How not to measure temperature, part 67

Guest Post by Russ Steele


After a two day search for the Buffalo Bill Dam Stevenson Screen listed in the NCDC Data base as COOP 4871175, Ellen and I found this surface station at the old power plant in a non-public area. On our first day, we went to the visitors center, which is where Google Earth placed the cross hairs for the coordinates listed in the NCDC data base. The visitor center staff said no weather station there, and suggested we contact the Department Interior, Bureau of Reclamation at the new power house below the dam.

The dam is west of Cody, Wyoming.

I could not find any sign of the site at the new power plant, the gate was locked and they were not answering the phone, so I hiked around the site snapping pictures for farther analysis.


I also called Anthony Watts, and he provided some clues from the Buffalo Bill Dam Visitor Center web site and some satellite photos he had access to. In the Google Earth photos the old power house is in total shadow.  So Ellen and I went back to the catwalk on top of the dam Wednesday with some high powered binoculars and a camera and looked down river toward the old powerhouse, and  we spotted the shelter on top of a stone wall at the edge of the river all swaddled in mist.


Click for larger image

Here is a photo from the walk way along the top of the dam.  I can not imagine a worse place for a USCHN weather station. It is located in a very narrow canyon, with long shadows. It is surrounded by stone building heat sinks except on the river side. Here on the river it is exposed to waters of varying temperatures, cold in spring and winter, warm in summer and fall as the river flows vary with the season. The level of spray also varies, depending on river flow. During high flows the spillway creates a lot of spray. During low water conditions, the only water flow is through the two power houses, one which is a mile down stream. Very little spray.  We know that the amount of water vapor in the air has a big impact on temperatures, and here it varies by season and river flow.


Stevenson Screen Photo was taken from far right on this catwalk, looking down river


Here is an Average Temperature plot from 1905 to 2006.


NOTE: Thanks Russ, for your persistence. What a bizarre place to put a climate monitoring station. Had I not found this tiny photo on the Buffalo Bill Dam website, we probably would never have found it.

Shoshone Power Plant

Another “high quality” USHCN station for sure- Anthony

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July 15, 2008 7:53 am

3rd line from the beginning – the station was found in a non-PUBIC area?
Well thank heavens for that, I’d hate to consider the reverse!!!
(great work, btw)

July 15, 2008 7:53 am

old power plant in a non-pubic area?

Let’s hope he never finds a Stevenson screen in a pubic area!

Dan Evens
July 15, 2008 8:03 am

“Public” not “pubic” please.
Please delete when fixed.

Chris D.
July 15, 2008 8:29 am

Nice work, Russ. Placement right on concrete. Judging from the overhead view and other images you’ve shown, it looks like the door to the shelter may be facing the northwest, which, if true, would be another variance from the norm.

July 15, 2008 8:57 am

Wow, that’s a great one. Yet more evidence that the surface data is unusable. How could you possibly accurately adjust for all the things wrong with this placement?

John B
July 15, 2008 9:04 am

What city and state is this?

July 15, 2008 9:16 am

Did HadCRUT at .314 for June 08 really come in higher than GISS at 26?

Walt T
July 15, 2008 9:20 am

Buffalo Bill Dam is located west of Cody, WY which was not mentioned in the

Leon Brozyna
July 15, 2008 9:32 am

Out of curiosity, I went to NCDC to check out info on the site. Shows COOP 481175 as starting 1 Aug 48. The dam itself was only completed in 1910. Also checked out the list of other sites in Park Country, WY and couldn’t find any sites listed as existing for any period starting 1905.
Where did they derive data from for the period 1905 to 1948?

July 15, 2008 9:47 am

Yes, great persistence by Russ.
“What a bizarre place to put a climate monitoring station.” To be fair, this is a temperature monitoring station inappropriately used for climate research. It would be interesting to see relative humidity and river water temperatures over the same period.

