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Temperature Trends in Kansas

October 20, 2011


Following an earlier look  at record temperatures in Kansas it seemed a good idea to check out a much bigger sample to see what the trends have been over the last 100 years.

There are 31 stations in the USHCN database for Kansas of which 21 have continuous records going back to 1911. I have used the GISS temperatures for these to calculate the average mean temperature for 1911-1920 and 2001-2010. The following chart shows the trend at each of these stations. (The figures for “Kansas” are per the NCDC state wide data).


1911-20 2001-10
HORTON 11.69 11.82 0.13 1967
OTTAWA 13.42 13.56 0.14 12649
SEDAN 14.01 14.32 0.31 1124
EL DORADO 13.26 13.75 0.49 13021
COLDWATER 14.05 14.72 0.67 828
ELLSWORTH 11.75 12.46 0.71 3120
FORT SCOTT 12.90 13.66 0.76 8087
LEAVENWORTH 12.71 13.48 0.77 35251
INDEPENDENCE 13.45 14.23 0.78 9483
MANHATTAN 12.26 13.06 0.80 52281
KANSAS 11.90 12.72 0.82
COLUMBUS 13.27 14.16 0.89 3312
MINNEAPOLIS 12.39 13.37 0.98 2032
ASHLAND 12.58 13.66 1.08 867
WAKEENEY 11.59 12.68 1.09 1862
OLATHE 11.98 13.13 1.15 125872
ST FRANCIS 10.17 11.40 1.23 1329
NORTON 10.65 11.98 1.33 2928
LAKIN 11.47 13.05 1.58 2216
MCPHERSON 11.41 12.99 1.58 29180
LIBERAL 12.12 13.79 1.67 20525
SCOTT CITY 10.24 12.06 1.82 3816

Comparison of Decadal Mean Temperatures in Kansas (Degrees Centigrade)

In other words one station, Horton shows only an increase of 0.13C over the last 100 years whereas Scott City temperatures have gone up by 1.82C, a divergence of 1.69C. There seems to be no correlation with population although the higher trend in Olathe (a suburb of the much bigger Kansas City) suggests a possible UHI effect. Which of course begs the question – what can have caused such a wide divergence?

In theory there should not be any effect from station changes as these should be factored in and adjusted by USHCN. Horton is an interesting example in this regard. The metadata there shows that the station has always been located within 25 yards of its current position while Google Earth shows a pretty normal environment.

Regional climate differences cannot explain these divergences as there is no geographic pattern to them. Could they be caused by poor quality data due to poor recording or equipment? If so, how much confidence does this inspire in our historical (or current) temperature records?

What about local climate effects? There must be some suspicion here that local warming effects are being picked up either due to poor siting or because UHI effect is occurring even in small towns.

Whatever the cause it is difficult to see how we can claim to measure global temperatures to a tenth of a degree when there are such large discrepancies within one state.

  1. Mike Davis permalink
    October 20, 2011 3:05 pm

    Just an upgrade in the type of monitoring equipment can result in that.
    Overall, what I have come to realize that you take the state average, give it a plus or minus error range of 2C, anything within that error range s normal variability due to known issues with the data. What the NCDC is most likely recording is compounded errors.
    With station siting quality issues a 5C error is possible. With equipment quality issues over the years alone will account for more that a 2C variance in results. Then we need to throw in the “Best Guess” methods used for processing the recorded data.

    In my neck of the woods there is a site at Knoxville, Mcghee-Tyson airport, 46.38 Crow miles from home. A site at Middlesborob Bell airport, in Kentucky, that is 21 miles away.
    The three sites are within 200 ft of being at the same elevation, Different designations, Urban, Remote, and Semi Rural. By remote I am talking 40 acres per house average in the valley where I live.
    Today is one of the exceptions as all three locations are within 1F of having the same temperature, 45F. All are experiencing overcast conditions and drizzle. However I have seen a 10F difference between sites and that can range from a site being higher of even lower by that amount from my weather station.

    I have no confidence in what is being reported as it was not designed to be used for climate purposes, but as a resource for aviation, in its current form and a general temperature guide for residents.
    I like to refer back to NASA’s description of surface area temperature:
    Q. What SAT do the local media report ?
    A. The media report the reading of 1 particular thermometer of a nearby weather station. This temperature may be very different from the true SAT even at that location and has certainly nothing to do with the true regional SAT. To measure the true regional SAT, we would have to use many 50 ft stacks of thermometers distributed evenly over the whole region, an obvious practical impossibility.

    Q. What exactly do we mean by SAT ?
    A. I doubt that there is a general agreement how to answer this question. Even at the same location, the temperature near the ground may be very different from the temperature 5 ft above the ground and different again from 10 ft or 50 ft above the ground. Particularly in the presence of vegetation (say in a rain forest), the temperature above the vegetation may be very different from the temperature below the top of the vegetation. A reasonable suggestion might be to use the average temperature of the first 50 ft of air either above ground or above the top of the vegetation. To measure SAT we have to agree on what it is and, as far as I know, no such standard has been suggested or generally adopted. Even if the 50 ft standard were adopted, I cannot imagine that a weather station would build a 50 ft stack of thermometers to be able to find the true SAT at its location.

    • Mike Davis permalink
      October 20, 2011 3:09 pm

      Surface temperature discussions tend to get me going!
      Link to NASA, Q&A

      I interpret it to say, What we produce don’t mean Squat, but we hope you think it is meaningful and keep paying us to make stuff up!

  2. October 21, 2011 7:33 pm

    HA! That table is great. 5 minutes with Excel and I produced a graph which shows that if you take the 4th root of the population, and graph it versus the temp. difference, you get almost a straight line. URBAN HEAT ISLAND COMPLETELY SHOW!

    We PRESUME the smaller towns remained small and the larger towns GREW. What we need is the 1920’s populations for the towns.

    Could you find that out? If you do, send it to: Three+Spot (at) aol (dot) com (no space where the (+) is !!!)

    Max Hugoson

    • October 22, 2011 10:29 am

      I have a contact over in Kansas. I have asked him if he can help.



  3. October 21, 2011 7:45 pm

    Completely SHOWN…

    Drat, fast typing and the “spell check” does correct typos that are grammerical in nature.

    Thanks for the consideration..that I CAN do my own proof reading!


  4. Bruce permalink
    October 25, 2011 2:47 pm

    I believe it was John Christie (I may be wrong) or the Utah private group mention on WUWT that noted that wet soil can be significantly darker than dry and therefore absorbs way more solar energy than dry light colored soil.

    Google maps shows Scott City as surrounded by very dark irrigated circles.,Scott+City,+KS,+USA&gl=ca&ei=JcumTs2JEJPRiAKlk_3eDQ&sa=X&oi=geocode_result&ct=image&resnum=1&ved=0CCcQ8gEwAA

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