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The ghost of weather stations past

10 Jan 2024 | OP ED Watch

A crucial climate alarmist assumption is that we know the temperatures of the past, at least the recent past, everywhere and with great precision. And another is that we know it today. But what if we don’t? One of the weirdest things about all these dogmatic declarations that it’s 1.43° warmer on average now than in 1850, or Zeke Hausfather’s breathless declaration that 2023 was “1.48C above preindustrial levels, higher than the 1.43C that JRA-55 reported earlier this week” is that we don’t have any basis for stating even today’s temperature to anything like that degree of precision let alone 1850 or 1322. When it comes to modern temperatures, for instance, by Tony Heller’s count the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a major alarmist U.S. government agency with an annual budget of over $6 billion, reports data from something like 777 U.S. weather stations that actually don’t exist any more. Which awkwardly is more than half of the overall total in the United States Historical Climatology Network (USCHN) of just 1,218. So more than half the “data” is simply invented. And how many stations do you suppose existed in 1850, and how precise were their thermometers?

As Heller has also shown, using official U.S. government maps, the vast majority of weather stations globally a century ago were in the United States. And although American government agencies have taken considerable care to “adjust” older data, always in the direction of cooling hot periods in the past, if you look at the raw numbers you see that the U.S. was hotter in the 1930s than today. Whereas the rest of the world was… well, we really have no idea.

They say we do. But based on what? Certainly not even unreliable thermometer readings. As for the U.S., a century ago you do not see reliable numbers to even one decimal place let alone two. Going back further, to the notorious 1850 “pre-industrial” benchmark, you find very few stations even in the U.S. and virtually none anywhere else other than Europe. But in order to double-check the supposed relentless warming trend, another thing Heller has done is to compile statistics on the number of days above, say, 100°F in various cities and states in various years. And you certainly don’t find 2023 on the list very often, or indeed the last 25 years. Almost as if it hadn’t been unusually hot where anyone was actually keeping track.

If you realize the historical record is hugely incomplete, you may still be a bit surprised at how many holes the contemporary one has. Even today for most of the Southern Hemisphere the thermometer readings are a mess. And if “scientists” take fiddled data from the U.S. and then interpolate it into “ghost” stations in that country, or worldwide, all you get is a stew of dubious assumptions and what Roger Pielke Jr. has called “mathiness“ that intimidates people with spurious precision including all those strutting decimal places.

Now some people may object that nowadays we don’t need thermometers and their discontents because we have reanalysis products. Wot? Reanalysis products like ERA55 are often presented as if they are the same as thermometer readings. But actually they are past outputs of global daily weather forecasting models checked against periodic observed temperature readings, but only where they are available, otherwise they are checked against model-generated data, so we haven’t solved the problem of all the missing thermometers. What about satellites? These are at least global in coverage, but we only have them since 1979 so they aren’t much help for all those blank spots in the records prior to WWII.

For those concerned about being right not just winning the argument, we recommend emulating a thought experiment anthropologist and historian Alan Macfarlane did half a century ago in The Origins of English Individualism on a totally different subject, the transition from “feudal” to “bourgeois” society in England. Macfarlane realized his analysis was skewed by having far more documents, of far more kinds, for 1600 than 1300, and decided a better way to compare conditions in the two periods was to limit himself to using for 1600 only the same things he had for 1300 even though, crucially, revising his methodology tended to undermine widespread orthodox assumptions in his field about socioeconomic change that he largely shared. So when it comes to climate, what would happen if we estimated temperatures today limiting ourselves to the same proxies we have for 1850, or 1300? Not dogmatic declarations about differences of 0.05°C, that’s for sure.

At CDN we do not doubt that it is warmer globally today than in 1850. Indeed it would be almost inexplicable if it were not, given that 1850 was the tail-end of the naturally occurring Little Ice Age and so in the early part of a natural warming period. But we very much doubt the accuracy of various claims about it being some very precise number hotter. (And we flatly deny that it is hotter today than it was 9,000 years ago during the Holocene Climatic Optimum; those claims really do border on academic fraud.)

So we offer another challenge to the more honest and rigorous alarmists out there. Please consider whether the precise numbers respecting world temperature 150 years ago, or even today, are remotely credible. And please also consider the implications if they’re not for what we know and how to discuss it.

If your case remains solid, there’s no reason to fear such a discussion. And if it doesn’t, surely it’s essential to have it.

3 comments on “The ghost of weather stations past”

  1. "Please consider whether the precise numbers respecting world temperature 150 years ago, or even today, are remotely credible."
    Sadly, precise and credible numbers are the very LAST thing climate alarmists want! Anything which would dispute their narrative is anathema to them. They want - no, they NEED - slippery numbers to be able to advance their agenda. Hard numbers could lead to unacceptable conclusions contrary to the narrative.

  2. Sure,it's slightly warmer than 1850.And that's a good thing.Before that was the Little Ice Age,and it was noticably colder than the Medieval
    Warm Period.With lots of failed harvests and starving people,and years without summer,as they were known.I've experienced several summers
    even in recent times that felt noticably cool.Terrible for sales of air conditioners,which I was involved with at the time.

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