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Thursday, June 9, 2016

Extending the climate conspiracy: Anthony Watts accuses US volunteer weather observers of fudging temperature records

Sou | 4:31 PM Go to the first of 19 comments. Add a comment

Anthony Watts has written about some research that shows that when weather observers estimate wind speed, they usually overestimate it. In April this year a team, led by Paul W Miller of the University of Georgia, published a paper in the American Meteorological Society Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology. The researchers reported that "As a general rule of thumb, humans overestimated nonconvective wind GFs [gust factors] by approximately one-third."

In the USA, the scientists said that automated weather stations were relatively sparse, so weather observers apparently typically estimate wind speed. By comparing estimates made by observers with instrumentally recorded wind speeds in the GHCN network, the researchers concluded that the estimates were typically too high.

That's interesting. But wait. There's more. Anthony uses this research to accuse the thousands of volunteer weather observers of fudging temperature data. That's right. This is data that is read, not estimated. This is the "raw data" that deniers usually staunchly defend.

Anthony Watts accuses US COOP volunteers of faking data

Anthony Watts has now turned on the mostly volunteer observers in the USA and accused them of deliberately falsifying reports of temperature from recorded observations. He wrote:
I’ve often wondered if volunteer weather observers might potentially and purposely skew high and low temperature records. For example, let’s say you are within a degree of breaking a 100 year old temperature record at your NOAA COOP station. Only you know the real high or low reading on that thermometer, and after you reset it, all evidence of it is erased, forever. You can write down the number you want in the B91 form, or phone it in using the weathercoder, and nobody can prove you wrong, unless of course your exaggeration is quite large and doesn’t fit into a regional pattern, inviting scrutiny.

Meanwhile, you get some notice in the press for “breaking a record”, which is some recognition for a mostly thankless volunteer job done 24/7/365.

Exaggeration in temperature records seems quite plausible to me, because the human element can easily be skewed, whether it is wind or temperature.

Wow. So now he's gone beyond accusing scientists of fraud and fudging, and is now accusing the 10,000 ordinary Americans, who do the "thankless volunteer job" of reporting weather, of being part of his "climate hoax" conspiracy. He's saying that they intentionally misreport the observations of temperature. These aren't estimates, mind you. The maximum and minimum temperatures are read off the instruments (digitally in the case of automatic weather stations). Anthony is outright accusing volunteers of being part of his imaginary "climate hoax" conspiracy.

It is inconceivable that the thousands of volunteer observers in the USA would deliberately fudge temperature records for some purported fleeting satisfaction of recording a record high (but not low) temperature. The other point is that this would easily show up when comparing the pristine Climate Reference Network with the rest of the records. It doesn't. They are virtually identical.  The chart below is a plot of the Climate Reference Network in the USA with data from the pristine network of automatic weather stations, and the ClimDiv data, which is based on reports from thousands of weather stations across the country. If you hover over the chart, you'll notice how close they are. You'll also notice that the highest highs, and the linear trend, are higher for the pristine USCRN network, the blue line :)

Figure 1 | USA monthly temperature anomalies from USCRN and ClimDiv data. Data source: NOAA

Why has Anthony Watts turned against COOP volunteers?

As to why Anthony Watts has now turned on the volunteers who report the raw readings, one can only speculate. Is it because he can no longer sustain the denier myth that an ice age is just around the corner? Is it because he can't find any journal to publish the "paper" he announced with such gusto way back four years ago in July 2012? Not even after the promise with his poster (minus data and plus unsubstantiated claims) at AGU last year?

Maybe it's just that he knows that if he can't maintain the dimmest dumbest bottom 8% as his audience, then he'll fade into obscurity among even the uber conspiracy nutters.

From the WUWT comments

Few WUWT-ers pile on. Most of the comments were about wind speed, not temperature. Did anyone come to the defense of volunteer weather observers? Yes, one volunteer took umbrage.

Patrick jumps into Anthony's conspiracy theory and accuses the NOAA of faking temperature observations:
June 8, 2016 at 1:25 pm
“Exaggeration in temperature records seems quite plausible to me, because the human element can easily be skewed, whether it is wind or temperature.”
Or you can operate NOAA who invents temperature records out of whole cloth.

Richard Keen doesn't think that Anthony is correct. He says that most observers do it for the love of weather and good data.
June 8, 2016 at 7:17 pm
AW: I’ve often wondered if volunteer weather observers might potentially and purposely skew high and low temperature records. For example, let’s say you are within a degree of breaking a 100 year old temperature record at your NOAA COOP station.

Frankly I don’t think so. I’ve been a co-op observer for 32 years, and have recorded well over 20,000 max and min temperatures. No way would I compromise the integrity of all that work by cheating a degree on temperaturue one day (or an inch on snowfall, for that matter). I guess there could be a few miscreant observers, but most don’t do co-op observing for fame or fortune (it is volunteer), but for love of weather and of good data.

Steven Mosher said that Anthony's allegation is a turnaround for the fake sceptics:
June 8, 2016 at 7:36 pm
Exaggeration in temperature records seems quite plausible to me, because the human element can easily be skewed, whether it is wind or temperature.”
Last time I suggested this the raw data worshippers had a fit. 

Anthony Watts went into his usual bullying attack dog mode, sort of doubled down on his conspiracy theory, and claimed that it wasn't what Steven wrote but the way he wrote it. This is yet more evidence that denier brains run on emotion, not reason.
June 8, 2016 at 8:18 pm
Maybe it was the way you went about it. Your methods of communication on threads are sometimes condescending.

References and further reading

Miller, Paul W., Alan W. Black, Castle A. Williams, and John A. Knox. "Quantitative Assessment of Human Wind Speed Overestimation." Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology 55, no. 4 (2016): 1009-1020. DOI: (subs req'd)

Cooperative Observer Network (COOP) - info on the volunteer weather observers' network in the USA

From the HotWhopper archives


  1. The trouble for all these conspiracy nutters who set duplicity in anyone even remotely associated with mainstream data analysis is that the biosphere, cryosphere and hydrosphere have joined the party.

    Species' populations and ranges are shifting in size and location. Ice is melting. Seas are rising. It's not just numbers: these are observable facts.

    The bottom line is that if changes in temperature are smaller than science says, which one must conclude if The Conspiracy is real, then our planet's plants, animals, ice and water are more exquisitely sensitive to warming than science suggests. Which of course unavoidably leads the conclusion that it's even more imperative that we prevent warming of more than 1.5-2.0 degrees C...

  2. OK Anthony you distrust inferred data and raw data.
    How do you feel about spitting on your finger and holding it to the wind?

  3. "How do you feel about spitting on your finger and holding it to the wind?"

    which ironically is not a bad way of estimating wind speed

  4. Watts lies and exaggerates so he automatically assumes everyone else does too.

    1. Exactly. It's projection. They can imagine doing it themselves and so believe everybody would do it.

  5. Not that long ago Tony was making money selling thermometers for marks to put on their cars ( are you listening Donnie ? ) . They were supposed to drive around and prove UHI or something. No way could this pristine data be compromised by fraud.

  6. dbstealey must be desperately trying to figure out when at WUWT its OK to come out with the conspiracy theories and when its not.

  7. I heard from a very reliable source** that NOAA, desperate to hide its nefarious temperature data manipulation activities from Lamar Smith and his team of crack investigators on the US House Science Committee, has issued a top-secret order to all weather-station volunteers to start tweaking the raw temperature readings. The order was just issued by NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan. NOAA desperately wants to keep the upcoming La Nina from depressing temperature readings. Dr. Sullivan does not want to see *any* cooling next year.

    Weather-station volunteers will deny this, of course -- but you know as well as I that such denials actually constitute proof that the NOAA raw-data conspiracy that I've uncovered is real.

    ** That "reliable source" would be me. I just made it up. ;)

    OK Watts, this ball is yours -- take it and run with it!

    1. Congressman, the NOAA caved and sent us their temperature data. But there's a problem.


      It's all in Celsius.

      Dang! Do we have anyone who can decode that?

      No sir, I'm afraid not.

    2. Ha ha. Classy, Magma. Classy.

  8. I’ve often wondered if Tony Watts might potentially and purposely engage in criminal activities. For example, let’s say he has cash-only income from global warming denial groups. Only he knows his real annual income, and after he spends it all evidence of it is erased, forever. He can write down the number he wants in the IRS 1040 form, or phone it in, and nobody can prove him wrong, unless of course his understatement is quite large and doesn’t fit into a demographic pattern, inviting scrutiny.

    Now, wasn't that an edifying little exercise? I wonder if I should try posting it on WUWT.

  9. OT, please vote responsibly (Nat Geo would be good)

    1. How could anyone take that "poll" seriously? Seriously!

    2. Actually, that probably sounded more curt than I intended. It's just that I know how this sort of thing gets manipulated, and I can't take a poll seriously when it includes conspiracy/pseudo-science blogs.

      (I don't think polls like this have any value. There are so many good science websites around it would be difficult to pick a "best".)

    3. Sadly, it's a pretty easy poll to hack. Much like the bloggies.

  10. "I’ve often wondered if volunteer weather observers might potentially and purposely skew high and low temperature records."

    That's one revealing sentence. It tells us nothing about those volunteers, but it does tell us something about Anthony Watts.

  11. Wee bit of projection there, Anthony...

  12. Conspiracy Theories have to be continuously expanded to compensate for lack of evidence.


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