From Fox News, March 02, 2010
American climate data that provides the basis for trillion-dollar global warming legislation is obtained by a 120-year-old weather system.
The Historical Climatology Network consists of volunteers who take daily surface temperature readings and send their reports in by snail mail to the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). Volunteers take readings at different times of day, round the temperatures to the nearest whole number, and mark the measurements on paper forms.
It is very kind of these volunteers to do this; they're expected to take measurements 365 days a year. But they aren't scientists, and their reports are sometimes a hodgepodge.
Anthony Watts, a meteorologist, has been cataloging problems in the 1,218 weather stations since 2007.
"When the network was put together in 1892, it was mercury thermometers and paper forms. Today it's still much the same," he said.
Requirements aren't very strict: Volunteers need decent vision in at least one eye and a small amount of training to qualify.
Expecting volunteers to be strict about collection of data several times a day 365 days a year in our current busy society is insane. As one would expect, some volunteers don't bother to collect data when they go on vacation or are sick. Watts told FoxNews.com that one volunteer filled in missing data with local weather reports from the newspapers that stacked up while he was out of town. It's highly likely that most, if not all, do that type of thing.
"You've got this kind of a ragtag network that's reporting the numbers for our official climate readings," said Watts. He added that 90 percent of the stations violated governmental guidelines for location, and poor placement compromises data.
They are supposed to be situated in empty clearings, but many are close to heat sources, such as exhaust pipes, trash-burning barrels, chimneys, barbecue grills, and hot asphalt.
If numbers appear faulty or there are more than nine days missing from a month's tally, the whole month is thrown out. Then the Center uses a computer program to determine average temperatures at dozens of nearby stations to guess what the temperature might have been for the month at that station.
Further - the NCDC adjusts for biases caused by the time of day when measurements are taken, for differences between old and new equipment, and to account for flukes that might be caused by poor siting. As if...they can be sure that those bias adjustments are necessary (poor siting?) or that they are adjusting in the right direction...
The NCDC insists its adjusted numbers are an accurate representation of climatic reality, backed up by worldwide trends in air temperature, water temperature, glacier melt, plant flowering and other indicators of climate change.
The final, highly scientific and meticulously gathered numbers - no...wait... numbers that were initially altered by heat sources they were near, then rounded by volunteers, guessed at by the NCDC, then further adjusted to correct for "biases," including uneven times of day when measurements were taken -- ending up with a number that is 0.6 degrees warmer than raw data, which Watts believes is itself suspect...THESE numbers are then used by several top climate research centers, including the U.N.'s International Panel on Climate Change, NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia - all three of which have been implicated in Climategate.
Watts says that even a single step — the rounding of the daily temperature — creates a margin of error about as large as the entire global warming trend scientists are hoping to confirm.
But the NCDC says not to worry, the volunteer system is only part of how they gather data. They make sure that the volunteer numbers fit the numbers they've gathered by other methods.
So..why bother with the volunteer system, then? It will probably become moot within a decade anyway.
Lawrimore told FoxNews.com that 5 percent of the historical network has already been automated. Further, a digitally run "Climate Reference Network" (CRN), a system of 114 stations, went fully online in 2008.
Carefully sited in fields around the country, the CRN automatically records daily climate data and transmits it at midnight local time, sending it by satellite directly to NCDC; eliminating snail-mail delay, rounding of numbers and human error.
But NCDC says it will continue to rely on volunteer readings to gather climate data on the local level. (Ummm...why?)
Actually, it sounds to me like the volunteer program exists only to give a good public relations appearance that the NCDC is collecting local data several times a day and cares about that data. The way it really sounds, with all their adjustments - yet a lack of real concern for how the data is gathered - is that the NCDC has decided what the temperature should be, and if it's not...well, then it needs adjusting. Keeping an archaic system justifies manipulating the data.