Spotting NOAA’s USHCN climate stations with Google Street Level View

When I first started the surfacestations.org project, this Google Street level view tool was just a concept, now I’m actually able to find USHCN stations with it such as this one in Manassa, Colorado:

ge-street-ushcn1

Click image for interactive Google Earth Street level view.

I’ve found quite a few, and there are some real stinkers out there, like this one in Greensburg, KY on a major thoroughfare through town. Note the south facing brick wall and concrete work:

ge-street-ushcn2

The official USHCN NOAA climate station for Greensburg KY also has a great proximity view of the main drag through town:

ge-street-ushcn3

Click image for an interactive Google Earth street level view.

It’s pretty easy to find a few stations now, since a good portion of the USA has now been entered into the street level database. Unfortunately stations like this are the exception, since many USHCN stations are not in the front yards next to the street. But those that are, we are getting.

Feel free to load this Google Earth KML file of stations that have been surveyed (thanks to Gary Boden for this great resource) and try your hand at spotting USHCN stations. The ones that show up as question marks are unsurveyed.

If you spot any please report them here. Or if you live within driving distance and have some time, why not go out and get a good quality set of photos after signing up at surfacestations.org ?

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59 thoughts on “Spotting NOAA’s USHCN climate stations with Google Street Level View

  1. (OK, OK. Let’s get this out of the way early in the thread so we can discuss the images.)

    Where are the obligatory barbeque grills? Obviously these can’t be official sites if the grills are missing ;o)

    On to business… Whats up with the Colorado garage? Is that a solar panel on the roof or are they waiting for the insurance adjuster after a wind storm?

    It looks as though they have plenty of room to get the MMTS a good bit farther away from the building. It’s been discussed by others before, but is unwillingness to do much trenching the only thing keeping some stations from being sited farther from buildings?

  2. Looks like a north facing wall to me on the house. Note N on image and, what looks like a, solar array on roof pointing I assume to the south.

  3. Cool, except for one thing – stations found via Street View will tend to be poorly sited, road facing stations. That will skew the overall station quality toward the poorer levels. Of course, since we’re already there, it won’t skew things very far.

    REPLY: The current numbers are CRN1 at 3%, CRN2 at 9% with the lions share of CRN4 being MMTS at 54%…given that I expect no more than 25-40 at street level view out of 1221, I don’t think it will matter much in the final numbers. Efforts are underway to get the stations even in the most remote areas not covered by street level. – Anthony

  4. I enjoy your efforts to seek better data and you perform a needed public service with your efforts. However, I think you’ve miss-read the Greenburgs KY orientation, the solar panels would be facing North if that is a South facing wall.

  5. Anthony, the surface station project is one of the greatest things that you have going. It is going to produce alot of great information to help make sure we get accurate information about weather in this country. The problem will be getting anyone to make the necessary corrections and take it seriously. What would really be great is if you could set up a couple of demonstrations with instruments in the same general area that would document the bias that occurs when you have bad placing. I know you have talked about doing an analysis of this, but like everything else it takes time. Sounds like a good project for a graduate student at some university. What is the most strange to me is that most of these bad placings just lack any common sense when they were set up. What were they thinking? Keep up the good work and I really enjoy your website!

    REPLY:
    Already on it. – Anthony

  6. H.R.
    Perhaps the longer the cable, the lower the temperature readings.
    :)
    Mike

    Bill Junga (06:43:29) :
    Bad data are worse than no data at all.

    Tell that to your doctor when he does your bloodwork, x-rays and full body scan. You better start saving money to pay for all the surgery you will need. Better to be safe than sorry. It’s the precautionary principal, man. Do it for your children.
    :)

    Mike

  7. EXACTLY, Bill!

    Poor basic science completely destroys any validity of theory. They use to teach this in Elementary School!

    Heck the data numbers from before all of the current collection stations number were established are questionable just on a basic statistic problem of comparing a large group versus smaller groups. The exact same can be said for world wide station numbers.

