Global warming in Oxford?

21 11 2015

I just returned from a trip to England where I gave a talk at the Geological Society of London on “Biological modification of pH in the earth system”. More on that later . . . After my talk I visited Green Templeton College at Oxford University where I worked as a Visiting Fellow in 1997. Located at the college is Radcliffe Observatory, home of the Radcliffe meteorological station, which has provided weather data since 1767 and constitutes the “longest series of temperature and rainfall records for one site in Britain“. This station is (was) part of the Central England Temperature record that purports to be “the longest instrumental record of temperature in the world“. Thus, with regards to surface observations on climate, this station is one of, if not, is the most important weather station in the world. (Update – Some commenters have pointed out that this station is no longer being used in the daily CET record. Based on this it does not seem to qualify as a most important record in the world. H/T Nick Stokes) I’ve been intrigued by this station ever since I saw it in the mid 90s, and have wondered what the area was like more than 200 years ago, and how the subsequent urbanization has affected those weather records.

When I arrived at the college I was a bit horrified to see this . . .

Radcliffe weather station A

How do you suppose this affects the temperature readings? The warm exhaust air from the heater is located about 20 feet from the temperature sensor. The porter said it was a temporary structure that was set up every so often. I was unable to consult with the weather observer about how this situation came about or whether any corrections are being made to the data.

Radcliffe weather station B



31 responses

22 11 2015
Ben Palmer

There goes our climate …

22 11 2015

When you see the heater connected directly to the Stevenson Screen at night, you can really get worried! This is just what the Warmistas want.

22 11 2015
Graeme No.3

It was a temporary structure set up every so often. Just before a Climate Conference?

22 11 2015
Joe Public

Don’t be ‘horrified’. The warm products of combustion rise out of that vertical stainless steel flue.

Cold air for the function room is entrained via the open end of that heater, there’s a burner, then the heated air is fanned thro’ the black flexible ducting.
It’s something similar to this:

22 11 2015
John F. Hultquist

If tonyb doesn’t check in, in the next day or so I will alert him.

Central Washington State has a weather station series not as famous as the CET but nevertheless of interest because it has been moved around. It started somewhere near the college but at the homes of teachers (exactly where no one seems to know). For a while it was on a small hill next to a radio station. Then it moved to a lower elevation next to the sewage treatment plant (seems these are always staffed so the readings can be taken). When that plant was being moved to a new location, that weather station went to the fire department. It sat at the edge of a gravel parking lot – next to a charcoal grill. Weekends the crew would fire that up and family could come and eat with the folks on duty.
Later, the fire department building expanded into the parking lot and the weather station went farther down-slope to the new sewage facility. The temperature sensor is about 2 feet from the driveway and then shaded by a pine tree in the afternoon.
The official location for the weather station was taken from the discharge pipe where it enters the local stream, about half a mile away.

22 11 2015

The poor blokes who set up the tent and heater probably have no clue what that technology stuff is inside the fence.

22 11 2015
Margaret Wente « Newsbeat1

[…] One of the most important weather stations in the world […]

22 11 2015
Instapundit » Blog Archive » IT’S COME TO THIS: Global warming in Oxford?…

[…] IT’S COME TO THIS: Global warming in Oxford? […]

22 11 2015

It’s actually not that uncommon. The surface stations site has been documenting this problem for years.

23 11 2015

Joe Public (17:50:15) said”
“Don’t be ‘horrified’. The warm products of combustion rise out of that vertical stainless steel flue.”

And proceed to go STRAIGHT up, never approaching the white housing for the thermometers? Pull the other one!

23 11 2015
Bob Dible

Let’s see, convection, conduction, and radiant heating are the three ways to transfer energy. I would suspect radiant heating in this case.

23 11 2015
Kevin M

There are always corrections being made to the data. Kind of like my aunt did jigsaw puzzles with a scissors.

23 11 2015
Joe Public

@ kenwd0elq (00:13:13) :
”And proceed to go STRAIGHT up, never approaching the white housing for the thermometers? Pull the other one!”

The products of combustion will be *much* warmer than ambient air (I’d guess 120 – 200 degC), therefore considerably more-buoyant. This means they’d disperse relatively rapidly.

If there’s a wind AND it’s blowing from heater towards the screen – that’ll be the direction of dispersal. However, whilst the flue termination height is lower than would be allowed for a permanent heater position, the photos imply the flue height is similar to that of the thermometers.

Consequently, even with ‘adverse’ wind direction*, the distance-separation plus buoyancy means relatively low chance of warmed air being driven downwards.

*The marquee itself shelters the screen from wind stream from direction of heater. However, the marquee also generates turbulance affecting wind if blowing in that direction.

I didn’t state there’d be zero effect; simply *if* there is any effect, it’ll be minimal.

Has that explanation ‘pulled the other one’ far enough?

Those having concern about extraneous effects on the screen’s thermometers from beyond its fenced enclosure should also consider that on bright sunny days the shiny white plastic of the marquee might reflect some radiant heat onto the ground below the screen, whence it warms the air below & around the screen, and so it too could affect the measured temperature. I leave others to calculate whether or not that too would be significant.

