Thursday, 18 March 2010

Climate Change Part 4 - Guest Post


I was sent away to learn the corn trade to a firm called Lamprey & Son in Banbury. The old office and shop building still stands next to the town hall and looks much the same today although it has long been converted to other uses.

One day the boss showed me a really beautifully made, brass, Victorian pocket balance that fitted into a polished wooden case which would slip into your pocket. On one end of the beam was a small pot about as big as a good-sized egg cup. The other side of the beam was milled with serations and graduated with a sliding weight which moved along it. If you filled the pot up with a sample of grain and struck it off level, you could slide the weight along until it balanced with the contents of the pot and read off the bushel weight of the grain from the scale.

Bushel weight is a good indicator of quality. Plump, full grains weigh heavier than thin ones. A bushel of reasonable quality barley would weigh 4 stones (56 lb or half a hundredweight) and a bushel of good wheat 5 stones (70lb). So the little pot contained a very small part of a bushel. The sample might represent a parcel of grain which could be anything from 5 or 6 tonnes up to over 100.

The boss let me try this out and in two or three goes I was getting a very consistent reading. He then did the same with the same sample and got a considerably heavier bushel weight. Eventually he showed me the trick. The strike or straight edge, which was used to level off the contents of the pot, had two sides. One was like a ruler and the other had a piece of dowel along it. If you used the dowel side, it pressed a few more corns into the pot than the straight edge. With the effect of scale, this made the sample look considerably heavier and better quality. Even with a correctly drawn sample, a small change in procedure or instrumentation could significantly bias the result. “That's how they did it in the old days days, boy” he said with a wink “buying or selling, you see, boy”. I should add that this was shown to me as an antique curiosity and was not any part of the trading practices of the firm in my day!

The kit which is used to “sample” the temperature of the climate is remarkably unchanged and about the same vintage as that rather splendid little balance. It is called a Stevenson Screen and was actually designed by the father of Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of “Treasure Island”. It is a standard sized wooden box with louvred sides to allow free circulation of the air around the instruments and keep them out of direct sunlight. Hence the expression “in the shade” when referring to temperature. The thermometer might be a traditional mercury maximum/minimum type or more modern sensors. Stevenson Screens were traditionally painted with whitewash.

It is doubtful whether a character like ANTHONY WATTS could exist in state-controlled Britain. He is an American meteorologist and weather forecaster for commercial TV and radio stations. For his living he depends upon his customers' satisfaction with the accuracy of his forecasts. He also supplies custom-built weather stations, TV graphics systems and video equipment to broadcasters all over the world. So he is an expert who makes his living from weather but is neither a civil servant (who can be made to toe an official line) nor dependent on tax-funded grants (which require applicants to be politically correct). So he has a certain independence of mind and demonstrates that rugged individualism and tenacity of purpose which used to be the stuff of all-American heroes in many films of my youth.

He noticed that the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service (NOAA/NWS – roughly equivalent to the UK Meteorological Office) had made a small change to its Stevenson Screens. He wondered whether this change would affect the temperatures recorded. Back in 1979 the NWS had stopped using whitewash and started painting the Stevenson Screens with white, semi gloss, latex paint. Whitewash essentially gave a coating of calcium carbonate whilst latex paint used the pigment titanium dioxide which has significantly different infra-red properties.

In 2007, having a little time on his hands, he set up a trial to see what the differences might be. He used three Stevenson Screens – one unpainted, one painted with the latex semi gloss used by the NWS and one painted with historically correct whitewash. He also used a modern stacked plate aspirated thermometer as an additional control. His results showed that the latex paint raised the maximum recorded temperature within the screen by 0.3 degrees Fahrenheit and the minimum recorded temperature by 0.8 degrees Fahrenheit when compared with the whitewashed Stevenson Screen. So that is an average upward bias of 0.55 degrees Fahrenheit. Not very much, you might think but the whole scare about global warming is based on a claimed, observed temperature rise of only 1.2 degrees Fahrenheit in a century.

Anthony Watts then decided to have a look at the NWS's Stevenson Screens in his locality to see if they were being painted to the official specification. What he found was disquieting. In one case, heat-generating radio equipment had been installed inside the screen, near to the temperature sensors. In other cases the weather stations were near to the outlet vents of air conditioning systems or close to other heat sources – all of which would tend to bias the recorded temperatures upwards.

