Climate Crock of the Week: What's Up with Anthony Watts [take 2]

Tue, 2009-07-28 21:13Kevin Grandia
Kevin Grandia's picture

Climate Crock of the Week: What's Up with Anthony Watts [take 2]

Okay, let’s try this again.

Peter Sinclair producer of the well-known “Climate Crock of the Week” video series, posted a video debunking weatherman Anthony Watts who runs a Climate Denier Den also known as his Watt’s Up With That blog.

The video was auto-scrubbed by YouTube after Watts claimed the video broke YouTube’s copyright rules. The video has since been reviewed by a number of US copyright experts and (big surprise) there appears to be nothing that could be construed as anything but fair use. 

This whole situation has raised the ire of even some of the more ardent commenters on DeSmogBlog who normally disagree with pretty much everything we say on this site. One such commenter, Rick James wrote:

“I have to admit it doesn’t look good for the skeptic side when something gets scrubbed like this. Watts loses some stature here unless he can post something convincing about why he did it on his blog. Silence won’t get it done.”

One could speculate that Watts had a problem with the clips Sinclair used of Watts being interviewed by Glenn Beck on Fox News (Watts formerly worked as a weatherman for a Fox News affiliate), but that would be pretty weak given that Watts has no problem excerpting large swaths of print articles like this one posted tonight from the BBC on his own website.

As I have asked on two posts here on DeSmog and on Huffington Post: tell me Mr. Watts, what part of this video is it that gives you the right to have it removed from the public discourse on climate change? You can email me at desmogblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

Here’s the video again, reposted on YouTube:


I’m not surprised he issued the spurious takedown - it’s more than a little embarrassing…

What a lovely little video! Thanks for reupping. Will be checking out some others for sure.

besides the ridiculous ad hominem logic behind the video let’s look at what the video states: the know nothing dr. watts (who dates either glenn beck or rush limbaugh) sites clear examples of the many weather stations throughout the US that do not comply with standards and criteria put forth by NOAA themselves. the conclusion being that if these standards are not met then perhaps the measurements are inaccurate which in turn could effect the climate models used. NOAA responded (because their integrity was being challenged?) that yes indeed the criteria was not followed in many cases and temperature readings were affected. they made adjustments ,of course, to remedy the problem (hopefully not like steig did for the antarctic) but they did not stop there….they created the climate reference network. so i guess if noaa thought it was necessary to create something new that would correct the problems dr. watts found that they, noaa, agreed with dr. watts. Then we move to the old adage…why use thermometers anyway. why not ask farmers or use biological markers to look at temps, ( i say “old” b/c i think when troposphere temps were not showing increases in temps with thermometers they said wind shear was a better way to measure…did they really say this?) or some nonsense and then more ad hominem attacks. hopefully this will get posted kevin…peace, rich

so what he should do - instead of trying to take down the video - is take it apart point by point in a blog post - shutting down the video is a weak response - or maybe just lazy - I would think he would jump at a chance to openly defend his work.

Watts doesn’t even have a BSc. Doctor my ass.

As my old math teacher used to say: he doesn’t even know enough to know that he doesn’t know.

Even if the surface stations were wrong — and they are not, as NOAA has proven — there are thousands of empirical studies which all confirm that the planet is warming, including one study which looked at 20,000 data sets. Anyone with eyes and half a brain can confirm some of them just by taking off the ideological blinkers.

In the 1980s, I used to live in a Zone 4… Now my city is a Zone 6, even here, just a hop, skip, and a jump from the North Atlantic. Nova Scotia makes good wine now, farmers grow exotic vegetables, and winters (2008-09 excepted) are so mild so that kids maybe get two or three weeks of lake hockey (versus the three months of my youth).

Ad hominem has nothing to do with it. Fact: Watts is scientifically illiterate.

ok pal take a chill pill. i guess he doesn’t have his doctorate.( not the point and the essence of ad hominem). he did show that the weather stations being used were not within standards set by noaa. i guess noaa agreed or they wouldn’t have tried to “correct the problem” and then create the climate reference network to get “more reliable data”. the point of this guys video was to say that Watts’ work was a crock. yet the video goes on to show ,by the aforementioned, that indeed it wasn’t……

Watts doesn’t have a doctorate, or a masters, or even a lowly bachelors degree. So he has far less training than I do.

