One of the really odd discoveries that I’ve made while surveying climate monitoring stations around the USA is the fact that many of the official stations are located at sewage treatment plants. For example, the one in Colusa, CA is at their sewage treatment plant. I’ve visited it.
A couple of volunteers for http://www.surfacestations.org have been going around Washington and Oregon locating stations there and have also reported a number of stations at waste-water treatment facilities. I’ll get to why locating a temperature monitoring station at these facilities is a really bad idea later, but first I want to tell you why many of them are located at these places.
It has to do with the fact that somebody must read the thermometer once a day, write down the max and min temperatures for the last 24 hours in a logbook, then send in the page of the logbook to the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) once a month. When stations were assigned to cities, they needed to locate them at a place where there was somebody 7 days a week. Sewage is a 24/7 operation. Police and fire stations have some stations for the same reason, somebody is always there.
Ok this picture comes in today from from surfacestations.org volunteer Steve Tiemeier, who visited the climate station of record located at the Urbana, Ohio Waste Water Treatment Plant:
The small item in the center of the picture labeled “MMTS” is the temperature sensor that is used to submit monthly climate reports to NCDC.
Now in case you don’t see some of the obvious problems with this location and why its a terrible place to measure temperature, I’ll list them one by one:
- Sensor is attached to the building, just mere inches away from brickwork
- Sensor is near windows, which radiate heat from heated interior rooms in winter
- Sensor is directly above effluent grates for waste-water, Waste-water is often warmer than the air many months of the year
- Sensor is between three buildings, restricting wind flow
- Sensor is between three buildings, acting as a corner reflector for infrared
- Several exhaust fans near sensor, even though one is disable, there are two more on the walls (silver domes)
- Air conditioner within 35 feet of sensor, enclosed area will tend to trap the exhaust air near sensor
- Sensor is directly over concrete slab
- Refrigeration unit nearby, exhausts air into the enclosed area
- Shadows of all buildings create a valley effect related to sunlight at certain times
- There are two nearby digester pools, which release heat and humidity in the sensor vicinity
- Heat and humidity plume over the site from digesters is often tens of degrees warmer than the air in the wintertime
Here is wider view that shows the temperature sensor in relation to the digester tank:
More picture on my image database here: http://gallery.surfacestations.org/main.php?g2_itemId=5322
I don’t know if any readers of this blog have ever driven by a sewage treatment plant in the winter, in the midwest, as I have, but I can tell you from experience it looks like a hot springs with steam rising into the air.
Talk about your urban heat island effect…not only that, sewage treatment plants effluent volume is a direct indicator of population growth. So as more water is treated, more local effects from the heat/humidity plume occur, which can affect the temperature readings.
There are dozens, possibly hundreds of USHCN climate monitoring stations sited at sewage treatment plants around the USA. I’ll have more reports on this in the future.
Who knew? I’ve been working in meteorology 25 years and I didn’t until this week.
here are some other stations at a sewage treatment plants: