I’ve been involved in meteorology in one way or another since 1976, and while I knew of the vast number of COOP stations around the USA, I never knew that a good number of them are at sewage treatment plants until I started my surfacestations.org project. It seems to me, that given the physical makeup of these facilities, they are one of the worst possible environments to measure air temperature. But like many historical stations, they weren’t chosen with the environment in mind, but rather if there was a human being present 7 days a week whom could take the high/low temps and rainfall and write it down on an NCDC B44 form.

This week I visited a few stations in southern California, and Santa Barbara is one of those USHCN stations that is also a sewage treatment plant. Conicidentally, a few other USHCN stations that are also WWTP’s were posted by www.surfacestations.org volunteers. So I thought I’d give you the grand tour.

Sanat Barbara WWTP and USHCN station

Above: aerial view of Santa Barbara WWTP and USHCN climate station of record

Placement of Santa Barbara's MMTS Temperature Sensor - looking NW

Above: Placement of Santa Barbara’s MMTS Temperature Sensor – looking NW

Here’s one from Tifton, GA taken by Joel McDade:

Tifton, GA WWTP and USHCN station

more pictures here

Cheraw, SC taken by L. Nettles:

Cheraw, SC WWTP and USHCN

more pictures here

Albany, GA from Joel McDade:

Albany, GA WWTP and USHCN

more pictures here

Zumbota, MN from Don Kostuch

Zumrota, MN WWTP and USHCN

more pictures here

And let’s not forget Urbana, OH, by Steve Tiemeir

Urbana, OH WWTP and USHCN

more pictures here

There’s lots more, but you get the idea.

surfacestations.org volunteer Don Kostuch wrote this to me about WWTP’s recently:

“I spoke with the curator in New Hampton IA. He gave me these figures for his plant last January:

780,000 gal/day

Incoming temp 55F

Outgoing temp 43F

I calculate this heat loss is about 3 million btu/hr.

The population is about 3500 so each person releases about 1000 btu/hr at the plant on a cold day.

The effect on the sensor depends on the placement, temperature, wind, location of the tanks, etc. which I have not attempted to analyze, but it seems to be worth some careful attention.

The worst example I saw was in Winnebago, MN where the sensor is above and in the middle of four large tanks all huddled together in about a 100

ft square. The population there is about 1500 so the heat released would be about 1.5 million btu/hr in an area of about 10000 sq.ft.”

And, as population grows in a city so would waste water volume. So it stands to reason the a temperature sensor at a WWTP would be directly sensing waste heat produced by population growth, and the amount of waste heat would grow proportionately with population.

Perhaps we should call the WWTP effect “P-UHI”


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I was thinking about this placement problem. There are locations which are spread randomly in urban areas which would not be subject to urban encroachment, even over centennial time scales.
Graveyards don’t generally have A/C or heating. There are always people on duty to take readings, and by their nature they make the perfect platform, meeting all the criteria for a NOAA certified HCN.
What do you think?