How not to measure temperature, part 50. How to make a rural station "urban"

One of the things that happens when your work becomes well known is that people send you things to look at. Such is the case for today’s subject. Here we have a NOAA COOP station which is on the side of a mountain, well away from large cities. Only problem is, they put it right next to a parking lot.

A reader of this blog, Brad Herrick, sent me these photos of the Mt. Charleston weather station on State Route 157 west of Las Vegas.  For those that don’t know, Mt. Charleston is the large mountain to the west that overlooks Las Vegas. NOAA lists it on it’s COOP-A list, meaning that it reports for the climatic database. It’s been in operation since 1949. Its been moved 3 times, but all within about 1/2 mile as the fire station changed and grew.

According to NOAA’s MMS database, here is the description: Elevation, 7600 feet. NV DIV OF FORESTRY FIRE STN KYLE CYN OUTSIDE AND 30 MI NW PO AT LAS VEGAS NV. Topographic Details: RUGGED DEEP CANYON .25 – .5 MILE WIDE, RISING TO PEAKS 3000-5000 FEET HIGHER TO NORTH, SOUTH AND WEST A DISTANCE OF 2 TO 4 MILES. Lat/Lon 36.2597, -115.6452 , COOP ID 265400

Seems pretty rural, with a mental image of “way up in the mountains” if you were researching this station. By James Hansen’s figuring, it would also be a “lights=0” station since I doubt there is municipal street lighting for this area.

It’s certainly well enough away from the super sized Las Vegas concrete and asphalt heat island.

Here is the view from Google Earth:


click for larger view

Except for a few houses, it certainly looks “rural”.  Any researcher at NCDC or maybe a university that might use this station in some research report would certainly think this station was well away from the building/concrete/asphalt influence of bustling Las Vegas wouldn’t they?

But then we see this:


and this:


and this:


click for larger images

Unfortunately, I don’t have a time series temperature graph of this station to show you since I haven’t found a place at NCDC yet to graph COOP stations that are COOP-A. If anybody knows of such a link, please let me know. 

There’s nothing like convenient parking to convert a rural station to urban. But lets not forget the maintenance of the Stevenson Screen roof (see pic #2 -large), hillside, shade bushes, fire station building revisions, and portable storage unit. When did all that happen? We have no idea.

Surely, it’s easy to disentangle all that from the temperature record. Quick! Somebody create an adjustment equation.

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January 29, 2008 8:00 pm

Does the station have a number? There is one at 36.26N -115.22W. It is at the Desert Game Range, Number 262243 according to the COOP list at the WRCC in Reno. The Mt Charleston station is at 36.26N -115.64 Would there be a COOP that close. There is no COOP listed for Mt Charleston in the WRCC data base.
REPLY: It is station COOP ID 265400

Evan Jones
January 29, 2008 8:30 pm

“Lights=0” (As the Audience explodes with laughter.)
Here is a s far as i get. The gold speck here is that daily observation is under 5%.
Up and away,

George M
January 30, 2008 4:55 am

That isn’t strictly a storage shelter next to the screen. I can’t quite read the Caution and Warning placards, but I’ll bet there is sometning active in there, like maybe a standby power generator. Or maybe the radios connected to the antenna(s?) on the pole behind the structure. I think the auto tailpipe exhausting into the Stevenson may be the best way to keep it from getting too cold, though.

January 30, 2008 6:42 am

Using another site to remind me of the Ideal Gas law, how’s this for an equation:
Where T = Temperature in Kelvin, n = number of moles, R = the Ideal Gas Constant, P = Pressure in atmospheres, V = volume in liters, and Ff = fudge factor seeing as how AGW is not ideal.
John M Reynolds

Larry Sheldon
January 30, 2008 9:06 am

That building is almost certainly NOT a storage building. It is likely a telephone central office, a cellphone module or a radio station. That sliver-colored box peeking out from the back of the module is likely an air-conditioner condenser.
And the presence of a wind sock implies helicopter traffic. And a rain gauge under the trees? Really?

George M
January 30, 2008 12:59 pm

Ah, yes, I forgot: “Click for larger images”. Thanks, Anthony. When I do, I can see the electric power drop to the top of the wooden pole behind the building, and Larry, that’s a flag, not a wind sock. I can also read some of the placards in the larger images, one cautioning that the building is protected with a Halon fire suppression system, indicating a large amount of expensive electronics inside. That antenna is not complex enough for a cell site, however, so it must be telephone stuff. The most intersting placard is the one way in the back corner, on the retaining timbers, which cautions against automatic equipment which may start at any time. Implying something with exposed moving parts and just maybe produces some heat? And, the rain gauge is protected against wetness only from some directions.

