UPDATE: September 27 2010 – see the post “You Are Invited To Waste Your Time”
I was invited by Nature magazine to write a Letter in response to the September Exeter meeting http://www.surfacetemperatures.org/home, and have been working with a member of their staff on edits over the past two weeks.
This morning, I received the startling e-mail below from Nature’s Chief Commissioning Editor. Quite frankly, the only way I can interpret this behavior is as an example of the continued bias in Nature’s reporting of climate issues. Their statement that “We have now reflected on the matter, and on some information from attendees at the meeting in question” is a remarkable admission.
Dear Professor Pielke,
Thank you very much for taking the time to write to Nature, upon request. And for the revisions you’ve made, again at our request.
We have now reflected on the matter, and on some information from attendees at the meeting in question. We have, I’m afraid concluded that we cannot offer publication on this occasion. We feel that there are too many nuances to this situation to be properly communicated by a short item (or items) on our letters page.
We will however continue to track the evolving story for news or leaders, as appropriate.
We apologise for having taken up your time in this way.
Chief Commissioning Editor
Opinion [incl Correspondence and Books & Arts]
Temperature dataset effort vulnerable to problems
by Roger A. Pielke Sr.
Peter Stott and Peter Thorne recently conducted a meeting in Exeter to improve the quality control and archival procedures for global surface temperature data, at which I was not present. I applaud the aim of this meeting (doi:10.1038/4661040d) — to solicit multiple views from the climate community on how to create confidence in raw data and metadata, and to provide a set of blind benchmarking tools for the assessment of data adjustment algorithms. But I worry that the group seemingly has yet to tackle some valid concerns about that data.
I was glad to see in the meeting notes several candid admissions of the shortcomings of existing surface temperature data assessments. The group acknowledged the problem of undocumented changes to temperature records and a lack of international exchange of detailed stations histories, as well as the recognition that non-traditional climate scientists are now playing a significant role in constructing a better climate dataset. They recognized that there may be important, unresolved systematic biases and uncertainties in the current data, and acknowledged the value of efforts such as www.surfacestations.org, which has prodded the US National Climatic Data Center and others to examine their analyses more rigorously. The group’s commitment to quantifying and reporting statistical uncertainties and data adjustments is to be commended.
But the meeting notes suggest that the group did not sufficiently address other valid concerns about data collection [Pielke et al 2007]. These include the need to improve the improve the documentation of humidity at temperature stations [e.g. Davey et al 2006; Fall et al 2010], the height of the observations [Klotzbach et al 2009, Lin et al 2007] and to pay more attention to the siting of surface stations. Many stations still have not been documented with photographs, for example – this is a simple problem that should be addressed immediately.
I would like to see the Exeter group address these issues explicitly, and, importantly, make a commitment to having all analyses and findings from these data sets assessed by independent scientists [Mahmood et al 2010]. All too often in the past, results have been assessed by scientists associated with the agencies that performed the analyses. This should not continue.
Pielke Sr., R.A., C. Davey, D. Niyogi, S. Fall, J. Steinweg-Woods, K. Hubbard, X. Lin, M. Cai, Y.-K. Lim, H. Li, J. Nielsen-Gammon, K. Gallo, R. Hale, R. Mahmood, S. Foster, R.T. McNider, and P. Blanken, 2007: Unresolved issues with the assessment of multi-decadal global land surface temperature trends. J. Geophys. Res., 112, D24S08, doi:10.1029/2006JD008229.
Davey, C.A., R.A. Pielke Sr., and K.P. Gallo, 2006: Differences between near-surface equivalent temperature and temperature trends for the eastern United States – Equivalent temperature as an alternative measure of heat content. Global and Planetary Change, 54, 19–32.
Fall, S., N. Diffenbaugh, D. Niyogi, R.A. Pielke Sr., and G. Rochon, 2010: Temperature and equivalent temperature over the United States (1979 – 2005). Int. J. Climatol., DOI: 10.1002/joc.2094.
Klotzbach, P.J., R.A. Pielke Sr., R.A. Pielke Jr., J.R. Christy, and R.T. McNider, 2009: An alternative explanation for differential temperature trends at the surface and in the lower troposphere. J. Geophys. Res., 114, D21102, doi:10.1029/2009JD011841.
Lin, X., R.A. Pielke Sr., K.G. Hubbard, K.C. Crawford, M. A. Shafer, and T. Matsui, 2007: An examination of 1997-2007 surface layer temperature trends at two heights in Oklahoma. Geophys. Res. Letts., 34, L24705, doi:10.1029/2007GL031652.
Mahmood, R., R.A. Pielke Sr., K.G. Hubbard, D. Niyogi, G. Bonan, P. Lawrence, B. Baker, R. McNider, C. McAlpine, A. Etter, S. Gameda, B. Qian, A. Carleton, A. Beltran-Przekurat, T. Chase, A.I. Quintanar, J.O. Adegoke, S. Vezhapparambu, G. Conner, S. Asefi, E. Sertel, D.R. Legates, Y. Wu, R. Hale, O.W. Frauenfeld, A. Watts, M. Shepherd, C. Mitra, V.G. Anantharaj, S. Fall,R. Lund, A. Nordfelt, P. Blanken, J. Du, H.-I. Chang, R. Leeper, U.S. Nair, S. Dobler, R. Deo, and J. Syktus, 2010: Impacts of land use land cover change on climate and future research priorities. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 91, 37–46, DOI: 10.1175/2009BAMS2769.1