Finding well sited weather stations is becoming more difficult

In a little over a year into the project, volunteers have surveyed about 600 stations now, roughly half of the 1221 USHCN climate network. One of the things I had hoped for would be finding more CRN1 and CRN2 rated stations as the Midwest has been surveyed. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be happening, and the number of CRN1/2 stations just isn’t climbing much.

I’m about to publish a significant update to the surfacestations rating, I’m way behind in that work, but have been monitoring new stations, so look for that soon.

Last week I had an inquiry from Frank Perdicaro about a weather station in Los Angeles County, Cogswell reservoir, that looked like it had the potential to be a really well sited station. Situated in the mountains east of the LA basin, it was “miles from everything”, about 6 miles NE of the Mount Wilson observatory, and the road to it was closed to vehicle traffic. It also had a long record. It is a station operated by the Los Angeles Water District, which manages the reservoir.

To see it, you had to hike or bike to get there, because 9/11 closed access to a lot of reservoirs, such as Fairmont, which is a USHCN station that I previously surveyed, but could only do it from aerial photos. I wanted to see what Cogswell looked like, so I put out a call for help on this blog to get it surveyed. Readers Jason Salit and Hyon Min responded, and after discussion as to who was best suited for the job, Hyon hiked up last Sunday to survey the station.

First let us look at where the station is situated on Google Earth:

Cogswell Reservoir is the yellow marker – click for larger image

From a map and satellite image perspective, the station looks quite remote, being in the rugged mountains of the Los Angeles National Forest:

Click for larger image

Google Earth live link is here

But thanks to Hyon, we get a completely different view from the ground:

Click for larger image – note the old style Stevenson Screen with wooden legs.

I really want to thank Hyon for making the hike in, that was above and beyond.

While quite remote, and well removed from Los Angeles’ UHI signature, disappointingly, the Cogswell Reservoir Station is just a few feet from an asphalt driveway and exists in the sole island of human habitation for miles, the office that manages the reservoir and the forest area. The data quality curse that is the requirement for an observer to walk to the station and take a manual measurement strikes again. What could have been a CRN1 or 2 station ended up being a CRN4 due to proximity to asphalt and shading issues.

See more pictures here

Add to that the shade trees, the nearby reservoir level changes, and the changes in nearby infrastructure such as the driveway, who knows what the real climate signal from such a station might be? In fairness I should point out that the primary mission of this station is precipitation monitoring for the LA Water District, but stations like this one, one found by researchers to be away from UHI and having a long unblemished record, often end up as prime candidates for climate science studies. Yet few researchers do any due diligence beyond looking at the data.

There’s a station at the Mt. Heber Ranger Station in the far northeastern part of the state that found it’s way into a study, so did one at the Nevada City Water Treatment plant, and neither are USHCN stations. More on those another day.

Today I had an outing with my wife and children, the first in weeks due to smoke from wildfires. We decided to go to Redding’s Turtle Bay Museum, arboretum and nature center. Thinking I’d get a break from thinking about weather stations for awhile, I found myself assaulted with this right next to the butterfly exhibit:

The sign says “Mosquito Meteorology”. Curious, I read it only to discover that this is station used to monitor weather conditions for the local Mosquito Control District. They placed it at the Turtle Bay nature center so that it could be used as a “teaching tool”.

Great. Let’s teach the kids about measuring weather and how temperature affects the mosquito vector and breeding cycle. Only one problem, this station has a lot of potential biases.

Note the galvanized sheet metal used to prevent kids from climbing the tower. It was hot to the touch in the midday sun and only a few inches from the temperature and humidity sensor. There’s quite a bit of surface area there on that metal sheet. Note also the black mold in the Gill shield for the temperature and humidity sensor. Then we have the trees, fast growing “Digger pines” that enclose the space around the station which exists now ina  clearing just outside the nature center. They probably weren’t an issue 15 years ago. But now they bias not only the temperature sensor, but also the wind sensors, and the rainfall record, all of which are important to the science of mosquito vector control.

I wonder how long it has been since the mosquito control folks have visited this station to see it’s condition? What have we learned here kids? Out of sight, out of mind, as long as it produces data, don’t worry.

