Friday, May 18, 2018

Improvement in CRN Data

I've mentioned the US Climate Reference Network program on previous occasions - it's a national effort to install high-quality climate monitoring instruments throughout the nation in locations that are unlikely to be affected significantly by urbanization in the coming decades.  So far 21 such sites have been installed in Alaska, with the most recent being near Toolik Lake and Cordova last summer.  Several more are planned:



Read more about the program here:

https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/crn/

https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/news/new-climate-observing-stations-alaska

In previous years it has been very disappointing to see that several of the sites had serious and persistent problems with missing temperature data in the winter months.   This is apparently caused by the fuel systems being unable to produce sufficient electrical power to operate the instruments and other electronics during cold weather.  It's a little surprising that the system engineering wasn't up to the challenge of Alaska's climate, but one must concede that it's no small task to run a complex array of instruments without external power throughout the deep cold and dark of the high-latitude winter.

But happily there is now some good news: some modifications were made in last summer's maintenance visits, and the past winter saw a significant reduction in the amount of missing data from a number of sites.  The chart below shows (in green) the statewide percentage of all November-March days for which daily high and low temperature data are available in GHCN, and the black columns show the number of sites.  The network was in a rather sorry state in winter 2015-2016, with more than 20% of days missing from the 18 sites around the state, but in the past winter only 7% of days were missing statewide.  If the improving trend continues, we'll soon be in good shape.


Here's the percent complete over the lifetime of each site.  Notice that the really bad locations are some of the coldest and most remote locations, whereas the instruments in southeast Alaska are performing just fine.

The sites that improved dramatically this winter were Deadhorse, Nowitna (Ruby 44 ESE), and the sites near Selawik and King Salmon: whatever tweaks were made at these locations worked nicely.  On the other hand, there are still significant problems at Ivotuk and Denali 27 N.  Let's hope that one more year does the trick to get the network running as intended.

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