The weather stations were established before global warming was issue, so some of them might not have been ideally situated. But Anthony Watts parades around like he’s got something over on the scientists, like he’s thought of something that they hadn’t considered with all their fancy PhDs and Ivy League educations. Anything he could think of as a layman has already been considered and accounted for a very long time ago. And thats why temperature records are accurate, and why we know the planet is warming dangerously. We also have the thousands of empirical studies which support the temperature record.

Watts doesn’t even understand how ridiculous he sounds. He‘s a con man, a snake oil salesman.

And I like how deniers always cry to ad hominen when they’re losing. :-)

What he said. Well done.

Every time I hear about “Weatherman Anthony Watts”, I’m reminded of this classic Married With Children episode:

Mrs. Anthony Watts’ performance starts about 95 seconds into the video.

If the USHCN was as reliable as you say, there would be no need for the Climate Reference Network. It is precisely because the robustness and accuracy of the USHCN is in doubt that the CRN is being constructed.

A couple of points

You go to the trouble of typing and posting comments on this blog. Presumably you wish those comments to be read by the rest of us. In which case, learn to spell, use appropriate punctuation and improve the layout. Dense blocks of misspelt, poorly punctuated text are virtually unreadable.

I believe we have previously established your profession. It seems unlikely that anybody doing that job has never studied science, which makes it highly unlikely that you have never heard of calibration and calibration reference standards.

The Climate Reference Network (CRN) programs purpose is to:
Ensure that future changes and variations in primary measurements at specific locations can be monitored without the need for uncertain adjustments and corrections to the data.

As well as providing a national temperature record, the CRN also provides a calibration reference standard for validating adjustments made to other temperature series, including the removal of Urban Heat Island (UHI) effects. The video clearly showed the efficacy of those adjustments.

Far from leading the way and forcing NOAA to respond;
UHI has been showing up in scientific papers since at least the late 1960’s, (Google Scholar),
The first new stations of the CRN were established in 2001, (from the 2003 report),
Watts only started his bandwagon going in 2007, (according to the surface station website).

Watts was late to the party, wrong about the station effects and the resultant temperature record, Peter Sinclair’s video is entirely justified.

That was a question I was trying to get answered out of NOAA and now I don’t have to thanks to you Richard. So if these stations were well underway before Watts was even on the scene his substation project - at least as it pertains to climate change - is completely useless as these stations he’s measuring are not even used by NOAA for climate trend data. Do I have this right?


Some improvements in the analysis were made several years ago (Hansen et al. 1999; Hansen et al. 2001), including use of satellite-observed night lights to determine which stations in the United States are located in urban and peri-urban areas, the long-term trends of those stations being adjusted to agree with long-term trends of nearby rural stations.


The GHCN/USHCN/SCAR data are modified in two steps to obtain station data from which our tables, graphs, and maps are constructed. In step 1, if there are multiple records at a given location, these are combined into one record; in step 2, the urban and peri-urban (i.e., other than rural) stations are adjusted so that their long-term trend matches that of the mean of neighboring rural stations. Urban stations without nearby rural stations are dropped.

Now, do you suppose that any of the wingnuts who have been accusing Jim Hansen and his NASA colleagues of ignoring urban heat-island effects ever bothered to read any of this? Had they taken even a few minutes of time to do some background research, they certainly would have seen the information that I excerpted above. I mean, it’s all on the “front page” of NASA’s GISTEMP web-site, for pete’s sake!

But even a token research effort like this would be way too much to expect from the likes of Watts and Co.

Well it’s important to remember that the Climate Reference Network wouldn’t even be needed if the historical network was satisfactory. It is because of the uncertainty involving the quality of the data from the historical network that the CRN is even being built.

And while the CRN will provide high quality data from properly sited and properly documented surface stations, it will not improve the accuracy of the past temperature data from the historical network which is riddled with deficiencies which may or may not have been properly corrected for.

