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Roger Pielke (right) claims NCDC removed weather station data to dodge public scrutiny.  (Source: University of Colorado)
Weather station data hidden from public; scientists allege government cover-up

The theory of global warming began to explain one simple set of factsm-- surface temperature monitoring stations have shown a roughly one degree rise over the past century.   But just where does these temperature readings come from? Most are reported by volunteer stations, usually no more than a thermometer inside a small wooden hut or below a roof overhang. In the US, 1,221 such stations exist, all administered by the National Climatic Data Center, a branch of the NOAA.

Two months ago, I reported on an effort to validate this network. A volunteer group headed by meteorologist Anthony Watts had found serious problems. Not only did sites fail to meet the NCDC's  requirements, but encroaching development had put many in ridiculously unsuitable locations -- on hot black asphalt, next to trash burn barrels, beside heat exhaust vents, even attached to hot chimneys and above outdoor grills.

Soon thereafter, a Seattle radio station interviewed the head of the NCDC, Dr. Thomas Peterson, informed him of the effort and quizzed him about the problems. Three days later, the NCDC removed all website access to station site locations, citing "privacy concerns." Without this data (which had been public for years), the validation effort was blocked. No more stations could be located.

Scientists were quick to respond. Climatologist Roger Pielke from the University of Colorado called the act a "coverup" and said it was designed to prevent public scrutiny. More shockingly, he revealed that researchers had been for years pressuring the government to validate the network themselves, and that the NCDC had begun to do j so, but cancelled the project and refused to make the data public, presumably to avoid this sort of scandal.  Joined by Watts and others, Pielke called upon the government to recant.

The resulting furor forced the NCDC to again made site locations public. But so far, they've failed to address to root of the problem, which is the wholly unsatisfactory locations of many of their recording sites, loations which make the resulting data unreliable, and compromise a dataset upon which much of US energy and environmental policy is based.

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Not saying the point is moot, but...
By dubldwn on 8/7/2007 6:18:26 PM , Rating: 2
ridiculously unsuitable locations -- on hot black asphalt, next to trash burn barrels, beside heat exhaust vents, even attached to hot chimneys and above outdoor grills

Well, yeah, that’s true. Those are ridiculously unsuitable locations and that should be addressed. However, the temperature really did rise 1 degree over the last 100 years. Are you disputing that?

RE: Not saying the point is moot, but...
By masher2 on 8/7/2007 7:59:37 PM , Rating: 5
What this means is that the "error bars" on the actual temperature change are larger than we first thought. The recorded rise isn't "one degree" exactly, but something more like "somewhere between 0.6 and 1.6 degrees". That uncertainty is the width of the error bar.

Scientists have long known that at least some portion of recorded temperature rise is due to nothing more than urban "heat islands" and other related effects. Getting a handle on problems with the NCDC dataset will allow us to better judge just how large and fast the rise is.

Do I think this means all the recorded worldwide temperature rise is wholly spurious? No, but it certainly means we have even less of an understanding than we originally thought.

RE: Not saying the point is moot, but...
By smitty3268 on 8/7/2007 8:25:25 PM , Rating: 2
There's clearly a problem with some of these land based measurements, but I'm glad you aren't claiming that global warming is a complete fraud like a lot of people who read this article are going to. Satellite based measurements have shown an increase in temperature as well.

RE: Not saying the point is moot, but...
By masher2 on 8/7/2007 8:45:16 PM , Rating: 3
> "Satellite based measurements have shown an increase in temperature as well."

No. From the NASA website:
Unlike the surface-based temperatures, global temperature measurements of the Earth's lower atmosphere obtained from satellites reveal no definitive warming trend over the past two decades. The slight trend that is in the data actually appears to be downward.

RE: Not saying the point is moot, but...
By masher2 on 8/7/2007 9:46:12 PM , Rating: 4
Here is a link to the most recent data, which shows a tropospheric warming trend of 0.057 degrees/decade, which implies a surface warming trend of ~0.046 deg/decade. That's obviously considerably smaller than what the surface stations are reporting.

RE: Not saying the point is moot, but...
By Rovemelt on 8/8/2007 8:56:16 PM , Rating: 2
Global Warming Trend of Mean Tropospheric Temperature Observed by Satellites

Satellite data seems relatively consistent with ground measurements.

