NWS station at Corinna, Maine: same old problems, now with global impact

In Anthony’s recent post about the new snowfall records, the record high at Jal, New Mexico caught his eye. I live in New Hampshire, so the lonely red dot in Maine caught my eye. I’ve never been fond of this data, and several of the records I’ve looked into are from sites that are relatively new or places I’ve never heard of, and there’s little to justify faith in the data. For example, that Jal NM record, 96°F, may simply be 69°F transposed.

The Maine dot turned out to be in a town of 2100 people or so, Corinna. Never heard of it, but they probably never heard of the even smaller town I live in, so that’s okay. The record they set was 49°F on 2/16. That day the NWS station in Bangor reported 31°F and a private weather station in Corinna just a mile to the east that seems pretty reasonable reported 33°F. Clearly that 49 is wrong. Corinna is an important enough site so the NWS has older data for it, and several other data look just as bad, like the 59°F on 2/1. (Bangor 29°F, Wunderground 24°F.)

[Update: I’m always afraid when dealing with data that doesn’t make sense that I may have missed something. Indeed I did. I’ll have a further update tonight, in the meantime see my comment below for a very important point.]

Okay, small station in the woods, but important enough for the NWS to track it. That helps. So, exactly where is the station? Hey, here’s something with good resolution which leads me to:


Google shows an arrow close to a white smudge that could be a Stevenson Screen that’s too close to the building to the north. It’s also too close to lagoons surrounded by trees. Trees are okay, but lagoons are red flags. No nearby river for draining treated sewage, but a quick check with Google yields a page with an aerial photo of the same lagoons. It is a waste water treatment plant that doesn’t dump into the river, they spray the output on the trees! That’s okay, there has even been research looking into spraying untreated sewage on to plants. What does that spraying do to the temperature readings? That may not be okay, but I need to see if they do that in the winter.

I was curious about the station history, and from Anthony’s link for Jal, I found the official metadata for Corinna:

Metadata for the NWS Corinna weather station

I had seen the “USHCN” tag on some other pages. This struck me as odd, but with data going back to 1948, I began to worry that someone might think this is a good rural site to add to the USHCN.

I found a user friendly USHCN interface which listed Corinna, then found a FTP list of USHCN V2.5 stations which clinched it. Anthony confirmed it’s not in the V1 or V2 lists, so Corinna is a new addition.

Wow, just wow. Excuse me for a moment.

Why the heck is this station in the USHCN? Hasn’t the NCDC learned anything since the start of the Surfacestations.org project? Yeah, I know the station has a long record (likely what attracted them in the first place) but why oh why didn’t anyone look at the siting before promoting a station with what looks like an awful, awful recent record to a position with global influence?

Thanks, I feel better now. There could still be a significant problem with an equipment malfunction, insert rant about using broken equipment in the official (or preliminary) record here.

Now that we’re talking about a world class station, some things I had brushed away deserve more attention. The BEST folks have data for Corinna going back to 1870, but they also seem to be conflating Orono Maine with Corinna. We would write a whole new post about that page. Suffice it to say they think the temperature data has gone down since the last move in 2005, and after adjusting for that they come up with a steeper temperature climb on a graph with the Y scale stretched by a factor of 3. Why did they do that to the Y axis?

BEST: Corinna (adjusted)

At the very least, the BEST data reminds me that all this comes from one obviously bogus high temperature record. Going back to that, there are many questions to look into:

  • Is that record a fluke, e.g. a data entry error?

    Probably not, is there are several others, at least in Feb 2013. There are a lot of other months to check!

  • Could false warming due to the winter effluent offset false cooling from summertime effluent evaporation?

    Perhaps, it might explain why the BEST data may not show the problem.

  • And what about the transpirational cooling in the summer from all those trees?
  • And all the stations BEST uses as the standard.

    We should vet those.

  • What other surprises are in the USHCN list?

    I don’t have time to do surfacestations.org V2.5….

  • The MMS database says the last site change was in 1991, but the wastewater plant didn’t open until 2005.

    I might know who to talk to about that.

  • What impact does Corinna have on the global temperature?

    Probably very little. What about the other new stations? An error here, an error there and pretty soon you have a worthless database.

  • What has the NCDC learned from other ill-sited stations and the Surfacestations project?

    Well, umm, nothing comes to mind.

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February 24, 2013 6:24 pm

Funneling artificially high temps into the world calculations: This isn’t a bug, it’s a feature!

February 24, 2013 6:42 pm

as the old saying goes… crap in, crap out.

February 24, 2013 6:43 pm

Ric, better to call it “Berkeley” data rather “BEST” because the latter preserves the misconception that it is superior data when in fact it is just another version of fish stew. Perhaps more well-cooked than others but stew nonetheless.

February 24, 2013 6:56 pm

Look at the satellite data for a less fraudulent read. Or look outside. Interesting, on Feb 13th the Telegraph ran this story: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/topics/weather/9867113/Last-snows-of-winter-expected-to-herald-coming-of-spring.html
Today, the headline story is: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/topics/weather/9889797/Winter-here-to-stay-as-snow-falls-across-the-country.html

February 24, 2013 7:01 pm

The sad part about this is:
they do not learn; they do not make any effort [apparently] to improve their data [other than homogenizing upward].
What a sorry commentary on the state of “climate science”.
The end is nigh for these charlatans. I see that the UK media are now fighting back about failed windmill policy.

February 24, 2013 7:02 pm

I have noticed something that I wish would attract the attention of somebody that knows how to look into it.
The Nebraska metropolis of Norfolk (pronounced “North Fork” in sort of a slur) is about 100 miles northwest of here (Occupied Elkhorn) shows up in the NEW! HEAT! RECORDS! here pretty frequently and I’d like to understand why.
The RECORDS! are either new high highs, or new high lows.
I assume this is where the wx gadget is, and I don’t see anything that looks changed, (Doesn’t look very good to me, but changes are what I was looking for.
It is rare to see record lows even when they occur, and one of the PWS stations here in OE used to report way high — I stopped looking at it.
But nobody else around reports any records at all much– just Norfolk.

February 24, 2013 7:03 pm

I think there is another 4-5 sited one in Farmington Falls, ME. We drove by it while looking for moose the last day of LobsterFest. It is on a grass isthmus within 30 feet of US Hwy 2 if I remember correctly. I looped back and took a picture. The sign in the picture says NOAA Centennial Station US Weather Service Earth Station No 17,2765.2 Farmington, Maine 04938. I hope it is not official, because the site kind of astounded me.
[Reply: If you Google |nws station 172765| the first hit is a surprisingly useful site hosted by the State Climate Office of North Carolina, see http://www.nc-climate.ncsu.edu/cronos/?station=172765 . However, that station seems to have data from 1893 to 1969. The “.2” suggests a later station, but I don’t see that off hand. The coordinates may not be high resolution, but go to https://maps.google.com/maps?q=44.68889+n+70.15667+w
If I do things right and use the MMS database, the station is flagged as current, has those coordinates and is also a USHCN station. It’s listed at surfacestations.org as a station that hasn’t been reviewed.
If you can scan the photo and send it to me, I’ll add it to the post.

February 24, 2013 7:08 pm

Is there an attribute in the surfacestations database to enter and rank by “stink”?
The macrosite features make this station’s records smell worse than fishy.

February 24, 2013 7:10 pm

Thanks, Ric. Good reporting!

February 24, 2013 7:13 pm

“could be a Stevenson Screen”? Why don’t you just phone them to verify? And if it is, just ask them to move it to a proper location?
[Reply: I intend to call. There’s a name and phone number on one of the wastewater pages. I didn’t call Saturday because it was late when the pieces started falling together (or is that falling apart?) I didn’t call today because I don’t have time to write the post in the upcoming week. And there was 15″ of snow to deal with. And it was the weekend. I’ll try to call tomorrow, but I expect whoever I talk to won’t have much to say about the station but may be happy to chat about spraying treated sewage.
I did send Email to the NWS’ Caribou office, but haven’t heard back. I’ll send them an update, at the time I thought Corinna was just some minor station.

Paul Linsay
February 24, 2013 7:13 pm

The ground based thermometers do not form a scientific instrument, period. They can never be one because the local environment, as shown over and over, is part of each measuring station. Despite the claims and attempts, there is no way of correcting for this because there is no physical theory that can be applied to the data to remove the effect of local environmental changes. Every attempt, like homogenization, is just an ad hoc model of doubtful validity.

February 24, 2013 7:39 pm

Ric Werme
Suffice it to say they think the temperature data has gone down since the last move in 2005,
I was reading the history of the lagoon from the article you linked to and the spraying of trees thing apparently started in…. 2005.

Neil Jordan
February 24, 2013 8:04 pm

Sewage, raw or treated, will be at roughly room temperature of higher. I would suspect that temperatures around the lagoons or spray areas would be higher than ambient absent the sewage. After a light snow or frost on the streets, check out the manhole covers. They will be thawed islands. One of my tasks in the engineering department of a small town where they had paved over and lost many manholes was to drive around whenever there was snow or frost and identify and mark thawed circles on the pavement. In better weather, these areas would be cut out and the manhole frames would be lifted to street grade.

