Climate and Dynamics
On the reliability of the U.S. surface temperature record
Article first published online: 8 JUN 2010
Copyright 2010 by the American Geophysical Union.
Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres (1984–2012)
Volume 115, Issue D11, 16 June 2010
How to Cite
2010), On the reliability of the U.S. surface temperature record, J. Geophys. Res., 115, D11108, doi:10.1029/2009JD013094., , and (
- Issue published online: 8 JUN 2010
- Article first published online: 8 JUN 2010
- Manuscript Accepted: 7 JAN 2010
- Manuscript Revised: 24 DEC 2009
- Manuscript Received: 27 AUG 2009
- surface temperature;
 Recent photographic documentation of poor siting conditions at stations in the U.S. Historical Climatology Network (USHCN) has led to questions regarding the reliability of surface temperature trends over the conterminous United States (CONUS). To evaluate the potential impact of poor siting/instrument exposure on CONUS temperatures, trends derived from poor and well sited USHCN stations were compared. Results indicate that there is a mean bias associated with poor exposure sites relative to good exposure sites; however, this bias is consistent with previously documented changes associated with the widespread conversion to electronic sensors in the USHCN during the last 25 years. Moreover, the sign of the bias is counterintuitive to photographic documentation of poor exposure because associated instrument changes have led to an artificial negative (“cool”) bias in maximum temperatures and only a slight positive (“warm”) bias in minimum temperatures. These results underscore the need to consider all changes in observation practice when determining the impacts of siting irregularities. Further, the influence of nonstandard siting on temperature trends can only be quantified through an analysis of the data. Adjustments applied to USHCN Version 2 data largely account for the impact of instrument and siting changes, although a small overall residual negative (“cool”) bias appears to remain in the adjusted maximum temperature series. Nevertheless, the adjusted USHCN temperatures are extremely well aligned with recent measurements from instruments whose exposure characteristics meet the highest standards for climate monitoring. In summary, we find no evidence that the CONUS average temperature trends are inflated due to poor station siting.