Here we'll answer some Frequently Asked Questions about this project, weather stations in the USHCN climate network, and the republication and use of materials from this website. If you have additional questions please use the "contact" button at upper right to see the email address for the webmaster.

Q: What is this project all about?

A: The short answer is; to do a hands on site survey to photograph and document all 1221 USHCN climate stations in the USA. No photographic database of these stations existed, hence the need for this project. See the about page which outlines the goals.


Q: What does USHCN mean and what is it?

A: USHCN stands for the United States Historical Climate Network as defined by the National Climatic Data Center You can read all about it here.


Q: Why are you doing this? Isn't all the data discontinuity and urban biases accounted for by all the adjustments made to the climate data sets as described in the USHCN home page?

A: Yes adjustments have been made to account for measurable and predictable data biases, such as Time of Observation and station moves, but the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) and NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Flight (GISS) who are the main collectors, analyzers, and modelers of climatic data have not done a site by site hands on photographic survey to account for microsite influences near the thermometer. To date all such studies conducted have been data analysis and data manipulations used to spot and/or minimize data inconsistencies.

Published works by Dr. Roger Pielke of the University of Colorado, Dev Nyogi of Purdue University, and Georg Taylor of Oregon State University have demonstrated that a significant number of USHCN and other weather stations used in the climate record have some significant, and in some cases severe measurement biases near the thermometers in these climate stations of record. There have been instances recorded of air conditioners being located directly adjacent to the thermometer, vehicles parked next to thermometers head-in, heat generating electronics and electrical components being placed in the thermometer shelters within inches of the sensor, and sensors being located in the middle of large areas of asphalt/concrete and directly attached to buildings all in violation of standard published NOAA practices for temperature measurement. None of these things witnessed by observers and captured by photography are known or accounted for by climate researchers. See the Odd Sites page for examples of these types of issues with USHCN stations.

This website exists as a repository of such information to compile a list of stations with issues and a list of stations that are issue free. Knowing this will help produce better data and hence better climate predications.


Q: Why is a TV/radio meteorologist and volunteers doing this job? Shouldn't this be the work of climate scientists?

A; Well it should be, but the USHCN has been established since 1994, and in that time, the NCDC scientists managing the network have not done this most basic of quality control checks; visiting each station, doing a photographic survey, and determining if the climate monitoring station temperature and rainfall measurement been compromised by any local influences. While there is a metadata system in place, it is primarily designed to show site moves and instrumentation changes. Remote data analysis and applied statistical techniques cannot replace basic observations in all cases. Basic observation of any experiment and recording of what is observed is the foundation of professional science practice. Likewise, sharing such data is also one of those tenets. Therefore during and after the survey is completed, the data will be publicly available for any scientist that wishes to use it to further analyze the data from these stations and provide appropriately calculated adjustments.

While a government survey program may take months of planning, months or years more of execution, and hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce a simple volunteer program like this can easily and without taxpayer cost produce the same or better results, and certainly at a much faster pace. Hopefully this project can serve as a model for a future program administered by NOAA.


Q: Is this project funded by any individual, entity, corporation, or group? Do you accept donations?

A: The project has minimal costs, mostly for this website and computer hosting/bandwidth and that is paid for by the designer of the project, Anthony Watts,  out of pocket. No other funding has been needed, sought, or accepted from any entity, corporation, or group. Monetary donations from interested individuals is accepted, but not from any organizations. Donations of time and expertise are however welcome at all levels, especially welcome are volunteers that can conduct site surveys. If you'd like to help please see the Get Involved page or see the contact page.


Q: How is the survey conducted? What steps have you taken to ensure that each station is surveyed the same way?

A: Participants in this survey are provided with a set of instructions (PDF) that detail how to do the survey on a step by step basis along with a survey form (DOC File) to complete. When the reports and photos are uploaded to the photographic database, each is examined to ensure that the correct station has been surveyed, and the procedure for photography and recording of details has been completed per instructions. Those site surveyors that have not done so are asked to either re-survey or correct any errors found. Site surveys that haven't completed the instructions are removed or re-done. If you notice an error or quality issue, use the contact page and send us an email


Q: I'd like to use some of the photographs and data on this website, can I do that, and what credits/citations must I give?

A: For mass media publications or for scientific research the policy is simple. A citation should be given both to the website/project designer and to the person doing the site survey. Our Rules page outlines the license terms user have made when submitting surveys and photos. Each station should have a site survey form which indicates the photographer by name.

A sample photo credit/citation would look like this: Photo courtesy of Anthony Watts, www.surfacestations.org and [photographer name in survey form]


Q: Are you going to do other sites worldwide in this project?

A: Yes, hopefully the entire GHCN station list will be included eventually. For now, for the summer of 2007, the USHCN station list is what this project is concentrating on for summer/fall 2007.

Last updated: 07/26/2008