So he conducted further investigations, eventually recruiting a team of volunteers to observe and photograph as many of the 1221 weather stations as possible all over the United States. 865 of them were visited. NEARLY NINE OUT OF TEN WEATHER STATIONS PROVED TO BE OUTSIDE THE SPECIFICATIONS LAID DOWN BY THE U.S. AUTHORTIES THEMSELVES.

They were near to artificial heat sources, on top of concrete or tarmac surfaces, close to buildings, in the steamy warmth of sewage farms and so on. ALL OF THE OBSERVED FAULTS WOULD TEND TO RAISE THE RECORDED TEMPERATURES. It is a fascinating story of one man's determination to get at the truth and can be read in full at . Anthony Watts also has a regularly updated blog which is one of the most widely read, independent sources of climate information. I particularly like the fact that contrary views are welcomed. Whilst they are vigorously debated, they are treated with respect and normal courtesy – unlike some blogs pushing the official line.

To return to my analogy of that corn merchant's balance – the few cubic feet of air inside a Stevenson Screen stand proxy for a huge amount of the earth's atmosphere. Weather stations are often hundreds of miles apart. So those few cubic feet are proportionately much smaller than that egg cupful of grain representing a parcel of some tons. Any change, such as a different coat of paint, a heat-radiating transformer inside the screen or a nearby heat source can have a disproportionate effect on a tiny sample which is claimed as representative of hundreds of cubic miles of atmosphere. Probably unintentionally, the official methods seem to have had an effect not unlike a thumb or two being pressed on the side of the scales indicating a warming, rather than a stable or cooling climate. Yet the taxpayer-funded “climate community” was not at all grateful to Anthony Watts for looking in to the basic data and the methods used to measure it. For them “the science is settled” is the whole of their faith. Forget accurate measurement. They have computer programs to adjust things in ways which only they can understand. Watts is a heretic and that's that.


When the US authorities began monitoring surface temperatures of the earth's surface, the 1,221 US weather stations were part of a worldwide total of some 6,000. But something strange happened in the last few years. The number of stations used to record temperature dropped dramatically. Figures were still shown for all areas of the world but they were calculated by reference to far fewer actual observations. They were “adjusted” and “homogenised”. The Canadian blog, “Small Dead Animals” reported as follows on January 16 2010 under the heading “The Sound of Settled Science”.

“In Canada, the number of stations dropped from 600 to 35 in 2009. The percentage of stations in the lower elevations (below 300 feet) tripled and those at higher elevations above three thousand feet were reduced in half. Canada's semi-permanent depicted warmth comes from interpolating (don't you love the word!) from more southerly locations to fill northerly vacant grid boxes, even as a pure average of the available stations shows a COOLING.

JUST 1 THERMOMETER REMAINS for everything north of latitude 65N – that station is Eureka. Eureka according to Wikipedia has been described as “The Garden Spot of the Arctic” due to the flora and fauna around the Eureka area, more so than anywhere else in the high Arctic. Winters are frigid but summers are slightly warmer than other places in the Canadian Arctic”.

The same has happened to US thermometers, South of the Border. The computer expert E. Michael Smith joined forces with the Certified Consulting Meteorologist Joseph D'Aleo and appeared in a TV programme on on 16 January 2010. They reported that the number of weather stations used as a starting point for the world's average temperature calculations had been reduced from around 6,000 in the Seventies to about 1,500 now. That leaves much of the world unaccounted for. The greatest losses were in areas where NOAA and other data centers claim the warming was greatest like Siberia and Canada”. D'Aleo added that “In these regions NOAA “estimates” temperatures based on stations that may be 700 miles away”.

Smith noted “When doing a benchmark test of the program, I found patterns in them input data... that looked like dramatic and selective deletions of thermometers from cold locations.......The more I looked, the more I found patterns of deletion that could not be accidental. Thermometers moved from cold mountains to warm beaches; from Siberian Arctic to more southerly locations, and from pristine rural locations to jet airport tarmacs....”

Even as a very new, trainee corn merchant I knew better than to draw a sample from only the best part of the bulk. It would lead to the actual delivery being rejected and to great extra expense to my boss. He never liked that sort of thing. There seems to be no similar sanction for scientists drawing bad samples of climate and temperature with equipment known to be faulty. If the results are what the politicians want to hear, they are fine. The enormous bill for remediating “climate change” will simply be passed to the taxpayer – even if it isn't actually happening.