An analysis exercise like a comparison of average temperatures computed from verified “good/excellent” stations vs. average temperatures computed from less well-sited stations would show clearly how much siting problems were throwing things off.

But Watts and his fellow clowns never even attempted to perform such an analysis. It wouldn’t be very hard to do – all of the data and much of the software needed to do this are freely available on-line. And as a matter of fact, that’s just what the NOAA folks demonstrated. The results from 70 of the confirmed “best-sited” stations were nearly identical to the results computed from the entire network of stations.

The surfacestations project has been in operation for over two years, and in those two years did any of you guys who are so critical of the surface temperature station network even attempt to perform such a simple, straightforward analysis?

No, you didn’t. And the reason is almost certainly because you guys are just too lazy and/or incompetent.

How have the deficiencies at an individual site been corrected for? You, and the scientists never say. Or, they say it is “compared” to another site … which has also never been checked for adherence to proper standards.

The onus is on those claiming the surface data is robust to prove their claims. So far they haven’t done a very compelling job.

And while you accuse others of incompetence, who in their right mind would place a temperature sensor right next to an asphalt parking lot and then use this data for historical reconstructions??

Folks, let’s assume that this silly “parking-lot” straw-man is true.

Even if every single weather reporting station were located next to a parking-lot, that would not affect the temperature *trend*. You may have a constant offset in temperature readings, but for measurement of long-term warming trends, what matters is not the absolute temperature readings, but how those temperature readings change over time.

Offset vs. trend – that’s a concept that most deniers just can’t grasp.

And then we could discuss the agreement between the temperature *trend* measured by surface-stations vs the temperature *trend* determined by satellite measurements. And the agreement is remarkable. Or the fact that the most rapid temperature increases have been measured in the high northern latitudes (Alaska, Siberia, Canada, etc.) Or the fact that ocean temperatures have been increasing along with the surface and satellite temperature readings.

So Paul S, how are you going to explain those inconvenient facts away? Parking-lots in space? Parking-lots in the Arctic? Parking-lots in the ocean?

At this point, the only appropriate response to garbage posted by deniers is well-informed, reality-based ridicule.

Interestingly, you ignore completely the poor site standards at many surface stations.

How about addressing that issue and how it might affect the robustness of the historical data and also the trend itself?

Sloppy stations raise questions of developement changes over the years. It’s not just placing the thing on a parking lot but rather what changes has the site seen over it’s temperature collection lifetime. Has the local UHI effect changed over the past 50 years at a given site? Have new buildings been erected nearby. New AC units - not from day 1 but AC units added at various points during the past x number of years.

Local artificial heat sources are changeable and generally will increase over time.

Kevin said “So if these stations were well underway before Watts was even on the scene his substation project - at least as it pertains to climate change - is completely useless as these stations he’s measuring are not even used by NOAA for climate trend data. Do I have this right?”

No. You have it completely wrong. Probably because Richard has it wrong. The level of ignorance on this site is astounding and appalling. Funny how a couple of months ago Richard had never even heard of “Dr” Tom Karl and now he’s some kind of NOAA expert or something. FYI, CRN (Climate Reference Network) is different than HCN (Historical Climatology Network). For Christ’s sake, let’s gets some basic education and use some common sense here before you embarrass yourselves further. I could write pages but don’t have the will or the time. A good place to start is

I was responding to mascereye’s claim that the CRN was NOAA’s response to Watts, the dates I used can be traced back to where I got them from.

If I have it wrong, tell me where. And since when did I ever claim to be an expert on NOAA?

Watts is attempting to throw doubt on the GISTEMP trends, these use the US Historical Climatological Network (USHCN) and the Global Historical Climatological Network (GHCN).

Watts is looking at the USHCN stations, there may be spinoffs that are looking at the GHCN stations. The CRN is a separate new network, they are too young to be part of the part of the USHCN as it stands, but they will be coupled to historical observations. And the program started years before Watts became involved.

So he is looking at the right stations, but the implication that the record is wrong has itself been shown to be wrong.