Ok, the drive home I had another “weather station assault” when our drive down Highway 99 took us past the Wilson Landing Fire Station. Out of the corner of my eye I got a glimpse of a Stevenson Screen, which surprised me, since I “thought” this COOP station had been closed years ago when NOAA closed the Redding NWS forecast office. This is at Butte County Fire Station #41 at 13871 State Highway 99 near the town of Nord.

Doing a U-turn I went in to investigate. I found the station still in operation:

Click for a larger image

More photos here

It was used by the Redding NWS office for forecast performance checks, mainly for rainfall. I know this because a similar station operated by Redding WSFO was a few miles down the road at my own TV and radio station, which was also discontinued when Redding WSFO closed.

The station now serves the California Department of Forestry fire division with weather info, even though it is just a few feet from a building, asphalt and dumpster.

The paint and roof of the station Stevenson Screen is also in really bad shape:

It is nice to see that they place equal importance on weather data with the trash. I can just imagine the dialog at the fire station:

Hey Probie!


Take out the trash! …and while you are at it, read the weather station and write it down in the logbook!

Yeah OK…

Ah, science.

As I said, it is getting harder to find well sited weather stations these days. Such scenes as demonstrated above are the norm, not the exception.

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Mike Bryant
August 3, 2008 8:03 pm

Hopefully the weather satellites will be better maintained.

Leon Brozyna
August 3, 2008 8:24 pm

You have got to be a CRN3/4/5 magnet.
And this LA site is another proof of the need to go out and actually eyeball a site up close and personal and not from Google Earth (or look and see how pretty the data is and assume the station’s viable).
And another thing – is there some sort of aversion to siting stations on or near grass?

Evan Jones
August 3, 2008 9:43 pm

Well I guess that means NOAA was right.
After all if there aren’t enough well sited stations for even half a sample then how can anyone prove the others are wrong?
Now all they have to do now is get that inconvenient CRN project canceled (the funds obviously need to be diverted for carbon cap promotion).

Evan Jones
August 3, 2008 9:44 pm

And another thing – is there some sort of aversion to siting stations on or near grass?
Ask Yilmaz et al (2008).

Mike Bryant
August 3, 2008 10:03 pm

I almost hate to say this… but do we have any assurance that the CRN 1 stations that have been audited are still in good shape? Oh well It won’t take long to check again since there are so few of them.
Warmer climates, warmer people,
Mike Bryant

David L. Hagen
August 3, 2008 11:06 pm

I have seen some graphs showing that the “global warming” trend is a strong function of the size of the metropolis or county where the measurement is taken.
E.g., see Fig 15 in Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide ARTHUR B. ROBINSON, NOAH E. ROBINSON, ANDWILLIE SOON, citing data from:
51. Goodridge, J. D. (1996) Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc. 77, 3-4; Goodridge, J. D. (1998) private comm.
52. Christy, J. R. and Goodridge, J. D. (1995) Atm. Envirn. 29, 1957-1961.
Have any similar analyses been made using your classified stations?

Bobby Lane
August 3, 2008 11:21 pm

I am struck by the apparent observation that nobody else seems to have such emphasis on quality control of data as do you. It is rather odd, given that scientists are supposed to be meticulous and obsessed with the quality of data in order to best support trends and theories derived from it. With over half of the nation’s stations surveyed and the majority posting a failing grade according to your conditions for such, I think some sort of warning should be put out. I don’t know the category of danger you would put it in (though the drought scale seems to be a good one to borrow – I live in western NC where we are under Extreme Drought, futher north and east it is just “Severe.” How nice.), but the overall average state of the stations so far would put the US Climate Network in to serious jeopardy as it regards the accuracy of transmitted data.
What do you think, Anthony?
REPLY: I think quality control is an inconvenient excercise in a results oriented “publish or perish” academic world. Same goes for data archiving. Ask Briffa or Lonnie Thompson.

Bobby Lane
August 3, 2008 11:24 pm

Minor correction.
With about half, not over half.

August 3, 2008 11:42 pm

Real scientists are skeptical of data quality. I wonder if the large number of computer jockeys aka ‘modelers’ moving into the climate field has degraded the level of skepticism about data. Computer modelers have in general struck me as being too focussed on what comes out of the computer, rather than on what goes in. GIGO.

August 4, 2008 1:55 am

I am struck by the apparent observation that nobody else seems to have such emphasis on quality control of data as do you.

