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:
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?
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.