization whose temperature records their research is bringing into question; and (2) the experiment conducted by the researchers serving as the basis of their conclusions was part of NOAA’s attempt to refute work of Anthony Watts, a meteorologist with more than 40 years of experience who founded the award-winning climate website Watts Up With That. Watt, who recently joined The Heartland Institute as a senior fellow, has for more than a decade produced research showing the National Weather Service’s (NWS) climate monitoring stations, which NOAA uses to compile its temperature records and trend lines, were compromised, failing to meet the agency’s published standards for data quality.

In 2009, The Heartland Institute published a study by Watts exploring problems with NWS’s weather monitoring locations. Watts wrote,

The official record of temperatures in the continental United States comes from a network of 1,221 climate-monitoring stations overseen by the National Weather Service, a department of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

[A examination of] 860 of these temperature stations … found that 89 percent of the stations—nearly 9 of every 10—fail to meet the National Weather Service’s own siting requirements that stations must be 30 meters (about 100 feet) or more away from an artificial heating or radiating/reflecting heat source.

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.

Working with others, Watts continued examining potential sources of bias at NWS climate monitoring sites, concluding in a 2015 presentation to a meeting of the American Geophysical Union, “the 30-year trend of temperatures for the Continental United States (CONUS) since 1979 are [sic] about two thirds as strong as official NOAA temperature trends.”

Watts’ research generated wide media coverage. NOAA felt obligated to respond. By 2012, NOAA researchers had begun an experiment to refute Watts’ claims about the integrity of its weather monitoring system.

The results of NOAA’s experiment are now in, and to the extent it tested Watts’ claims, his concerns were verified. The coauthors of the JAMS paper found “small-scale urban encroachment within 50 meters of a station can have important impacts on daily temperature extrema (maximum and minimum)….” This extends the area for which temperature recordings by NWS stations are compromised by 66 percent beyond what the agency previously admitted was a problem, leading to the question: How many more monitoring stations’ data are compromised above what Watts previously found?

In particular the JAMS study confirmed what Watts and other researchers have consistently maintained: even relatively modest development near temperature recording devices can skew their measurements, particularly by narrowing the diurnal temperature range—the difference between the daily maximum and minimum temperatures. Anthropogenic heat sources such as motors and exhaust from machinery located near measuring stations, as well as built-up concrete and other types of development, accumulate and store heat during each day’s hottest period and release it only slowly overnight, resulting in higher nighttime lows being recorded, and a smaller diurnal range. Because the vast majority of the much-hyped average global warming of the latter part of the twentieth century stems not from higher high temperatures being recorded but from higher low temperatures usually recorded at night, much of NOAA’s reported temperature rise is likely an artifact of compromised data from poorly sited NWS monitors.

Ground-based temperature measurements, although below those projected by climate models, are still the closest of the three sources of temperature data (ground monitors, satellites, and weather balloons) to matching the models’ projections and trends. Skeptics have long used more accurate satellite and weather balloon data to justify their position that the models’ temperature estimates and projections don’t match real-world measurements. If, as seems to be the case, even the ground-based temperature measurements and trends are lower than NOAA and others have previously claimed, there is little if any reason to trust model projections of temperature. And if this is so, there is even less reason to trust other projections of climate doom spun out by models that are purported to flow from their temperature projections.

The conclusion media pundits, the general public, and politicians alike should draw from this new research is that there is little justification for imposing costly restrictions on fossil fuel use to fight a warming that is, in fact, not severe at all.

I fear, however, their response will be much more akin to the closing lines of Don McLean’s classic song “Vincent”:

“They would not listen, they’re not listening still.

Perhaps they never will.”

  • H. Sterling Burnett

SOURCES: Watts Up With That; Journal of the American Meteorological Society (behind paywall); The Heartland Institute; Climate Change Weekly; Climate Change Weekly; Climate Change Weekly


Christian Democrats ditch carbon dioxide taxGreenhouse gas increase not responsible for Sweden’s glacial declineArctic Council adjourns without issuing joint statement


Recent public opinion polls indicate a large majority of Germans reject a controversial carbon dioxide tax proposed by environment minister Svenja Schulze. Polls also show the Alternative for Germany Party, which rejects government energy policies proposed to fight climate change, has surpassed the popularity of Prime Minister Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in the eastern states of Brandenburg and Saxony ahead of local and regional elections. In response to these trends, CDU is now opposing a carbon dioxide tax it formerly championed as necessary to fight climate change.

