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Blue Hill
May 2009
Issue 6
Is the U.S. Surface Temperature Record Reliable?
VORTEX2 Tornado Research Program
Notes from the Observer's Office
Saturday May 16: Spring Open House
The Observatory Store
Future Events
About The Blue Hill Observatory and Science Center
Is the U.S. Surface Temperature Record Reliable?
A new, comprehensive study says NO!
Charles T. Orloff, Executive Director, Blue Hill Observatory

In a shocking report scheduled to be aired on CBS Channel 4 tonight (May 13, 2009) at 11 P.M., Anthony Watts, a veteran broadcast meteorologist, concludes that we can not trust the reliability of temperature data collected across the United States. In fact, he found that "89% of the 860 official climate stations surveyed - nearly 9 of every 10 - fail to meet the National Weather Service's own siting requirements."

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Surface stations in Forest Grove, Oregon (left) and Tahoe City, California (right). 
Images by Anthony Watts, from

In probably the most comprehensive review of the quality of data coming from the National Weather Service network of weather stations ever compiled, Watts concludes that the clear majority are reporting a "false warming trend". Having documented that, he asks the question "How do we know global warming is a problem if we can't trust the U.S. temperature record?"
For the last few years Watts and a team of over 650 volunteers have been visually inspecting and photographically documenting official temperature stations across the United States. What he has discovered is alarming - "We found stations located next to the exhaust fans of air conditioning units, surrounded by asphalt parking lots and roads, on blistering-hot rooftops, and near sidewalks and buildings that absorb and radiate heat. We found 68 stations located at wastewater treatment plants, where the process of waste digestion causes temperatures to be higher than in surrounding areas... The conclusion is inescapable: The U.S. temperature record is unreliable."
Earlier this week Watt's assistant, Evan M. Jones, who has personally surveyed over 200 climate stations, visited Blue Hill Observatory (BHO) for an official audit. As the oldest, continuously operating weather station in the nation,  BHO is often looked at as a benchmark station for the study of climate trends and we have documented change - the temperature at BHO has risen almost 2.5 degrees in the last hundred years.  While a final report from Mr. Jones' visit has not yet been issued, we expect that his assessment will be generally positive.
If you're interested in the discussion of global warming you won't want to miss this report. Tune in tonight on WBZ-TV at 11 P.M. and follow the expanded story on their website on Thursday, May 14th.

Click here to learn more about the Surface Stations project.

Click here to read a report published earlier this year by Anthony Watts.
VORTEX2: Tornado Research Program
The Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment 2 (VORTEX2) is an ambitious scientific research program to increase our understanding of tornadoes.  If you enjoy observing extreme weather without getting too close, please visit the VORTEX2 website and watch for daily updates.

The following is an excerpt from the VORTEX2 website:

VORTEX2 is by far the largest and most ambitious effort ever made to understand tornadoes. We expect over 100 scientists and crew in up to 40 science and support vehicles to participate in this unique, fully nomadic, field program in May/June 2009-2010. The National Science Foundation (NSF) foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration (NOAA) together are contributing over $10 million towards this effort. Participants will be drawn from several universities, and several government and private organizations, and will be international including members from Italy, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.

VORTEX2 will hit the road from 10 May - 13 June 2009 and 1 May - 15 June 2010.

Related websites:
National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) VORTEX2 website
National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) VORTEX2 website
The Weather Channel VORTEX2 website
Notes from the Observer's Office
Fourth Warmest April on Record

The April average temperature (adjusted to 24 hours) of 48.9 deg F was 4.4 deg F warmer than the long-term 1891-2000 mean, and this ties for the fourth warmest April on record. There were several daily record high temperatures during the month including 80 on the 25th, 83 on the 26th, and 92 on the 28th. April 28th was only the sixth day that the temperature has reached 90 or higher during April in the last 124 years.

Precipitation for the month was 4.53 inches, which was slightly more than the long term average. There was just 0.2 inch of snowfall during the month, which brings the seasonal total up to 78.9 inches, or 18.9 inches above average.

The average corrected wind speed for the month was 13.8 mph with a prevailing direction from the west. Sunshine for the month was 55 percent of the possible bright sunshine, which was six percent more than average.
Saturday May 16: Spring Open House at the Observatory
Please join us this Saturday May 16 for our annual Spring Open House.   Take a tour of our facility, enjoy the view from the summit of Great Blue Hill, and participate in many fun activities. Building your own windsock and other crafts are free. The cost for the tagged balloon release is $1. There will be lectures on the weather and the Observatory history, exhibits by Mount Washington Observatory, the Environmental Protection Agency, local amateur radio and kite clubs, and more! Click here for directions to the Observatory.

Date: Saturday, May 16, 2009
Time: 10 AM - 4 PM
Location: Blue Hill Observatory
Admission: Free
 From the Observatory Store
blue hill logoNew Merchandise Arriving Every Day!
We have a lot of great new merchandise arriving every day in the Observatory store, including a wide range of science kits, a collection of geology lessons and materials (including several rocks and minerals kits), books, and fun toys including Whirl-o Hurricanes.  We also have a fresh supply of snacks and beverages for hungry hikers, including TerraPass certified Climate Change Chocolate from Bloomsberry & Co.

The Observatory gift shop is open from 10:00 AM until 4:00 PM on weekends and many holidays.  You can arrange to visit the gift shop by appointment 7 days a week. For more information, to get a product list, place an order, or schedule a visit to the gift shop, please contact Don McCasland by phone: (617) 696-0562 or email:
Future Events
Saturday May 16, 2009
Annual Blue Hill Observatory and Science Center Spring Open House.
Hours: 10AM - 4 PM
Admission is free.  There will be many activities throughout the day, including crafts, kite building, self-guided tours, and more.  Enjoy lectures on the weather, exhibits from Mount Washington Observatory, the National Weather Service, and more.

Monday May 25, 2009
Memorial Day Kite Fly and special kite tours of the
Hours: 10AM - 4PM
Kite Tours: $5/adults, $3/youth
Build and decorate your own kite for just $5.

Saturday October 3, 2009
Annual Blue Hill Observatory and Science Center Fall Open House.

The gift shop, educational programs, and tours of the Observatory are available by appointment almost every day of the year. Please call ahead (617-696-0562) if there are questionable weather conditions.
About The Blue Hill Observatory
Blue Hill Meteorological Observatory, located at the top of a scenic mountain range south of Boston, is a unique American institution. Founded in 1885 by Abbott Lawrence Rotch as a private scientific center for the study and measurement of the atmosphere, it was the site of many pioneering weather experiments and discoveries. The earliest kite soundings of the atmosphere in North America in the 1890s and the development of the radiosonde in the 1930s occurred at this historic site.

Today, the Observatory is a National Historic Landmark and remains committed to continuing its extensive, uninterrupted climate record with traditional methods and instruments. The recently established Science Center expands this mission by enhancing public understanding of atmospheric science.

We are grateful for the generous support of members, friends, and corporations who make it possible to continue our benchmark climate observations and educational outreach programs.  Please contact Charles Orloff by phone: (508) 776-1879 or email: if you would like to make a donation to the Observatory.
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