Gifts for Weather Afficiandos

My friend Anthony Watts runs a weather instrument business with lots of great gifts for those that like all things weather. Here are some suggestions:

I love a traditional barometer. I still have the one my grandmother gave me for my 9th birthday. It still works beautifully.

Cool tipping-bucket-type rain gauge with computer interface.

Anthony has many other instruments that might make great gifts.

Superb Article on Why Measuring Earth’s Temperature is So Difficult

It is great when other publications are writing things that are informative and easy-to-read.

From yesterday’s Wall Street Journal an easy-to-read article about the difficulty in measuring earth’s temperature.

It also explains why the methodology of the Berkeley temperature project (subject of the recent flurry of news stories “why you should no longer be a skeptic”) is lacking.

Well worth reading.

Amazing Day at the National Weather Festival

Mindy and I had a terrific day at the National Weather Festival in Norman. It was Vegas for weather aficionados. It was also the biggest book sale and signing ever for Warnings. Eighty books were sold!

Photos by Mindy Cook.  Click to enlarge.

My favorite part was seeing so many old friends and making so many new ones, including our great friend Cat Taylor and students involved in weather safety demonstrations.

Cat is passionate about her pageant platform of storm safety and was selling tiaras to raise money to enlarge the education effort.

In a nod to the movie Twister, our table was near the “Flying Cow” Cafe in the Weather Center building.

In Warnings I describe several cows that ended up far from home thanks to tornadoes. Of course, with advanced warnings, there is no need for cows to become airborne any more.

Outside, there were numerous specialized vehicles used for storm chasing and reporting along with rescue and operations when disasters strike.

Here is one of the numerous television station chase vehicles.

Thanks to Kelli Tarp and all of the other organizers for a great time and a great day.

Dr. Fahrenheit Is Turning Over in His Grave



But as of today the federal government has more or less killed the mercury thermometer in the United States—NIST has announced it will no longer calibrate mercury thermometers. This means companies and labs will have a harder time ensuring the thermometers’ accuracy, all but forcing a switch to other instruments.

I’ll never forget when I saved the money to be an “official” quality thermometer (the same one used by the Weather Bureau) for my backyard weather station.

Dr. Daniel G. Fahrenheit (1686-1736) was the inventor of the mercury thermometer. It has been one of the longest lived and best performing scientific measuring devices ever. In the United States, the desire to know the temperature is second only to wanting to know the time.

So, today’s announcement was the beginning of the end for the mercury thermometer. It served us well for nearly 300 years.

Global Warming Erased?

When I present one of my global warming seminars, I bring up the numerous problems with the world’s temperature records that have developed since the 1990′s. Since that time, we have lost roughly a quarter of the world’s weather stations, especially near the Arctic circle (due to the end of the Cold War). That loss may add a warm bias into the temperature record.

We have also replaced the manual thermometers with automated weather stations. The problem is that these have a maximum 50 ft. cable run. Where is outdoor electricity? Near air conditioners. And, what do air conditions vent? Hot air. Examples:

Here is a weather station in Georgia less than 9′ from an air conditioner. You can see the old weather station in the background:

The electronic thermometer is circled. It is less than 9 ft. from the air conditioner.
Courtesy: surfacestations.org

Here is one from Colorado where the thermometer is right next to an incinerator exhaust pipe:

Courtesy: Roger Pielke, Sr.

Here is my favorite from Kentucky where the thermometer is above the family grill and air conditioner (both circled):

Courtesy: surfacestations.org

Watts Up With That has reported on a new paper that, apparently for the first time, explores the effect of instrument error on the world temperature record. Here is the key finding:

…the global surface air temperature anomaly trend from 1880 through 2000 is statistically indistinguishable from 0 C, and represents a lower limit of calibration uncertainty for climate models and for any prospective physically justifiable proxy reconstruction of paleo-temperature. The rate and magnitude of 20th century warming are thus unknowable, and suggestions of an unprecedented trend in 20th century global air temperature are unsustainable.

Here is a graph that shows the author’s findings:

The gray intervals represent instrument uncertainty. The red line indicates
that it is possible (but not likely) there has been little or no “global warming.”

The entire paper can be purchased here.

I believe temperatures are warmer than in the 1970′s. But, I believe the amount of warming as presented in the NASA, NOAA, and British data, since 1990,  is inflated about about one quarter or one third.

Today is the 50th Anniversary of Weather Satellites

Weather satellites have made a major contribution to accurate weather forecasting and storm warnings.  Congratulations NOAA and NASA!

Hat tip:  Jan Null

Note: On the 25th anniversary, I was attending an American Meteorological Society meeting in Honolulu commemorating the occasion.  No such luck this time….

Warm Bias, Invented

Part II of the Daughter of Climategate series.

Part of U.S. contribution to the NASA temperature index comes from the “U.S. Historical Climate Network” (USHCN) which was designed to detect ‘global warming.’ Well, it does — but in a very unscientific manner.

For nearly 150 years, temperatures worldwide were measured by human beings that read thermometers in wooden whitewashed Stevenson Screens:

As documented by Anthony Watts’ excellent Surface Stations Project, we have seen that the conversion to electronic thermometers in the early to mid-90′s has introduced a warm bias to the temperature data. Why? The electronic thermometers have a maximum 50′ cable run. And, where is electricity available on the outside of a house or other structure?  At the air conditioner. And, what does an air conditioner vent?  Hot air.

Here is a perfect example of the problem in Georgia. You can see the old Stephenson Screen in the background. The new electronic instrumentation is next to the building (a no-no by itself that introduces a warm bias) right next to the air conditioner and its warm air exhaust.

This is one of my favorites, from Kentucky. The temperature sensor (the white round object) is over concrete (another no-no), up against the house (a no-no), above the air conditioner and its hot air and over the family bar-b-que.

While the full extent is not known, there is little question that the change in instrumentation has introduced a warm bias into the temperature data since early to mid-90s.


These new instruments have been installed in many nations, so it is a worldwide problem.

But, there is more to the story as we’ll see in the next installment.

Speaking of Rockets

Over the weekend (see below) I posted about science education and some of my exploits regarding rockets when I was in junior high and high school. Rockets play a critical role in obtaining essential data for forecasting the weather and monitoring our environment by launching satellites into orbit.

NASA is getting ready to launch our newest weather and environmental satellite, GOES-P. The new satellite has several exciting new capabilities that will be valuable to atmospheric and earth science. The photo above shows the first stage of the Delta rocket getting ready for assembly at the launching pad.

Weather satellites don’t just take photos of the earth. They include sophisticated instruments that measure moisture and temperature in the layers of the atmosphere between the ground and the satellite and do so with a much higher resolution than weather balloons or even aircraft. This directly contributes to better weather forecasts.

For example, the infrared image of the clouds (that you would see on a TV weathercast) in the central U.S. shows little of interest over southern Kansas.

But, compare the simultaneous image that shows the distribution of moisture in the atmosphere:

Look at the swirl in the moisture field centered on the Kansas-Oklahoma border.  That feature, important to forecasting thunderstorms, would likely not be detected absent the satellite data. Since the first weather satellite was launched in 1959, they have proven their value over and over again.

Hat tip:  Anthony Watts.