Climate Reference Network

The Climate Reference Network is a network of climate stations in the USA now being developed as part of a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) initiative. The goal of its implementation is to provide future long-term observations of temperature and precipitation to be used to measure climate change. The CRN will also provide the USA with a reference network that meets the requirements of the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS).

Each station is standardized and automated. The sensors include triple redundant air temperature, precipitation sensor, wind speed and ground temperature. Except for the rain gauge, all equipment is mounted in a standard configuration on a 3 meter tower Stations are placed in carefully chosen rural environments to avoid possible urban microclimate interference.

NOAA announced that it expects to have the last of the 114 sites online in summer 2008.

The US Climate Reference Network (USCRN) Program was begun in 2002 and remains under construction with an expected completion date in late 2008. It has the long-term commitment of the Department of Commerce (DOC) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This network will be maintained and modernized during the life of the program.

This is a program that will collect and analyze the highest quality climate data possible. Research based on these data will directly support near and long term policy and decision plans made by senior government and business leaders.

The research community, government agencies, and private businesses have identified significant shortcomings in understanding and examining long-term climate trends and change over the U.S. and surrounding regions. Some of these shortcomings are due to the lack of adequate documentation of operations and changes regarding the existing and earlier observing networks, the observing sites, and the instrumentation over the life of the network. These include inadequate overlapping observations when new instruments were installed and not using well-maintained, calibrated high-quality instruments. These factors increase the level of uncertainty when government and business decision-makers are considering long-range strategic policies and plans. Never before have people been so aware of the impact of the environment and climate variability and change on the quality of life and the economic health of a nation, its citizens, and the population of the world. This project will serve as a model for establishing similar networks in other countries.

Program is being implemented and managed by the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) located in Asheville, NC. Scientists and engineers from the Atmospheric Turbulence and Diffusion Division (ATDD) located in Oak Ridge, TN, are assisting the NCDC USCRN Program staff. System design and test, implementation, and associated programmatic budgets and plans support is being provided by the NESDIS Office of systems Development.

The primary goal of the U. S. Climate Reference Network (USCRN) is to provide future long-term high-quality observations of surface air temperature and precipitation that can be coupled to past long-term observations for the detection and attribution of present and future climate change. The USCRN fulfills the Nation's need for long-term high quality climate observations and records with minimal time-dependent biases affecting the interpretation of decadal to centennial climate variability and change.

The USCRN will provide the Nation with a first-class long-term (50 to 100 years) observing network that will serve as the Nation's Benchmark Climate Reference Network. When fully implemented, the network will consist of several hundred instrument suites strategically selected to capture climate trends, variations, and change across the Nation.

Data from these USCRN sites will be used to provide the best possible information on long-term changes in air temperature and precipitation, including means and extremes. Additional sensors may be added in the future, such as soil moisture and soil temperature. USCRN data will be used in operational climate monitoring activities and for placing current climate anomalies into a historical perspective. These data will be transmitted hourly via the GOES Data Collection System (DCS) and immediately distributed by the National Weather Service (NWS) to their operational sites. These observations will also be available on-line and accessible via the World Wide Web (WWW).

Essential components of the USCRN are well-documented life cycle maintenance, modernization, and performance histories, as well as a robust science and research component. There will be routine maintenance visits to the sites and regular calibration of the sensors. The performance of the sensors and the network will be routinely monitored. The research effort will continually evaluate the data, new sensors, and emerging calibration techniques. When a new type sensor can contribute to improving the quality of the observations, there will be at least a one-year continuity overlap of current and new sensors.

Every USCRN instrument site is being equipped with a standard set of sensors, a data logger, and a satellite communications transmitter attached to a typical 3 meter (10 feet) instrument tower, as well as at least one weighing rain gauge, encircled by a wind shield. Off-the-shelf commercial equipment and sensors are being selected based on performance, durability, and cost.

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