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Station Siting and U.S. Surface Temperature Trends (USHCN)

Photographic documentation of poor siting conditions at stations in the USHCN has led to questions regarding the reliability of surface temperature trends over the conterminous U.S. (CONUS). To evaluate the potential impact of poor siting/instrument exposure on CONUS temperatures, The Menne et al. (2010) compared trends derived from poor and well-sited USHCN stations using both unadjusted and bias-adjusted data. Results indicate that there is a mean bias associated with poor exposure sites relative to good exposure sites in the unadjusted USHCN version 2 data; however, this bias is consistent with previously documented changes associated with the widespread conversion to electronic sensors in the USHCN during the last 25 years Menne et al. (2009) . Moreover, the sign of the bias is counterintuitive to photographic documentation of poor exposure because associated instrument changes have led to an artificial negative ("cool") bias in maximum temperatures and only a slight positive ("warm") bias in minimum temperatures.

Adjustments applied to USHCN Version 2 data largely account for the impact of instrument and siting changes, although a small overall residual negative (“cool” Photographic documentation of poor siting conditions at stations in the USHCN has led to questions regarding the reliability of surface temperature trends over the conterminous U.S. (CONUS). To evaluate the potential impact of poor siting/instrument exposure on CONUS temperatures, The Menne et al. (2010) compared trends derived from poor and well-sited USHCN stations using both unadjusted and bias-adjusted data. Results indicate that there is a mean bias associated with poor exposure sites relative to good exposure sites in the unadjusted USHCN version 2 data; however, this bias is consistent with previously documented changes associated with the widespread conversion to electronic sensors in the USHCN during the last 25 years Menne et al. (2009) . Moreover, the sign of the bias is counterintuitive to photographic documentation of poor exposure because associated instrument changes have led to an artificial negative ("cool") bias in maximum temperatures and only a slight positive ("warm") bias in minimum temperatures.

Adjustments applied to USHCN Version 2 data largely account for the impact of instrument and siting changes, although a small overall residual negative (“cool”) bias appears to remain in the adjusted USHCN version 2 CONUS average maximum temperature (see also Fall, S. (2011)). Nevertheless, the adjusted USHCN CONUS temperatures are well aligned with recent measurements from the U.S. Climate Reference Network (USCRN). This network was designed with the highest standards for climate monitoring and has none of the siting and instrument exposure problems present in USHCN. The close correspondence in nationally averaged temperature from these two networks is further evidence that the adjusted USHCN data provide an accurate measure of the U.S. temperature.

The Menne et al. (2010) results underscore the need to consider all changes in observation practice when determining the impacts of siting irregularities. Further, the influence of non-standard siting on temperature trends can only be quantified through an analysis of the data which do not indicate that the CONUS average temperature trends are inflated due to poor station siting.

Four sets of USCHN stations were used in the Menne et al. (2010) analysis. Set 1 includes stations identified as having good siting by the volunteers at surfacestations.org. Set 2 is a subset of set 1 consisting of the set 1 stations whose ratings are in general agreement with an independent assessment by NOAA’s National Weather Service. Set 3 are those stations with moderate to poor siting ratings according to surfacestations.org. Set 4 is a subset of set 3 consisting of the set 3 stations whose ratings are in agreement with an independent assessment by NOAA’s National Weather Service. For further information, please see Menne et al. (2010). The set of Maximum Minimum Temperature Sensor (MMTS) stations and Cotton Region Shelter (Stevenson Screen) sites used in Menne et al. (2010) are also available (see the "readme.txt" file as described below for a description of the station list format). Access to the unadjusted, time of observation adjusted, and fully adjusted USHCN version 2 temperature data available via ftp://ftp.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/ushcn/v2.5/.