Friday, November 4, 2011

Watts, Surface Stations and BEST {SkS}

Anthony Watts made his fame doing studies on surface weather stations, claiming he proved they are unreliable.  Since then surface stations have received much closer scrutiny and it turns out Watts' fears and claims are not born out by the evidence.

Unfortunately, Anthony Watts is not one to admit to nor correct errors so it is left to other sources to fill in the gaps Mr. Watts chooses to ignore.

Fortunately, the good folks over at SkepticalScience have been kind enough to review this question in light of the recent release of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, a project that was a sort of last hope for skeptics trying to deny a warming planet.

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Watts, Surface Stations and BEST

Posted on 4 November 2011 by logicman

The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project - was set up to address criticisms of land temperature records.  It has been known since its invention that when using a thermometer to record weather, siting is of vital importance.  It was also known that a thermometer could not measure air temperature accurately unless it was shielded from precipitation and direct sunlight.  One device used to shield thermometers is the Stevenson Screen.
Most recently, the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project re-examined the surface station data.  Four papers have been published on the BEST web site with all the data and software code so anyone can check.

Watts is on record as having said that he would accept the results of the BEST study.  This is what he posted in his own blog:
Briggs on Berkeley’s forthcoming BEST surface temperature record, plus my thoughts from my visit there
Posted on March 6, 2011 by Anthony Watts
... I’m prepared to accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong. I’m taking this bold step because the method has promise. So let’s not pay attention to the little yippers who want to tear it down before they even see the results.
Anthony Watts' response to this very high degree of transparency is that the papers are of no value because they have not been peer reviewed: we agree with Watts that you should be sceptical of non-peer reviewed work, and wish he would apply this scepticism elsewhere, even to things he wants to believe. 
In the case of BEST the criticism is not warranted: the papers are in peer review and are available on the web so that more people can assist in improving their quality.  Watts et al’s criticism has mostly been to insult the authors, as noted here at SkS, rather than help with public reviewing.

Is there a real problem with surface stations?



It has been known since the invention of the thermometer that for accurate measurement of air temperature the thermometer must be shielded from radiant heat.  The lack of overall bias in the surface station records would seem to demonstrate what is seen in the infra red photographs: the stations are adequately shielded against influence from local sources of radiant heat.
Although homogenisation can smooth out some flaws in the data, the data must be free from overall bias in order to produce scientifically valid findings.  One must conclude from the lack of significant bias proven by multiple studies that the surface stations project shows, not factors found to actually cause bias but things which the casual observer thinks ought to cause bias.

-Patrick Lockerby
{as posted over at}


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