Theo Goodwin
February 24, 2013 8:04 pm

Evan Bedford says:
February 24, 2013 at 7:13 pm
‘“could be a Stevenson Screen”? Why don’t you just phone them to verify? And if it is, just ask them to move it to a proper location?”‘
This station, if it is one, is not interesting just because of its peculiar problems but because it is yet another example of NWS’ failure to properly manage its weather stations. After Anthony created surfacestations.org, this sort of thing should no longer happen.

February 24, 2013 8:05 pm

If the station reports 49 and the surrounding stations report in the mid 30s, that days
values will be flagged by the outlier detection and either be removed or downweighted.
Of course some here criticized the method of throwing out outliers. You basically cant win.
Leave the bad raw data in and people bitch. detect it and throw it out, people bitch.
[Reply: They could also fix the station. I suspect from some of the readings I saw that it’s a sensor problem. Fixing broken stations hasn’t been a NWS strong point. -Ric]

February 24, 2013 8:10 pm

A lot of biological activity happens in a waste water lagoon generating quit a bit of heat. On top of that green algae which is a saturation levels, absorbs a great deal of solar energy, farther heating the water.

February 24, 2013 8:23 pm

The more decaying sewage, the more heat? Logical. What would you call that? SHI?
( people might get confused as to exactly what that S stands for though ) ☺

N. Ash
February 24, 2013 8:29 pm

Interestingly enough, I tried to look up that anomalous TN heat record, but Waynesboro, TN keeps defaulting to the Muscle Shoals, North West Alabama Regional Airport, AL several miles to the south ( http://wx.hamweather.com/?config=&forecast=zandh&pands=WAYNESBORO%2CTN&Submit=GO ). So already I am not surprised at the unusual high temp record surrounded by several low temp records. I may also have located the weather station in question at ( https://maps.google.com/maps?q=34.7453056,+-87.6102222 ).

February 24, 2013 9:58 pm

The microclimate effects of changes in land use surrounding the weather stations should be easy to detect. They are often step changes.
I worked out that something was afoot just by a recent up-tick in average temperatures at an agricultural research station near my home. A waste water treatment plant on an adjacent plot had been expanded for trials of treated waste water injection into the superficial aquifer.
Minimum temperatures rose very sharply. Maximum temperatures were higher too, but did not rise as sharply. That is in line with the increases water vapour content and surface heating one expects near a large surface, shallow area of water — which wasn’t there previously.

February 24, 2013 10:00 pm

My guess is that there is significant warmth generated by the process used at this waste water plant. It looks like a self cleaning type of system using bacteria or some type of organic mixture. That is sure to generator heat as the mixture eats the scum.
Could be wrong since I am not an expert.

February 24, 2013 10:16 pm

Nice post. Wasn’t it the famous burn barrel story that introduced you to WUWT? It really does look as though nothing has been learned.
[Reply: Burn barrels from some of the early surface station finds? I first came across Surfacestations, then quickly found my way to WUWT and was a bit sorry to have missed the “early” days before 2008 🙂 I was around during Anthony’s visit to NCDC and their praise for his work. Their comparison to what it would take to launch a project like that themselves was not surprising. However, I thought the point had registered and they’d be more careful choosing sites in the future. I seem to be wrong…. – Ric]

February 24, 2013 10:41 pm

I forgot to mention: waste water lagoons, like these are normally aerated.

Tom Harley
February 24, 2013 11:26 pm

Warwick Hughes has a new post up on UHI that is worth a look http://www.warwickhughes.com/blog/?p=2120

jonny old boy
February 25, 2013 12:27 am

I live 3 miles from a waste water plant. One morning I drove past it, there was a hard ground/air frost visible on my entire drive, apart from within 50 yards of the plant, there was NO frost anywhere near it. These processes generate an enormous amount of heat. A lot of the material in the tanks also was warm before it got there so the ground conduction of heat is also significant. No one in their right mind would look for “average” temperatures next to a plant like this…

February 25, 2013 2:56 am

In the days before the ‘AGW’ bandwagon , this type of problem really did not matter. For everyone accepted that weather being chaotic was hard to predict and in the end the actual cost of getting forecast wrong was mostly not a big deal .
Its only now with ‘the cause’ and its claims of ‘settled science’ , predicted temperatures 50 years ahead to two decimal places and building policies that have massive effects on peoples live that on this house of cards . That people are asking just how good is the data to start with , and they are finding all of these problems .
Science 101 , your data is only ever has good has the means you collect it by , but has in many ways ‘climate science’ fails to even recognise even some of the basic elements of the ‘scientific approach’

February 25, 2013 3:14 am

I called out the honey dipper last winter to clean my septic system. It was easy to find the septic tank because it was the place in the yard where you could sink a shovel in the ground. The rest of the yard was solid due to ice.
For purposes of investigating climate it would be much better if ground temperatures were recorded in a standardized way.

