Monday, 20 June 2005
During the mid 1980s, the National Weather Service began deploying electronic temperature measurement devices as a part of their Cooperative Network. The introduction of this new measurement system known as the MMTS (Maximum-Minimum Temperature System) represented the single largest change in how temperatures were measured and reported since the Cooperative Network was established in the 1800s. Early comparisons of MMTS readings with temperature measurements from the traditional liquid-in-glass thermometers mounted in Cotton Region shelters showed small but significant differences. During the first decade, several studies were conducted and published results showed that maximum temperatures from the MMTS were typically cooler and minimum temperatures warmer compared to traditional readings. This was a very important finding affecting climate data continuity and the monitoring of local, regional and national temperature trends.
It has now been 20 years since the initial deployment of the MMTS. The Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University has continued side by side daily measurements with both the MMTS and the traditional liquid-in-glass thermometers. This paper presents a 20-year comparison of temperatures measured 4 meters apart. Results show that little has changed in the relationship between MMTS and liquid-in-glass. Despite a yellowing of the MMTS radiation shield over time, the MMTS continues to read cooler during the daylight hours at all times of year. Minimum temperatures show little difference but with a small seasonal cycle in temperature differences. The largest differences continue, as they were first observed in 1985, to occur with low sun angles, clear skies, light winds and fresh snowcover.
In addition to quantitative comparisons, some general comments on the impact of MMTS and other electronic temperature measurements on long-term temperature measurements and observed trends will also be offered.
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