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ATDD modernizing Historical Climatology Network to capture the most accurate climate information

USHCN station

This U.S. Historical Climatology Network station is located in Kodachrome Basin State Park near the town of Tropic, Utah.

Keeping track of climate data over an extended period of time is key to accurately detecting and monitoring factors that could affect long-term climate change. Through the Atmospheric Turbulence and Diffusion Division (ATDD), ORAU works closely with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to perform lower atmosphere research in the areas of air quality, contaminant dispersion and climate.

On the heels of the recent implementation of the U.S. Climate Reference Network (USCRN), ATDD assisted with the modernization of the U.S. Historical Climatology Network (USHCN), which was established more than 100 years ago to assist in the detection of regional climate change by collecting monthly averages of maximum, minimum, and mean temperatures and total precipitation.

As the network has matured, NOAA designated the USHCN for modernization to better meet its mission of providing the nation with data regarding the state of a region's climate quality. ATDD led the installation, calibration and maintenance of approximately 140 new, automated stations that will collect temperature and precipitation data every five minutes. Each new station includes triple redundant temperature and precipitation sensors for reliability. Additionally, the station is expandable to allow for any future interest in measuring soil temperature, soil moisture, snow fall and snow depth. The addition of new stations is part of NOAA's goal to modernize 1,000 of its existing 1,221 USHCN stations.

The ultimate goal is for both the USHCN and the USCRN to work together to deliver accurate, high-quality data to users studying climate trends.

Read more success stories

Performing airborne research of greenhouse gases in the Arctic

In 2012, NOAA’s Atmospheric Turbulence and Diffusion Division received a $770,000 National Science Foundation grant for ORAU and NOAA climate experts to study greenhouse gas emissions in the Arctic. A NOAA-developed probe attached to a customized twin-engine airplane will measure turbulence while Harvard-developed gas analyzers will simultaneously measure concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane. The study aims to determine whether the effects of global warming in the Arctic are originating from naturally occurring greenhouse gases or from those created by humans.