How not to measure temperature, part 49. Alaska's COOP Stations

CordovaEarlier I wrote up an essay on the NOAA climate station at Cordova, AK.

Click thumbnail at left for a larger image. 


This station was directly next to the village diesel power plant. That station also happens to be part of the NASA GISS surface temperature record used for climate research. The problem is the proximity to nearby human caused heat sources, which may not be accurately adjusted for in the record. Of course the real issue is that if the stations were properly setup and maintained by NOAA, paying attention to their own 100 foot rule, such potential bias would not be an issue. Today I’d like to show you a few other NOAA climate stations in Alaska.

Click thumbnails below for larger images.

Thanks to John Papineau for these photographs

English Bay

English Bay – note the MMTS temperature sensor within about 1 foot of the building.No cold winter nights for this sensor!


Moose PassMoose Pass – note the concrete structure which is a fish hatchery


Susitna Landing

Susitna Landing – note proximity to building this was installed on May 21st, 2003

NCDC record says: FLAT GRAVEL AREA NEAR CONFLUENCE OF KASHWITNA AND SUSITNA RIVERS. How would a researcher know about the building proximity from this?



Seward 19N – note proximity to building

NCDC Record says: OBSERVERS HOME, OUTSIDE & 19.5 MI N OF PO AT SEWARD, AK Again, how would a researcher know about the building proximity?



Seward #2 – note proximity to street and shading issues. You can see the station location in Google Earth.

Tutka Bay

Tutka Bay – note proximity to building and weathering of old Stevenson Screen shelter.


As I’ve been saying, the MMTS temperature sensor and it’s cable is systematically forcing measurements closer to human influences. They problem clearly is not unique to the continental United States as these photos from Alaska demonstrate.

In all of Alaska’s open wilderness, are these truly representative of the climate? It seems that every station is close to the small packets of towns and villages that dot Alaska, and necessarily so, since a human observer is required to read and record the thermometer.

Surely though, a better job at station siting could have been done.

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Paul Wescott
January 27, 2008 6:59 pm

I suspect that even if site standards are met in Alaska, the resulting temp record may still be off – witness the large winter heat “bubble” at Barrow examined by Hinkel et al.

Evan Jones
January 27, 2008 9:57 pm

Woof! I’ve just been having the (soggy, warm) Barrow site mushed in my face.
I diffidently put it off until I could get a gander at the site and check out whether it’s got the usual issues we’ve all come to know and cherish.
But I didn’t know if it had an issue or not. I think will Goog this Hink dude and see what’s to witness . . .
Thx for the heads-up.

January 28, 2008 10:19 am

I have read this before. Thanks for posting this and bringing attention to
this fact. There is so much misinformation out there from mainstream
media and people that clearly have an agenda. Follow the money.

January 28, 2008 10:54 am

I know this is mainly about temps, but what about those rain gauges? They are supposed to be level and yet they all appear to be leaning.

Evan Jones
January 28, 2008 12:23 pm

“a human observer is required to read and record the thermometer.”
Is this true for the MMTS system or just the Stevenson Stations? I thought part of the point of those thingies was so that the data could be collected electonically.
BTW, from what I could quickly gather Hinkel indicates a 2.2C warm bias at Barrow, owing to the greatly increased popultion. Offhand, it would seem that UHI in a frigid environment would create a greater offset than in temperate areas.
REPLY: Both. MMTS early model had no memory, new model “Nimbus” has hi/lo memory for a few days to allow observer to take a vacation. They still have to write in log sheet B91 form and send to NCDC for transcription.

January 28, 2008 12:45 pm

Are the graphs available for these sites so we can see what happened to the temperatures they recorded?
A graph for each picture, which you are sometimes kind enough to supply, makes an incredible argument for truth in the face of a tsunami of global warming lies.
Here, at we are all grateful to you for pointing out the lies and distortions embraced by the other side. You may wish to join us in praying for these wilfully deluded fraudsters.

January 28, 2008 1:04 pm

Anthony –
Maybe you’ve got this information somewhere – was the MMTS shipped with a particular length of cable (had a MCL – minimum cutting length), or did they just rely on personal siting.
Someone had to have made up the ends of the cables, and dug the trench to a specific depth (frost line, etc). Direct bury of cable might also affect the readings, depending on type of cable used (especially in extreme temps).
Here, I have some expertise – I was Team Chief for a USAF installation team (E&I), and we had preinstallation surveys and plans to follow for all installations. If these weather sites were installed by govt teams, the same would apply.
If the COOP operator got the kit, there still had to be SOME “how to install” diagrams (height, location, cable depth, etc) that came with the kit.
This goes beyond the operator, and comes back to the installation team. Does anyone know someone who actually installed one of these things?
I don’t think that cable runs have been checked as a possible bias. What kind of cable is used?
REPLY: The spec is for silver coated copper cable, spec says max length 1/4 mile, given negligible resistance of shorter cable lengths compared to resistance of thermistor (10kohms or higher), doubtful there’s a bias. They do have a remote calibration check plug to ferret that out after install and when MMTS is checked later.

