Over at Weather Underground, they are all excited about a new monthly high temperature record. Christopher Burt writes:
Wichita, Kansas Measures May Monthly High Temperature of 102°
On Sunday, May 4th, the temperature peaked at 102° at Wichita’s official NWS site Mid-Continent International Airport. Not only was this the hottest temperature ever measured during the month of May (previous record was 100° set on four different occasions) but was the earliest 100° reading on record (previous was May 9, 2011) and hottest reading so early in the season by a whole month: since June 4, 1933 when 102° was also observed. The city is off to its 2nd driest start of the year on record as well. Temperature and precipitation records for Wichita date back to 1888.
But, as I’ve pointed out many times, airports are one of the absolute worst places to measure temperature for climatic records. Not just because the airports themselves are massive heat sinks of asphalt and concrete, but also because the ASOS weather station system is known to be highly unreliable and prone to giving false high temperature readings like in Honolulu, Tucson, and more recently in Tacoma, where after fixing the ASOS temperature sensor, temperatures dropped to normal levels.
Have a look at where this thermometer is located for Wichita:
I think the asphalt pad right next to the ASOS (just north) is a nice touch, don’t you?
Location: 37.647564 -97.430027 Looking North. Image from Bing maps: http://binged.it/1mvYRyf
But look at the larger picture:
Looking North. Image from Bing maps
The location of the ASOS weather station is shown circled in red. It is surrounded on all sides by tarmac. You can bet that measurement environment didn’t exist for previous May high temperature records in Wichita.
Let’s look at the data for May 4th from KICT:
Note that the high temperature of 102°F was set during a period of gusty winds which look to be WNW at the time. Winds normally act to suppress mid-day high temperatures, because the mixing interrupts the boundary layer and surface heating from solar insolation. Unless of course, that wind is doing heat transport from the road, tarmac, and nearby asphalt pad to the WNW. It is also possible that the ASOS temperature sensor malfunctioned in some way, giving an erroneous high temperature, which happens with some frequency according to the links to previous events I gave earlier.
No other nearby stations set records over 100°F:
RECORD EVENT REPORT NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE WICHITA KS 130 AM CDT MON MAY 5 2014 ...NUMEROUS RECORD HIGH TEMPERATURES SET ON MAY 4TH... WICHITA MID-CONTINENT AIRPORT REACHED 102 DEGREES AT 306 PM THIS AFTERNOON. THIS NOT ONLY SHATTERED THE MAY 4TH RECORD OF 94 DEGREES SET IN 1963...IT ALSO BROKE THE RECORD FOR THE EARLIEST 100 DEGREE OR HIGHER TEMPERATURE...WHICH WAS MAY 9TH...2011. SALINA REACHED A RECORD HIGH TEMPERATURE OF 96 DEGREES TODAY. THE PREVIOUS RECORD WAS 95 DEGREES SET BACK IN 2012. CHANUTE REACHED A RECORD HIGH TEMPERATURE OF 94 DEGREES TODAY. THE PREVIOUS RECORD WAS 92 DEGREES SET WAY BACK IN 1909.
And, no other NOAA operated COOP station under the NWS Wichita office hit 102°F:
MAX/MIN TEMPERATURE AND PRECIPITATION TABLE FOR CENTRAL...SOUTH CENTRAL AND SOUTHEAST KANSAS NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE WICHITA KS 921 AM CDT MON MAY 5 2014 .BR ICT 0505 C DH07/TAIRZX/TAIRZN/PPDRZZ/SFDRZZ/SDIRZZ : : Cooperative temperature and precipitation observations : for the previous 24 hours ending around 7 am local time : :.................................................................... : ID Station Obs Max Min 24HR Snow Snow : Name Time Temp Temp Pcpn Fall Depth :.................................................................... : : Cooperative observations for Central Kansas : BNSK1: Burns : DH0700/ / / 0.00 / / CLFK1: Claflin : DH0700/ / / 0.00 / / CWFK1: Cottonwood Falls : DH0800/ 97 / 58 / 0.00 / / KANK1: Kanopolis Lake : DH0600/ 97 / M / 0.00 / / LICK1: Lincoln : DH0700/ 89 / 50 / 0.00 / / LSBK1: Lindsborg 3E : DH0700/ / / 0.00 / / MCPK1: McPherson : DH0700/ 94 / 51 / 0.00 / / PEAK1: Peabody : DH0700/ / / 0.00 / / SRLK1: Sterling : DH0700/ 99 / 54 / 0.00 / / SYLK1: Sylvan Grove 1NE : DH0700/ / / 0.00 / / WLSK1: Wilson Lake : DH0800/ 90 / 49 / 0.00 / / : : Cooperative observations for South Central Kansas : ANYK1: Anthony : DH0700/ 101 / 60 / 0.00 / / AGTK1: Augusta : DH0630/ / / 0.00 / / BNSK1: Burns : DH0700/ / / 0.00 / / CWFK1: Cottonwood Falls : DH0800/ 97 / 58 / 0.00 / / ELDK1: El Dorado : DH0700/ 100 / 63 / 0.00 / / HSEK1: Haysville 3SE : DH0800/ 101 / 64 / 0.00 / / HUTK1: Hutchinson : DH0600/ 101 / 58 / 0.00 / / NWTK1: Newton : DH0700/ 101 / 61 / 0.00 / / OXDK1: Oxford : DH0800/ / / 0.00 / / PEAK1: Peabody : DH0700/ / / 0.00 / / WLGK1: Wellington : DH0600/ 100 / 58 / 0.00 / / WWXK1: Wichita Weather : DH0705/ / / 0.00 / 0.0 / : Cooperative observations for Southeast Kansas : CFVK1: Coffeyville : DH0600/ 94 / 59 / 0.00 / / HMBK1: Humboldt : DH0700/ 93 / 65 / 0.00 / / INDK1: Independence : DH0700/ 96 / 38 / 0.00 / / IOAK1: Iola Water Plant : DH0800/ 93 / 66 / 0.00 / / MRNK1: Moran : DH0800/ / / 0.00 / / MVLK1: Mound Valley 3 WSW: DH0800/ 93 / 61 / 0.00 / / PARK1: Parsons : DH0800/ 91 / 61 / 0.00 / / SDAK1: Sedan : DH1300/ 98 / 65 / 0.00 / / YATK1: Yates Center : DH0700/ 95 / 64 / 0.00 / / : .END
It seems to me that this record is suspect.
[UPDATE by Willis] This post of Anthony’s inspired me to do some sleuthing. First, the history of the station is here. It reveals that the weather station moved from downtown Wichita to one airport in 1940, and then to its current airport in 1953. It switched to the ASOS automated system in 1992.
And an inordinate amount of digging located a 1956 photo of the airport, not long after the weather station moved there.
In comparison with the current aerial photo, we see that a third runway has been been added. You can also see that the airport in 1956 was surrounded by miles of farmland on all sides … and how it has suburbs all around it now.