How not to measure temperature, part 53: Find the NOAA thermometer in this picture


Click picture to find the thermometer

One of the things learned from the project is how the conversion of standard mercury thermometers in Stevenson Screens to the newer MMTS type electronic thermometers has resulted in many USHCN stations being placed closer to buildings. This is a result of cable trenching issues and NWS COOP managers general lack of equipment and time to do effective cable laying. The spec for the MMTS thermometers allows for cables up to 1/4 mile in length between the sensor and the display.

The MMTS thermometer in the photo above is no exception to this problem (if you can find it).

This station above is in the middle of America’s agricultural belt, in Hay Springs, Nebraska. It is a standard COOP station #253710 at an observer’s residence. It is a Class “A” station according to NCDC so data from it does make it into the climate record.

On the other side of town we have the official USHCN climate station of record there, COOP # 253715 located at the Mirage Flats irrigation District Office. While you’d think that the rural “great plains nature” of this station would provide for a better environment, like the one above, it is also at about 5 feet from the building, but doesn’t have shrubbery affecting daytime sun and nighttime reflected IR like the other station:


Click picture for a larger image

In either case, the placement so close to heated buildings certainly doesn’t provide what would be considered a quality measurment environment for temperature. According to the NCDC database records, the USHCN station was converted from a Stevenson Screen to a MMTS in 1989.

These stations were surveyed by volunteer Eric Gamberg. To see the complete photo album, please see this link.

One of the hopes I have as we survey more stations in the midwest is that we’ll find better quality siting and placements. I hope these examples are not indicative of what we’ll find in the great plains.


newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Alan Chappell

Inventing global warming using the square wheel syndrome

Stan Needham

We’re driving out to visit my daughter and her family in Lawrence, KS, around the middle of April. One of my main goals for the trip is to light a fire under the local Boy Scout troop to get involved in this project. I’m a former Eagle Scout, circa 1959, and both of my grandsons are in Scouting, although just starting out. Boy Scouts have a Meteorology Merit Badge, a fact that would seem to dovetail with your project. My hope is that the Troop in Lawrence can survey the 8 stations in Northeastern Kansas, including the one in Lawrence. If they network with other Great Planes Scout organizations, perhaps it can spread across the rest of Kansas and Nebraska, that area where your map shows a big black hole. Once I get some contacts, Kristen Byrnes has agreed to help with a sales pitch.
REPLY: Thanks Stan, as a former Scout myself, this appeals to me.


If they follow the Scout Law (as they should), they’ll be great surfacestation surveyors and totally with the spirit of the this project.
TRUSTWORTHY: A Scout tells the truth. He keeps his promises. Honesty is part of his code of conduct. People can depend on him.
LOYAL: A Scout is true to his family, Scout leaders, friends, school, and nation.
HELPFUL: A Scout is concerned about other people. He does things willingly for others without pay or reward.
FRIENDLY: A Scout is a friend to all. He is a brother to other Scouts. He seeks to understand others. He respects those with ideas and customs other than his own.
COURTEOUS: A Scout is polite to everyone regardless of age or position. He knows good manners make it easier for people to get along together.
KIND: A Scout understands there is strength in being gentle. He treats others as he wants to be treated. He does not hurt or kill harmless things without reason.
OBEDIENT: A Scout follows the rules of his family, school, and troop. He obeys the laws of his community and country. If he thinks these rules and laws are unfair, he tries to have them changed in an orderly manner rather than disobey them.
CHEERFUL: A Scout looks for the bright side of things. He cheerfully does tasks that come his way. He tries to make others happy.
THRIFTY: A Scout works to pay his way and to help others. He saves for unforeseen needs. He protects and conserves natural resources. He carefully uses time and property.
BRAVE: A Scout can face danger even if he is afraid. He has the courage to stand for what he thinks is right even if others laugh at or threaten him.
CLEAN: A Scout keeps his body and mind fit and clean. He goes around with those who believe in living by these same ideals. He helps keep his home and community clean.
REVERENT: A Scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others.

Bruce Foutch

Regarding station histories:
Have you seen this web site yet? Its called “Cooperative Network Then and Now” and shows then and now photos on PA COOP stations 20 years apart (1983 and 2003.) Includes temp graphs.
Ordered a copy of STORMPREDATOR on Monday. Have a save trip!

Jeff Alberts

I would agree with all the scout motto, except the Reverence towards god part. It really has no place there. Leave that in the church.


All they had to do was move it 100 ft, and it would have been fine.
I guess the guy reading the instruments didn’t want to leave the comforts of his home. 😉

Re: Bruce Foutch
Yes, I ran across that site last year and posted the photos from USCHN sites on surfacestations. If you run into any other such sites with historical photos or written histories, please let us know.