    Bad data equals bad theory’s, especially when you are attempting to project long term figures! And since errors usual magnify with time…

  8. H.R.

    “…but is unwillingness to do much trenching the only thing keeping some stations from being sited farther from buildings?”

    I used to wonder that, too, after seeing so many that were within 10′ of a building. After seeing this, though, I’m convinced that unwillingness/laziness is the culprit (notice the spec on the cable length):

    http://www.srh.noaa.gov/ohx/dad/coop/mmts_images/ShelterAssemblyDrawings1.pdf

    As an aside, I left the industry I’d spent 30+ years in and changed areas. I’ve spent the last year in a very HIP facility. All I can say is if the weather folks devoted a tenth the attention to QC with regards to temperature sensors that HIP units require, we wouldn’t be seeing these suspect stations/data.

  9. I’ve noticed that the Greensburg MMTS is at less than one meter from the wall. I had placed my MMTS in a similar location and the thermometers always registered two or even three degrees Celsius higher than the temperature of air registered by the thermometers situated at one and a half meters distant from the wall. I changed my MMTS to a new more “open” location and the registers were corrected. Another mistake is to place the MMTS on an irregular terrain (a small hill of a garden) because the station will not be at a regular 1 ½ meters above the floor. Turbulence is higher at smaller heights; as a result, the wind turbulence will be stronger in the left column of air from the station than in the right column of air from the station. This affects considerably the notches on air’s relative humidity and temperature. Those features which apparently are small have large effects on our instruments; it occurs in real nature, not in models.

  10. By the way, I calibrate my maximum minimum temperature system two or three times per year. It would be interesting to corroborate if the people on charge calibrate their MMTSs with a reasonable regularity.

  11. I always wondered about the strong divergence of the Manassa temperature record from that of Sagauche, further north in the San Luis Valley. Patently poor station siting now explains that divergence. When siting issues are in play, one simply cannot rely upon arbitrarily chosen “rural” records to give unbiased readings or to provide a sound basis for “homogenizing” urban records. But this is exactly what is done by GISS in computing gridded averages.

  12. If Bill Junga’s comment is intended to be taken at face value–and there seems no reason to think otherwise, it is equivalent to “mistakes and lies are better than facts”.

    No good purpose was ever been well-served by lies or mistakes.

  13. @Mike Bryant (07:17:17) :

    “H.R.
    Perhaps the longer the cable, the lower the temperature readings.
    :)
    Mike”

    THAT made me grin!

    @Steve Moore (08:12:47) :

    “H.R.

    “…but is unwillingness to do much trenching the only thing keeping some stations from being sited farther from buildings?”

    I used to wonder that, too, after seeing so many that were within 10′ of a building. After seeing this, though, I’m convinced that unwillingness/laziness is the culprit (notice the spec on the cable length):”

    Thank you very much for the link to the drawing. A 45.7m cable should get the units far enough away from buildings, paved areas, cars and boats, and barbeque grills, eh?

    I also had another thought about some units being so close to houses in some of the examples Anthony has posted here. I thougt I saw a couple of sites that were on very small lots. If the unit was placed 30′ away from the data taker’s home it would be on a neighbor’s property! No good at all, that.

    I’ll stick with my theory that I posited on another ‘how not to’ thread. A willing volunteer is more important than a quality site. Bill Junga’s (06:43:29) comment above, “Bad data are worse than no data at all,” hits home with me.

  14. Lots of fun here. That Manassa, Colorado station, from the point of view of the photographer, the sun is high over the right shoulder and very slightly behind. Colorada is well north of the Tropic of Cancer so the sun can’t get vertical. Looks to me like high summer time and the view into the picture is towards the east. So the MMTS is on the north side of the building and the door will face north. The solar panel, if that is what it is, is positioned to get the most from a slightly lower sun in the southern sky.
    Do I get any points? :-) (OT the outside temperature is -1C here in south west Wales at nearly 8:00pm gmt and the forcast is even colder for tomorrow. Sheesh.. I retired here to keep warm!)