By masher2 on 8/8/2007 9:04:10 PM , Rating: 1
That paper is 4 years old. Read the one I cited above for a more up-to-date view, or simply read the newer one in your own link, which cites your original:
Satellite-based measurements of decadal-scale temperature change in the lower troposphere have indicated cooling relative to Earth's surface in the tropics...We have derived a diurnal correction that, in the tropics, is of the opposite sign from that previously applied. When we use this [correction] we find tropical warming consistent with that found at the surface
In other words, once a "fudge factor" is applied, the recorded cooling trend becomes a warming trend.

The 2007 paper cited above details both this and other problems in satellite and sonde readings. Check it out; it's excellent reading.

RE: Not saying the point is moot, but...
By smitty3268 on 8/7/2007 11:04:20 PM , Rating: 2
That's old data, which was initially hailed by anti-global warming activists and later disproven.

RE: Not saying the point is moot, but...
By rdeegvainl on 8/8/2007 5:04:51 AM , Rating: 2
Where? not that i doubt you, but I can't accept your statement as truth without some sort of source.

By masher2 on 8/8/2007 6:45:11 AM , Rating: 2
Rather more correct to say it was "supplanted", not "disproven". It's important to remember two things about satellite measurements. First, they cover only a very short time period (26 years and counting) which means a couple warm or cold years can skew the results dramatically. Second and more importantly, satellites do not measure temperature directly. They measure wavelengths, from which we apply a modelling process to infer temperature.

So, the most recent data includes the warm years of 1998-2005, and also a new temperature model which-- applied to the older readings-- and viola! Suddenly a small cooling trend becomes a small warming trend. There have been suggestions that the new modelling is at least partially motivated by a desire to "fit" the satellite readings so they reconcile with ground-based reports, but that's neither here nor there.

What is important is that the new modelling still has serious flaws. The latest paper from Christy, et. al (published just a few months ago) highlights some of these. First, there are still major discrepancies between satellite and ground-based readings. Simple physics says the troposhere (lower atmosphere) in the tropics should warm much faster than the ground. But its not...its warming slower, possibly much slower. Are the satellite readings wrong, or are the ground stations?

Secondly, the error bars on the data are larger than the actual shift...meaning that, even with the new model, the data *might* still show cooling, not warming. Third, the nighttime warming is substantially larger than the daytime, meaning the model is probably not accurately reflecting real-temperatures, at least in some cases. Fourthly, there exist some large discontinuities in the readings, which just happen to show up when past adjustments were applied, suggesting those adjustments had substantial error themselves.

In summary, if anyone is suggesting that the satellite readings "prove" the ground-based readings are correct, they are quite mistaken.

RE: Not saying the point is moot, but...
By Rovemelt on 8/8/2007 8:45:18 PM , Rating: 1

That Nasa webpage is almost 10 years old now.

Here's a link to the more recent GISS surface temp data:

When the satellite data was corrected for loss of orbital altitude, it showed a slight warming trend in the troposphere. This was published after the NASA report showing a slight cooling trend.

By masher2 on 8/8/2007 9:08:48 PM , Rating: 2
> "This was published after the NASA report showing a slight cooling trend."

That link is from a 1998 Christy research paper. I've cited his most recent paper above, which details several lingering problems in the satellite readings.

By marvdmartian on 8/9/2007 10:52:22 AM , Rating: 2
Global warming is a complete fraud!! I have, using various methods, determined the real reason why we're noticing a warming trend on earth:

Yes, it's true! Illudium-235 explosive space modulators!! ;)

By DiscussGlobalWarming on 8/12/2007 1:19:04 PM , Rating: 2
Yes. I am and many other dispute that. You can no longer just sit there and say "the temperature DID rise 1 degree" because as the article states - the data is FLAWED. Period. Now, are you disputing THAT?

Yes, but is it really that surprising?
By Master Kenobi on 8/7/2007 1:44:44 PM , Rating: 3
When you want to make a point, skewing results in a specific direction always make it more believable.

By jskirwin on 8/7/2007 2:23:21 PM , Rating: 2
True, but that only works when you hide your methodology - which is what the NCDC tried to do by taking the locations offline.

Once again it's not the crime that gets you, it's the coverup. By pulling their data collection methodology they are tacitly admitting they screwed up and their data may in fact be worthless. I suppose it's easier to try to win the coverup than to admit that your data may be skewed and therefore your arguments flawed - but that's a political decision, not a scientific one.

By porkpie on 8/7/2007 2:45:51 PM , Rating: 2
A government agency fudge things to protect itself and justify its existence? I can't believe it!