How did you determine that there was a switch to MMTS in 1989?
I’ve also looked at the Hay Springs Surface Station, and it appears that this station has a much larger temperature trend than surrounding stations (although not significantly different than zero). Also, if there really was a switch to MMTS in 1989, it doesn’t appear to be corrected for in the temperature record.
REPLY: Determining when the equipment changed is the key, and simple too. Using the NCDC MMS database for COOP station metadata, I simply looked up Hay Springs 12S, clicked on that station, and then chose the “Equipment” Tab.
The display looks like this:
Then I just looked to see when the station equipment changed from “Maxi-Min thermometers” to “MMTS”. I’ve circled them on the graphic above to make it easy to see.

Bruce Foutch

Re: John Goetz
I have found a few, such as those by Stephen R. Doty, and will continue to look for more. I would be happy to send you whatever I have currently and those I find in future (although, as I’m new at this, they all may be old news to you.)
So we don’t tie up bandwidth I’ll request Mr. Watts to please share my e-mail with you we can continue this off line. Is that OK with you Mr. Watts?


My favorite pic on the database is still

steven mosher

Atmoz and Athony, why dont you guys use the official USHCN station
history files?
REPLY: Well for one thing, they are difficult to decode. I use what I recommend the volunteers use, the NCDC web interface.

I used to use the USHCN station history file before I realized that my version only recorded up until about 1990 (I think). I’ve looked, but can’t find a version that’s updated through the present.

Bill in Vigo

I agree with the scout motto even the reverent part. No one has to be a boy scout. I think they would be great at doing surveys. I know years ago when I was a boy scout any public project we were involved in was always completed to the best of our ability.

Re: Bruce Foutch
I’d be happy to exchange emails with you.
I have thought in the past it would be useful to have a bulletin board where station surveyors could exchange information on how they have done surveys. The idea would be to discuss experiences in locating stations, making appointments to do the survey, interviewing the operator, etc.
Here, I think it would be useful to have a bulletin board where “historical station surveyors” could exchange links to old USHCN site photographs and histories. I’m as fascinated by where the stations used to be as where they are today. In this case I created a thread on the Climate Audit bulletin board titled USHCN Station History and you can find a link to it here.
REPLY: Actually I’m working on that bulletin board.

Hey Anthony (or should I say Andrew??), hopefully you don’t think I’m applying the pressure to an already over-busy man !!!

Bruce Foutch

re: John Goetz
While we wait for (impose on 😉 Mr. Watts to send us our respective e-mail addresses, here is something I stumbled across that you might find useful:
The Weather Where You Live: Revisited
Dr. David A. Robinson
NJ State Climatologist
Rutgers University
June 2006
from this web site: “While the updated list is likely not exhaustive, it includes 137 references for 39 states, along with publications addressing the District of Columbia, the Great Lakes, New England, several broad regions and one that provides a Canadian overview. The oldest reference is from 1847 (look under Pennsylvania), the latest from 2006.”

Jeff Alberts

As I recall for the brief time I was a boy scout in the early 70s, there was no mention of god anywhere in the motto. The reverence was to elders and authority, as I recall.


Jeff, that may have been a locally influenced minimization. The BSA as a private organization can establish its level of religious endorsement wherever it likes. Historically, that’s been acknowledgment of the religious aspects of life and some special awards (God and Country) for religiously-motivated service projects. A major emphasis has been on tolerance of the beliefs of other Scouts rather than the promotion of any particular denomination and certainly not proselytizing. Anyway, the point of the Scout Law is respectfulness, honesty, and service – things that the tenets of most religions promote as well.
So, not to hijack this thread any further, suffice it to say that Scouts who are properly instructed should be well-prepared to do the surveys.

Bruce Foutch

From the Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences Volume 10, Issue 4 (August 1953) pp. 244–261, ON THE CAUSES OF INSTRUMENTALLY OBSERVED SECULAR TEMPERATURE TRENDS
J. Murray Mitchell Jr
“…, observed temperature records, with few individual exceptions, are concluded to be very misleading as direct measures of macroclimatic change over periods longer than a few decades. …urban development has contributed local temperature rises at the rate of more than 1F in a century.”

[…] the surface station at Hay Springs fits the above criteria for “goodness” [see also Watts Up, […]

Hi Anthony,
Thought you’d find this article of particular interest. Some of the comments in it are very illuminating, though I doubt not surprising to you. 😉

Stan Needham

Tom Richard,
I enjoyed your linked article. I live about 200 miles east of Chicago and enjoy (or not) similar weather. The take-home line of the entire article is the last line:
“Everything goes through cycles,” he said.

[…] of Eli Rabbett. I was drawn to this particular surface station by a post by Anthony Watts about the microsite bias that would be introduced at this site due to siting issues. I noticed that immediately after the […]