Reproducing Willis Eschenbach’s WUWT Darwin analysis

A Guest Post by “KevinUK”

I’ve been following the recent Darwin Airport thread on WUWT with some interest and thought that it was about time I did some auditing of the instrumental temperature record myself as several others (like GG, RomanM, EMSmith, hpx83 etc) have done recently.

As well as being a Physicist (educated to degree level), I also have significant database design and programming skills and have built several large decision support/data warehousing systems during the course of my career so far. I therefore thought the best place to start would be to follow hpx83’s (Savecapitalism’s) example and load the GHCN dataset into a relational database management system (RDBMS) and start to query the data.

My first port of call was therefore to the data and after searching various blogs I made my way to the download location for NOAA’s GHCN version 2 dataset.

NOAA GHCN version 2 dataset.

My next step was the to follow the excellent documentation provided by a thread on the GHCN – Global Historical Climate Network on E M Smith’s ChiefIO blog

GHCN – Global Historical Climate Network

Having then familiarised myself with the GHCN data files, I was then ready to write some code to import the GHCN data from the various GHCN download files into a series of normalised and indexed tables. Because the GHCN data is stored in a series of non-normalised ‘flat files’ this was a non-trivial task. My next step was then to have a good look at the data by carrying out some simple ‘counting queries’ on the records stored in various tables in the database etc.

One of the first things I noticed was the rather (at least initally) confusing ‘station inventory’ data and its relationship to the raw and adjusted mean temperature data. Each record in the raw (v2.mean) and adjusted (v2.mean_adj) temperature data files has a field that is referred to in the GCHN documentation as the ‘station modifier code’. In fact this number in combination with the WMO station code represents a unique ‘station’ record in the GHCN ‘station inventory’ file (v2.temperature.inv).

So in fact there are often several ‘stations’ in the station inventory file for a given WMO station code. In effect these station modifier codes represent the different ‘stations’ that make up the station record for a given WMO station. They appear to represent the various ‘station moves’ that are often mentioned in the many threads on various blogs on this subject. In addition to the station modifier codes there are also often ‘duplicate no.s’ in the raw and adjusted data files which indicate that there can often be several (sometimes overlapping) data series for a given WMO station code/modifier code. combination.

If you want to familiarise yourself with a set of data it is often a good idea to see if you can reproduce someone else’s analysis that has been carried out using the same data. I decided therefore to use Willis E’s WUWT Darwin airport thread as an example and attempt to reproduce his results.

As you’ll see shortly, it proved to be a very useful exercise that then lead me on to look into the GHCN data in much more detail. First thing to note. In the GHCN dataset Darwin airport has a 5 digit WMO station code of 94120 and according to NOAA it has only one station modifier code of 000. This would seem to imply thatthgere have been no station movements at Darwin – see later?. Darwin has five different raw data series, each corresponding to a different ‘duplicate no’ (0, 1, 2, 3 and 4). For its adjusted data there are three ‘duplicate no’ series (0, 1, and 2).

This implies that the raw data Series 3 and 4 have for some reason been dropped from NOAA’s GHCN adjustment analysis. Presumably this is because of the fact that they have 20 years (Series 3) and 9 years (Series 4) of data only while Series 0,1 and 2 have 110, 69 and 42 respectively. Similarly the number of data points in the adjusted data for Series 0, 1 and 2 are 110, 69 and 42 respectively i.e. they are an exact match to the no. of points for each of the equivalent raw series. At this point it is worth charting the raw and adjusted temperature data series for Darwin as Willis E. did.

Figure 1 – Darwin raw mean temp. series Figure 2 – Darwin adj. mean temp. series

As can be seen by looking at Figure 2, it appears that NOAA have only chosen to adjust Series 0 and 2. For some reason almost no adjustments are made to the data for series 1 which includes the most recent data. Why should NOAA only adjust the older data and not the most recent data? It is also informative to see the effect (as Willis E did) that the adjustments have on the raw data for Series 0 only by looking at the following chart.

Figure 3 – Darwin Series 0 raw/adjusted mean temps

This is certainly a very significant adjustment that results in a +6 deg. C/ century warming slope in the adjusted Series 0 raw data post 1941 as highlighted by Willis E in his Figure 8 on the Darwin airport thread on WUWT.


The following conclusions my be drawn from my analysis in which I’ve attempted to reproduce Willis E’s analysis of the NOAA GHCN adjustments for Darwin.

1. It is informative to load the NOAA GHCN data into an RDBMS, as the GHCN adjustment data can then be usefully analysed to look for trends in the data for all and not just selected WMO stations.

2. Once all the data has been loaded and appropriate indexed, it then very easily to filter and export the data for selected WMO stations so that the GHCN data can be analysed and in further detail and charted using third party software packages e.g. MS Excel.

