The 10 Climate Monitoring Principles

The Ten Principles

The National Research Council (NRC 1999) recommended that the

following ten climate monitoring principles, proposed by Thomas Karl et al. (NCDC, 1995), should be

applied to climate monitoring systems:

  1. Management of Network Change: Assess how and the extent to which

    a proposed change could influence the existing and future climatology

    obtainable from the system, particularly with respect to climate variability

    and change. Changes in observing times will adversely affect time series.

    Without adequate transfer functions, spatial changes and spatially dependent

    changes will adversely affect the mapping of climatic elements.

  2. Parallel Testing: Operate the old system simultaneously with the

    replacement system over a sufficiently long time period to observe the

    behavior of the two systems over the full range of variation of the climate

    variable observed. This testing should allow the derivation of a transfer

    function to convert between climatic data taken before and after the change.

    When the observing system is of sufficient scope and importance, the results

    of parallel testing should be documented in peer-reviewed literature.

  3. Meta Data: Fully document each observing system and its operating

    procedures. This is particularly important immediately prior to and

    following any contemplated change. Relevant information includes:

    instruments, instrument sampling time, calibration, validation, station

    location, exposure, local environmental conditions, and other platform

    specifics that could influence the data history. The recording should be a

    mandatory part of the observing routine and should be archived with the

    original data. Algorithms used to process observations need proper

    documentation. Documentation of changes and improvements in the algorithms

    should be carried along with the data throughout the data archiving process.

  4. Data Quality and Continuity: Assess data quality and homogeneity

    as a part of routine operating procedures. This assessment should focus on

    the requirements for measuring climate variability and change, including

    routine evaluation of the long-term, high-resolution data capable of

    revealing and documenting important extreme weather events.

  5. Integrated Environmental Assessment: Anticipate the use of data

    in the development of environmental assessments, particularly those

    pertaining to climate variability and change, as a part of a climate

    observing system’s strategic plan. National climate assessments and

    international assessments (e.g., international ozone or IPCC) are critical

    to evaluating and maintaining overall consistency of climate data sets. A

    system’s participation in an integrated environmental monitoring program can

    also be quite beneficial for maintaining climate relevancy. Time series of

    data achieve value only with regular scientific analysis.

  6. Historical Significance: Maintain operation of observing systems

    that have provided homogeneous data sets over a period of many decades to a

    century or more. A list of protected sites within each major observing

    system should be developed, based on their prioritized contribution to

    documenting the long-term climate record.

  7. Complementary Data: Give the highest priority in the design and

    implementation of new sites or instrumentation within an observing system to

    data-poor regions, poorly observed variables, regions sensitive to change,

    and key measurements with inadequate temporal resolution. Data sets archived

    in non-electronic format should be converted for efficient electronic


  8. Climate Requirements: Give network designers, operators, and

    instrument engineers climate monitoring requirements at the outset of

    network design. Instruments must have adequate accuracy with biases

    sufficiently small to resolve climate variations and changes of primary

    interest. Modeling and theoretical studies must identify spatial and

    temporal resolution requirements.

  9. Continuity of Purpose: Maintain a stable, long-term commitment to

    these observations, and develop a clear transition plan from serving

    research needs to serving operational purposes.

  10. Data and Meta Data Access: Develop data management systems that

    facilitate access, use, and interpretation of data and data products by

    users. Freedom of access, low cost mechanisms that facilitate use

    (directories, catalogs, browse capabilities, availability of meta data on

    station histories, algorithm accessibility and documentation, etc.), and

    quality control should be an integral part of data management. International

    cooperation is critical for successful data management.



Karl, T.R., V.E. Derr, D.R. Easterling, C.K. Folland, D.J. Hoffman, S. Levitus,

N.Nicholls, D.E. Parker, and G.W. Withee, 1995: Critical issues for long-term

climate monitoring. Climatic Change, 31, 185-221.

National Research Council (NRC), 1999:

Adequacy of Climate Observing Systems, National Academy Press,

Washington, D.C.

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August 26, 2007 3:27 am

How about more frequent data collection?
Say 100 times an hour reported once a day by modem? Either land line or satellite.
On the order of 100K bytes to 1 Mbyte per day per station.
Why are we still doing it the 1898 way?

August 26, 2007 7:08 am

Is the numbered statement at a different level of thought heirarchy from the 9 bulleted statements? Are there more numbered principles? It looks like one numbered principle with 9 supporting recommendations.
***NOTE:The blog software did that when the entry was split into main and extended parts for space. I’ve moved it back to full size and the probelm disappeared and numbers returned.

Jeff C.
August 26, 2007 8:09 am

Check out the personal weather stations at weather underground in “rapid fire” mode. The data is updated every 3 seconds continuously and available online. Yet NWS continues to use a data collection and reporting model based on 19th century technology.
Regarding Karls list my first thought is “practice what you preach”. It is a good list that would absolutely raise data quality if stridently practiced. Unfortunately, the attempts to follow it look half-hearted at best. It looks as if the goal was to appear to be doing it as opposed to methodically implementing the steps, using performance metrics and fine-tuning as needed.

George M
August 26, 2007 4:41 pm

Be extremely careful about believing the data from Weather Underground volunteer stations, rapid fire or not. I wonder if there are any installation guidelines at all for them? About a year ago, I closely followed the one nearest me (about 10 miles away) for several days, and it seemed to be on another planet. The temperature readings were consistently 8 to 10 degrees high, compared to my assortment of instruments or any of half a dozen other Weather Underground stations in the area. I noticed the station left the network last fall, so the corrupting influence is gone, but it is possible that some of those stations may be even less dependable than the government stations.

Jeff C
August 26, 2007 9:20 pm

George M,
I agree with your concern regarding the data quality of the Weather Underground personal stations. I didn’t mean to argue that we should use their data. I was trying to say that the technology exists that anyone can monitor data from remote stations real-time and on a nearly continuous basis. The cost is low and the reliability is reasonable, yet we still use archiving methodolgy dating back to close to the Civil War. Sorry if I wasn’t clear.

August 27, 2007 6:21 am

I have been doing some more thinking and if we actually want to measure if the earth is heating we ought to actually measure the temperature of the earth.
Above, below, and at the frost line. Minimum.
Same for the oceans.
Let the earth do the averaging.
From that and satellite measurements it ought to be relatively easy from first principles to figure out what is going on.
Climate Science Needs To Go Underground.
Which will be the topic of my next post.

Steve Moore
August 27, 2007 10:05 am

Coming from a background that included several forays into Process Safety Management, I couldn’t help but smile when I read the first item.
Management of Change is a sometimes tedious, frustrating, and time-consuming process. While there are good reasons for it, the primary motivator is Federal regulation.
Is this yet another example of Federal agencies not being bound by Federal requirements?

August 27, 2007 2:21 pm

These are excellent, and are based on general best practices for all science and engineering work.

September 15, 2007 11:25 am

Climatic Change is Not a Problem of the Future
The diagnosis of the future of the planet cannot be gloomier. To the numerous elements that damage the environment, we must now add others, like the direct consequences of turning food into fuel, established as the economic policy guideline of the United States, designed and defended at all costs by the US president.
The issue has been presented on many occasions as a warning of the potential danger that, if continued, will affect the indispensable conditions for the life on the planet. Evidently at the service of the large transnationals, which produce 25 percent of the contaminating gas emissions, the White House has justified its position and has systematically refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol.
The inhabitants of the planet are required to act urgently. Maybe it’s not too late.
Carlos Menéndez

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