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An Introduced Warming Bias in the USHCN Temperature Database
Balling Jr., R.C. and Idso, C.D. 2002. Analysis of adjustments to the United States Historical Climatology Network (USHCN) temperature database. Geophysical Research Letters 10.1029/2002GL014825.

What was done
The authors examined and compared trends among six different temperature databases for the coterminous United States over the period 1930-2000 and/or 1979-2000.

What was learned
For the period 1930-2000, the RAW or unadjusted USHCN time series revealed a linear cooling of 0.05C per decade that is statistically significant at the 0.05 level of confidence. The FILNET USHCN time series, on the other hand - which contains adjustments to the RAW dataset designed to deal with biases believed to be introduced by variations in time of observation, the changeover to the new Maximum/Minimum Temperature System (MMTS), station history (including other types of instrument adjustments) and an interpolation scheme for estimating missing data from nearby highly-correlated station records - exhibited an insignificant warming of 0.01C per decade.

Most interestingly, the difference between the two trends (FILNET-RAW) shows "a nearly monotonic, and highly statistically significant, increase of over 0.05C per decade." With respect to the 1979-2000 period, the authors say that "even at this relatively short time scale, the difference between the RAW and FILNET trends is highly significant (0.0001 level of confidence)." Over both time periods, they also find that "the trends in the unadjusted temperature records [RAW] are not different from the trends of the independent satellite-based lower-tropospheric temperature record or from the trend of the balloon-based near-surface measurements."

What it means
In the words of the authors, the adjustments that are being made to the raw USHCN temperature data "are producing a statistically significant, but spurious, warming trend in the USHCN temperature database." In fact, they note that "the adjustments to the RAW record result in a significant warming signal in the record that approximates the widely-publicized 0.50C increase in global temperatures over the past century." It would thus appear that in this particular case of "data-doctoring," the cure is worse than the disease. In fact, it would appear that the cure IS the disease.

Our prescription for wellness? Withhold the host of medications being given and the patient's fever will subside.

Reviewed 29 May 2002