Edward Spalton March 2010


cynicalHighlander said...

Hi SB has your guest poster posted his prognosis over here where there are private individuals who would welcome his take on things.

subrosa said...

Thanks for the link CH. I will ask Edward. He's not available right now but I'll suggest it in an email.

Jockdownsouth said...

As well as the excellent Wattsupwiththat blog mentioned by Edward Spalton I can recommend Bihop Hill. His Hockey Stick Illusion book has sold so well that Amazon are now out of stock -

subrosa said...

I've heard of Bishop Hill's book Jock. Some blogs have quoted parts of it.

Glad to hear it's such a success.

douglas clark said...


I wonder what your guest makes of this?

subrosa said...

Thanks for the link Douglas. You obviously think, because Watts' work was indirectly funded by the tobacco industry that it's useless.

I actually think that scientists who do not openly use peer review are similar.

Not that I'm denying climate change isn't real, it is and always has been. It's just that I don't accept that man is responsible for all of it but only a very small part of it.

Perhaps it would be better if this video was viewed by the Chinese and Indians. They don't have a problem with denying yet they receive billions of pounds from governments to introduce expensive measures, which of course have no effect, because they're interested in the money not the purpose.

I'm sure Edward will view it. Thanks again.

Apogee said...

Hi SR.
This is a very well written and informative report. It looks from the reported details that either large scale incompetence is abroad in the means and methods used to measure temperature ( including drastic reductions in the number and spread of measuring stations), or for at least the last 30 years there has been a systemic, deliberate modification of the system such as to make the numbers inaccurate,in fact down right useless for the reason they are collected.
Strange how the recorded drift in temperature is always upwards, but not noticeable to the people making the readings on the ground,very insidious.
This aspect needs investigating properly, it is either total incompetence, or , as would appear to be with data manipulation included, systematic fraud!
And if the latter, perpetrated over 30+ years, under whose control and why?


douglas clark said...


You are welcome.

The point is that there is more than one point of view on Mr Watts. Or more correctly Mr Watts interpretation of the data. I actually think that the research he has organised was worth doing. It would, of course, have been better if it had been peer reviewed before publication.

I am not sure I understand the point in your second paragraph. If I take it to mean that all data sets should be publically available then I'd agree, although many scientists would want the chance to exploit the data they had collected prior to publication. I can see their arguement. There is a lot more prestiege in publication than there is in data collection.

It seems clear to me that - after publication at the very least - all supporting data should be in the public domain.

Jockdownsouth said...

Douglas Clark -
According to Anthony Watts, Greenman (who produced that Youtube video) is one of Al Gore's acolytes so isn't exactly independent himself. Here's Anthony's take on the video. Note particularly that the criticism is largely based on unfinished work by Anthony and his team. It had NOT been published at that time. Also, it appears that the chart in the Youtube video used "homogenised" temperature data, which takes us back to Climategate and the University of East Anglia. -

The Youtube sidebar descibes Anthony Watts as an "Arch Denier", ad hominem attacks with connotations of holocaust denial being the stock in trade of many "warmists" who can't refute arguments contrary to their fixed beliefs. Most of the contributors to wattsupwiththat are sceptics but contrary views are certainly allowed and disagreements are usually polite. There are even links in the sidebar to pro AGW websites.
I think he's now surveyed over 80% of the US weather stations so he's not there yet. Here's his more recent response to another attempt to discredit his work. Note that he intends to submit the work for peer review once it is finished -

Please also note that I have no connection with anyone on either side of this debate. I somehow became interested and the more I find out the more depressed I have become at the way the IPPC and others have manipulated and distorted data to match their own preconceived ideas.

subrosa said...

Yes Douglas it should be available to all.

Edward Spalton said...

In the historical skit "1066 and All That"
the authors gave a rather down to earth take on Magna Carta. Of trial by jury they wrote "Barons should only be tried by other barons WHO WOULD UNDERSTAND" - an early form of peer review!

The "Climategate" emails give an insight into how this was achieved by true believers reviewing each others' work.

May I recommend "Climategate Analysis" by John P Costello B.E. (Elec)(Hons), BSc (Hons),PhD (Physics), Grad Dip Ed.
Annotated extracts are linked to the full originals so you can check that quotes are in context. It is 188 pages long and the link is

subrosa said...