  15. Appeal for a map of the Magnetic North Pole drift
    with a higher resolution and more details than the one shown on

    Please either post a web location or email to: vukcevicuATyahoo.com

  16. All the remarks about south facing and solar panels confuse me.

    This:

    “Note the south facing brick wall and concrete work”

    was about the Kentucky site. Where are solar panels in the the Kentucky pictures?

    In the Colorado picture. There are solar panels facing – from the shadows – South as expected. But the only brick work and concrete work I see would be the long, low wall from the left of the picture to the middle. That wall indeed is facing South but it is about forty yards from the MMTS station.

    So I’ll ask this. What portion of what picture shows both solar panels and brick and concrete work? Where within that picture is the brick and concrete?

    I just don’t see a mistake about directions in the original text. Anyone?

  17. I think the confusion comes from a brief reading. At first I misunderstood it also since I expected the description to be below the pictures. No big deal.

  18. taken from Wikipedia “Global warming” I though this was quite funny
    The overwhelming majority of scientists working on climate change agree with the IPCC’s main conclusions.[11][12] … Of course they would LOL….

  19. At many stations I have looked at here in California with MMTS, it is the fellow installing the station and he does not want to do alot of trenching. Therefore the closer to the building the better. The observers told me so.

  20. If the Colorader pic faced east, then the shadows would be very long because the western sun is late afternoon and low. Short shadows indicate noonish, perhaps even 11am, meaning the pic faces north, the garage door faces south, and the solar panels face east.

    One should not assume that the panels were intelligently aligned by the installer. They fit the slope of the roof. Not everybody in Colorader is a genius.

  21. evanjones (04:31:30) :

    In fact there’s a workaround for thermocouple cables that compensates for cable length, no matter how long the wires are. It’s not widely used because it doubles the number of cables required, and a two wire setup is sufficient for most applications.

  22. A 45.7m cable should get the units far enough away from buildings, paved areas, cars and boats, and barbeque grills, eh?

    Even that’s too close for CRN1.

    It’s interesting to note that the specs preclude their own best ratings:

    Class 1 – Flat and horizontal ground surrounded by a clear surface with a slope below 1/3 (less than 19deg). Grass/low vegetation ground cover less than 10 centimeters high. Sensors located at least 100 meters from artificial heating or reflecting surfaces, such as buildings, concrete surfaces, and parking lots. Far from large bodies of water, except if it is representative of the area, and then located at least 100 meters away. No shading when the sun elevation greater than 3 degrees.

  23. Smokey: I was thinking in far more caveman-type terms: The shorter the cable, the closer the sensor it to a heat sink or waste heat.

  24. evanjones:

    Sorry to expose my nerdiness. I worked with thermocouples in my previous life.

    Hey, what are you doing up this early on a Saturday morning? Insomnia is my excuse.

  25. You both have me beat, I didn’t think of either of those things. That’s why I hang around here, to try to soak up a little smart.

  26. I have to buckle down and start work, soon. (But that’s okay because I am very happy to have the work in the first place.)

  27. @evanjones (04:39:33) :

    [""A 45.7m cable should get the units far enough away from buildings, paved areas, cars and boats, and barbeque grills, eh?"

    Even that’s too close for CRN1.

    It’s interesting to note that the specs preclude their own best ratings:

    Class 1 - Flat and horizontal ground surrounded by a clear surface with a slope below 1/3 (less than 19deg). Grass/low vegetation ground cover less than 10 centimeters high. Sensors located at least 100 meters from artificial heating or reflecting surfaces, ....]”

    Don’tcha ya just love the gummint? Taking into account robert gregg’s (21:57:40) comment, the spec for placement is 100m, 45.7m of cable is provided, and the installers don’t like to trench much more than about 3-5m on sites that are less than 10-15m (my observation) from the next property anyhow.

