What’s the Watts paper actually mean, Dude?
As a young man, my first mode of powered transport was motorbikes. Like all bikers, there was this thing you noticed about passing from the open countryside into a built up area. Basically, cities were warmer than the countryside, and exposed as you are to the elements on a bike, that was always welcome on a long ride, especially during a chilly Winter’s evening. Though I didn’t know it, I was experiencing first hand something called the Urban Heat Island effect or UHI. Built up areas are always warmer than open countryside.
Depending on whose definition of city you accept, a very generous estimate of just less than 1% of the Earth’s surface is covered by cities. If I wanted to measure the average global temperature, but only used temperature gauges in cities, I’d obviously get a falsely high result. If I wanted an accurate result, it would seem reasonable to take 99% of my readings from thermometers located outside cities, 1% from ones located inside cities, and average the results.
Where a thermometer is sited, is therefore of critical importance. We live in a changing world, as do thermometers. What may have once been a reasonable place to site a thermometer, may become a bad place in the future. For instance, originally placing one in open country a few miles outside town, may now be a bad location, because over the years, the town has grown outwards to surround it. It’s now in town.
To get any credible result, a system is required which assesses, for each station, how reliable the data from it is. The Watts paper uses a new station classification system, which is now the world standard, called Leroy 2010. It basically grades each station on a scale of one to five, with one being excellent quality and five being the pits. Of the five categories, only the first two are what I’d call decent data. You could use the other three as well, but only after you “adjusted” for how bad the data from them is, and as you’d imagine, the adjustment is really just a guess.
What they’ve found is that using the new categorisation system, the world has warmed by about one tenth of a degree over the last three decades, which appears to be no cause for alarm. However, this number contrasts sharply with government sponsored estimates, which are about twice that.
I’ve no doubt that this paper is going to get looked at hard. If it’s right, and looking at the calibre of the people involved in its production, I think it is, then a shed load of research work based on the current faulty numbers is going to get trashed. It even mullers the latest BEST project’s results, which as usual though pre-announced in the media, have yet to be published.
This is gloriously old-fashioned science. It’s heavy, being done by unpaid volunteers on no budget and it’s totally transparent. The paper is at a draft stage at the moment but follow this link and you’ll find your way to it. You won’t even need to think about using Freedom of Information legislation to get access to it for yourself. It’s there right now, because they’ve got absolutely nothing to hide. They want you to go check it out, kick the tyres, bump the suspension, give your opinion and generally ensure it’s solid science.
Congratulations to you and your posse, Anthony. If this is what you guys can do with no budget, Lord only knows what you could do with a fraction of the megabucks routinely thrown at global warming research.
To answer the question above, what the Watts paper actually means, is that a lot of people have spent a lot of our taxpayer money and came up with a number that’s wrong by over 100%.
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