Important study on temperature adjustments: ‘homogenization…can lead to a significant overestimate of rising trends of surface air temperature.’

Posted: February 13th, 2014 by Militant Libertarian

from WUWT

From the “we told you so” department comes this paper out of China that quantifies many of the very problems with the US and global surface temperature record we have been discussing for years: the adjustments add more warming than the global warming signal  itself

A paper just published in Theoretical and Applied Climatology finds that the data homogenization techniques commonly used to adjust temperature records for moving stations and the urban heat island effect [UHI] can result in a “significant” exaggeration of warming trends in the homogenized record.

The effect of homogenization is clear and quite pronounced. What they found in China is based on how NOAA treats homogenization of the surface temperature record.

According to the authors:

“Our analysis shows that “data homogenization for [temperature] stations moved from downtowns to suburbs can lead to a significant overestimate of rising trends of surface air temperature.”

Basically what they are saying here is that the heat sink effect of all the concrete and asphalt surrounding the station swamps the diurnal variation of the station, and when it is moved away, the true diurnal variation returns, and then the homogenization methodology falsely adjusts the signal in a way that increases the trend.

You can see the heat sink swamping of the diurnal signal in the worst stations, Class 5, nearest urban centers in the graphs below. Compare urban, semi-urban, and rural for Class 5 stations, the effect of the larger UHI heat sink on the Tmax and Tmin is evident.


In Zhang et al, they study what happens when a station is moved from an urban to rural environment. An analogy in the USA would be what happened to the signal of those rooftop stations in the center of the city, such as in Columbia, SC when the station was moved to a a more rural setting.

The Zhang et al paper studies a move of Huairou station in Beijing from 1960 to 2008, and the resultant increases in trend that result from the adjustments from homgenization being applied, resulting in a greater trend. They find:

The mean annual Tmin and Tmax at Huairou station drop by 1.377°C and 0.271°C respectively after homogenization. The adjustments for Tmin are larger than those for Tmax, especially in winter, and the seasonal differences of the adjustments are generally more obvious for Tmin than for Tmax.

The figures 4 and 5 from the paper are telling for the effect on trend:



Now here is the really interesting part, they propose a mechanism for the increase in trend, via the adjustments, and illustrate it.


They conclude:

The larger effects of relocations, homogenization, and urbanization on Tmin data series than on Tmax data series in a larger extent explain the “asymmetry” in daytime and nighttime SAT trends at Huairou station, and the urban effect is also a major contributor to the DTR decline as implied in the “asymmetry” changes of the annual mean Tmin and Tmax for the homogeneityadjusted data at the station.

In my draft paper of 2012 (now nearing completion with all of the feedback/criticisms we received dealt with, thank you. It is a complete rework. ), we pointed out how much adjustments, including homogenization, added to the trend of the USCHN network in the USA. This map from the draft paper pretty much says it all: the adjusted data trend is about twice as warm as the trend of stations (compliant thermometers) that have had the least impact of siting, UHI, and moves:


The Zhang et al paper is open access, an well worth reading. Let’s hope Petersen, Karl, and Menne at NCDC (whose papers are cited as references in this new paper) read it, for they are quite stubborn in insisting that their methodology solves all the ills of the dodgy surface temperature record, when it fact it creates more unrecognized problems in addition to the ones it solves.

Read the paper in Open Access at this link (PDF).

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