3. After exporting all the data for Darwin, it has been possible to independently reproduce all the charts produced by Willis Eschenbach on his WUWT Darwin thread and to confirm his conclusion that adjustments made to the raw Darwin data by NOAA can not be physically justified.

Is Darwin a special case? Has NOAA applied similar physically unjustifiable adjustments to the raw data for any other WMO stations? See my next thread on NOAA’s physically unjustifiable GHCN adjustments.

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10 Responses to Reproducing Willis Eschenbach’s WUWT Darwin analysis

  1. Poptech says:

    You may find this interesting,

    Who is Willis Eschenbach?

    As of 2012 Mr. Eschenbach has been employed as a House Carpenter.

    He is not a “computer modeler”, he is not an “engineer” and he is certainly not a “scientist” (despite all ridiculous claims to the contrary).

    “A final question, one asked on Judith Curry’s blog a year ago by a real scientist, Willis Eschenbach…”

    • Verity Jones says:

      Thank you so much for publishing the link to Willis’ CV. He has gone up even more in my estimation from reading that. Quite honestly he is a fascinating character, having done so much with his life, genius level IQ etc.

      You mean Willis is not a professional scientist? Of course he’s not. But since when have we needed to insist on a narrow definition of the word? It’s etymology was originally broad. Likewise for those other professions you mention. From my experience it is generally only those with a bit of an inferiority complex who promote exclusion.
      You might find this of interest:

      • Poptech says:

        There is no evidence he has a genius level IQ. If Willis is not a professional scientist then he should not allow his credentials to be misrepresented to the press.

  2. Verity Jones says:

    I’ve met Willis. I deal with people with genius level IQ on a daily basis (as well as others). Believe me Willis is up there with those special people. He will probably never win a Nobel Prize but he has that ‘something’ – a combination of exceptional intellectual ability and insight, that marks him out. IQ tests are a bit like sticking your finger in the air to measure the wind. Richard Feymann apparently tested out at 125 and I seem to remember 135+ is the level for MENSA. On the other hand Willis recalls scoring 180 on a Stanford-binet test which is a cognitive ability assessment used to measure intelligence (IQ). QED.

    You are allowing your very narrow definition of ‘scientist’ to be conflated with ‘professional scientist’. I see nothing wrong with Willis being represented in the press as a ‘scientist’. Are you are saying that because he was (probably rightly) criticized by Roy Spencer, he cannot be a scientist? I can think of many professional scientists whose behavior has been less scientific than that of Willis.

    Your own blog post you have linked to is essentially an ad hominem attack. I do not care about who Willis is or is not. If you persist in criticizing the man the post will be snipped; you may comment on his behaviour, but I hope you have the intelligence to know the difference.

    • Poptech says:

      I don’t believe Willis’s stories nor do I consider him with anything but an above average intelligence. The only “something” he has, is an ability to fool people who don’t know any better into believing he knows what he is talking about. Similar to a used car salesman. I am saying he cannot be a scientist by definition;

      scientist (noun) – “a person who is trained in a science and whose job involves doing scientific research or solving scientific problems.

      The only thing Willis can be considered is an amateur scientist and not a very good one at that.

      I am very disappointed you see no problem with misleading people in the press.

      Where in my blog post do I say YOU should not listen to his scientific arguments because of his credentials?

      If you wish to censor me because you cannot defend your argument so be it.

      • Verity Jones says:

        By this definition he can, and by this definition the use of the word in the press is not misleading.

        scientist (noun) – “a person who is studying or has expert knowledge of one or more of the natural or physical sciences: a research scientist”

        Where in my blog post do I say YOU should not listen to his scientific arguments because of his credentials?”

        Where in my comment did I say you said that?

      • Poptech says:

        Which definition do you think the public commonly associates with the word?

      • Verity Jones says:

        Let me get this right: you are complaining because James Delingpole – in a Daily Telegraph blog – described Willis as a ‘scientist’ posting on a science-related blog and Willis has not made any attempt to “correct” it?

        Well firstly, in this matter, Willis’ methodology and assertion that the adjustments were unscientific, is right, and it matters not a jot to the general public’s view of him whether he is a professional or amateur. The point is that his thinking was ‘scientific’ and he was right. Secondly, can you cite any cases of people successfully correcting in the mind of the public, incorrect details that are not slander and have no immediate or direct consequence? I don’t think so. Why bother?

        You’ve had such a drubbing over in comments on WUWT ( over this that I cannot believe you are willing to argue the same stance here. Give it up and go home.

      • Poptech says:

        You did not answer the question,

        Which definition do you think the public commonly associates with the word?

  3. Verity Jones says:

    Alright – you score a fraction of a point there. Don’t let it go to your head.

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