Comments On The Game Changer 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” By Watts Et Al 2012

Congratulations to Anthony Watts! Today, Anthony  has announced his seminal 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

in his post


This paper is a game changer, in my view, with respect to the use of the land surface temperature anomalies as part of the diagnosis of global warming. 

The new study extends and improves on the study of station siting quality, as they affect multi-decadal surface air temperature trends, that was introduced in

Fall, S., A. Watts, J. Nielsen-Gammon, E. Jones, D. Niyogi, J. Christy, and R.A. Pielke Sr., 2011: Analysis of the impacts of station exposure on the U.S. Historical Climatology Network temperatures and temperature trends. J. Geophys. Res., 116, D14120, doi:10.1029/2010JD015146.Copyright (2011) American Geophysical Union.

and whose results have been used by others; i.e.

Martinez, C.J., Maleski, J.J., Miller, M.F, 2012: Trends in precipitation and temperature in Florida, USA. Journal of Hydrology. volume 452-453, issue , year 2012, pp. 259 – 281

Anthony has led what is a critically important assessment of the issue of station quality. Indeed, this type of analysis should have been performed by Tom Karl and Tom Peterson at NCDC, Jim Hansen at GISS and Phil Jones at the University of East Anglia (and Richard Muller).  However, they apparently liked their answers and did not want to test the robustness of their findings.

In direct contradiction to Richard Muller’s BEST study,  the new Watts et al 2012 paper has very effectively shown that a substantive warm bias exists even in the mean temperature trends.  This type of bias certainly exists throughout the Global Historical Climate Network, as well as what Anthony has documented for the US Historical Climate Reference Network.

Despite what is written on the NCDC website for the USHCN website; i.e. that

The U.S. Historical Climatology Network (USHCN, Karl et al. 1990) is a high-quality moderate sized data set of monthly averaged maximum, minimum, and mean temperature and total monthly precipitation developed to assist in the detection of regional climate change.

the USHCN is not yet a robust set of quality controlled data.

Anthony’s new results also undermine the latest claims by Richard Muller of BEST, as not only is Muller extracting data from mostly the same geographic areas as for the NCDC, GISS and CRU analyses, but he is accepting an older  assessment of station siting quality as it affects the trends.

Indeed, since he accepted the Fall et al 2011 study in reporting his latest findings, he now needs to retrench and re-compute his trends. Of course, for the non-USHCN sites, he must bin those sites as performed by Anthony’s research group. If he does not, his study should be relegated to a footnote of a out-of-date analysis.

In Richard Muller’s Op-Ed in the New York Times (see The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic), he makes far-reaching conclusions based on his sparse knowledge of the uncertainties in multi-decadal land surface temperature record. His comments show what occurs when a scientist, with excellent research credentials within their area of scientific expertise, go outside of their area of knowledge.

His latest BEST claims are, in my view, an embarrassment. The statement that he makes in his op-ed that [highlight added]

My total turnaround, in such a short time, is the result of careful and objective analysis by the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, which I founded with my daughter Elizabeth. Our results show that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.

is easily refuted. See, for example,

National Research Council, 2005: Radiative forcing of climate change: Expanding the concept and addressing uncertainties. Committee on Radiative Forcing Effects on Climate Change, Climate Research Committee, Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate, Division on Earth and Life Studies, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 208 pp.

Pielke Sr., R., K.  Beven, G. Brasseur, J. Calvert, M. Chahine, R. Dickerson, D.  Entekhabi, E. Foufoula-Georgiou, H. Gupta, V. Gupta, W. Krajewski, E.  Philip Krider, W. K.M. Lau, J. McDonnell,  W. Rossow,  J. Schaake, J.  Smith, S. Sorooshian,  and E. Wood, 2009: Climate change: The need to consider human forcings besides greenhouse gases.   Eos, Vol. 90, No. 45, 10 November 2009, 413. Copyright (2009) American   Geophysical Union.

Pielke Sr., R.A., A. Pitman, D. Niyogi, R. Mahmood, C. McAlpine, F. Hossain, K. Goldewijk, U. Nair, R. Betts, S. Fall, M. Reichstein, P. Kabat, and N. de Noblet-Ducoudré, 2011: Land  use/land cover changes and climate: Modeling analysis  and  observational evidence. WIREs Clim Change 2011, 2:828–850. doi: 10.1002/wcc.144.

A. J. Pitman, F. B. Avila, G. Abramowitz, Y. P.Wang, S. J. Phipps and N. de Noblet-Ducoudré, 2011: Importance of background climate in determining impact of land-cover change on regional climate. Nature Climate Change.: 20 November 2011 | DOI: 10.1038/NCLIMATE1294

Avila, F. B., A. J. Pitman, M. G. Donat, L. V. Alexander, and G. Abramowitz (2012), Climate model simulated changes in temperature extremes due to land cover change, J. Geophys. Res., 117, D04108, doi:10.1029/2011JD016382

Now, with the new Watts et al 2012 paper, Richard Muller’s conclusion regarding the robustness of the BEST analysis is refuted in the same day as his op-ed appeared.

Richard Muller, in his latest analysis, continues to ignore past communications regarding the robustness of his results; e. g. see

Informative News Article by Margot Roosevelt In The Los Angeles Times On Richard Muller’s Testimony To Congress

Is There A Sampling Bias In The BEST Analysis Reported By Richard Muller?

Comments On The Testimony Of Richard Muller At the United States House Of Representatives Committee On Science, Space And Technology

Richard Muller On NPR On April 11 2011 – My Comments

It certainly appears that Richard Muller is an attention-getter, which he has succeeded at, but, unfortunately, he has demonstrated a remarkable lack of knowledge concerning the uncertainties in quantifying the actual long-term surface temperature trend, as well as a seriously incomplete knowledge of the climate system.

The proper way to complete a research study is provided in the Watts et al 2012 article.  This article, a culmination of outstanding volunteer support under Anthony’s leadership, shows that Anthony Watts clearly understands the research process in climate science. As a result of his, and of and his colleagues, rigorous dedication to the scientific method, he has led a much more robust study than performed by Richard Muller in the BEST project.

Finally, on Andy Revkin’s well-respected and influential weblog Dot Earth,  in a comment with respect to his post

‘Converted’ Skeptic: Humans Driving Recent Warming

he writes

Muller’s database will hold up as a powerful added tool for assessing land-side climate patterns, but his confidence level on the human element in recent climate change will not. I’d be happy to be proved wrong, mind you.

Andy’s assumption that “Muller’s database will hold up as a powerful added tool for assessing land-side climate patterns” is now shown as incorrect.

The new Watts et al 2012 paper shows that Muller’s data base is really not a significant new addition for assessing land-side climate patterns, at least until further analyses are performed on the siting quality of the stations he uses in the BEST assessment.

Anthony Watt’s new paper shows that  a major correction is needed Muller’s BEST study.  Anthony also has shown what dedicated scientists can do with even limited financial support.  Despite the large quantities of funds spent on the BEST study, it is Anthony Watts and his team who have actually significantly advanced our understanding of  this aspect of the climate system.  Well done Anthony!

source of image

Comments Off on Comments On The Game Changer 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” By Watts Et Al 2012

Filed under Climate Change Metrics, Research Papers

Comments are closed.