The world may be warming, but not as much as some U.S. weather stations have shown. A new University of Montana study found that western U.S. weather stations have been showing more warming in the temperature record than has actually been observed.
The Snowpack Telemetry (SNOTEL) station network, the country’s main mountain climate station network, has shown that high elevations are seeing temperatures rise more quickly than lower elevations, harming snowpack and water resources. But Montana Climate Office researcher Jared Oyler found that western mountain temperatures were inflated between 217 and 562 percent.
“With artifacts removed, the network’s 1991–2012 minimum temperature trend… is statistically indistinguishable from lower elevation trends,” writes Oyler. “Moreover, longer-term widely used gridded climate products propagate the spurious temperature trend, thereby amplifying 1981–2012 western US elevation-dependent warming by +217 to +562%.”
“In the context of a warming climate, this artificial amplification of mountain climate trends has likely compromised our ability to accurately attribute climate change impacts across the mountainous western US,” Oyler writes in his study.