Jim River, AK closed in on the all time record coldest temperature of -80°F set in 1971, which is not only the Alaska all-time record, but the record for the entire United States. Unfortunately, it seems the battery died in the weather station just at the critical moment.
While the continental USA has a mild winter and has set a number of high temperature records in the last week and pundits ponder whether they will be blaming the dreaded “global warming” for those temperatures, Alaska and Canada have been suffering through some of the coldest temperatures on record during the last week.
For example in Circle Hot Springs, AK on Sunday, 29 Jan 2012 the HIGH temperature was a blistering -49°F, breaking the -44°F record which has stood since 1917. It gets better.
That same day in Circle Hot Springs the low temperature was -58°F breaking the old record of -52°F set in 1941 by six degrees.
While all that was happening, the weather station in Jim River, AK closed in on the all time record coldest temperature of -80°F set in 1971. That’s not only the Alaska all-time record, but the record for the entire United States. Unfortunately, the weather station stopped reporting at -79°F.
Here’s the data feed at that moment:
2012-01-28 14:20:00,1028.30,-75.0,-87.6,39,,,1021.19,-55.3,-57.7,85,1.5,155 2012-01-28 14:35:00,1028.00,-77.0,-89.5,39,,,1021.19,-54.2,-65.3,48,1.5,155 2012-01-28 14:50:00,1027.90,-75.0,-87.6,39,,,1021.84,-54.2,-67.8,40,1.5,155 2012-01-28 16:05:00,1027.40,-77.0,-89.5,39,,,1022.74,-57.0,-68.2,47,1.7,160 2012-01-28 16:35:00,1027.10,-77.0,-89.5,39,,,1022.74,-54.6,-59.0,75,1.7,160 2012-01-28 16:51:00,1027.10,-77.0,-89.8,38,,,1022.74,-54.6,-59.0,75,1.7,160 2012-01-28 17:05:00,1027.20,-77.0,-89.5,39,,,1022.10,-56.0,-67.2,47,1.4,163 2012-01-28 17:20:00,1027.20,-77.0,-89.8,38,,,1022.10,-56.0,-67.2,47,1.4,163 2012-01-28 17:49:00,1027.20,-77.0,-89.8,38,,,1022.30,-54.7,-66.0,47,1.4,163 2012-01-28 18:04:00,1027.20,-77.0,-89.8,38,,,1019.33,-55.8,-67.2,47,1.7,174 2012-01-28 18:19:00,1027.10,-79.0,-91.6,38,,,1019.30,-55.8,-71.0,36,1.7,174 2012-01-28 18:34:00,1026.90,-79.0,-91.6,38,,,1019.28,-54.6,-67.9,41,1.7,174 2012-01-28 18:49:00,1026.90,,,,,,1019.30,,,,, 2012-01-28 19:04:00,1026.80,,,,,,1019.39,,,,, 2012-01-28 19:19:00,1026.80,,,,,,1019.39,,,,, 2012-01-28 19:34:00,1026.60,,,,,,1018.84,,,,, 2012-01-28 19:49:00,1026.30,,,,,,1018.84,,,,, 2012-01-28 20:04:00,1026.20,,,,,,1018.45,,,,, 2012-01-28 20:19:00,1026.20,,,,,,1018.46,,,,, 2012-01-28 20:34:00,1025.70,,,,,,1018.46,,,,, 2012-01-28 20:50:00,1025.70,,,,,,1018.46,,,,,
Note at 18:49 on 1/28/12 it stopped reporting all data except barometric pressure.
Some background on the equipment tells us the likely cause.
The station is the venerable Vantage Pro2 by Davis Instruments, arguably one of the best weather stations available to consumers. I have deployed several myself and put them online, for example here and here. They are hardy, accurate, and well constructed, being manufactured in the USA in Hayward, CA instead of some Chinese gadget mill. They also have NIST traceability on sensors.
The Integrated Sensor Suite (ISS) communicates wirelessly with the console below, and the console has an optional PC and/or standalone Internet interface (for DSL/Cable modems) attached.
