May 05, 2018

Time to Fix the Yakima Airport Temperature Sensor

With all the concerns about global warming and the need for agricultural interests to have reliable temperatures to guide operations, accurate temperature readings at key airport sites are crucial.

That is why continuing problems with the Yakima Airport temperature sensor is so concerning.  So the message to my colleagues in the National Weather Service  is clear:  it is time to swap out the problematic sensor.

The Yakima Airport sensor provides temperatures that are several degrees too warm.  Let me prove this to you.

Here is departure from average of the maximum temperature across Washington State, averaged over the past year.    There is a major hot spot, with temperatures 4-5F above normal.  Nothing like it in the neighborhood.

The hot location?  Yakima.

There is someone who has been documenting the serious issues with the Yakima Airport temperature sensor:  Mark Albright, who was previous State Climatologist and Deputy State Climatologist.  This guy knows the local meteorology as well as anyone.  His hobby is to drive around the State with a temperature sensor checking out the accuracy of the temperature readings at various locations.  A very noble pursuit and appreciated by all of us worried about the integrity of our key observing systems.

Mark Albright
So let me show you some recent documentation he has come up with regarding the Yakima situation.

Consider last August.    Here are the temperature anomalies for normal for stations around the State (look at the TDPTR column).  The greatest departure from normal (6.5F) was at Yakima...with no other station even close.

Want a winter month?  No problem.  Here is the same information for January.  Biggest warm anomaly in the State?  Yakima.

Now, I could show you a dozen more of these monthly summaries--all prepared by Mark, but the story would be the same.  Something is very wrong at Yakima.

I have heard complaints from some agricultural interests that have used Yakima temperatures to make decisions for planting, spraying, and other issues.  Too warm and not representative of the area.

One thing is clear--this warming is not due to local development, since the temperature sensor is found near a secondary runway, with no development going on nearby (see map).

Anyway, the Pendleton office of the NWS is responsible for calibrating and replacing this sensor, which I hope they will do very soon.  This problem has been going on for years and needs to be dealt with.

And if you think this is the only place in the country with a bad temperature is not.  Here is the mean departure from average for minimum temperatures over Utah for the last year.  Oh....oh.-- a big warm anomaly southeast of the Great Salt Lake.  And then there is the infamous warm bias at Seattle-Tacoma Airport.

The problem with these failures is that they tend be one sided--generally producing temperatures that are too warm.  Often this warmth  is associated with a failing fan, which brings in cooler environmental air into the sensor enclosure.   And most siting problems (too near roads, buildings, or non-vegetated surface) tend to cause a warm bias as well.   

How much such problems influence trends in the surface temperature record is one of some debate and controversy..and I won't get into it right now.  My vegetable garden needs attention.


  1. Our government spends more on coffee in one day that what it would take to fix these sensors. Yet, they don't do it. The dysfunction and incompetence is mind boggling.

  2. Dear Dr Mass,

    Your articles exposes only facts . But are these biased sensors only isolated, or is this one-sided trend generalized ? I read that also in Australia, some people are arguing with the BAM about biased one-sided sensors ...
    I am sure ,that you are aware that such information , especially coming from well known scientist like you , raise doubt and concern and provide arguments to climate skeptics .

  3. Please let us know when they rectify the problem.
    Your blog is the only way I would know if it is fixed.

  4. Perhaps i'm the only one to occasionally check the UW's probcast site, but for today (6-may-2018), and the UW zip-code (98105), it's predicting a most likely high temperature of 80F. It's my limited understanding that this is a non-curated forecast site with a variety of automated inputs plus climatology. So given that that temperature is roughly ten degrees high, may we blame sources with systematic error, like (but obviously geographically distinct from), the Yakima Airport temperature sensor?

  5. The Yakima issue is, pardon the pun, only the tip of the iceberg.

    Temperature sensors are widely susceptible to the urban heat island effect. Long-established sensors in the countryside -- not airports -- at least in the United States, have shown VERY different results: lower temperatures over time. As a result, they have had their readings falsified (er, "adjusted," always upward) by cowardly academics who know where their bread is buttered.

    The reality is routinely denied by the AGW cult, the reason being partly nest-feathering group-think, and part "progressive" redistributionist politics. Be careful, Prof. Mass, beause if you ever decide to become rigorously honest about the boring details, they will do their very best to destroy you. They've tried it before, but it will be much worse the next time.

  6. Where is the site, Yakima TC, located that shows up under the link, on the UW’s Atmospheric Science website, NWS Washington Weather Roundup? Is that one not a good comparison? Tonight I see they are a degree apart tonight and we’re only about a degree last night.