Richard deSousa
July 15, 2008 10:00 am

Dan Evens…. I think Lucia was being funny in her perverse little way… 😉

July 15, 2008 10:06 am

“on top of a stone wall at the edge of the river all swaddled in mist.”
I’m so glad I wasn’t sipping my Coke when I read that line.

Mike K
July 15, 2008 10:06 am

I’ll bet this is a “rural” station based on night satellite images, so it must be “high quality.”
Clark said: Yet more evidence that the surface data is unusable.
That’s not true. Hansen knows how to adjust it without even seeing the site!

Leon Brozyna
July 15, 2008 10:39 am

Mystery solved — sort of.
I found and went to the USHCN web site. When checking for daily data I ended up with a plot running from {default} 1948 to 2005.
But, when I checked for monthly data, I found the plot shown above. So, how could there be data on a monthly basis from before 1948, when no data is shown for before that date on a daily basis?

July 15, 2008 10:57 am

COOP 4871175 teleconnects very well with Alice Springs Austrailia. Using that info, we can adjust the temperatures any way we see fit… I’m really getting a handle on this climate science stuff. As a matter of fact, I’m thinking of opening up my own online climate science school. PHDs awarded in 2 months!

July 15, 2008 10:59 am

“The money for this erection was raised by pubic subscription.” Delightful architecture though.

M White
July 15, 2008 11:00 am

Off topic. Just heard about this on the radio. ‘Explorer bids to kayak to ‘melting’ North Pole.’ Leaves from Norway’s Svalbard islands on August 29, heading north across the Arctic Ocean to the North Pole, kayaking up cracks in the ice.
He said ‘Failure would equals success’

Pierre Gosselin
July 15, 2008 11:10 am

If there was a contest called “Who can find the most poorly sited station” Russ would be clearly in the lead.
REPLY: Oh, I don’t know, check out the latest entry on the main page – Anthony

July 15, 2008 12:42 pm

That kayak guy must be seriously nuts. He has got at most about 6 weeks to paddle 3,000 km from to the Pole and back, if he is lucky. Even if he could find polynyas all the way (which he won’t) he will still have to factor in a lot of detours. In practice he will have to pull that kayak across a lot of ice, including pressure ridges. But of course that support boat may be an ice-breaker.
I also tend to doubt the extent his arctic experience. He is going to “outpace” polar bears with a kayak? Somehow I have a feeling he has never seen a running polar bear reasonably close-up. But avoiding walruses should be very simple. Since they live on molluscs they pry loose from the bottom they don’t occur in deep ocean, in contrast to other seals.

James S
July 15, 2008 2:15 pm

This really must be the worst “official” climate station out there.
I wonder how dark it is at night as well – I wouldn’t be too surprised to find out that this is a “rural” station!

July 15, 2008 2:16 pm

Yes, the kayak guy, who covered all the bases: “Failure would equal success.”
For some reason that statement reminded me of my favorite quotable politician, Dan Quayle: “We are ready for any unforeseen event that may or may not occur.”
O/T, but fun: clicky

July 15, 2008 2:40 pm

I’ve personally had problems with Google Earth for finding good arial views of local temperature stations. I’ve started using MapQuest as they will accept lat/long coordinates. But the listing from the NOAA MMS site puts the Buffalo Bill Dam site in the middle of the lake.
Use aerial view and view level 14.

Mike C
July 15, 2008 5:27 pm

Pierre Gosselin (11:10:38 ) :
“If there was a contest called “Who can find the most poorly sited station” Russ would be clearly in the lead.”
“REPLY: Oh, I don’t know, check out the latest entry on the main page – Anthony”
I doubt that you will find one worse than Lewiston, Maine… in a UHI, violates every NWS reg (including a barbecue and an air conditioner) AND the rain gage is under a tree.

Gary Gulrud
July 16, 2008 1:32 pm

Wow, Anthony’s volunteers sure possess an Indy spirit!

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