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How hot does your thermometer say it’s been getting?

Official temperatures in Sunnyside recorded by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association approved system

Sunnyside’s AWOS system records information for pilots looking to use the Sunnyside Municipal Airport. That weather data includes cloud cover, fog, lightning, temperatures and precipitation, but is not part of the official record kept by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.

Sunnyside’s AWOS system records information for pilots looking to use the Sunnyside Municipal Airport. That weather data includes cloud cover, fog, lightning, temperatures and precipitation, but is not part of the official record kept by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. Photo by Jennie McGhan.

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This computer monitor shows weather data recorded by the AWOS system at the Sunnyside Municipal Airport. The data is not used to record the official high and low temperatures in Sunnyside.

Official temperature readings are a sensitive matter and how they are obtained can vary.

That’s according to Jim Smith of the National Weather Service.

He said Sunnyside’s temperatures are obtained the same way Prosser’s are.

Both use systems approved by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.

Mark Cook of Sunnyside records local temperatures using a Nimbus digital thermometer and submits the high and low temperatures on a daily basis to the National Weather Service in Pendleton.

So, too, does Prosser’s Ryan Cyphers, who works for that city’s water department.

Smith said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association does not use temperature readings from Aviation Weather Observation Systems (AWOS) located at airports. Sunnyside has such a system now in place.

“AWOS is for pilots…we use the data, but not for official readings,” Smith said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association does use Automated Surface Observation Systems (ASOS) like the one at the Pasco Airport, according to Smith.

ASOS serves as a primary climatological observing network and is approved for meteorological readings by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.

Cyphers said there are prescribed government systems that are used for recording official data.

The system he and Cook use has to be regularly monitored. Prosser’s weather recording system is at its water treatment plant, which is the highest point in the city of Prosser.

Cyphers said what the equipment records at the plant may differ from in-town readings because of elevation, the equipment being used and other mitigating factors.

Smith said equipment inside city limits can be affected by ambient heat reflected from buildings and other surfaces.

Cook has been recording Sunnyside’s temperatures and precipitation for more than 20 years.

He said the equipment was located at the Sunnyside Post Office until about four years ago.

“Precipitation is still measured at the post office,” said Cook.

He also records precipitation on his property in the 7000 block of Van Belle Road, where the official temperatures for Sunnyside are recorded.

That’s because precipitation inside Sunnyside and outside city limits can vary.

Temperatures read on his property, however, are more consistent, according to Cook.

He and Smith said there aren’t any buildings or other factors to interfere with accuracy.

Cook said the equipment approved by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association is calibrated and the temperatures read by the equipment, which is located at the edge of a field, can be different from those measured by a standard outdoor thermometer attached to his home.

However, the temperatures read by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association equipment, he said, is more reliable.

“There’s no blacktop out there,” said Cook.

The city of Sunnyside’s AWOS system at the local airport also measures weather and temperatures.

Public Works Supervisor Shane Fisher said the system was set up for pilots using the Sunnyside Municipal Airport.

The city had hoped to provide citizens with weather data using the system, as well.

Fisher said the information from the AWOS is transferred to a computer at the Port of Sunnyside office via radio and phone. The information can be accessed by pilots using a specific radio frequency or by calling 509-836-2384.

Citizens can access data recorded by the system by calling the number, too.

But, Fisher said, the information isn’t as user friendly for someone who is not a pilot.

“It’s a computer voice,” he said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association doesn’t yet receive the information from Sunnyside’s AWOS, said Fisher.

The city is working with the National Weather Service, but there is a $60 per month fee for the information from the system to be relayed to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.

Once the contract is approved, the data will be relayed via computer to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association and citizens can access the information much like they can currently access weather information recorded by the Washington State Department of Transportation’s weather tower at the Outlook overpass on I-82.

“A link to the NOAA site would be available on the city website,” said Fisher.

Smith said the data would be used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, but it will not be part of the official climate system. Therefore, the temperatures recorded by Cook will continue to be the official record for the city of Sunnyside.

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