  7. There are other, similar questions throughout the records in this state. Wenatchee is a case in point--One of the weather stations there is in the WSU extension complex, an area that was surrounded by producing orchards back in the day. Now, it's all housing, right up to the base of the surrounding mountains.

    Yet, when you look at the record (which I did a few years back, out of an interest in learning things for myself) for all the so-called "norming", all you see is temperatures being adjusted upwards. Given the urban heat island effect, you would expect the current temperatures to be "normed" downwards to account for that, but all I've seen in the numbers is the older historical records being "normed" upwards...

    I ain't gonna call it scientific fraud, but that's damned odd, don't you think? One would almost think that this unidirectional "norming" was in service of something, and that something isn't what I was taught was the scientific method. You go looking for the methodology in why they treated this ground station's data the way they did, and there's precisely... Nothing.

  8.’s satellite images look more defined and crisp on UW. Are they from the new satellite?

  9. Placeholder: That is a misinterpretation of the data. One reason why scientist are always concerned when they talk about real science- as Cliff does. The temperatures have been adjusted appropriately to account for the growth of cities and the heat island effect since most gauges were originally areas not affected by the urban heat island effect. The trends in urban and rural areas (rural areas require no adjustments for urban heat island effects) have been similar. Note the information below for a more thorough discussion:

  10. Cliff: Are we talking about a simple sensor swap out? MetOne down in Grants Pass makes the 083 Temp/RH sensor and is pretty much the industry standard on met masts for commercial wind power. This is a 10 min job once you get to the sensor. Usually 30 & 80m up for me.

    Or a better site placement for the temp sensor?

  11. Jon Kahrs, it's interesting that pretty much all the ajustments have been upward, which suits your end-of-the-world cult.

  12. @Jon Kahrs,

    I think you missed the implications of what I'm saying: Urban Heat Island effect means that the temperatures are artificially raised in areas that are now urbanized. To account for this, logic would say that current readings should have been lowered to "norm" them in order to account for the area no longer being rural and filled with orchards. At the time I examined the records, this was not what was shown. Instead, historical records going back to the 1920s and even earlier had the temperatures *raised*.

    A casual acquaintance of mine who used to actually work at that location, and was a part of gathering that data, back when it was all done manually. He was a "weather geek", and kept some of his own records, which closely matched the original "unnormed" records from the WSU ground station for those years which were online, when he and I looked them up during the early 2000s. I wish I knew what his kids did with those notebooks, after he died.

    I don't know what happened with that, but for whoever did that work to go back and modify the record to make the recorded temperatures higher...? The rationale for that is extremely, shall we say, counter-intuitive. If anything, with the increased urbanization around that site, the later readings should have been lowered, no?

    In all the reading I've done, over the years, I've yet to see a real, solid explanation for why they have done this to that particular record. It certainly seems rather arbitrary, and awfully darn convenient for the AGW thesis.

  13. Apparently someone is going to have to write an official 'rules of science'. Would think this was unnecessary but here we are..

    Rule 1 - safety first
    Rule 2 - never alter sensor data
    Rule 3 - write legibly

    Etc. Etc..

  14. 'bout time Mark A got his due for merely pointing out suspect data over these many years! We need to understand why the official response is often to "circle the wagons" , deny that there is one, rather than, with disinterest, rigorously check these sensors out when convincing data are presented. Sure, its embarrassing to think that bad data has gotten into the system, but its far worse to ignore the problem.

    Art Rangno

  15. Placeholder: "End of the world cult"? I think you can do better then name calling. But maybe not. takirks, there are a variety of methods to evaluate surface stations. Berkeley Earth offers a unique and critical evaluation of surface stations. Their conclusion was the same: That greater CO2 is likely causing rising atmospheric temperatures. From my understanding and information that I could find, the temperatures were adjusted DOWNWARD to account for the warming:

  16. I think "end of the world cult" is right. They've existed for a long time, always spinoffs of a religion, this one being the Anthropogenic Global Warming" doctrine. They all have the same element in common: "We have sinned, and therefore we will die unless YOU do what WE say."

    In any case, given the predictions I've heard for the last 25 years, I suggest that you spend the kids' college fund right now, because we are surely doomed. Poor Seattle "progressives." You think you are one bit different. You think you know anything.

  17. Does a GoFundMe campaign need to be setup for Yakima's sensor replacement or what?

    1. Living nearby and comparing nearby stations I absolutely think that there is nothing wrong with that sensor

  18. takirks comment on temperature record at WSU TFRC in Wenatchee

    I would like to hear from you regarding this temperature record. I worked at the National Weather Service Office at Wenatchee from 1964 to 1989 taking many of these observations and I do not understand your comments about the temperature record.


Please make sure your comments are civil. Name calling and personal attacks are not appropriate.

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