Can I amended Edward's link in his comment. He has added an 'e' on .com and it should read:

douglas clark said...

Edward Spalton,

Thank you for replying.

My only point here is to say that Anthony Watts has made a statement. It has been refuted by others, for instance, here:

It is on that somewhat narrow point that I'd like you to engage. Not on the far broader one of ethics in science.

Jockdownsouth said...

Douglas Clark 16:36 -
As I alluded to in my previous comment (19th March 10:13), Anthony Watts has "refuted the Menne 2010 refutation" because it was based on incomplete information and he also believed them to have used homogenised temperature data, not raw data. The Skeptical Science post to which you link states, however, that Menne used raw data. Who is correct will, presumably, only be clear once Watts has gone through his intended peer review process. What is clear to me is that the science definitely isn't settled yet.

douglas clark said...


Yes, you did allude to that. Something I cannot copy and paste.

Perhaps our hostess will explain why copy and paste is not allowed? Perhaps not.

However I see Jockdownsouth's last post here.

Anthony Watts can't refute what he has already published, can he?

Can he?

It is pretty clear that Watts has to row back on his conclusions at least and until he is peer reviewed, if ever.

We await that glorious day.

Your kind hostess and I.

I expect it might be a long time coming.

I tend to see this as zero and counting.

When do you expect that to be concluded? Anytime soon?



subrosa said...

Douglas I have no idea why copy and paste isn't allowed. There's nothing on Blogger connected with it.

If you're having trouble perhaps Jock and yourself could email me with your email addresses and I could sent them on.

But Douglas I see no reason whatsoever why you can't copy and paste.

Oh my email is on the rhs near the top.

Jockdownsouth said...

Douglas - I have no problem with copy & paste and have been able to read the posting at Skeptical Science to which you linked. Have you tried using a different browser? Here again is Anthony Watts' response to the Skeptical Science refutation -

If you still can't read it I'll quote a few lines from what is a long post -
1. ..the project was a study about station siting issues, not UHI.
2. is very important to point out that the Menne et al 2010 paper was based on an early version of the data, at 43% of the network surveyed. The dataset that Dr. Menne used was not quality controlled, and contained errors both in station identification and rating, and was never intended for analysis.
3. Political issues aside, the appearance of the Menne et al 2010 paper does not stop the surfacestations project nor the work I’m doing with the Pielke research group to produce a peer reviewed paper of our own. It does illustrate though that some people have been in a rush to get results. Texas state Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon suggested way back at 33% of the network surveyed that we had a statistically large enough sample to produce an analysis. I begged to differ then, at 43%, and yes even at 70% when I wrote my booklet “Is the US Surface Temperature Record Reliable?, which contained no temperature analysis, only a census of stations by rating.
4. ..I’ve been continuing to collect what some might consider an unusually large sample size, now at 87%. We’ve learned that there are so few well sited stations, the ones that meet the CRN1/CRN2 criteria (or NOAA’s 100 foot rule for COOPS) are just 10% of the whole network
5. It has been said by NCDC in Menne et al ..... that station siting errors do not matter. However, I believe the way NCDC conducted the analysis gives a false impression because of the homogenization process used. As many readers know, the FILNET algorithm blends a lot of the data together to infill missing data. This means temperature data from both well sited and poorly sited stations gets combined to infill missing data. The theory is that it all averages out, but when you see that 90% of the USHCN network doesn’t meet even the old NOAA 100 foot rule for COOPS, you realize this may not be the case.

Douglas, you state "Anthony Watts can't refute what he has already published, can he? Can he? It is pretty clear that Watts has to row back on his conclusions at least and until he is peer reviewed, if ever. We await that glorious day." I think this is verging on an ad hominem attack, a tactic often used by extreme AGW proponents. I try to remain civilised.

Anthony Watts' own statement on Peer Review is -
" I realize all of this isn’t a complete rebuttal to Menne et al 2010, but I want to save that option for more detail for the possibility of placing a comment in The Journal of Geophysical Research.

When our paper with the most current data is completed (and hopefully accepted in a journal), we’ll let peer reviewed science do the comparison on data and methods, and we’ll see how it works out. Could I be wrong? I’m prepared for that possibility. But everything I’ve seen so far tells me I’m on the right track."

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