/sarcasm off

RE: Yes, but is it really that surprising?
By arazok on 8/7/2007 3:00:56 PM , Rating: 2
At this point, global warming is a blindly accepted truth in the public eye, and it's now driven by political agendas. Sadly, no amount of evidence showing everybody might be wrong matters.

"People will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it."

By Ringold on 8/7/2007 3:57:57 PM , Rating: 2
I think all we can do now is try to invest a little savings in the market with firms we think will profit from the paranoia. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

And now that George Bush is starting to sing the Global Warming gospel, with a lot of Republican's with business interests in biofuels and whatnot, "them" suddenly refers to the entire political class. Making money in the ag sector hand over fist helps one sleep better at night regardless of what climate science is saying. ;)

RE: Yes, but is it really that surprising?
By chsh1ca on 8/7/2007 4:36:44 PM , Rating: 3
Is the NOAA really the only agency on earth recording and monitoring the weather?

By Hoser McMoose on 8/8/2007 5:18:53 PM , Rating: 2
Most certainly not, there are weather stations all over the world operated by hundreds of different organizations (mostly governmental, but there are probably some non-government organizations mixed in). And besides, land-based recording stations are known to be a bit unreliable for reasons exactly like this.

As a note, it's not that all of these stations are going to be showing increases, some might well show decreases as well due to changes in their environment (eg. a station that used to be in an open field might now be in a shaded area).

Basically they're just saying that there is a certain margin of error in these measurements, though as mentioned above, that is a well known fact. One could argue that the margin of error is somewhat larger than previously expected, but it's unlikely to change the results by any significant amount.

RE: Yes, but is it really that surprising?
By 2005astros on 8/8/2007 7:39:02 AM , Rating: 1
I resent the implication that the govt. is fudging the numbers. They have no reason to do so and I'm sure they're being very diligent in solving whatever problems exist.

By OxBow on 8/8/2007 5:00:57 PM , Rating: 2
Umm, yeah, sure.

BTW, would you be interested in purchasing some ocean front property? :-)

They aren't covering up the data, they are covering up their sloppy management. This story isn't really about global warming, except tangentally that some of the evidence pointing to global warming is based on their statistics. The story is more about how they've mismanaged their job and not kep up with properly enforcing their own policies. That's a story about government waste and an effort by beaurocrats to hide their sloppines.

This doesn't prove or disprove global warming, it just proves that people will make dumb mistakes to cover over their previous mistakes.

By Panurge on 8/8/2007 6:51:06 PM , Rating: 4
This isn't about changing data. The readings were taken correctly, so the data written is accurate to the temperatures seen at the locations.

The problem is one of logistics. The locations where these temperatures are being taken are frequently no longer valid. These boxes are supposed to be in rural or semi-rural areas with good airflow and away from sources of local heat. Many are now in urban (or mostly urban) areas, near local heat sources, or unkempt so that overgrowth impedes airflow.

What does this all add up to? Each of those factors (urbanization, local heat sources, lack of air flow) will cause reported temperatures to be higher than they would be otherwise.

An important thing to note is that this is not a US only problem. These recordings have the same problem all across the world. Any box that was set up in the last century is probably in a much more urban environment than it had started, and if not, is probably poorly cleaned and kept.

Over 100 years, this could lead to a significant difference in reported temperatures. In fact, the difference could be large enough to question the government policies based on said data.

Masher, I thought of you
By smitty3268 on 8/7/2007 8:27:55 PM , Rating: 2
when I read this. It made me laugh :>

RE: Masher, I thought of you
By brenatevi on 8/7/2007 10:16:33 PM , Rating: 3
Heh, that article makes it seem like a little doubt is a huge sin. And it doesn't address the fact that changes in climate might (much less very likely) has nothing to do with human activities at all.

RE: Masher, I thought of you
By smitty3268 on 8/7/2007 10:55:10 PM , Rating: 3
I actually agree with a lot of what they say - that there are forces out there who are treating global warming the same way the cigarette companies treated negative information about their products. Still, it was shamelessly biased by never even considering that global warming wasn't completely perfect and that all those against it were idiots or covering it up.

RE: Masher, I thought of you
By porkpie on 8/8/2007 5:02:21 AM , Rating: 3
According to the Senate Environmental Committee, global warming skeptics have received a total of $19M in funding over the last 20 years. In the same time, global warming believers have received some $50B in funding...over 2,000 times as much.

Newsweek was right on one thing: there is a massive well-funded movement with hidden goals out there. They just picked the wrong side.