January 30, 2008 2:13 pm

Even worse it’s on the south facing slope, on the north side of the road. Much more scrubby, less forested than the south side, IIRC. Talk about a micro climate …

January 30, 2008 3:45 pm

“which cautions against automatic equipment which may start at any time.”
That is probably a backup power generator for the electronics shelter which would start up automatically when mains power fails.

Evan Jones
January 30, 2008 4:01 pm

“Quick! Somebody create an adjustment equation.”
Quick and dirty.
Low: (%CRN1*0)+(%CRN2*0)+(%CRN3*1)+(%CRN4*2)+(%CRN5*5)
Medium: (%CRN1*0)+(%CRN2*0.25)+(%CRN3*1.5)+(%CRN4*3)+(%CRN5*7.5)
High: (%CRN1*0)+(%CRN2*0.5)+(%CRN3*2)+(%CRN4*4)+(%CRN5*10)
Results to be expressed in “Revs”, representing offsets in degrees C.
Those familiar with this site will know instantly what I mean.
%CRN1-5 = Percentage of CRN1 through CRN5 ratings for surface stations.
Of course, there’s only one way to check. (I take it you got my email, Rev?)

January 30, 2008 4:16 pm

My comment appears to have been eaten by the spam filter, but here is a repeat:
More then likely that “storage unit” is a back up communications power unit for the fire department. Below the Halogen sign is one reading:
Lead Acid batteries …
Corrosive liquid …
Energized Electrical Circuits …
Most probably a heat source with those warnings. Transformer, charger, electronics.

Evan Jones
January 30, 2008 4:26 pm

Results So Far (to 2 sig. digits)
Based on 460 Observed stations
Low: +1.98 Revs
Medium: +2.99 Revs
High: +4.00 Revs

Evan Jones
January 30, 2008 5:59 pm

WATTS ADJUSTMENT (to 3 Significant Digits)
482 Stations Observed
Low: +1.99 Revs
Medium: +3.01 Revs
High: +4.03 Revs

Larry Sheldon
January 30, 2008 7:42 pm

For what ever it is worth, I agree with the additional findings regarding that ecru building. I am satisfied that it is not, you should pardon the expression, cold storage, but some kind of electrically active equipment room. and the auto start warning would be required for A/C condensers, air compressors, engine-driven power plants, … which can be summarized as “warm stuff”.

Evan Jones
January 30, 2008 8:00 pm

That’s gotta be a CRN5, then, doesn’t it? Heat sinks and waste heat within 10 feet and all.
REPLY: It could go either way as a 4 or a 5, but without measurments, I can’t say for certain

January 30, 2008 9:17 pm

[…] just noticed that he has a hawt post on the WordPress Dashboard.  In August 2007, due to collaborative work between Watts and McIntyre, NASA’s GISS issued a […]

David Segeta
January 31, 2008 8:47 am

As an engineer I would say there is no way to correct the data from this site to account for the various problems. The only solution is to exclude it from the database. That brings me to my question; is there a plan to determine the US temperature record using only stations rated 1 or 2?
REPLY: yes there is, but we need to fill in missing areas first so that we get better spatial representivity. See the map on the main page of

January 31, 2008 10:59 am

Has anybody ever looked at Cleveland Ohio? talk about a discontinuous record.

Evan Jones
January 31, 2008 12:53 pm

“As an engineer I would say there is no way to correct the data from this site to account for the various problems. The only solution is to exclude it from the database. That brings me to my question; is there a plan to determine the US temperature record using only stations rated 1 or 2?”
Like the Rev says.
But That’s ony 63 stations! (And a mere 19 of them are CRN1. (A good MMTS is hard to find. Another quandary for Demosthenes.)
On top of that, there’s a westward bias (and the west is where most of the actual warming did occur).
REPLY: I suspect we’ll find more CRN1/2 stations in the midwest, in the middle of the plains. For now though, most of the area is under snow, and not many new stations are being surveyed. When the summer travel season picks up again, so will surveys.

February 1, 2008 6:38 pm

[…] browsing the Internets for fun things to read, I happened across this post at Watts Up With That: How Not to Measure Temperature. The station in question is the one on Mt. […]

Sean McClanders
April 16, 2008 12:29 pm

You yanks are surly thinking! I wonder if Al Gore has the brain cells to ponder the thoughts discussed here? For the sake of all Irishmen will you please keep him in his castle and not let him out!
A wee bit on Brad he is great fellow.
Sean McClanders

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