NCDC hasn’t come even remotely close to rebutting Watts.

If you refer to this:

“Two national time series were made using the same homogeneity adjusted data set and the same gridding and area averaging technique used by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center for its Page 3 of 4 annual climate monitoring. One analysis was for the full USHCN version 2 data set. The other used only USHCN version 2 data from the 70 stations that classified as good or best.”

Please be aware that “homogeneity adjusted” means that all the data (not just from the good sensors) was used in BOTH time series. It is a scientific embarrassment to even suggest that this comparison proves that USHCN data is insensitive to sitting issues. That explains why the author of this memo refused to put his name on this memo. His name, BTW is Thomas C. Peterson. Let me repeat: The name of the previously respectable climate scientist who authored this is Thomas C. Peterson.

The fact is that USHCN is in terrible shape by any reasonable standard, and most respectable climatologists will acknowledge this privately.

The defense of USHCN should be this: Its the best we’ve got. There isn’t any cache of pristine data that we’ve been ignoring all these years, and there hasn’t been any clear demonstration of bias in either direction.

Defending the way we’ve been measuring temperature in the United States as scientifically appropriate or acceptable is a losing game.

If Watts has drawn attention to the sorry state of US temperature data, then god bless him. You don’t have to agree with a single thing he says to know that broken temperature sensors on uncovered asphalt near the exhaust vents of AC units should not be used to gather data about climate change.

Journal of Climate, Vol 16, #18, 15Sep2003

Assessment of Urban Versus Rural In Situ Surface Temperatures in the Contiguous
United States: No Difference Found


National Climatic Data Center, Asheville, North Carolina
(Manuscript received 26 May 2002, in final form 23 February 2003)

All analyses of the impact of urban heat islands (UHIs) on in situ temperature observations suffer from inhomogeneities or biases in the data. These inhomogeneities make urban heat island analyses difficult and can lead to erroneous conclusions. To remove the biases caused by differences in elevation, latitude, time of observation, instrumentation, and nonstandard siting, a variety of adjustments were applied to the data. The resultant data were the most thoroughly homogenized and the homogeneity adjustments were the most rigorously evaluated and thoroughly documented of any large-scale UHI analysis to date. Using satellite night-lights–derived urban/rural metadata, urban and rural temperatures from 289 stations in 40 clusters were compared using data from 1989 to 1991. Contrary to generally accepted wisdom, no statistically significant impact of urbanization could be found in annual temperatures. It is postulated that this is due to micro- and local-scale impacts dominating over the mesoscale urban heat island. Industrial sections of towns may well be significantly warmer than rural sites, but urban meteorological observations are more likely to be made within park cool islands than industrial regions.


So right off the bat, we see this major difference between Dr. Peterson and his skeptical detractors: Dr. Peterson has actually done some real work with the surface temperature data.

Now, solman, in another post here, claimed that Watts has promised to publish his own analysis of the surface temperature data. But the surfacestations project is over two years old, and the project has produced *no* data analysis work at this point. Far more than enough stations have been surveyed for at least some preliminary analysis reports. But so far, nothing.

It should be pointed out that lots of “skeptics” have been scrutinizing the surface temperature data over the past few years. But in spite of all the intense scrutiny of the data by the “skeptics”, they have produced absolutely nothing of substance in terms of real data analysis.

All you have are people like “solman” who bitch and snipe from the sidelines, but are too lazy to roll up their sleeves and do any real work. If the USHCN system is so scientifically indefensible, then the “skeptics” would have published articles in the peer-reviewed literature detailing the deficiencies in the USHCN system and the homogeneity adjustment algorithms applied to the USHCN data. They have had plenty of time and funding (thanks to Exxon et al.) to do so.

If in fact the surfacestations folks were serious about analyzing the quality of the surface temperature data, they would have gotten *something* published in a respected professional journal by now. They’ve had over two years produce some real work and so far they’ve produced nothing. Any legitimate scientist with a track record like that would have lost his/her funding.