January 28, 2008 1:43 pm

Thanks for looking at Alaska. While the stations may not be ideally located, I wonder if the records do indeed show any abnormality in temp recordings that can serve as a basis for pictures locations. Moose pass is indeed rural area for the Kenai Peninsula (and wonder if you know its about 40 miles from Anchorage as the crow flies). Suspect location in Seward from its vertical location will likely give a much warmer reading then a thermometer at sea level (looks like about 1-2 miles down to the bay).

January 28, 2008 3:13 pm

How good is the coverage of areas besides the Pacific Coast? The Pacific Coast has a drastically different climate than the rest of the state. There are Marine Subarctic and Marine West Coast microclimates in the lowlands and the usual variety up high. Are the non Pacific Coast climate zones underrepresented? If so, then many statements about “trends” in Alaska may be of only minimal importance vis a vis truly “Arctic” concerns.

Jeff in Seattle
January 28, 2008 6:12 pm

You may wish to join us in praying for these wilfully deluded fraudsters.

Wow! That’s got to be the biggest oxymoron I have ever heard!

Evan Jones
January 28, 2008 6:56 pm

Not to mention that the ice loss is overwhelmigly in the west.

Paul Wescott
January 28, 2008 7:02 pm

Check out this site. I suspect that the record has not been adjusted for much other than station or instrument changes (if any), so if the situation at Barrow (cold season, warm bias) is shared by other “rural” stations to some extent, that flat trend in raw temps over the last 30 years is even more remarkable.

Evan Jones
January 29, 2008 8:03 am

“I know this is mainly about temps, but what about those rain gauges? They are supposed to be level and yet they all appear to be leaning.”
Hey! wouldn’t that create a spurious inflation of precip measure directly proportional to the indreased area of the tilt? Or would the “overhang factor” mitigate or even overwhelm this?
It’s important. If temps are already below 0C, precip is a main driver of ice accumulation.

February 5, 2008 3:08 am

As if proof of scientific evidence of global warming even matters. Fact is we’re plundering the earth ‘s resources, meanwhile polluting this planet only to promote a space race that will do same. Moral degradation and universal armaggedon. Wake up America, Australia and you developed nations that have inculcated a want-more-care-less society. Shame. Shame – and I’m not even forn the eveangelical left or right!!!

Evan Jones
February 5, 2008 5:35 pm

I have read a history book twice or once. I have also taken a peek at resources and reserves. And a spot of demographics.
Resources are vitually unlimited. We will never, ever run short of any major resource. The belief in dwindling resources was thoroughly and decicively put paid two decades ago. (Even the expendable stuff like oil. We had 3.4 tbs known world reserve of oil in 1975. Today, after all our use, we have 6.5 tbs–and growing.)
From what I can gather man was infinitely more sinful, savage, destructive, damaging, violent, hateful, and unhappy a century ago than today. The Seven Deadly Sins rode high. A man would stake his life on a duel at the drop of a hat.
Modernity has not been a smooth ride, not has it come without cost. But on the whole we are far, far better off for it, and we are far, far better people for it.
And I think we had a far closer brush with “universal Armageddon” when Ghengis Kahn hammered the tribes together than anything we’ve seen since–even including WWII. I think I prefer the Pax Americana and worldwide affluence to the 19th century alternatives.
If the state of modern morality gives you concern, I suggest reading, oh, say The Great Train Robbery, by Michael Crichton. Not only would you find it an eye-opener, but a fascinating, ripping read.
I implore you to consider how good you have it and how bright the world’s prospects are. We will live long and well and become wise and powerful. We will continue to remake our world and nine out of tn of those changes will be for the better.
I do, however, confess a slight disappointment in the space race. Where’s my Moon base? Where’s my Mars outpost? Where’s my space-bubble factory?

February 7, 2008 4:41 am

Ha Ha Evan,
Wonderful, there is a very human side to you … and humorous too!

Evan Jones
February 7, 2008 5:31 pm

Well, I’m quite serious about the resources. They told me in 3rd grade we’d be out of oil by Y2K, and that Iron and coal would be gone in less than a decade from now. This might be termed the “Proven Reserve” Fallacy of demographics. That debate more or less ended right around when the GW debate began in earnest.
And man’s past makes nasty reading. (Modernity has a very bad press agent.)

February 11, 2008 1:55 am

Evan, Did they also teach you in Grade 2 as they did me that there are alternative natura; energy sources, not yet capable of being harnessed to feed our greed, but remotely achievable? I’m quite sure there was a defecit somewhere in your education as you seem quite capable of coming up with a solution for that.
Did your high school teachers or maybe even your parents inform you that we’re felling forests, destroying whole eco-systems, erasing indigenous cultures (oh, but who cares), polluting waterways and therefore the world food chain as we seek and destroy in the name of modernity. No? You didn’t learn that? Yes indeed modernity does have a very bad press agent.

February 11, 2008 2:08 am

Hey Evan,
Does the irony of this whole thread strike a note with you? Problem of scientific equipment for measuring temperature too close to human habitat!

May 29, 2008 3:23 pm

What does a ‘LO’ mean on the MMTS display?

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