U.K. meteorologists won’t be declaring a June 28 temperature reading as the hottest recorded in Scotland since the early 20th century after discovering a car parked near the weather station may have contaminated the data.
The city of Motherwell, southeast of Glasgow, recorded a record-high temperature of 91.8 degrees on June 28, according to Met Office figures, breaking the previous record of 91.2 degrees set in Greycrook in August 2003.
The record temperature reading even found its way into the Washington Post. The Post’s Capital Weather Gang included Motherwell’s heat in a round-up of record-high temperatures around the world.
“No single record, in isolation, can be attributed to global warming,” the Post reported, trying to link summer weather to global warming. “But collectively, these heat records are consistent with the kind of extremes we expect to see increase in a warming world.”
However, the Met Office posted a blog post on Thursday noting “subsequent information has cast some doubt on the Motherwell measurement for that day, meaning that we will not be able to accept it as an official new record for Scotland.”
So what happened? It turns out exhaust from a nearby vehicle may have heated up the weather station that reported the record-breaking heat.
“Unfortunately in this particular instance we have evidence that a stationary vehicle with its engine running was parked too close to the observing enclosure and the Stevenson screen housing the thermometers during the afternoon of 28th June,” the Met Office explained.
“Although the measurement appears plausible given the weather conditions that day we cannot rule-out the potential for contamination of the measurement by this non-weather-related factor,” officials wrote. (RELATED: Al Gore Is Praising The Pope’s Climate Encyclical Again, But Did He Actually Read All Of It?)
This is a common problem for weather stations. Many are located in urban areas, especially airports, where they’re susceptible to urban heat islands (UHI) — anomalous warmth present in cities.
In fact, a major study released in 2015 found the majority of weather stations National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) relied on for temperature readings were poorly sited, meaning they were contaminated by artificial heat sources.
“The majority of weather stations used by NOAA to detect climate change temperature signal have been compromised by encroachment of artificial surfaces like concrete, asphalt, and heat sources like air conditioner exhausts,” said Anthony Watts, a seasoned meteorologist and lead author of the study.
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