You can judge the seriousness of the “skeptics” by the real work that they’ve produced. And so far, they have produced *nothing*. If they had anything of substance that showed serious deficiencies in how the surface temperature data are processed, they would have published their findings in a refereed journal by now. And they would have very loudly let the entire world know about their work.

But, like I said, they have produced *nothing*. And that’s pretty much all anyone needs to know about the surfacestations project (or climate “skeptics” in general) at this point.

Please … not the satellite “night lights” methodology again.
Why didn’t Peterson physically visit any of the stations? A satellite photo taken at night will not tell you anything about violations of siting standards.

You demonstrate remarkable ignorance. Lets start here:

|>It should be pointed out that lots of “skeptics” have been scrutinizing the surface temperature data over the past few years. But in spite of all the intense scrutiny of the data by the “skeptics”, they have produced absolutely nothing of substance in terms of real data analysis.

Apparently dozens (if not hundreds) of peer reviewed papers == “absolutely nothing of substance”. Go to your university library. READ the journals. Then come back. If you are just focusing on temperature trends, here is a good review paper to start with:

I’d write more, but responding to ignorant adhom (I’m doing the leg work while Peterson accepts a government salary but couldn’t even be bothered to leave the office and pick up a thermometer) is beneath me. Go get an education.

For bonus points, find a single urban center in the US where UHI is NOT easily measurable.

Apparently you missed a major portion of the video. In fact Sinclair compares the overall temperature trends to trends from just the stations that Watts and his volunteers/associates considered to be optimal. There was no significant difference. That is a fact. Not an ad hominem. And the Steig paper is still valid. No one has provided a valid critique of his methodology no matter how much the deniers may whine about it.

Sinclair compares the data from all the sites to data from the “optimal sites” AFTER they have been adjusted by combining their results with all of the other sites (both optimal and non-optimal).

I make no judgment as to the scientific appropriateness of these adjustments. But unsurprisingly the effect of these adjustments is to make nearby stations have similar values.

It is no surprise that two data series, both of which combine all of the data, produce similar results.

Sinclair gave you (and others) the impression that one of his data series used ONLY data from optimal sites. This is categorically false. His data series uses only data that is attributed to “optimal” sites. But this data is the result of no fewer than five “adjustments” that combine data from sites of all quality levels.actually a combination of data from sites of all quality levels.

In his defense, Sinclair took this data from an anonymous paper (written by Thomas C. Peterson, but he [or somebody else], removed his name from the paper) intended to defend NOAAs mismanagement of the temperature sensors. This anonymous paper did an inadequate job of pointing out that both data streams combine data from all of the sensors. Such are the perils of using anonymous non-peer reviewed research distributed for political reasons.

It would have been more interesting to compare the raw unadjusted data from the “optimal sites” with the raw unadjusted data from all of the sites. I would be interested in seeing either NCDC or Watts provide such an analysis. My understanding is that Watts will do so when he publishes his results.

I’m confused by your comment about the Steig paper. First, I’m not aware of anybody credible who thinks its results have any significant implications for the question of AGW. (And if there are people on either side who think this, they are wrong). Second, there have been several substantive criticisms of the Steig methodology (and I’m not counting pointing out errors in the BAS data series as substantive). Would you like a reference? Or perhaps you mistakenly wrote Steig, when you were thinking of some other paper?

… better foils. Try this CBC podcast on for size. Right now, Climate Change campaigners come across to me the same way that religious zealots do.

The podcast:

If you do a comparison between the graph of US annual mean temperature anomaly (page 37, figure 6) that was published in the Hansen article of 1999:

and the graph currently on the website at:

there are multiple differences between the two.

Granted the latter graph has an additional decade of annual means which could affect the 5-year mean line, but it shouldn’t alter the points of each yearly mean anomaly up until 1999. These points should be exactly the same in each graph because they are relative to the 1951-1980 mean, I would have thought.

Maybe the raw data used to plot these graphs is different. If so, why different raw data? The video shows that, even if you take only the 70 best surface sites, you still get the same results.

What is the explanation for the differences between the two graphs? Thanks.


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Earthquakes are so rare in eastern Colorado that the U.S....

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