In my previous post I pointed out how when Warren Meyer asked a simple question; “is this chart representative?” of himself, he needed only one phone call to disprove that a chart in the newly released Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States from the National Climatic Data Center (see NCDC GCCI Government Report). The chart purported to show a threat increase to the national electrical grid due to severe weather was really not a weather trend at all, but a trend of increased reporting thanks to increased diligence by the owner of the data in getting electrical utilities to cooperate and send in their data.
In another recent post on the FUBAR climate records from the failed ASOS weather station temperature sensor at Honolulu International Airport, I showed a nearby comparison station, the Honolulu Observatory, that is a GISS station that apparently no longer reports. I wrote -
But the nearby Honolulu Observatory temperature record doesn’t seem to have much of a trend, though it no longer measures temperature for climate records, a pity:
Yes it sure seemed like the Honolulu Observatory stopped reporting in 1981. It also looks like the station was moved about 1949, or something happened around the station environment.
UPDATE: I got this via email on the morning of 6/19
The Geomag operations of the Honolulu observatory were moved in 1947.
Jeffrey J Love
USGS Advisor for Geomagnetic Research
Steve McIntyre, who has pointed out on many occasions to NASA GISS how they can find some of their long long stations that are actually still running popped in today to ask a simple question about reporting. It was not unlike the question about reporting Warren Meyers asked:
Does anyone know why the Honolulu Observatory data ends in the 1980s? Did they stop measuring or did GHCN stop collecting the information from them?
It was a simple question, with a surprising answer.
A couple of days ago I had looked at nearby stations to the Honolulu Airport to use for a data comparison to see just how much bias the failed ASOS sensor had generated. My first choice was the Honolulu Observatory, but like Steve I quickly found it had stopped reporting, at least according to GISS.
But with Steve’s question today, and remembering that he and Climate Audit readers have found missing GISS stations that are not updated in the GISTEMP database, but are actually still live and reporting, I thought I’d check again. I reasoned that observatories don’t generally close or relocate, so why would they stop doing a science service like measuring climate?
When Warren needed to get an answer to his question, all he needed to do was to make a phone call (presumably after a Google search). In my case I did a Google Search and sent a single email to get Steve’s question answered.
My first stop was to NCDC’s MMS database of station information. I looked up “Honolulu Observatory”. Sure enough, there it was, and listed as “current” too.
Eureka, it is still in operation! It is an MMTS temperature sensor and it looks like they have a backup thermometer in a Stevenson Screen aka “Cotton Region Shelter”.
“That was easy”, I thought to myself. followed by, “OK, let me get a look at the data”. So I zipped over to the NCDC COOP data section where I could look at the B91 reports from the station observer which are raw data archived as PDF’s.
It was there I hit a brick wall.It looked like it had been long closed. After all that’s what GISS reported.
The closing dates on the two “”Honolulu Observatory” entries didn’t match, but I’ve seen plenty of fouled up dates and locations on station data in the MMS database so it didn’t raise an eyebrow with me. More on that later.
But oddly, I had the NCDC MMS database telling me it was open. So I pressed on. My next task was to locate the “Honolulu Observatory” and find out if it was still in operation. Some Googling turned up this:
I located the USGS web page for the observatory, and from there found the name of the curator, Dr. Jeffrey Love. Since this is a geomagnetic observatory, I figured our resident solar physicist, Dr. Leif Svalgaard might have some connections, and asked him for an introduction. He was happy to assist, and within the hour I had an email contact from Dr. Love. He asked what I was looking for, and I explained the NOAA COOP station setup. He immediately replied saying:
“We don’t operate that station anymore, NOAA does. We used to be part of NOAA, but became part of USGS in the late 1970’s”
I was initially worried until I read:
“It is now operated by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.”
Oh. Well, I still figured the station had moved, and was nowhere near it’s original location, which is why GISS couldn’t get any data from it. Then I noticed this on the USGS observatory web page:
“The observatory is operated for the USGS, under terms of a memorandum of agreement, by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center of NOAA.”