Schulze, a member of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), joined Merkel’s government as director of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, and Nuclear Safety, as part of a coalition government. The Environment Ministry developed the carbon dioxide tax proposal, which includes a tax rebate for low-income citizens.

A public opinion survey conducted by ARD, an organization of Germany’s regional public broadcasters, found 62 percent of those polled oppose the tax, and only 34 percent favor it. Among German political parties, the poll found only members of the Green Party favor the tax, with 60 percent of the self-identified Greens polled favoring it. Among Schulze’s SPD, only 40 percent support the tax. Support for a carbon dioxide tax among other parties with seats in the Bundestag is 36 percent or less.

With Merkel’s coalition government facing challenges on many fronts and the ARD poll showing only 32 percent of CDU members support the carbon dioxide tax, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who replaced Merkel as head of the CDU in 2018, demanded the tax proposal be removed from a position paper on mobility and climate change being developed by Germany’s Executive Board on European Elections. At a recent meeting of the board, after several members objected to the carbon dioxide tax proposal, Kramp-Karrenbauer declared, “Then we take the CO2 tax out of the paper,” reported Spiegel.

SOURCES: ZEIT Online; Spiegel Online; The Sunday Times


A new paper in the Journal of the Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography (Geografiska Annaler: Series A, Physical Geography), from a team of Norse and Swedish researchers detailing the ice loss on Sweden’s Storglaciären glacier, finds most of the loss in glacier volume occurred before the vast majority of human-caused greenhouse gases were released into the atmosphere.

Using photographic evidence, weather data, and field measurements, the researchers estimated Storglaciären glacier lost 28 percent of its total ice mass between 1910 and 2015. The evidence shows Storglaciären was expanding until the end of the Little Ice Age in 1880. From 1880 to 1910, the glacier’s mass stabilized, neither growing nor expanding for approximately 30 years. Around 1910, 35 to 40 years before human greenhouse gas emissions began substantially increasing, the glacier began what the authors of the study called a “drastic melt,” which continued until approximately 1970. Seventy-six percent of Storglaciären’s ice loss occurred between 1910 and 1970. Storglaciären’s mass stabilized in the 1970s through late 1990s, during a period of rapid atmospheric greenhouse gas accumulation, and then began declining again.

Only natural factors can account for the timeline of Storglaciären’s decline.

SOURCE: Geografiska Annaler: Series A, Physical Geography (Journal of the Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography)


The 11th Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting, hosted by Finland in Rovaniemi, adjourned on May 7 after two days of meetings without issuing the usual official joint declaration on Arctic concerns and opportunities. The Arctic Council is an intergovernmental organization composed of eight member countries with sovereignty over lands within the Arctic Circle: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States. The council was formed to address environmental and economic problems faced by Arctic nations and indigenous peoples in the region.

Although the council issued a brief statement reaffirming its member states’ continued “commitment to maintain peace, stability and constructive co-operation in the Arctic,” it did not issue an official declaration, because the U.S. delegation, led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, objected to language in the proposed declaration about the dangers to the region from anthropogenic climate change.

Pompeo affirmed the United States’ commitment to the environmental integrity of the Arctic, and he touted America’s record on carbon dioxide emission reductions, while defending President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the Paris climate accord in 2017.

“The Arctic has always been a fragile ecosystem, and protecting it is indeed our shared responsibility,” Pompeo said, according to Time Magazine. “The Trump Administration shares your deep commitment to environmental stewardship.

“Collective goals, even when well-intentioned, are not always the answer,” Pompeo said.

“I’m sure it was a good party,” Pompeo said about the Paris treaty meetings. “I’m sure it felt good to sign the agreement. But at the end of the day, what matters to human health, what matters to the citizens of the world, is that we actually have an impact on improving health.”

In that regard, the U.S. delegation reported, since 2005 emissions of carbon dioxide and black carbon or soot had declined more in the United States than in any other nation on earth, even as global emissions grew.

Pompeo presented federal data showing energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in the United States fell by 14 percent between 2005 and 2017, while global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions increased by more than 20 percent. Concerning black carbon, U.S. emissions declined 16 percent below 2013 levels by 2016, and the Trump administration estimates they will fall by nearly 50 percent by 2025 thanks to technological innovation and shifting electricity sources, not because of regulations or treaties.

SOURCES: Pittsburg Post-Gazette; Breitbart; Time

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