Equipment Homogeneity in USHCN

The picture below is of the USHCN climate station of record for Newport Beach, CA When I first visited this site I did a double take. Then started searching for the “real” temperature sensor.


Newport Beach closeup480.JPG

I couldn’t believe that NOAA allowed them to use consumer grade equipment. I was sure I just hadn’t located the MMTS sensor. It wasn’t unitl I looked up the MMS metadata entry for equipment for NB and saw “miscellaneous” listed for rain and temperature sensors, that I began to get concerned.

Newport Beach MMS480.png

I then went back a second time to be sure I hadn’t missed the station, after checking lat/lon on my GPS…because I just didn’t think it possible NOAA would allow a consumer grade sensor in the USHCN dataset. Then I found somebody in the harbor patrol office to ask, and he confirmed that was the station they use to send readings to NOAA.

I was reminded of that famous quote from the movie “Treasure of the Sierra Madre” lampooned in the movie Blazing Saddles; “We don’t need no stinking badges!”. Except, what was playing in my mind then was “We don’t need no stinking homogeneity!”

Note to NOAA: standards exist for a reason.

Apparently the observer wanted wind too, (the wind sensors are on top of the tower, not shown in these pictures)and while I can appreciate that being located at the harbor patrol office, NOAA could have supplied standard equipment in addition to the shiny new consumer grade Davis station. In fact a standard rain gauge and MMTS did exist, but was removed in 1998 in favor of “miscellaneous” equipment.

Now don’t get me wrong, Davis makes a great weather station, but we can’t just replace sensors with other types willy-nilly and have a homogeneously rigorous data set.

But there are other issues too, such as the rooftop proximity, the diesel generator, and the parking lot it sets in the middle of. More pictures available on


  1. MarkW
    Posted Jul 16, 2007 at 10:54 AM | Permalink

    I especially like the location of that industrial size emergency generator.

    If you move the sensor over just a few feet, you could put it right into the path of the exhaust gases from that thing.

    Is this worse than an incinerator?

    Most places will run a test of the generator at least once a month.

  2. Ken
    Posted Jul 16, 2007 at 11:31 AM | Permalink

    Please don’t post duplicates with “Watts up with That”. If you don’t post duplicate entries I promise not to post duplicate comments.

  3. steven mosher
    Posted Jul 16, 2007 at 12:08 PM | Permalink


    have you ever found a copy of the NOAA study on the impact of siting on rooftops?

    I found a descrition of it a while back on the NOAA site, but havent read any final report

  4. Posted Jul 16, 2007 at 12:56 PM | Permalink

    Is the shelter black?

  5. MarkW
    Posted Jul 16, 2007 at 12:57 PM | Permalink

    In this instance, we really need to know what the roof of that building is made of.

    Tar, white rock, silver paint?

    It would make a big difference in determining just how bad a site this is.

    From the satellite image, it looks to be white. On the other hand, the building to the immediate NW has what appears to be a shingle roof.

  6. Joel McDade
    Posted Jul 16, 2007 at 1:12 PM | Permalink

    The Highlands NC station (GISS rural) operates Campbell equipment. In my notes I have “Devo Sensor” but I can’t find any further info surfing around. Maybe I wrote it down wrong — it’s happened before.

    In the NCDC MMS system there is the notation in the *Remarks* field, “Although NWS equipment is advised, use of Campbell equipment owned by station is relied on by staff… no other suitable site in area…”

    I wouldn’t Campbell retail quality, however. Just different.

  7. steven mosher
    Posted Jul 16, 2007 at 2:20 PM | Permalink

    One rooftop study.. Uses davis equipment.

    Measures this against standard WMO systems and siting. Phd thesis.

    Click to access ah_thesis.pdf

  8. ken
    Posted Jul 16, 2007 at 2:25 PM | Permalink

    Remove . and end of previous URL to access PDF.