    Hmmmm… given what we’ve seen, I wonder if at all of those 3-5mm sites the remainder of the 45.7m cable is just coiled up somewhere or is every installation cut to length? And how do they put together 100m of cable on a true CRN1 site? Two 45.7m cables plugged together still come up short.

  28. Note:

    GREENSBURG, KY

    37.25917 -85.50222, USHCN 153430
    MMTS ELECTRONIC SENSOR
    Rural, dim (lights=17), hilly, WARM FOR./FIELD

    What a shame that such a good station location should be ruined by such bad siting.

  29. But the AGW promoters *know* they are accurate to within .1oC ofr temp averages going back hundreds of years.
    What utter trash Hansen has built his fortune and fame on. How cynical of Gore.

  30. Kum Dollison (23:08:08) :

    The U.S. now has 21,000 Megawatts of Wind Energy.

    http://domesticfuel.com/ [says, in part:]

    By the end of September, the U.S. had over 21,000 megawatts of wind capacity up and running. Germany had 22,300 megawatts, but U.S. windpower developers sprinted to the end of the year while German wind development slowed.

    That 21,000 megawatts of capacity are expected to generate over 60 billion kilowatt hours of electricity in 2009, enough to serve over 5.5 million American

    Lessee, 21 million Kw times 365 x 24 is 184 billion Kwh, so that’s 32.6%
    of rated output (1/3 would mean generating 61 Twh, which is probably the
    factor used).

    At least that’s believable, at least at some sites. I guess it’s not too hard to track turbine sales but tougher to track failed and decommissioned turbines, and even tougher to know just how much power has been produced.

  31. Isn’t there some cheap way to remotely get the data from the weather station? Maybe wi fi? I certainly don’t know but with all the engineers and scientists around here I am certain that someone knows a relatively inexpensive way to get data from a weather station at 100 feet away or so…

  32. Mike Bryant: a cheap way to remotely get the data?

    You can buy them. Good to 1 degree or so, but fairly cheap. Anthony’s store has several remote sensing units, including a new one with solar power and 1000 foot range. You could have several sensors around the site to reduce local bias. The MMTS system design predates all this fancy stuff.

    Assuming a positive tempco in the thermistor, a longer wire would give very slightly higher temperatures. It would also move the sensor farther away from the barbeque, which could lower readings by a substantial amount.

  33. Ric Werme, John M. – Yeah, I know all that. The point I was trying to make is that we’re doing a considerable amount of it, already. Everybody knows it’s not as efficient as Nuclear, or Coal, or even burning logs; but it has it’s utility, and we’re going to do some.

    We’ll get a little “experience,” a little hands on knowledge, if you will; and go from there. It won’t hurt us any, and might even be a good thing in certain locales, and circumstances.

    In any event, there’s no use in getting caught in the loop of “railing against the incoming tide.” Leave that for the “warmener” types. We’ll experiment, and learn.

  34. Hi Mike,

    Yes, there are many wireless solutions that could be deployed – the data collection and transmission is trivial. The nasty part of this application is how to provide a good power source and calibrated temperature at temperatures below -20C.

    First the easy part:
    A wireless solution would need a battery, super cap, wifi chip, micro, ADC (auto cal capability), NV memory for backup, crystal with excellent aging properties <1ppm (total manufactured cost in 10ku <$40 for electronics <$90 for everything).

    This is essentially the system employed with some power meter companies. Ironically, in the US many power meters were retrofitted with battery powered wireless transmitters, that do not run off of line power. Itron is one of the world leaders in this technology. There technology requires so little power that it only requires a non-rechargeable battery at installation and then works for (I forget – 10 to 20 years something like that)

    If you want to make your own non-proprietary system:
    Zero G Semiconductor is a company that makes exactly what you mentioned – a low cost low power WiFi chip. Many companies also have competitive ICs for different wireless standards that would work as well. Due to the low data rate and limited distance involved in this application it is a very trivial wireless problem. These new wireless semiconductors are extremely good against interfere and even though they are very low cost they use sophisticated techniques such as frequency hopping to ensure the data gets through.

