What the modernized USHCN will look like

USHCN-M station at Greensboro, AL

While I was at NCDC, Grant Goodge showed and provided me with a PowerPoint presentation about the plan to update the USHCN manual observing network to USHCN-M or “modernized”. In a nutshell, it is a “light” version of the Climate Reference Network. The summary of benefits goes like this.

More Accurate Data Through:

  • Redundant Sensors
  • Near Real Time Diagnostics
  • Time Resolution of Five Minutes vs The Current Daily
  • Automated data collection via GOES satellite uplink, eliminating human error of reading and transcription
  • No adjustments to the data post reception. Time of Observation is now irrelevant.
  • No more routinely missing data, such as on weekends (fire station at Marysville, CA for example) and thus no need to fill in estimated data using the FILNET adjustment any more.

The station looks much like a Climate Reference Network station, but has some economy considerations, especially in having one aspirated IR screen instead of three, but it contains triple temperature sensors so that issues with instrumentation drift or offset events can easily be spotted in the data stream.

This will be a huge step forward in data quality and quality control.

His PowerPoint presentation is available here at this link: why-modernize-hcn (PPT 9 MB)

Interestingly, it included what appears to be a photo of the rooftop station in Asheville, NC, at the old NCDC (Federal Building) I’m waiting on a  positive ID.

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April 29, 2008 8:47 am

What are the provisions for maintaining the meta-data such as station moves, maintenance, and instrument replacement, just to name three? The surfacestations project has shown these to be just as important at the raw data themselves. These modernized stations might be superior data collection nodes for a few years, but what about the bias creep that is inevitable? Did you hear how NCDC plans to handle the digital details? Any thought to putting webcams into the station to record things like cloud cover and surrounding terrain changes (wet, dry, snow)?
REPLY: I have an upcoming post to deal with those issues.

Pierre Gosselin
April 29, 2008 9:37 am

Sure looks like real progress to me.

Evan Jones
April 29, 2008 9:39 am

And THAT is the gold speck.
That is what was implicit in your earlier posts:
–If there is no need for adjustment, that means there is no need for FILENET.
–And if there is no need for FILENET, there is no need to fill in data.
–And if there is no need to fill in data, the collection and transmission therefore must be automated.
I did not comment on this directly. I was biding my time and merely sideswiping the subject on other threads. (You said you’d comment on this. You now have.)
I will now have the (not-unlimited) degree of confidence in the climate record that a man has in the poker deal, having just cut the deck.
I wonder if I may dare to infer that the NOAA will not move the stations and will keep undesirable objects clear of them?

April 29, 2008 10:35 am

Anthony-a question
Is this new system going to be replace existing, or to be used in conjunction with old stations?
REPLY: They’d run in parallel for awhile, then the older stations will be phased out. They will not always be at the same location. They are looking for optimal sites near USHCN. Also, not all 1221 USHCN stations will be modernized, some 200+ will simply disappear as they plan only about 1000 USHCN-M stations.
I don’t know what will become of the standard non-climate COOP network, though I suspect it will simply be phased out and/or abandoned.

Evan Jones
April 29, 2008 11:00 am

The old Asheville setup is on a rooftop? Oh, great! Over at the –er, ahem– blog, I was assured that the Asheville USHNC site was the best possible available.
I said I’d wait until I saw a photo of it.
I will wait for confirmation on this!
REPLY: It could also be Silver Spring, MD, waiting for ID now.

April 29, 2008 11:15 am

This is wonderful but is this a global network or is it US only? As most of the claimed “global warming” seems to be coming from Asia where the sensors can not be audited easily, I have to wonder how much impact this will really have.
If one wishes to see warming, one will be more inclined to believe data that validates that wish. What if the US stations show no warming but the inclusion of Asian stations still causes continued warming due to urbanization and land use changes? Remember that March was hailed as the “warmest month ever” even though there was no warming anywhere but Asia. Just that the recorded temperatures in Asia rose enough to raise the entire global average.
REPLY: For now, US only, but as usually happens, ROW follows is a few years. Slow, and some poorer countries in upheaval may never do it. Cross off Zimbabwe, Sudan, and the like unless maybe we can convince the U.N. to set up stations…yeah that’s the ticket. Blue Helmet weather stations.

Pierre Gosselin
April 29, 2008 11:22 am

1. Do you think the new network will produce much more accurate results in the future?
2. Won’t a much higher accuracy tend to remove the warm bias as the old inaccurate parallel stations are phased out?
3. This will make any real cooling trend far more obvious as the old sloppy data that hides it is removed, won’t it?
4. Won’t more accurate readings eventually lead to a very noticeable divergence from Hansen’s GISS trends in the future?
5. Won’t it be far more difficult for climate Hansens to diverge from trends coming from a modern accurate measurement system in the future?
A lot of questions I know.
I just wonder how Hansen will be able to continue to “fudge” data and always be the odd man out when there are accurate counter data. Fudging is easy when the data is inaccurate, but very difficult when it’s precise.
I hope I’m not confusing the different measuring systems that seem to exist and overlap.
REPLY: I’ll revisit this later, larger news looms

Alan S. Blue
April 29, 2008 12:22 pm

What’s the plan with the surroundings? The siting guidelines call for a reasonable distance between the instruments and the nearest tree/building. Even a simple sign like: “No trees, buildings, cars, barbecues or air exchangers within fifty feet! Please call: xxx-xxx-xxx for violations!” would seem useful.
Also, with the changes in data gathering, it seems like the sensors could be ‘live’. That is, post the data directly somewhere as it gets reported. Make it _completely_ transparent.

