Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Agassiz Valley Weather Station

Mark Ewens, National Weather Service

When I toured Beltrami Island State Park several months ago,  I noticed they had an an official National Weather Service (NWS) weather station on-site.  I asked Gretchen Mehmel, how do you get one of those?  You have to join the "Cooperative Weather Observer Program," she said.  And she gave me the name and phone number.

I called and talked with Mark Ewens, the program manager.  I recognized his name from WDAZ-TV news.  When there's severe weather, he's one of the NWS spokespersons.  Mark said he'd have to do some paperwork and he'd get back to me once he got the required approval.

It took awhile, but he finally came out today to install the equipment:  a maximum-minimum thermometer and 8" diameter rain gauge.

I had no idea what to expect.  Mark knew exactly what to do. 

First he took a walk around the site, now known as Agassiz Valley weather station #80 in Minnesota.  He found a perfect location for the rain gauge and pounded the base into the ground.  The thermometer would take more time and effort.

trenching and burying the cable

installing a pole for the thermometer

connecting the cable

Bringing the cable indoors

Cables connected - we have temperature!

Before he left, Mark showed us how to collect the data and uplink it.  Nation-wide, more than 11,000 volunteers take observations on farms, in urban and suburban areas, National Parks, seashores, and mountaintops. The data are truly representative of where people live, work and play.

The Cooperative Observer Website

Over the years, there have been only two observers in Warren, Minnesota:   John Pearson and Dr. Wally Lamb.  Collecting weather observations has a long history in the United States.  The first network of cooperative stations was set up as a result of an act of Congress in 1890 that established the Weather Bureau, but many COOP stations began operation long before that time.

The earliest known observations in the United States date back to 1644.  Collecting weather data was a popular "citizen-science" project.  Many people, including George Washington Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson recorded weather observations.  Jefferson maintained an almost unbroken record of weather observations between 1776 and 1816, and Washington took his last observation just a few days before he died.

These days,  data are used by the NWS to define the climate of the United States, to help measure long-term climate changes, and to provide observations in near real-time to support forecast, warning and other public service programs of the NWS.  

Agassiz Audubon plans look at weather data in relation to local phenology observations.

Stay tuned....