Fabulous 114 Year Local Record of Climate Change from Upstate New York and Classically Bad Contrarian Science

By May 13, 2010 February 21st, 2013 Deniers and Delayers, Temperature

May 13, 2010 A wonderful weather record collected at a private resort 90 miles north of New York City over 114 years has surfaced in an article in the Journal of Applied Meteorology. The record is missing only 37 days. It has been handed down from generation to generation at a wilderness resort at a place called The Mohonk Preserve. These folks have also kept track of plants and animals and things – the first bloomers and so forth. 

Traditional climate science says that climate change is a big thing – holistic, and generally not visible on a regional basis. Or at least beyond polar regions, regional observations are not reliable indicators of climate change.  This concept however is just no loner valid.  The scientists say that Climate change has emerged from the noise. What this means is that – we can see it now, it is everywhere. It is no longer masked by the noise statistical noise of weather chaos. So in your area, your region, that warming that has been going on for a decade now – it is climate change. It is real, it is happening now and it is happening to you.

The persistent cry that the climate guys and girls cannot really tell whether or not any individual weather event has been caused by climate change or not is also now defunct. Our climate has changed now. It is different than it has been for centuries, and mankind has caused the changes. It has changed all over the globe, less at the equator and more at the poles.  Today, ALL weather has been caused by climate change.

Oh, but I digress. The Mohonk Resort is an example of a weather station that has stayed the same for over a century. There is no urban heat island effect that has grownup around this place. It has not moved several times as the City around it changed, the airport moved, the weather service office moved, etc. It is the perfect example of a true record of climate change. And the temperature has increased  by 2.63 degrees. Temperatures are up in all seasons but the increase is more evident in the extremeness and frequency of summer heat waves. Today’s temps top 89 nearly 20 times per year whereas before 1980 it was rare to top 89 ten times per year. Freezing days are decreasing by one day every five years and since 1970 about one day every two years. 

The one statistic that has not much changed is the beginning of spring, which may seem peculiar until you understand the rest of the story. Late winter season warm spells, or false springs have recently been happening much more often. These warm spells fool the local plants into thinking it is spring. The plants and trees bud out and winter returns and freezes the new growth off setting the real spring back by weeks. False springs are not a new thing, but the arte that they are happening these days is.

Now for the "bad science" part. Anthony Watts, has posted on his blog (here) a classic piece about the problems that this weather monitoring station exhibits and because of these problems the data is now invalid.  The station is not high enough off of the ground, it is in the forest, it is too close to a building, and the list goes on.  One certainly can not argue with the specific charges made by Watts. The weather station is clearly  set up without  regard to quite a few weather station citing criteria. But the point is entirely missed. So the data is skewed one way or another; biased because of poor citing.  The station is in a forest, next to a building,  etc. Valid criticisms, but what is the result?  A skewed record of warming?  The authors of this piece, on "bad climate science", are out too discredit any and all climate science. The see a little problem and the whole lot is discredited. They are not analyzing the information given them to see if anything useful may exist. Their mission is only to tear down. The bathwater is dirty so let’s throw out the baby too.

What was not asked in Watts’ article, of useful nature rather than destructive nature, was: How long has that building been there? How long has that chimney been there? How long has that forest been there?  What is the long term bias of a weather station in a forest? Is the bias introducing errors into the trend? Is the trend no longer valid because of the bias(es)? Do the biases change the magnitude of the trend? Are the biases even noteworthy because the trend is the important thing to be understanding anyway?

The mission of individuals like Anthony Watts is to discredit climate science. Any error to them gives air to the cry of invalidity.  It does not matter if the errors have no bearing on the question asked, it does not matter if the errors can be mitigated for accurately in complete approval of the science in question. It does not matter that the errors do not affect the end analysis because the end analysis is not dependent upon the conditions that induced the bias…   Their mission is simply to discredit minutia and therefore the whole concept is discredited.  (The baby and the bath water thing.) That is not useful nor productive, and it is just plain old bad science.

The useful thing here is the trend. It is independent from any bias that may exist.  Gosh, with such a long trend, there would have to be major discrepancies in the way the data was collected to produce a bias that affected the trend.  The publishing of this data and the results in the Journal of Applied Meteorology should be enough for us to understand the data is valid from a statistical standpoint.  So the trend is valid. Maybe it’s skewed a bit here and there, likely in opposite directions (that’s how chaos works…), but we will never know. We do not have enough data to show how each individual tree’s loss of individual limbs affected site temperatures. But added together, over such a long period, where the baseline conditions changed little, where the buildings have been there for 114 years and the weather station has been located in the same place in the same forest for 114 years – what are the chances that the trend was affected? 

Who cares if the baseline is impacted – We are not concerned with the baseline. We are concerned with the trend. Bad science is easy to recognize. The language is negative, not neutral. On top of that, observers have for decades recorded related phenomena such as first appearances of spring peepers, migratory birds and blooming plants. At a time when scientists are wrestling to ensure that temperature readings from thousands of divergent weather stations can be accurately compared with one another to form a large-scale picture, Mohonk offers a powerful confirmation of warming climate, as well as a compelling multigenerational  story.

Oh and by the way, those clever guys and girls in climate science and meteorology have both learned to adjust :"biased" weather data so that it may be used in climate analysis. So this tremendously cool weather record is still valid, and it still being used by the National Climactic Data Center in the analysis of climate.