Surveying USHCN Stations From My Desk

In How Not to Measure Temperature Part 65, I showed a COOP-A station near Manhattan, KS at Tuttle Creek Lake that had been surveyed. In actuality, that survey was a “miss” and the intended target was the USHCN station in Manhattan (COOP ID # 144972) on the Campus of Kansas State University.

But things happen, and once in awhile what initially looks like the correct station turns out to be the wrong one. That has happened maybe a half dozen times out of over 500 surveyed stations and been caught in the process of QC for assigning a CRN station rating.

The good news is, in looking to verify whether the photos submitted for Manhattan, KS were in fact the correct station, I found a unique tool that has allowed me to create a silver lining in the rain cloud of missed opportunity.

Google Maps has been used before to spot stations, but in this case, a new feature, called “street level views” allowed my not only to spot the station, but to get photos of it without ever leaving my desk!


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Above we see the familiar aerial view from Google Earth, using the lat/lon coordinates from the NCDC MMS database, I was able to spot the Stevenson Screen easily in the grassy area.

The next trick is to measure how close the station is to asphalt, buildings etc to determine it’s CRN rating. For this I use the Google Earth desktop application and the built in measurement tool it provides:


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The closest asphalt was the parking lot to the south, at just over 30 meters. The other roads were well beyond 30 meters from the Stevenson Screen. So initially it looks like this station is a Class 2 (no artificial heating sources within 30 meters).

Next using the Google Street Level View, I was able to get three different angles of the station, thanks to some enterprising student who had driven the special camera around campus.

View looking West:

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View looking SE:

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Looking East:

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In the view looking East, I noted a concrete drainage culvert that I hadn’t noticed on the aerial view. Noting that, I went back to Google Earth’s measurement tool and did a new measurement which you can see below:


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The new measurement to the concrete drainage culvert come sin at 18 meters, which now puts the station in a Class 3 CRN rating (no artificial heating sources within 10 meters)

So there you have it, a complete station survey done entirely by remote web browsing and web applications. While the Google Street Level View tool is very helpful, there will only be a handful of stations that are close enough to a moving camera path to be able to pull this off.

I got lucky.

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9 thoughts on “Surveying USHCN Stations From My Desk

  1. With all the work that you have put into this project, you definitely deserve an “easy” survey every now and then.

  2. Colleges and universities often have people interested in weather and sometimes you can find photos of the station and even the curator through a campus weather station website.

    REPLY: Found that the State Climatologist resides there at KSU, already have her after getting better photos, thanks.

  3. As you may or may not know the KSU campus suffered more than $20 million in damage from a tornado within the last two weeks. Are you sure the sensor is still there? If it is not, will it be replaced in the same location or moved?

    REPLY: According to the state climatologist, still there.

  4. This positioning actually looks like it is about as good as you can get in an urban environment where large heat sinks abound ands there is no large, undeveloped or park space.

  5. You might be able to accomplish something similar using the maps.live.com website and the “birds eye” feature. I don’t think there is a specific “measurement” tool available, but the birdseye feature allows you to look at a site from a variety of angles and could probably allow some very close estimations.

  6. Anthony, just sent an email saying that I quickly tried finding a station that can be surveyed from the comfort of my La-Z-Boy and I did find Decatur, IL after missing out on two other attempts. In this case, maps.live.com had a good aerial shot whereas maps.google.com had nothing of quality. I will try to write Decatur up tonight.

  7. And all this for free over the internet! Ummm, Anthony, how much money did the GISS people say it would cost them to even create a proposal to survey their own equipment??? snicker, snicker, snicker

    Maybe you should send them a friendly note letting them know what’s for free. I assume every one of these stations has a longitude and latitude coordinate???? Punch it in Google Earth ( a separate program you load on your computer via Google) and walla you have your site plan.

    Now that I think of this, these people work for … NASA, the people who put satellites in orbit? Ehem, if they want really fine resolution, they the government, already have the capability to see what color shirt you have on. Think I’m kidding? Look at the google earth pictures of houses and cars parked on the street, I can tell you the color of the car parked on the street. Those pictures were intentionally limited for clarity to 214 ft, you can go closer but the picture gets out of focus when you go lower than this. If they allowed, you could focus enough to tell the make and model of the car.

  8. Google Earth is far better than the maps.live.com site when it comes to the size of the picture and clarity. However, the one advantage of that site is you can save the URL whereas with Google Earth you can’t, you can save the location on the program but you can email the picture and save as a jpg. With google maps straight from google.com you can send a link of the map. Mapquest sucks on the height limitation but you can send an URL.

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