RE: Masher, I thought of you
By wien on 8/10/2007 9:02:17 AM , Rating: 2
Where are these numbers coming from, and more importantly, what self respecting scientist would go on record as being a GW skeptic/believer? That makes absolutely no sense.

RE: Masher, I thought of you
By kalak on 8/8/2007 1:57:52 PM , Rating: 1
there are forces out there who are treating global warming the same way the cigarette companies treated negative information about their products

I can´t say it in a better way...
Totally agree.

RE: Masher, I thought of you
By kalak on 11/26/2007 9:04:32 AM , Rating: 2
Why rate me down ??? Are you going nuts ???

RE: Masher, I thought of you
By rdeegvainl on 8/8/2007 5:07:13 AM , Rating: 3
That was interesting, though the paragraph
It was 98 degrees in Washington on Thursday, June 23, 1988, and climate change was bursting into public consciousness. The Amazon was burning, wildfires raged in the United States, crops in the Midwest were scorched and it was shaping up to be the hottest year on record worldwide. A Senate committee, including Gore, had invited NASA climatologist James Hansen to testify about the greenhouse effect, and the members were not above a little stagecraft. The night before, staffers had opened windows in the hearing room. When Hansen began his testimony, the air conditioning was struggling, and sweat dotted his brow. It was the perfect image for the revelation to come. He was 99 percent sure, Hansen told the panel, that "the greenhouse effect has been detected, and it is changing our climate now."

made me think of the recent Global warming event that was cancelled due to massive amounts of snow. I thought it funny anyways.

RE: Masher, I thought of you
By AlexWade on 8/9/2007 2:50:40 PM , Rating: 2
A few days earlier than that article, Newsweek addressed their article on "global cooling", basically saying how wrong they were but how right they are now.

I didn't read it because I knew it would be a diatribe full of conveniently left out information. Namely, there is more money funding GW than GW doubters. If there is no problem, there is no funding or nobody watches your station. The Weather Channel is probably pissed off that no hurricanes are in the Atlantic and none affected the US last year, conversely, they probably were dancing for joy when 2005 was very active. Who watches TWC? They are less accurate than a blind quarterback. But when the weather is bad, ah then people tune in. It is no coincidence TWC is always showing bad weather stories. There ain't no news like bad news. What do the local or national news start off with? Usually the bad news.

While I agree we must take steps to protect our environment, doing so because of GW is the wrong reason. I find a lot of eco-nazis have an out-and-out hate of humans. That is just wrong.

what a mess!
By Moishe on 8/7/2007 1:45:32 PM , Rating: 2
I really like how that volunteer group was doing it's job. This is citizen police at it's best. The government's response is pretty suspicious. I hope there is a big enough outcry to cause a major problem for NCDC. As far as I'm concerned all people are doing is asking for fair, scientific climate data.
It's not too much to ask

RE: what a mess!
By Ringold on 8/7/2007 3:48:20 PM , Rating: 2
The Goldwater conservative in me says this is always precisely what we're ultimately asking for when we put federal funds anywhere. This applies to the IPCC, the spectacular failure of the UN to even do one simple thing (peacekeeping and distributing food) correctly, and even simpler things, like the IRS handing out passwords like candy. And why should any of them care? There is by definition no competition to a federally-funded-anything, no risk of losing their jobs, so why should they? All that matters is continueing their existance and pulling in funding. If some results need to be skewed, lies be told or truths to be hidden then what do we expect? It's one of the fundamental assumptions of public finance; government lackey's objective is maximization of their power through means of their agencies budget -- not maximization of welfare or efficient use of taxpayer money. And that's if they're "honest" bureaucrat's; the dishonest ones just settle for illicit money.

It can all be seen here. NCDC wanted to continue to exist. Unconcerned with the quality of its output, it cared little about its problems. They were probably quite pleased with the whole GW furor, and that it's data appeared to agree with the frenzy, as it probably assured them that their meal ticket was secure. But when people questioned their data, thereby threatening their existance, then instead of correcting the problem (which requires effort and concern over quality, neither of which are concerns to a bureaucrat) they tried to hide it. Now they'll either be lethargic in fixing it, or continue to not care and line up other government or academic positions while they wait for the meal ticket to expire. Textbook, absolutely textbook.

bad link
By johnsonx on 8/7/2007 2:59:06 PM , Rating: 2
the second link in the article, "volunteer group", is fouled up. it resolves to:

RE: bad link
By masher2 on 8/7/2007 4:10:51 PM , Rating: 2
Link fixed now; thanks.