Its actually worse than that. On AGW blogs like Rabbett or Tamino, the whole project of taking a physical look at where the evidence is coming from is ridiculed. It is a really weird state of mind that these guys are in. If we ever are going to get to a proper account of surface temperatures, this will have been a very valuable and necessary stimulus to it. Its obvious and shameful that without this prodding the agencies involved would never have cleaned up the network.

August 4, 2008 4:44 am

It’s actually a moral issue.
Climate alarmists demand that billions of people suffer degraded living standards over the next 50-100 years. The impoverished will continue to die prematurely from hunger and disease, if the policies promoted by the alarmists are enacted.
But the alarmist “scientists” can’t be expected to actually check the data or check each other’s work. They are too busy telling the billions that they have to die early. Aren’t they special?

George M
August 4, 2008 5:44 am

And again, as per my last post, what’s science got to do with it? Brett_McS (23:42:20) nails it right on with the computer jockey comment, and fred (01:55:10) winds it up with the disconnect between the “scientists” and the data sources. This is sure not the way we did it way back when I was a practicing physicist for a living.

August 4, 2008 5:59 am

If weather stations are thought to be more important, they’ll get more funding. They might get better siting, but eventually someone will think their importance and inconvenient location require a driveway and sidewalk. Can’t have the important weather repairman take proper care of the instruments without being able to park the important repair truck nearby, and safety requires the important repairman not be walking around on wet grass.

August 4, 2008 8:27 am

I am amazed by the results of you enquiry! It would be nice if you kept a scoreboard of the number of
Not evaluated
This would neatly summurize your work up to date to everyone, and keep us on our toes for the following results. Keep up the good work!

August 4, 2008 11:23 am

I agree it would be good to see a running tally at the top.
You can find the info you want at the home page for Surface Stations. It has a map and pie chart on it. (See the right side bar under Blog Roll).
Near the top you’ll see:
USHCN Station List HTML and XLS files have been updated as of 4/18/08
Click on the link and you go here for details. Scroll down to the bottom for total numbers. Of the 534 out of 687 stations surveyed, these are the results currently posted:
CRN=5: 70 (13%)
CRN=4: 289 (55%)
CRN=3: 96 (18%)
CRN=2: 48 (9%)
CRN=1: 23 (4%)

Bill in Vigo
August 4, 2008 11:28 am

fred (01:55:10) :
Its obvious and shameful that without this prodding the agencies involved would never have cleaned up the network
They haven’t cleaned it up they have just continued to stonewall and claim that they can correct for the short falls. The fallacy of this position is that they have no idea what the shortfalls are or what impact they have on the measurements. I often wonder how we ever let our science get in this mess? Perhaps when we allow agenda to overcome sensibility this happens.
Our leading authorities seem to be more involved in promoting an agenda than anything else.
Keep up the good work Anthony and your traveling volunteers.
Bill Derryberry

August 4, 2008 6:57 pm

Thanks to Hyon for hiking in to give us the details and thanks to Frank Perdicaro for making the inquiry. It is nice to know some people want to set things right.

Evan Jones
August 4, 2008 7:13 pm

David: In case you are interested the results are, according to NOAA/CRN standards, using their low estimates, the temperatures are running almost exactly 2.0°C warmer than they should be.
But have no fear. The NOAA adjusts for this. (They add over 0.4°C to the raw numbers. Yes, add. No, you didn’t read that wrong, I did say add. Yup, add.)

old construction worker
August 4, 2008 7:50 pm

The same people who adjust the land surface temperature are the big supporters of the “CO2 drives the climate” theory.
The adjustment have never been independently validated or verified.
Conflict of interest, you bet.

Steve Keohane
August 4, 2008 8:38 pm

Evan, I come up with a minimum of 2.259 °C, of error for the population, not a big difference. Adding the absurdment, I mean adjustment, and converting to °F we get a nice warm delta of 4.8°F for the US. Close or ignore 2/3rds of the global measuring stations, and estimate like hell wherever one can and tada! anthropomorphic climate change. It’s all in the numbers. All this time I couldn’t bring myself to believe in AGW, and there it is.

Tim Lindt
September 7, 2008 11:01 pm

if i had the time i could, ” spill white wash ” on the black tar parking lots at these stations and, tada! green house (paved lots) warming fixed!!!!!!!
good greaf
we are all in trouble folks.

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