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NOAA image of U.S. Climate Reference Network.Nov. 25, 2003 — A new, high-tech climate monitoring network designed by NOAA scientists to keep tabs on the nation’s temperature and precipitation trends is set to debut nationwide in January 2004. The U.S. Climate Reference Network (CRN) will improve the ability of America’s decision-makers to form policies about programs impacted by climate variability and change. (NOAA image of U.S. Climate Reference Network.)

The CRN currently plans to include100 automated observing stations throughout the United States that will monitor temperature, precipitation, solar radiation and wind speed. The NOAA Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites will transmit the data received from these ground based stations in near real-time to the NOAA Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. NCDC will make the observations available online in near real-time to users around the world. NOAA is currently fine-tuning the network, software and data calibration checks.

“The CRN will give America a first-class observing network for the next 50 to 100 years, and serve as a benchmark for climate monitoring,” said Gregory W. Withee, assistant administrator for the NOAA Satellites and Information Service.

Withee added that the network will help national government and industry decision-makers shape policies that are affected by changes in America’s climate. “The CRN will give us more answers to the changing climate. It will provide future long-term observations of surface air temperature and precipitation that can be compared to past long-term observations, which will better detect present and future climate variability and change.”

He said the network underwent a rigorous testing and evaluation phase earlier this year to verify that it was ready for installation and operation, before additional stations were deployed. After two years of testing and calibrating sensors, a pair of observing stations was installed in the Asheville area. There are now 45 stations operating in 26 states, with additional deployments for the next two years planned at a rate of about 27 each year.

The basis of the network can be credited to Thomas Karl, NCDC director, who proposed 10 climate principles that were adopted by the National Research Council. These principles include: extensive information on instrument status and health; local conditions around the station; assessing changes in the network on monitoring climate variability and change; freedom of access to the data and supporting information.

Karl said a critical aspect of this network is that all stations are located in fairly pristine environments to help eliminate local human influences from confounding the interpretation of any observed changes in climate. Most of the 50 states, including nine large-scale climate regions, are represented in the network. The observing stations will be established at locations sensitive to climate change, and placed at or near stations having long-term historical climate records.

NCDC oversees the science component and the selection of the sites with help from the NOAA Regional Climate Centers. The NOAA Office of Systems Development in Silver Spring, Md., is managing the field operation and maintenance of the network and the NOAA Air Resources Laboratory’s Atmospheric Turbulence and Diffusion Division at Oak Ridge, Tenn., is developing and installing the instrument suites. Issues related to science requirements of the network are presented to external scientists and stakeholders.

The NOAA Satellites and Information Service, the parent agency to NCDC, operates three data centers, which house global databases in climatology, paleoclimatology, oceanography, solid Earth geophysics, marine geology and geophysics and solar-terrestrial physics.

The NOAA Satellites and Information Service is the nation’s primary source of space-based meteorological and climate data. It operates the nation’s environmental satellites, which are used for weather and ocean observation and forecasting, climate monitoring and other environmental applications, including sea-surface temperature, fire detection and ozone monitoring. NOAA’s commercial licensing program draws on NOAA’s heritage in satellite operations and remote sensing applications.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nationís coastal and marine resources. NOAA is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Relevant Web Sites
U.S. Climate Reference Network

NOAA Climatic Data Center

NOAA Satellites and Information Service

NOAA Climate Page

Media Contact:
John Leslie, NOAA Satellites and Information Service, (301) 457-5005