  9. steven mosher
    Posted Jul 16, 2007 at 3:41 PM | Permalink

    #8 thanks ken you’re a doll

  10. Tim Ball
    Posted Jul 16, 2007 at 6:15 PM | Permalink

    When Environment Canada replaced most weather stations with Automatic Weather Observing Stations (AWOS) the results were so unreliable they hired retired former employees and others to go out with hand held instruments to check. I have no idea what data was actually placed in the ‘official’ record. The stations were so unreliable that NAVCANADA, a government agency set up to run airports, refused to accept the AWOS instruments. This led to a government inquiry chaired by Senator Pat Carney, which as usual went nowhere, despite evidence there was a problem. Sadly and ironically, one of the motivations for closing weather stations was the advent of satellite data. Typically, they found out after the fact that the satellites were very limited in what they could detect, for example, precipitation type and amount. Then they decided that the temperature data from the satellite which was better than their surface data was uancceptable because the record wasn’t long enough. At the same time they were using similar length Total Ozone Measuring Satellite (TOMS) data to introduce draconian and totally unecessary CFC policies. These issues quickly become juggernauts, epecially in governments, that it becomes the unwritten policy to continue the lie rather than determine the truth.

  11. Posted Jul 16, 2007 at 7:56 PM | Permalink

    RE2, Steve McIntyre specifically asked me to cross post. I’m sorry you had to see the same thing twice, but I’m just doing what was asked.

  12. Posted Jul 16, 2007 at 7:57 PM | Permalink

    RE8 fixed

  13. Jeff C.
    Posted Jul 16, 2007 at 10:34 PM | Permalink

    The thing that really surprises me is that something like this happens at a USHCN site. You would think that with all the exposure USHCN gets, NOAA would go out of their way to insure these sites are standardized and well maintained, if only to look competent. Similar to the siting guidelines, are there official guidelines for equipment selection, installation and use? Is the stationkeeper allowed to make changes or is all equipment selection/installation the only done by NWS/NOAA personnel?

    Newport Beach, CA is an interesting site for another reason. According to the USHCN station history ( prior to 1982, “Newport Beach Harbor” data actually comes from Avalon pier on Catalina Island. The reason is unclear as the station Anthony visited has data back to 1953. The earlier location on nearby Balboa peninsula has data back to 1921.

    Newport Beach and Avalon aren’t comparable for many reasons. Avalon is 25 miles away from NB and is surrounded by ocean. Avalon is on the North island coast and Newport Beach in on the South mainland coast. Avalon has no UHI. There is less than a thousand people within a 20 mile radius of Avalon, unlike the 2 million plus in mainland Orange County. Every bias in the earlier Avalon data would seem to give cooler temperatures.

  14. Jeff C.
    Posted Jul 16, 2007 at 11:49 PM | Permalink

    Oops, the address on the previous comment should be (

  15. Peter Hearnden
    Posted Jul 17, 2007 at 2:29 AM | Permalink

    I’ll just venture back here because I’ve had a Davis VP for four years and I’d like to defend it’s reputation. It’s a great weather station, and it’s temperature sensor is very accurate. It’s nice, as a Brit, to be defending such excellent American ‘kit’.

  16. Anthony Watts
    Posted Jul 17, 2007 at 8:39 AM | Permalink

    RE15 I never said there was anything wrong with the Davis station. I’ve used them and they do an excellent job. But, substituting equipment in a data collection network where homogeneity of measuremnt is the goal, is never a good idea.

    I doubt anyone can quantify what changes may have occurred when the temperature sensor and the IR shield were changed. There may have also been a change in position of the tower. We just don’t know.

    Given the microsite effects that abound near the sensor, such changes could easily make a bias in the reading.

  17. DR
    Posted Jul 17, 2007 at 11:18 AM | Permalink

    I wonder if Al Gore will take the challenge:

  18. Posted Jul 17, 2007 at 2:32 PM | Permalink

    Why can’t I find a listing for a Portland Oregon station in the list of stations at

    What am I doing wrong?


  19. Earle Williams
    Posted Jul 17, 2007 at 3:05 PM | Permalink

    Re #18

    jim karlock,

    The stations listed at are all the USHCN stations. There appears to be at least one Oregon station with Portland in the name, and it has been visited already. I don’t know Portland geography but there may be other USHCN stations in the vicinity of Portland.