23 11 2015
James Pickett

However the heater operates, the proximity of a large, warmed tent must have some effect on the temperature and humidity, not to mention the wind!

23 11 2015
Michael W. Perry

Not surprising. Bad placement seems to be the norm for these stations.

The key weather station for Seattle is located only a couple of hundred yard SE of the concrete Husky stadium at the University of Washington. It’s on the side of campus with a huge black asphalt parking lot for students to the north and the cold, melted snow waters of Lake Washington to the west. A simple change in the prevaliling wind direction must bring a huge change in average temperature. Hardly typical.,-122.3044533,16z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x549014929d8535eb:0x6b742c7901b82ba3

23 11 2015


I also posted this at Bishop Hill

“I was in contact with the Met Office a couple of weeks ago concerning CET and this response directly relates to the use of Radcliffe;

“I note your thoughts on possible inconsistencies/inhomogeneities/’incongruities’ also; of course with best scientific interests at heart, we do ensure as much as possible that any changes in the stations used (and currently we use Stonyhurst, Pershore College and Rothamsted) are allowed for by doing an overlap comparison, so that not just biases but changes in standard deviations of these stations are allowed for to get a series that is as closely homogeneous as possible.’

My bigger concern would be the use of Ringway for years, which of course grew to be Manchester International airport which might partially explain the 1990’s CET ‘hump.’


23 11 2015
Astro Mathman

‘Most’ of the heat and combustion products in a fireplace rise up the chimney. But nevertheless the heat is radiated, convected, and conducted across the room so that a noticeable warming effect can be felt.
Here, the effect of this heat source located near a weather station cannot be calculated without a lot of missing information, but the potential for it to cause an offset of a few hundredths of a degree is real. The effect of that offset then gets magnified as the climate models extrapolate measured temperatures into the future.
In other sciences, calibrations are routine when a new gauge is used or an existing gauge is modified.
Perhaps the most infamous case was Peter van de Kamp’s claim that Barnard’s Star had a planet orbiting around it, based on his observations with the Sproul telescope. Later it was discovered that the telescope lens had been removed, cleaned, and replaced but not in the exact same position. This minor change in the lens caused an apparent shift which led to the faulty claim.

23 11 2015

Joe Public (03:49:12) writes:
“I didn’t state there’d be zero effect; simply *if* there is any effect, it’ll be minimal.
Has that explanation ‘pulled the other one’ far enough?”

“Minimal” errors in the temperature record can be ENORMOUSLY overstated when people who CLAIM to be scientists use this data to calculate the “temperature of the Earth” to three decimal places. Especially when weather stations in rural areas are being closed and those temperatures are now being interpolated from various other reporting stations – most of which suffer from Urban Heat Island effects.

23 11 2015
23 11 2015

A “minimal” change of 1°C would exceed the planet’s entire average 20th century warming.

23 11 2015

The tent was supposed to be set up over the White Box in the field, in time for the climate conference, but the same persons who read the climate data did the work (with their usual precision). But, don’t worry, they’ll adjust the temperatures to account for the mislocation of the tent.

23 11 2015
Steven Mosher

You could make this station 1000C and the global average would not change. How do I know that? On more than one occasion I have built global temperature series using raw data. And yes Raw data has some freakishly high and freakishly low values. Removing these values has no measurable influence on global series.

But even more importantly data from this station isn’t used. !


23 11 2015
23 11 2015
Gordon Jeffrey Giles

You can’t make this up! The lack of appreciation for the UHI affect is already a big problem with AGW, but with this one photograph… and the apparent religious zealotry that the warmistas defend it with… make the entire failure to appreciate UHI impact laughable. Do these AGW idiots have any idea how stupid they look with every passing day?

The future of the Western Economies, and therefore Western Civilization hang in the balance of these knuckleheads continuing to denude our energy productivity with this AGW nonsense.

23 11 2015
Robert Rosicka

I never believed in man made global warming but upon seeing this evidence I have to admit I was wrong ,so there is evidence after all ! Thank you .

23 11 2015
Miso Nutjob of Useless Loop

Ashamed to have gone to Oxford … but @ least I didn’t study PPE.

24 11 2015

Ye Gods! SNAFU much?

25 11 2015

Mosher fails to appreciate that this demonstration of gross negligence on the part of those who produce the temperature data impugns the credibility and trustworthiness of the whole project.

Arguing “sure, we flunk basic scientific standards routinely, but our work is solid” isn’t exactly a winner.

27 11 2015
Global Warming Vindicated As Oxford Temperatures Skyrocket | Alternative News Network

[…] is sorry to report that one of the world’s oldest meteorological stations has become somewhat neglected as of late. The Radcliffe Meteorological Station in Oxford has provided data since 1767 and has […]

28 11 2015

Reminds me of when I was a teenager living in Lake Tahoe and the paper published story that air pollution in the Tahoe basin was worse than in Los Angeles. Turns out they took all of their readings in casino parking lots.

21 01 2016
PS-100: Guido Fawkes Shines Some Light To The Warmist’s Scam! | Stroat - Wind Turbine

[…] is sorry to report that one of the world’s oldest meteorological stations has become somewhat neglected as of late. The Radcliffe Meteorological Station in Oxford has provided data since 1767 and has […]

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