A Froward Child Redux – some personal vindication, I may not be a complete dupe, and the inexorable advace of the Citizen Scientist

A froward child                                                                                      [Ghost of a Flea-Wm. Blake-1820]

Some exciting news for me in the last few days, and some possible intellectual vindication.  I may not be a [complete] dupe of the fossil fuel industry after all! – and – some of my long standing intuitions about the true state of science are presently being fulfilled.

Last March I was presented a copy of Naomi Oreskes and Eric M. Conway’s recent book, Merchants of Doubt: how a handful of scientists obscured the truth on issues from tobacco smoke to global warming, by a family member due to concern over my lack of appropriate conviction in the predictions of immanent environmental disaster and grave peril to the Earth, its ecosystem and human inhabitants due to [apparent] increases in global average surface temperature resulting from anthropogenic carbon-dioxide being released into the atmosphere due to mankind’s the burning of fossil fuels.  [notice how carefully I define my ignorance]  I took this ‘gift’ as a kind of intellectual slap in the face – thanks.

In my previous post, A Froward Child, back in March I related how I was rescued in my extemis in this situation by a perfectly timed email newsletter from Michael Quinion of World Wide Words, who provided me with just the right word to understand my predicament, I was actually being a froward child, not a fossil fuel industry dupe.

I’ll repeat Mr. Quinion’s research since you probably missed the original post [emphasis mine]:

The first part of this archaic word could at one time stand alone. Fro is based on Old Norse frá, from which we also get from. We now know it only in ‘to and fro’, which is a scaled-down form of the Middle English come toward and go froward.

Froward means leading away. Old English also had fromward in the same sense, though they later diverged. Fromward retained its literal sense of direction — until it died out in the eighteenth century — whilst froward moved to the metaphorical.

By the fourteenth century, froward was attached in particular to a person who figuratively moved away from others by doing the opposite of what was asked of them or what other people thought reasonable. A froward person was hard to deal with — obstinate, peevish, perverse or childish. Indeed, a difficult child was often said to be froward:

I may still be a froward child, but at least the slow inexorable progress in science seems to be validating one small source of my reluctance to climb onto the Global Warming alarmist bandwagon, namely that of serious issues with ‘station homoganization’ [the accuracy and adjustment of the data] in the US National Weather Service’s Historic Climate Network [USHCN].

The pre-print of a new paper, “An area and distance weighted analysis of the impacts of station exposure on the U.S. Historical Climatology Network temperatures and temperature trends.”  was just released by meteorologist Anthony Watts of Watts Up With That? and the SurfaceStations.org project.  The paper, just out, shows that due to microsite biases and adjustment errors, that the warming trend in the US instrumental record since 1979 has been overstated by a factor of two.  Links to the paper itself and other supporting files are available at WUWT here.  While this is  technically a ‘pre-print’, this paper is currently being prepped for submission for formal publication and peer review.  So, read the paper and have a crack at it if you think you’re up to the math.

I happen to know that the USHCN has had serious data integrity issues because I have been following the efforts of Anthony Watts and the SurfaceStations.org project for years and have payed careful attention to their efforts to audit the decrepitude of the USHCN network.  Watts created SurfaceStations.org in 2007 to survey as many of the networks temperature monitoring stations as possible for correctness of metadata in the USHCN database, document the actual condition of the station, and evaluate it according to National Weather Services’ own criteria for USHCN stations.  To date Surface Stations.org’s volunteers have surveyed over 1007 of 1221 USHCN stations.  According to Surface Stations.org’s 2009 paper [Watts 2009] 89 percent of stations surveyed failed to meet the NWS’s own siting requirements that stations must be a minimum of 30meters [100ft] from an artificial heating, radiating or reflecting heat source, among other problems.