This station at weather station in Jim River, AK was recording temperatures in conditions way out of its design spec, it only goes to –40 F
Appendix B: Specifications Complete specifications for the ISS and other products are available in the Weather Support section of our website at www.davisnet.com. Cabled ISS Temperature range: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . -40 to 150° Fahrenheit (-40 to 65° Celsius) Power input: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Console Cable from Vantage Pro2 console Optional Vantage Pro2 AC power adapter Wireless ISS Temperature range: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . -40 to 150° Fahrenheit (-40 to 65° Celsius)
While they operate on solar power during the day, these units have an internal lithium battery for operation at night and through extended cloudy periods.
I suspect the internal CR123A Lithium 3 volt battery in the outside ISS died. Note that on 2012-01-28 18:49:00 the data for barometric pressure is still reporting after temperature and other values die. At that temperature, the battery likely could not sustain enough voltage to keep the transmitter running.
The barometric pressure sensor is in the internal LCD console, inside the house/office where the unit is connected to the Internet. All other sensors are outside in the ISS.
3V 1400mAh Lithium BatteryWide operating temperature range: -40°C to 85°C
So it was operating way out of spec as well.
Some people have emailed me wondering about why the readings at Jim River, AK stopped just shy of a new all time record. I don’t see any nefarious motive here, just simple equipment failure under extraordinary extreme conditions combined with Murphy’s Law.
Let’s hope the observer there has a backup thermometer, but who’d want to go outside in cold like that to read it?
h/t to Dr. Ryan Maue and Joe D’Aleo
UPDATE: The NWS in Fairbanks moves quickly to disavow the temperature report. I suppose the Drudge link has the phones ringing off the hook. But here’s the interesting thing, the nearest other “official” station, PAPR at Prospect Creek Airport, AK only 0.9 miles away, is also offline.
Over the last 28 days, no data was seen on the following dates: 2012-01-04 to 2012-01-16, 2012-01-18 to 2012-01-20, 2012-01-22 to 2012-01-29.
It would be interesting to see how they defend an official airport station failure.
NOAK49 PAFG 302352 PNSAFG AKZ219-222-311200- PUBLIC INFORMATION STATEMENT NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE FAIRBANKS AK 252 PM AKST MON JAN 30 2012 ...CLARIFICATION OF TEMPERATURES FROM JIM RIVER DOT CAMP... TEMPERATURES THIS PAST WEEKEND AT THE ALASKA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION JIM RIVER MAINTENANCE CAMP AT MILE 138 DALTON HIGHWAY...STATION JMTA2...HAVE BEEN REPORTED AS LOW AS 79 BELOW. THE TEMPERATURES ARE NOT CORRECT. THE WEATHER STATION IN USE AT THE JIM RIVER DOT CAMP IS A PERSONAL WEATHER STATION THAT IS NOT RATED FOR TEMPERATURE COLDER THAN 40 BELOW. THE UNREALISTICALLY LOW TEMPERATURES ARE BELIEVED TO BE A FUNCTION OF THE BATTERY FAILING AT VERY LOW TEMPERATURES. THERE ARE NO OFFICIAL...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE STANDARD... TEMPERATURE MEASUREMENTS AT JIM RIVER DOT CAMP.$$ RT/JL JAN 12
UPDATE2 1/31/2012 9:30AM PST
According to Gladstone and NCDC MMS, PAPR (Prospect Creek, just 0.9 mile from Jim River DOT station, and holder of the low temperature record from 1971) is an AWOS station, part of the “B” COOP network.
Details on AWOS:
and as I understand it, it is not rated to –80F, the specs for the thermistor say:
Ambient Temperature Sensor.
The sensor shall be thermally isolated in a
motor aspirated radiation shield to accurately measure air temperature.
A. Range. From –40C to +60C (-40 oF t o +140 oF)
B. Accuracy. ±0.3C.
C. Resolution. 1 oF.
So, given the official equipment there at Prospect Creek, it seems NOAA has either purposely or unintentionally created an impossibility of the Prospect Creek record of ever having been broken there again.