February 25, 2013 3:18 am

To make matters worse, Ric, the metadata shows the site moved to the waste treatment plant in 1986. Before that it was 3 miles away, and at a higher altitude.
[Reply: Oh, I never got around to clicking on other things on that page, thanks. Some of the changes listed on the locations page are siting refinements (thank you GPS). One thing that’s unclear is that the whole treatment plant moved from near the river east (note the longitude, ignore the latitude) to the lagoon/spray site in 2005. -Ric]

February 25, 2013 4:22 am

Find out what year the treatment plant was built and discard the data henceforth. There are/were (if memory serves me correctly) USDA (Potato) experiment stations in the area and they must have been collecting data as well. The USDA has a forest research station in somewhat nearby.
They may have collected data as well.
john from DB

February 25, 2013 4:29 am

@DesertYote – They wouldn’t necessarily be aerated – they look more like final settling ponds, or emergency retention ponds…
And I can confirm, having worked in WW treatment for 8 years: in the winter, if you were out and felt a little cold, you went near or out on ponds like these- there’s more than enough heat there to keep you warm.
While I didn’t spray the wastewater on the trees, I would imagine that it would release all that heat quite quickly, and raise the temp (and humidity) of the area by quite a significant amount. If the station records humidity, you should check for that as well.

February 25, 2013 4:54 am

not awful far from me here in Etna, 15 miles by air or so. lot longer driving though.
I was 28-30 or so here iirc, local weather stations ran around 30.
be very leery of the Bangor (KBGR) one, its often 3-4 deg F warmer especially in summer.
KMECORIN3 in Corinna reported around 33 for a high that day.

Bad Andrew
February 25, 2013 5:54 am

“You basically cant win.”
Perhaps that’s because you are trying to use devices that are not designed for what you want to use them for.

February 25, 2013 6:36 am

Did anyone else notice the black lagoon liners in the picture ?

February 25, 2013 8:00 am

Regarding the reply from the Northeast Regional Climate Center on time of day observations, what’s the impact on homogenization? This seems to happily mix station data willy-nilly, and if the TOD observations are this far off, then this is another source of error. Maybe a significant source of error.

Silver Ralph
February 25, 2013 9:14 am

Careful about using Wunderground data.
I went to Mexico City in Jan 2012, and Wunderground said it would be 32 degrees c for the whole week. Great, so I did not take a jacket. Got there, and it was 15 degrees c for the whole week.
Cost me a new jacket.
Wunderground were kind enough to acknowledge their error, without saying why it happened. But my guess is that they had not subtracted the city’s altitude from their general forecast data.

Theo Goodwin
February 25, 2013 9:30 am

Ric Werme says:
February 25, 2013 at 6:21 am
Sooo, Mr. Climatologist, why do the stations have different reporting times? Please answer that question and I will give you the next in a long list of questions.
The larger question that I want answered is “What are NWS’ criteria for treating two station readings as comparable?” We know that NWS ignores altitude, humidity, and all features of the local environment. That is shameful enough. Are you telling me now that you also ignore time of day? (You can take readings at different times but you must explain why.)
No other science or near-science is anywhere near this sloppy.

February 25, 2013 10:10 am

it WAS in the 40’s here on 2-15

Rhoda R
February 25, 2013 12:57 pm

TOD question aside, why is a temperature guage set withing a waste treatment envelope? How could that location NOT affect temp readings?

February 25, 2013 5:14 pm

Ric – Pics on their way to the NH email.

February 25, 2013 5:16 pm

Ripogenus Dam weather data would probably be much better.

Steve Thatcher
February 26, 2013 5:24 am

I hope when they’re spraying they keep it away from the fan. Oops too late.
Steve T

February 26, 2013 12:36 pm

Steven Mosher said “Leave the bad raw data in and people bitch. detect it and throw it out, people bitch.” Yup, everybody likes a different flavor of fish stew. But it’s still fish stew and not filet mignon.

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