    To take and process the data, a good super low power micro is the MSP430 from TI. Microchip, Cypress make a nice competitive products too – these products have accurate enough analog. However if you want an even better measurement there are many low power ADC converters available from a host of companies like TI, Maxim, LTC, Analog Devices, etc. Once again this is not a tough application from a data collection or transmission point of view so many options will work.

    Now the hard part:
    The toughest problems with this application are: how to measure the temperature when the application needs to be very low power to not influence the measurement itself; age related drift of the measurement; and the wide range of the outside temperature (-80C to +60C).

    Most semiconductor chips, batteries, etc. are not rated to this low of a temperature (-40C is the lowest temperature where the ICs still available at low cost, -55C for military spec’d chips but big money) and as a result all selected components would have to be screened and tested for performance. This screening process is not cheap and would raise the cost of the instrument by 2 or 3x. It is real hit and miss as to what specific IC part numbers will work, and if they operate, there will be a yield fallout for performance at -80C.

    In recent years, many new battery technologies have been released that greatly simplify the powering problem. There are now Lithium batteries that work well to -40C (but are not cheap) vs. a traditional Li which loses 40%+ capacity at cold. Thankfully, the ICs released in the past 10 years have power consumptions of 10 to 100x lower so simply finding a big enough battery that can maintain enough power at cold would be sufficient for a 20 year lifespan with no-recharge. Another method would be to use a tiny ML-1220, selected because it should have enough juice for 6 months with no-recharge. Just before transmission, a super cap is charged up from this battery, then the super cap provides regulated power to the transmitter for the brief period it is on. The battery is recharged with a tiny solar panel and a resistor and so long as that happens within a 6 month period it should be fine (assumes temperature measurements are only take once per hour).

    Finally, the other nasty part of measurement systems. How does one deal with aging? Everything ages. Some of the best non-aging devices are quartz crystals with only 1 ppm / year of aging for a moderately expensive one. However, traditional temperature sensors and the semiconductors that measure them, etc. all age at rates 10x and sometimes 100x that rate. I assume there is some type of low aging reference in the system to auto-calibrate the system with. How often is the current system re-calibrated? to what standard?

    One super accurate way to measure temperature is to use a quartz crystal. Count the pulses and compare against the pure tone frequency (nearly an ageless atomic clock) transmitted from GPS (this technique is already in use in many applications). But once again, you would be into the problem of power consumption, how fast can GPS lock be obtained, etc.

    Anyways, Mike – this problem would probably take 3 hardware, 2 software engineers about 6-9 months design time to properly develop a really good product or 1 engineer 4 months to make a nice prototype. Your idea is 100% possible and would remove the site problem. Of course, it would also cause anthropogenic global cooling as the current system is moved away from AC vents, brick walls, concrete pathways, blacktop parking lots, grills, and burn barrels.

  35. Wow, John, I had no idea it would be so difficult. To make it even more difficult… Could there be NO power at the instruments until a microwave (or something) lights them up from the building to energize and record the data?

  36. Robert Wood (13:58:56) :

    Richard111 (11:56:27) :

    Is that Richard the 7th?

    No. Richard the t(h)ird. Geddit? Old army name for me.

    vukcevic (03:49:47) :

    Sorry, I boobed. I just checked the link I gave you and find YOU are the originator!!

  37. Nasif Nahle,

    Retired Engineer and I have been having an offline offline discussion about calibration. Can you describe the calibration method you use? Any information would be helpful.

  38. Dear SuperDBA,

    Actually, we did not make the calibrations, but we sent the thermocouples and the digital and infrared thermometers to the manufacturers; they send back the instruments to us already calibrated. I have understood that they use outpost technology for the calibration of the instruments they manufacture like ice bath, controlled heat sources, electronic compensation, reference thermometers, etc.

    Best,

    Nasif Nahle

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