USHCN Orland CA, a well sited, conforming station. [©SurfaceStations.org 2009]

USHCN Marysville, CA – a poorly sited, non-conforming station, still in operation as of this writing                                                                         [©SurfaceStations.org 2009]

USHCN Stations as of 7-14-2009.  Notice the number of stations whose error is larger than the total “warming” of the last century.                                                      [©SurfaceStations.org 2009]

CRN Rating Key, including estimated error                                 [©SurfaceStations.org 2009]

Having spent a number of years professionally in the temperature sensor industry and having personally been responsible for conducting laboratory calibrations of temperature measurement instruments to the precision of 0.001ºC to government and aerospace industry specifications where results are officially ‘important’ and are subject to audit by your customers:  Boeing, Pratt & Whitney, Allied Signal, Honeywell, the FAA, the US Military, & etc. the situation of the Marysville USHCN station fills me with loathing and horror.  You have to be kidding, scientists are using this data?  I just shake my head.  No wonder certain scientists are so reluctant to share their station location data with skeptical statisticians.

So, I have kept this situation in mind, knowing that this very same data is and has been fed into all of the predictions, assumptions and computer models used by propagandists, politicians and scientists for many years who are promulgating the more extreme versions of global warming theory.  I have chosen to take a wait and see attitude about how the science shakes out.  If the instrumental record in the US, which is considered to be the gold standard internationally, is this badly biased, there is an awful lot of “settled science” that needs to be recalculated.  There is a lot that may really not be settled.  Errors in the ‘instrument record’ is only one of “many threads of evidence” that in my opinion need careful and thorough reexamining.

What’s New Then?

What’s new then? – or – Watt’s new?

The gist or the nub of the new Watts et al. 2012 paper is that it has demonstrated that the USHCN methodology systematically biases ‘lower quality’ stations readings to the high side and then adjusts nearby ‘higher quality’ stations reading upwards to compensate – a double magnification of the bias of poorly sited urban and suburban weather stations.

From WUWT:

Watts et al. 2012 has employed a new methodology for station siting, pioneered by Michel Leroy of METEOFrance in 2010, in the paper Leroy 2010, and endorsed by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Commission for Instruments and Methods of Observation (CIMO-XV, 2010) Fifteenth session, in September 2010 as a WMO-ISO standard, making it suitable for reevaluating previous studies on the issue of station siting.

Previous papers all used a distance only rating system from Leroy 1999, to gauge the impact of heat sinks and sources near thermometers. Leroy 2010 shows that method to be effective for siting new stations, such as was done by NCDC adopting Leroy 1999 methods with their Climate Reference Network (CRN) in 2002 but ineffective at retroactive siting evaluation.

Leroy 2010 adds one simple but effective physical metric; surface area of the heat sinks/sources within the thermometer viewshed to quantify the total heat dissipation effect.

Using the new Leroy 2010 classification system on the older siting metadata used by Fall et al. (2011), Menne et al. (2010), and Muller et al. (2012), yields dramatically different results.

Using Leroy 2010 methods, the Watts et al 2012 paper, which studies several aspects of USHCN siting issues and data adjustments, concludes that:

These factors, combined with station siting issues, have led to a spurious doubling of U.S. mean temperature trends in the 30 year data period covered by the study from 1979 – 2008.

Other findings include, but are not limited to:

· Statistically significant differences between compliant and non-compliant stations exist, as well as urban and rural stations.

· Poorly sited station trends are adjusted sharply upward, 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.

· Urban sites warm more rapidly than semi-urban sites, which in turn warm more rapidly than rural sites.

· The raw data Tmean trend for well sited stations is 0.15°C per decade lower than adjusted Tmean trend for poorly sited stations.

· Airport USHCN stations show a significant differences in trends than other USHCN stations, and due to equipment issues and other problems, may not be representative stations for monitoring climate.

Undoubtedly review will reveal some problems with the Watts et al. 2012 paper, before submission, during peer review and after publication this is normal to the way science works; however, this new paper raises the bar for all other similar analyses, including the most recent efforts of the Richard Muller and his Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature  [BEST], who are using now the officially ‘retro’ Leroy 1999 site rating method.  These scientists will be forced into the ticklish position of either recalculating their own results, or justifying not doing so under some pretty intense scrutiny.

We’ll have to see what happens.


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