Hourly precipitation data processing changes at NCDC

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Wednesday, 20 January 2010: 9:00 AM
B302 (GWCC)
Stuart Hinson, NOAA/NESDIS/NCDC, Asheville, NC; and J. H. Lawrimore and D. Manns

Presentation PDF (177.3 kB)

NOAA's National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) has been processing Hourly Precipitation Data (HPD) from a punched paper tape media since the 1960's, when the National Weather Service (NWS) deployed a network of more than 2000 Fischer & Porter (F&P) rain gauges. The F&P gauge mechanically converts the weight of liquid in a bucket every 15-minutes to a digital format on a punched paper tape. Observations are processed by running the tapes across a MITRON paper punch tape reader that converts the data on the tape into a precipitation record. Although this process has been in operation for more than 40 years, the quality of observations from the network have been negatively impacted by increasing maintenance requirements, outdated technology, and loss of support from the original equipment manufacturer.

The NWS responded in 2003 with the replacement of 275 F&P punched paper tape systems with Fisher & Porter Upgrade (FPU) units which consist of a load-cell, data logger and solar panel technology. In 2009, the NWS began a more widespread deployment of this technology with a complete upgrade of the existing network of 1800 F&P gauges expected during 2011.

In conjunction with the NWS effort to modernize the HPD equipment, NCDC plans to implement a more robust quality control process.

Also being integrated into this process will be approximately 340 stations transmitting data using Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES) telemetry, using the Hydro-meteorological Automated Data System (HADS) and approximately 600 stations using Limited Automated Remote Collectors (LARC) available through the Service Records Retention System (SRRS) ingest at NCDC.

The NCDC will adapt its processing (ingest, quality control, publication and archive) of these data to be able to handle these new data streams, thus preserving this valuable climatic data source for future analysis.