There’s a USHCN station out there, in the “ass end of nowhere”.
Apologist Eli Rabett (Joshua Halpern) recently lamented that in order for dendrochronologists to update tree ring studies used in MBH98/99 (aka Mann’s Hockey Stick) that they “have to drive out to the ass end of nowhere”. It’s such an inconvenience for those that just perform data wrangling in the office, instead of going out to get their hands dirty, that a study used as the basis for legislation hasn’t had its data updated in almost 10 years!
Thanks to Mr. Pete and Steve McIntyre, a recent outing in Colorado to get updated core samples from the very same trees used in Mann’s study proved that it’s not so hard after all. In fact they were able to have a Starbucks in the morning, do the field work, and were back home in time for a late dinner. No futzing with grant proposals, no elaborate plans submitted for approval, just basic honest field science. The samples they collected are in a dendrochronology lab undergoing analysis.
In that same spirit, I decided to survey one of the hottest and most remote USHCN weather stations in the USA, Death Valley. I was able to have a Starbucks’s coffee that morning, complete the work, survey an additional station, and an oddball station and head off to dinner and my next destination all in the same day.
The day started out in Baker, California, at the southern entrance to Death Valley. Appropriately, they have a Starbuck’s there, as well as what was once billed as “the worlds tallest thermometer” which has sadly been converted from a desert information center into the “worlds tallest mini-market”.
Given that it’s over concrete, asphalt, and the roof of a mini-mart, I’ve going to give it a CRN rating of “5”. Of course that’s what they want here, hotter temperatures, because that’s part of the tourist attraction.
The drive in was long and desolate, and in a very small town I passed through, Death Valley Junction, I spotted one of the oddest weather station setups I’ve ever seen on the roof of a building.
I’ve never seen a pint sized “Stevenson Screen” mounted on a rooftop tower before. It was on an adobe building that looked like it was once a motel. You can see the shadow of the tower on the southernmost rooftop in the Google Earth link. I guess they Like it hot here, and will go to lengths to make new highs. What better way than to put a station on a roof in Death Valley?
The next destination was Furnace Creek, CA, where the official USHCN station is located at the Death Valley National Monument Visitor’s Center.
I pulled into the Visitors Center and was struck by the large parking lot and RV parking lot just to the west of the center. Must be a lot of people that come here. Off to find the weather station. The B44 form I got from former CA State Climatologist Jim Goodridge indicated where the Stevenson Screen was placed, but the NCDC MMS record showed the station was converted to an MMTS, so I wondered if the old station still existed. Luckily for me, it did.
As seems typical of many USHCN stations, the old station was placed more for the convenience of the observer than for separation from localized bias. Note the parking lot and propane tank. Off to west are RV’s from the large RV park. The station is just a few steps from the back door of the Park Service admin building.
Would the MMTS placement be any better? Off to find it, I walked the perimeter of the building, and found it, about 30 feet away from the east side of the building.
Note more weather stations on the rooftops. Like I said “they like it hot” here. The station on the left has a camera, which you can watch here.
So in the hottest place in North America, both the historical and new thermometer are smack dab in the middle of the only island of human influence in a vast sea of desert. The visitor’s center wasn’t always there, the big parking lot wasn’t always there, and the RV parks surely weren’t there 50+ years ago. With such buildups, is it any wonder why the temperature trends are upwards at Furnace Creek?
The complete survey with photos from all angles is available on the surfacestations.org image gallery server.
Heading out of Death Valley, there was one more stop to make: Stovepipe Wells. While it is not a GISS or USHCN station, I had recalled seeing a Stevenson Screen in an historical photo from there once, so since it was along the way, it seemed like a good opportunity.
I wasn’t disappointed. It was easy to find, right behind the ranger station next to the parking lot.
There’s even the ubiquitous a/c unit about 30 feet away:
So let’s recap:
Of all the weather stations I visited in the hottest place in North America, how many were free of microsite biases from nearby human influences? Answer: none
Parking lots and buildings seem to be the biggest influence, and it’s clear that the two NOAA/NWS placed stations at Furnace Creek and Stovepipe Wells were placed with the convenience of the observer in mind, not the measurement environment.
There’s one more weather station operated by NOAA in Death Valley, at Badwater, and it too suffers from the “some like it hot” mentality that seems to pervade weather stations in Death Valley. The late John Daly has an interesting writeup on it’s placement which seems to be for the sole purpose of edging out El Azizia, Libya for the hottest temperature ever recorded of 136°F. Currently Death Valley is second at 134°F.
Yes, some like it hot.