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NOAA image of U.S. Climate Reference Network station.Jan. 13, 2004 — NOAA announced today that a new, high-tech climate monitoring network, designed to track the nation’s temperature and precipitation trends, is now operating in 28 states. The U.S. Climate Reference Network (CRN), developed by NOAA scientists, will improve the ability of America’s decision-makers to form policies about programs impacted by climate variability and change. (Click NOAA image for larger view of U.S. Climate Reference Network station. Please credit “NOAA.”)

"The climate reference network helps us fill an important land based gap of data in the United States that we will need in the larger and more comprehensive Earth observation system being developed by more than 34 countries in what could be the next 10 years," said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “With important links like the CRN, the Earth observation system will help address emerging global issues and lay the groundwork for improved environmental decision-making and economic growth and prosperity.”

With more than $3 trillion of U.S. GDP affected by climate and weather, including the agriculture, energy, construction, travel and transportation industry sectors, there are powerful economic as well as environmental incentives for gaining a greater understanding of these phenomena. The United States has already made significant investments in space and in-situ or surface-based observing systems, including its ability to monitor the ozone layer using spacecraft and aircraft and the TAO/Triton Array of buoys that have helped forecast the most recent El Niño six months in advance. The CRN will provide the United States new data points in a swift and affordable manner.

“The CRN will give America a first-class observing network for the next 50 to100 years that will serve as a benchmark for climate monitoring,” said Gregory W. Withee, assistant administrator for the NOAA Satellites and Information Service. He made the announcement at a news conference at the American Meteorological Society’s annual meeting in Seattle.

Currently, there are 46 CRN stations deployed in 28 states. Additional deployments for the next two years are scheduled at a rate of about 27 each year. Officials said a total of 100 stations are planned throughout the rest of nation by 2006. The Climate Reference Network became operational following months of testing.

The NOAA Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites transmit the data received from these ground-based stations in near real-time to the NOAA Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. NCDC posts the observations online in near real-time to users around the world.

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 to better detect any climate variability and change.”

He said the network underwent a rigorous testing and evaluation phase in 2003 to verify that it was ready for installation and operation. After two years of testing and calibrating sensors, a pair of observing stations was installed in the Asheville, N.C. area.

The basis of the network can be credited to Thomas Karl, NOAA’s director at NCDC, 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 crucial 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 Satellites and Information Service 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 of 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

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