Government control
By user79876 on 8/8/2007 4:18:15 PM , Rating: 2
Ayn Rand vilified the environmental movement as a socialist plot way back in the 60's. There is a very definite reason to fudge the numbers: the reduction of humanity to the status of animals, in other words: self-destruction.

RE: Government control
By TheDoc9 on 8/9/2007 12:41:40 AM , Rating: 2
I agree that people are being reduced to animal status by the media here in the states, don't know the reason. There also may be many other conspiracies occurring and that are blatantly in front of everyone, but I've come to believe that either these things are so evil people can't accept them, or that people have been lied to enough to believe them - probably a bit of both.

Tell a lie often enough and you'll come to believe anything...It is funny but it's true.
-Napoleon Hill

Clearing up a lot of misguided notions on NCDC
By joyless on 8/9/2007 10:34:21 AM , Rating: 2
First, most of the observers that take readings for NOAA are volunteers these are average joes like you and me off the street thinking they are helping out the government and NOAA by taking these readings and interested in the weather. They do it on their own time for the most part without any compensation. They are part of the Cooperative Observer Network across the U.S. Thank Goodness for them. Next understand that they do not necessarily like to be bothered by random "volunteers" driving up to their residences and taking pictures of their property and such. It would be like me coming to your house with a camera and just walking around taking pictures. Pretty bad form. So now you see why NCDC pulled the private information on locations from their web site. They never should have had it their in the first place. Sorry no govt conspiracy just trying, poorly, to protect privacy of the observers.

By wordsworm on 8/15/2007 12:14:00 AM , Rating: 2
Sorry no govt conspiracy just trying, poorly, to protect privacy of the observers.
I agree 100%. Who wants people poking in their refrigerators to see if the readings are legitimate or not?

Other Planets are warming too!
By nathboy74 on 8/13/2007 11:27:24 PM , Rating: 2
Earth is not the only planet in our solar system to be warming. Mars and even Pluto are warming. Earth has always had climate changes.

I am tired of these Eco-evangelists. Enjoy that cool SUV you drive… for me I will be buying a Chevy Silverado truck to drive to my desk job very soon.

Is "the Earth" warming?
By GlennAl on 8/21/2007 8:21:01 AM , Rating: 2
Absolutely. How does one know this? Look no farther than out your "back door", presuming you don't live out in "the sticks". The land mass of the Earth used to be significantly covered by trees. 80% of those tree stands are gone or reduced so much as to no longer provide the balance that they once did. So, what do you expect will happen when a patch of trees is replaced by concrete, asphalt, or simply dirt? Higher temps and more--and more violent--storms. The natural balance is gone. Left to itself, nature will find a balance; but man just keeps getting in the way. The large "hot spots" that you find over every city throughout the summer will just keep getting larger till they "meet up" and form one huge national hot spot that lasts longer and longer. When? Who knows... maybe there's already a computer model for it.

I think it's a race. What will destroy the Earth first: man due to ecological disaster, man due to atomic war, or just some randomly passing space object colliding with the Earth. My money's on the first option.

Well, that's one theory.

RE: Is "the Earth" warming?
By kevinwx03 on 8/30/2007 11:46:43 PM , Rating: 2
You have got to be kidding me, Glen. My god, are you misinformed. First off, trees being replaced by dirt would have a net cooling forcing. The moisture from the trees and the heat kept in it is a warming influence, ecp in northern latitudes. Second, trees being replaced by buildings and roads do create a warming influence, its called the urban heating effect. But this warming influence is not strong enough to carry on a mile away from a city. It does not cause global warming, it causes 3 feet from the building warming. I will never understand why people think the way they do... if only they would spend the time to research and put some common sense into this kind of stuff, it would go a long way!


The Weather Enterprises Admin

By Lou Cabron on 8/10/2007 11:07:21 PM , Rating: 2
NASA's old data claimed that seven of the hottest 10 five-year periods have still occurred in the last ten years.

But look what happens when you plot NASA's new data on a graph...

Errors in column
By hebrooks87 on 8/12/2007 8:33:44 AM , Rating: 2
1. The picture you show and the biographical link is of Roger Pielke, Jr., not Roger Pielke, Sr., the author of the Climate Science blog.

2. Tom Peterson is not the head of NCDC. He is a branch or division chief (I can't remember NCDC's group titles). Tom Karl is the head of NCDC.

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