NOAA Expands Monitoring Network

NOAA will install the last nine of the 114 stations as part of its new, high-tech climate monitoring network. The stations track national average changes in temperature and precipitation trends. The U.S. Climate Reference Network (CRN) is on schedule to activate these final stations by the end of the summer.

NOAA also is modernizing 1,000 stations in the Historical Climatology Network (HCN), a regional system of ground-based observing sites that collect climate, weather, and water measurements. NOAA's goal is to have both networks work in tandem to feed consistently accurate, high-quality data to scientists studying climate trends.

The CRN is helping to pinpoint the shifts in America's changing, often unpredictable, climate. "We're entering a new age of understanding climate change, by adding more sound, reliable data about what's really happening in the atmosphere and on the ground," said Tom Karl, Ph.D., director of NOAA's National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.

"Very high accuracy in the data collected is the key to getting a feel for the national trend. That's what the Climate Reference Network is doing," he said.

Each CRN station logs real-time measurements of surface temperature, precipitation, wind speed and solar radiation. NOAA's geostationary satellites relay the data from these ground-based stations to NCDC, which posts the observations online.

The modernization of the HCN's aging equipment will enhance the extent of America's premiere data source for tracking regional climate variations and trends. The modernization, which began November 2006, will follow a "climate-region" approach, starting with a pilot project in the Southwest, where 140 sites will be revamped. HCN sites will be equipped with a new temperature and precipitation sensor that will complement the CRN, with precise regional climate data.

Data gathered by those existing HCN stations that were located in less-than-ideal areas have been statistically corrected in the analysis of climate trends routinely reported by NOAA. Though some individual stations were placed in less-than-ideal areas, these data anomalies did not significantly alter overall climate measurements. The modernization will relocate these stations in areas that are closer to ideal.

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