April 29, 2008 12:49 pm

Evan Jones (09:39:54) :
“–If there is no need for adjustment, that means there is no need for FILENET.
–And if there is no need for FILENET, there is no need to fill in data.
–And if there is no need to fill in data, the collection and transmission therefore must be automated.”
I’ve been mightily impressed at how hard it is to get a gap-free record from my Davis Vantage Pro. That wasn’t a primary goal behind it, nor was my installation, but I don’t expect to get a full year’s set of data, either.
The main issues I have are:
Interference on RF link.
The VP uses the same band as some of the cordless phones in the house. The new model uses frequency hopping to greatly improve that, so I hear.
RF range.
My computer is at one corner of the house, the sensor unit has to transmit through the diagonal and a ways outside. I wound up buying a second console and use its repeater functionality to get a more reliable signal. However, I don’t know if it transmits on a different schedule, but I don’t get the long runs of 95+% reception I did before when the transmission path had the blessings of the gods and noise sources.
Solar charger + supercap doesn’t handle November.
I’ve sort of gotten in the habit of replacing the battery every October.
Davis is in the SF Bay area.
They don’t understand how leaf stems and icicles can interfere with the tipping bucket in the rain guage.
USHCN-M will have some problems and gaps. Gaps may be relatively long when they occur, e.g. a bear using one for a back scratcher, lightning-fried-electronics, satellite failure, e.g.
Certainly a big step forward and opens up a lot of sites where it’s difficult to get volunteers now because no one lives there and there’s no UHI to be had for decades.

April 29, 2008 12:53 pm

The warming in Asia was likely real. I have a nice big image of the temperature anomalie in the pacific at my blog. NASA shows the classic PDO “cool phase” PDO horseshoe shape. You’ll see warm water in the pacific near asia and cool water near the American coast.
In fact, if you read blog comments and notice which people say it’s a warm spring vs a cool spring– ask where they live. You may be amazed at the correlation with the warm and cold anomalies in the ocean right now.
That said: I do share reservations about accuracy of measurement records. Maintenance is not always a high priority in most countries.

Pierre Gosselin
April 29, 2008 1:05 pm

Is the PDO now shifting?

April 29, 2008 1:38 pm

Some questions I am hoping your next article on these will answer:
– How close to the poles can these survive with limited daylight in winter?
– How often will the batteries have to be changed?
– Do blizzards or aurora borealis affect the GOES transmissions?
– If the transmission fails, will it keep the data until the next transmission time?
– Since Iqaluit in Nunavut Canada can have 8 day blizzards, how many readings can these stations hold before running out of space?
John M Reynolds

April 29, 2008 1:43 pm

Thanks for answer on old stations. I doubt that picture is Silver Springs MD, having been there I doubt the Blue Ridge is close enough to have that view.

steven mosher
April 29, 2008 2:15 pm

200 stations dropped?
Hmm seems a while back moshpit suggested dropping all the CRN5.
15% of 1220 is about 180. I wonder which 200 they will cut

April 30, 2008 1:52 am

I wonder why the surface of the thermometer shield is painted white rather than say highly polished aluminium (giving an emissivity of 5% rather than white paint which at best will give 10%)?
The less emissivity the more accurate the air temperature measurement, so why white paint? Maintenance issues?

May 1, 2008 5:21 pm

[…] http://wattsupwiththat.wordpress.com/2008/04/29/what-the-modernized-ushcn-will-look-like/ [from the comments] –If there is no need for adjustment, that means there is no need for FILENET. –And if there is no need for FILENET, there is no need to fill in data. –And if there is no need to fill in data, the collection and transmission therefore must be automated. […]

May 2, 2008 8:11 am

What about the siting issues? Are they planning to correct the problems?
REPLY: doubtful

May 7, 2008 10:27 pm

[…] 44.8 200712: 40.7 200801: 19.6 200802: 37.7 200803: 69.8 200804: ??? Of interest to me is the  this article, which tells us that NCDC admits that their temp measurement is substandard, but presen…   One of the great benefits will be that there will no longer be these adjustments to past data […]

Bill P
September 13, 2008 1:50 pm

Don’t know if this thread will get an eyeball on it, but it was linked by today’s (September 13) thread. A late thanks for your work on this, and a question about this interesting PP show. After reading the article you posted by John Christy about the effects of humidity on temperature, I wondered if there was any long-term effort under way to study the two data streams in conjunction.
Grant Goodge’s PP shows a picture of the innards of a primary weather station, which apparently took a dew point and relative humidity reading with two “matched” thermometers situated beneath the air intake duct, one of whose bulbs is swathed in a patch of cloth. I don’t know a lot of science relative to this procedure, but I was curious if this is the way it is still done, or whether the new mechanisms have any provisions for taking humidity readings at all. It didn’t appear that they do.
Again, from what I could gather of Christy’s study, it was apparent that fluctuating humidity levels had a rather profound affect on temperature. So, don’t they take the two data streams in conjunction? If not, why not?
Thanks. I know you’re busy.

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