  20. Posted Jul 17, 2007 at 3:37 PM | Permalink

    re #19
    I saw that entry, the co-ordinates and elevation (45.45 -122.15 748ft) put it about 25 miles east of Portland, near Mt. Hood


  21. Steve Sadlov
    Posted Jul 17, 2007 at 4:01 PM | Permalink

    Edmund Scientific anyone? ……

  22. BarryW
    Posted Jul 17, 2007 at 9:07 PM | Permalink

    Re 18

    I generated a google earth kml file with the site locations because I was having trouble locating which sites were near me. Anthony Watts has put it on the site. Clicking on a site will bring up a data bubble. Click on the album item and it will show you if there are photos of that site.

    Looking at the file, there are about half a dozen stations around Portland.

    Forest Grove, Headworks Portland WTRB, McMinniville were surveyed

    Hood River experimental Station, Three Lynx, Durfur, and Moro are some that haven’t been surveyed

  23. JS
    Posted Jul 17, 2007 at 9:20 PM | Permalink

    They have maps of every state with the locations of all USHCN stations. Click on the state then you will see a link for the map of the state in the first sentence.

  24. DR
    Posted Jul 17, 2007 at 10:09 PM | Permalink

    My apologies for being off topic again, but I found these papers relevant to the general discussion of global warming, and very informative from a statistician’s point of view.

  25. Posted Jul 18, 2007 at 11:51 AM | Permalink

    For Surface Stations in Google Earth, check out

  26. Steve Moore
    Posted Jul 18, 2007 at 1:05 PM | Permalink

    RE; #18

    Does anyone find it a little odd that a station for “Portland, Oregon” is located as far as away from Portland as this one is?

    (Jim, I followed your link: good site!)

  27. Jim Edwards
    Posted Jul 19, 2007 at 11:30 AM | Permalink

    #26, Steve Moore:

    I don’t see a problem with the site marked “Portland” being 25 miles outside of Portland, as long as one can see a more precise description of the actual location. Looking at the Earth as a whole, a 25 mile error is equivalent to about 0.00045 % of the Earth’s circumference. Clearly, the error could be closer to zero, but I don’t see a big deal.

    It would be one thing if these sites were meant to be representative of URBAN climate, but they aren’t. They’re meant to be representative of North American climate. They should be more or less spatially / climactically representative, and have sufficient data quantity and quality [the subject of these threads…], nothing more.

    The fact that the site is labelled “Portland” rather than 123 Cherry Street, X degrees North, Y degrees South makes it easier for a researcher / photographer to scroll through a large list of stations and find a station to investigate quickly. It’s got to be incumbent on the researcher to figure out if the 25 mile difference affects what they’re trying to demonstrate with the data.

  28. MarkW
    Posted Jul 20, 2007 at 6:35 AM | Permalink

    On the other hand, if someone is researching UHI, they would look to a station labeled Portland, as one likely to have UHI. Then when they don’t find it, dismiss the existence of UHI.

  29. Steve Moore
    Posted Jul 20, 2007 at 12:27 PM | Permalink

    RE #27:
    “They should be more or less spatially / climactically representative, and have sufficient data quantity and quality [the subject of these threads…], nothing more.”

    Well, that’s another problem I have with that site. One would have to go a few hundred miles to find another one that resembled it. It sits in timber country next to the Bull Run Reservoir: tucked up against Mount Hood. The nearest site east, outside Hood River (OR), is in desert, while the nearest one west, in Hazel Dell (WA), is flat urban.

    All three of these are affected by the weather patterns generated by the Columbia River Gorge — which has some of the weirdest weather anywhere (a forecast of “East & West 40mph wind” is not unusual).

    If any two of these are in the same cell, one could throw the data away.

  30. BarryW
    Posted Jul 20, 2007 at 2:22 PM | Permalink

    RE #27

    My father told me a story about a weather station in Vermont that kept reporting snow, but people around the area didn’t see any. After receiving complaints, the weather bureau sent a team up to investigate and, yes, it was snowing at the weather station but not in the surrounding area. What they found was that that the station was down wind of a mountain. On the other side of the mountain was a steam powered sawmill. The steam would rise up over the mountain and condense, snowing on the station. Truly a micro-climate effect!

  31. Steve Sadlov
    Posted Jul 20, 2007 at 2:54 PM | Permalink

    RE: #26 – So long as there is wine tasting involved, sounds good to me. I’m thinking of a nice, swarthy, Pinot Noir …. 🙂 🙂

  32. steven mosher
    Posted Jul 21, 2007 at 1:00 PM | Permalink


    I know its unrelated to this thread; however, I was reading Josh Halpern and he was kind enough
    to post some pics of ASOS sites. John G had to point out the Rabbett that we had thes photos uploaded
    a few weeks back. Then Halpern wondered why we never post good sites like the photos he posted.

    I thought that was a fair comment. I also thought it might be interesting to look at one of the sites
    he listed ( Baton Rouge)

    Steve Bloom also wondered ( why dont these guys look) what the data was for these sites.

    Baton Rouge is on Hansens list.

    So, I pulled down the GISS raw and GISS homogeneity.

    You or somebody else who has better graphing capability might want to have a look at three things

    There is missing data prior to 1900, so I’d just focus on post 1900.

    1. Graph of GISS raw temp 1900-present
    2. Homog temp 1900-present
    3. Graph of homog-raw.

    Interesting what you see when you look at a well situated site like Baton Rouge.

    Might make an interesting litte article here or Maybe Kristen would like to do it.

  33. Anthony Watts
    Posted Jul 21, 2007 at 2:16 PM | Permalink

    Well I don’t have a lot of time myself as is taking most of my time, but I can at least show what is before and after with NASA GISS using a simple graphic overlay. The graph below is straight from NASA’s GISS website. I did a simple color shift to delineate the homogenity adjustment graph and overlayed it onto the GHCN RAW + USHCN adjustment graph with addition of new annotation.

    I’ll leave the commentary to others.

  34. steven mosher
    Posted Jul 21, 2007 at 3:47 PM | Permalink

    RE 33.

    I hate how the charts GISS turn out as they compress scales.

    There is a very interesting thing that I have seen now at The GOOD sites.

    I leave folks with these tidbits and then they can follow up.

    Take the GISS Homogeneity adjusted values . subtract the GISS raw. You will get their adjustment value over time.

    recall that for GISS the global average is like .8C/century

    one approach is they cool the past more than the future. This is what they did at Orland,CA
    A pefectly good site. What this does is create a warming trend, 1C per century or .1 per decade.
    In this case you have a perfectly good site. Hasnt moved in 100 years. Its RURAL, but the adjustment
    process cools the past. And it cools it in a way that creates a POSITIVE WARMING TREND of 1C century,
    So a good site is homogeniety adjust to present a warming trend slight over the global average for the century.
    hmm. I would have thought that ADJUSTMENTS corrected errors at bad sites.

    ALL you have to do is look at the trend in the HOMOG-RAW data.

    At Baton Rouge you will see something similar, with a twist. A cooling added from 1900 to 1920 (.6C)
    and then that cooling is taken out (warming added) from 1921 to present. Creating a warming trend in a
    over the next 80 years of .6C. So, you have a site. That site is well situated and the ADJUSTMENT first
    cools the site down until 1921 or so, and then warms that site. What do you think that kind of adjustment
    will have on an anomaly map?

    Josh Halpern also showed a photo of ISLIP. Well sited if you look at the picture. An ASOS site.
    So, I checked. It is on hansens list of stations USED. looking at the data its a bit sketchy

    At GISS they only have from 1984 to present. RAW has two sites. Then the combined data puts these together.

    So, I check HOMOG-Combined.. for the period of record. 1984 to present. So 20 years about.

    Now, Do you want to guess about the adjustment? Do you think the adjustment is a warming trend?
    how many C since 84? The century warming Trend in BAKED INTO the homogeneity adjustments made at ISLIP.
    Another gem. A good site ( by looking at the photos) has its temperature record Warmed ( trendline)
    by a homogeneity adjustment. Warm the good sites.

    So, NOW I understand why gavin told me to go ahead and just look at the good sites. I understand why
    he can be confident that looking just at the good sites will yeild around .8C /century increase.

    WHY, because the good sites have been HOMOGENZED to the bad sites.

    So Anthony, if my speculation ( and it is a speculation) is close to the mark, when you analyze the good sites versus the bad sites
    you have to look at RAW, and HOMOG, and you have to look at the adjustment slopes.

    Just a thought.

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