A good number of official climate stations of record in the USHCN network used for climate studies are at airports. All have been converted to the automated ASOS systems, and the placement of these is often chosen to be away from the airport tarmac so that temperature and dewpoint readings aren’t biased.
While climate monitoring is a secondary consideration of these stations. keeping these readings accurate is vital to aviation safety, particularly in calculating density altitude, which is used to determine the maximum takeoff weight for an aircraft and what runway takeoff length would be needed for a given weight.
But what happens to the accuracy when your “out of the way” station suddenly sits just a few feet from a building and parking lot being constructed?
Alert volunteer Janet Elias helped me locate the USHCN station in Lafayette, LA. The Microsoft Live Earth map showed quite a surprise in the making:
Click for a larger interactive image
Of course it didn’t always used to be this way, the Google Earth image, which is a bit older, shows the area before the construction started:
Here is the NASA GISS plot of temperature for this station. A call to the LFT airport authority at this contact from their website told me that the contract for the new fire station facility was awarded in July of 2005 and that construction started shortly after that. The new fire station, show being constructed in the top photo is now complete.
So that calls into question the last two data points on this graph, for 2005 (21.11°C) and 2006 (21.19°C), which happen to be the two highest annual average temperatures since the 21.56°C recorded in 1973. For some reason, the 2007 data is not complete yet you can view it here.
Are 2005 and 2006 the real measure of air temperature or a result of bias from the new fire station being constructed within a few feet of the LFT ASOS temperature sensor?
How would NOAA or NASA or Hadley know if they don’t check out the station environment and examine for such issues?
Previously I’ve touched on the problems with airports and the ASOS system, including the warm bias that the acres of asphalt runways, tarmac, and buildings can impart into the climate record from USHCN stations placed at airports. Plus we have the maintenance and accuracy issues of the HO83 thermometers used in the ASOS stations initially, which has been shown to be very serious.
The primary mission of the ASOS was for aviation, and remains that today.
So the question arises: why is NOAA, GISS, and HadCRUT still using data from these airport stations as part of the climate record? You can’t correct what you don’t know about or don’t evaluate, and it seems clear that such site level encroachment biases are not being examined in detail by climate researchers.
UPDATE- Reader Davis Smith writes: