How To Guide
How to do a USHCN, GHCN or GISS weather station site survey
- Digital Camera,
3 megapixels or higher resolution preferred, any brand capable of
copying pictures to your PC
maximum image size supported for upload is 2048x2048 pixels,
be sure to set camera to this or lower
- Handheld GPS,
preferably one with 100’ or better accuracy that allows
marking locations and naming them
Accuracy is important, a
WAAS enabled GPS is most accurate. We use the
Magellan Explorist 200, available at Wal-Mart
- PDA, paper notebook, or voice
recorder, to take notes while doing site survey, used to
fill out survey form
- A tape measure,
used to record the distance of the weather station from nearby
structures or objects.
- Prints of the common weather
to help people whom you might ask for directions identify
the weather stations. Two pictures are attached to these
instructions for your use.
site to survey near you on along your travel route. This can be done by visiting the Database at
http://gallery.surfacestations.org/ and looking up what
sites are in need of surveying.
location of the weather station site to be surveyed in advance. Sites are listed by name, and give an approximate lat/long to the nearest
hundredth of a degree, but that likely will be too coarse to
locate with a GPS. You’ll need to find out where its located by
place name, some web research will likely be needed, though
sometimes the name itself is the best clue. Weather stations are
often located at some governmental entity, such as an airport,
agricultural experiment farm, water or sewage treatment plant,
fire station, police station, ranger station, municipal yard,
highway department, or school/library. There are some sites that
are operated by media such as newspapers, and a few that are at
ahead can help you locate just exactly where the station might
be. Again a web search can help you locate the telephone numbers
and email addresses of contacts that may be able to help you.
Some stations may be on restricted property, so it’s a good idea
to let people know you are coming.
At the site:
be the most important record you can make, so don’t hesitate to
shoot as many pictures as you want. You can always pick the best
ones later to be uploaded to the
are five most important pictures to get:
An overall view
that best expresses the character of the site, plus views
looking North, South, East, and West.
pictures that show any nearby structures, trees, roads, or other
things that interrupt the flat terrain near the weather station
shelter. In some cases, inappropriately placed things such as
parking lots, air conditioner fans, metal outbuildings, trash
incinerators, pools, or sprinkling systems may be nearby. Be
sure to get pictures of these things showing the weather station
shelter in the picture also. Measure the distance from the
shelter to these things if close by, 25 feet or less. If they
are more than 25 feet away, use your best estimate of distance.
Make notes in your PDA, notebook, or voice recorder.
At the site -
GPS latitude and longitude fix.
readings are in degrees with decimal points, such as 39.69104 N
and 121.82127 W
handheld GPS device with a meter of the station and if it has a
“marking” function, mark that location and store it in its
memory. If the device allows naming the point you marked, give
it the name of the site.
Some handheld GPS devices don’t reach maximum accuracy until 2-5
minutes after power on, be sure to wait until the manufacturers
recommended time or indication of maximum accuracy occurs.
If your GPS does
not have the ability to record/mark points, then write down the
latitude and longitude in your PDA, notebook, or make a voice
memo. Later you’ll transcribe the latitude and longitude to the
site survey form in your PC.
Make notes of site details.
Note the type of
shelter (Stevenson screen or stacked plate shield). If the
shelter is a Stevenson screen note if has been repainted. Look
for paint chips or missing paint. If possible get pictures of
chipped paint, missing paint, and paint drips or brush marks.
If the shelter
is a Stevenson screen, if possible, get pictures of the interior
and the instruments.
Ask the curator/observer about the site
site may have been moved, damaged, or some other event may have
interrupted record taking. Here are a few questions to ask that
How long has
this been operating at this location?
Has any of the
instruments ever been replaced or repaired?
Has the shelter
ever been replaced, repaired, or moved in any way?
Have you ever
repainted the shelter, and if so, what kind of paint? (Latex,
enamel, gloss, flat, etc.)
(if there is
some odd nearby bias, ask this ) How long has the “X” been near
the weather station?
(if there are
parking spaces nearby, ask) Do vehicles get parked near the
weather station regularly?
(if the curator
indicates the site/shelter has been moved, ask) Can you show
where it was previously located? Once there get new photos and a
GPS fix. It is important to determine what year, and if
possible, the month, that the site/shelter was moved and make a
note of it.
After visiting the site
Fill out the site survey form.
Using your word
processor, complete the site survey form. Fill in as many
details you measured and photographed as possible along with
whatever you learned about the site from the curator/observer.
A free Microsoft Word compatible word processor is available at
http://www.openoffice.org It has the ability to save as PDF
natively, see below.
After completing the form, save it as a PDF file with the site
name like this:
yoursitename_sitesurvey.pdf If you don’t have the
ability to create a PDF document from your word processor, try
PrimoPDF program or go to Adobe’s free trial online PDF
creator website at
http://createpdf.adobe.com/ and use the free service.
Preparing your pictures for upload to
If you took to
pictures at resolutions greater than 3.1 megapixels (2048x2048)
the pictures will be too large to upload. Use any photo editor
to reduce their size.
If your camera
setting was at 3.1 megapixels, 2048 pixels wide or lower then
you can skip picture size reduction.
You should rename your pictures to reflect the site name, like
sitename_1.jpg sitename_2.jpg ……sitename_x.jpg etc
or whatever name suffix you want. The naming is critical,
except that you need to include the site name somehow in the
Use underscores like this:
Chico_University_Farm_overall.jpg rather than spaces
in your filenames, while the space won’t prevent the picture
from being uploaded, it will cause a %20 (the code for a space)
to be inserted in some web browsers :
Chico%20University%20Farm%20overall.jpg when viewing
the filename. It’s a small annoyance, but not critical.
pictures and the site survey form
http://gallery.surfacestations.org and register if you have
not already done so. You cannot upload your files without
registering. Registration is free. After completing the
registration for, you’ll be sent an email with a confirmation
link to click on, once doing that you’ll be registered.
Next, use the
website navigation; locate the station that you recently
surveyed in the gallery. If you cannot locate the station in the
USHCN or GHCN/GISS databases, it may be that a blank placeholder
has not been added yet. Contact
firstname.lastname@example.org to have it added if this is the
If you have been
granted “power user” status, you can do an “Add Album” under the
appropriate country, state or province to create a blank album
for the USHCN or GHCN weather station site you want to upload
Enter the album
of the USHCN or GHCN weather station site. It will be blank
except for a message saying The Album is empty, add a photo.
pictures and the site survey form…continued
Add Items on the left
side menu or the Add a Photo
link on the main window and you’ll be presented with the upload
Use the “Browse”
to locate the pictures and completed site survey form in the
folder on your computer hard drive.
IMPORTANT: Be sure to
choose the “overall” picture as the first upload, it will become
the thumbnail for the station album.
ALSO: Choose the sitename_surveyform.pdf as the
second upload. This will ensure that the form exist on the first
page of the album thumbnails.
You can add
additional upload forms
by clicking on “More Upload Boxes…” but we suggest no more
than four at a time, because if your connection is slow, and
a large number of pictures and bytes is being transferred, the
system may time out, assume there is a communications error and
cancel the upload.
use the “Link” method
to link to pictures on websites, because if that website
disappears, so will the picture. If you have pictures on
websites, save pictures from the website to your local disk,
then upload the picture to the surfacestations.org server. The
Webcam/live image method is also not recommended for the same
reason. “From Local Server” is disabled.
Click the “Add
to start the transfer. You’ll see a message when the transfer
has been completed.
process as needed
until all photos are uploaded. If you make a mistake in
uploading a file, you can overwrite it later.
Navigate back to
and check it out to make sure you’ve completed all your uploads
You are done!
Thanks very much for providing this important climatic resource.
picture to carry along to show to others when asking for
directions to help identify what a weather station may look