Hmmm. A little more checking and I discovered that these two organizations do indeed share a common address. Better yet, the weather station apparently had not been moved. Both the USGS observatory and the PTWC were within a hundred yards of the station coordinates I got from NCDC ‘s MMS and plotted on Google Earth:
My first thought was that the location looked a bit cooler than the acres of asphalt surrounding the ASOS at Honolulu International Airport:
But I still had to find the data. My next stop was an email to the media contact for PTWC, Delores Clark, to inquire if she knew where to find it. A few hours later I had my answer:
The data are available online at:
If you need further assistance, please let me know.
I was dumbstruck. Because, just a couple of days ago I had in fact looked at that very archive, trying to find the data I was seeking. Not finding “Honolulu Observatory” in the NWS COOP report, I didn’t look much further:
But at the time, I had no way of knowing that PTWC was the new name for “Honolulu Observatory”. Up until today after my roundabout search I never would have given that four letter acronym another thought.
The name changed when the jurisdiction changed, but apparently nobody notified NCDC, and the change never found it’s way into the GHCN database.
For all practical purposes, the station was dead to the climate world, known only to the local NWS office in Honolulu. Plus, their main interest is in rainfall, not temperature, since they place the data on their hydrology page:
A simple lack of interagency reporting caused a whole cascade down the line, and a climate station that was once “lost” has now been “found”. It wasn’t quite as simple as Warren Meyer’s phone call, but if a citizen outside of the governmental loop can figure this out in a couple of hours, why can’t agencies like NCDC and GISS? Especially when knowing this sort of thing is is their job? Are there no flags that go up anywhere when data suddenly disappears?
So from this point it was easy for me to find the data I was looking for and run the comparison between the “Honolulu Observatory” and the Honolulu International Airport ASOS station. First a geographic comparison from Google Earth:
Downloading each daily report from PTWC and PHNL individually, I manually collated the data from both stations and put them into an ASCII file for import into my Dplot graphing program. I’ve saved a combination file of the two datasets here as a PDF for inspection. PHNL-PTWC-June09-data If anybody needs the individual station reports, the source URL’s are in the PDF file, they’ll still be on the NWS server for a few days before they get rotated out.
Unfortunately, there were two days of PTWC data missing, though all days of the PHNL ASOS data were intact. Also, I had all of the false record event reports from the PHNL ASOS previously archived.
So I plotted the two high/low datasets side by side to get an idea of just how much bias there was between the two stations. Fortunately, the stations were only 3.9 miles apart, and about the same distance inland from the beach, though the airport station ocean exposure suffers a bit from the extra runway that was apparently added as ocean fill at some point. Geographically the stations seem reasonably compatible in their placement on the south coast of Oahu.
The data from the two stations, when plotted side by side, was telling. I marked missing data, the record high events, and when the ASOS was repaired.
Note when the highs (Tmax) converged for the first time this month to within one degree of each other, right after the equipment was repaired. The greatest separation is in the nighttime lows, which would be expected due to the runway asphalt influence at PHNL Lows tend to be affected more by heat retaining surfaces at night.
Note also that during the string of record highs from the 10th to the 15th, the two stations diverged mostly by six degrees F, The NWS originally admitted in their TV Interview to two degrees error, and that may be true from the HNL airport location since it is indeed a sea of asphalt.
“ASOS…placed for aviation purposes…not necessarily for climate purposes.”
Six degrees difference in the Tmax for at least 5 days. Many other days of record were 4 or 5 degrees difference. One day was 9 degrees difference.
But, which station is more representative of Oahu’s climate? The airport, or the observatory in the grove of native ground cover? I don’t think all of Oahu is paved yet.
So the big question to NOAA/NWS Honolulu is:
Do you still think these records are valid and worth keeping in the climatic database and record events database?
The big question for GISS is:
Would you like your lost station back so you can update the data?