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Satellite ground stations will form climate network

A nationwide Climate Reference Network of 100 automated ground stations will beam local temperature, precipitation, radiation and wind speed to geostationary operational environmental satellites, under a program announced yesterday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in US. NOAA’s Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., will download and make the GOES data available worldwide in near-real time. The center so far has calibrated sensors for 47 stations in 26 states, and 16 more are awaiting installation, NCDC deputy director Sharon LeDuc said.

The network, budgeted at $3.4 million for fiscal 2004, should be completed by January, LeDuc said. NCDC director Thomas Karl said in a statement that the stations will be located in “fairly pristine environments” to avoid interpreting human-caused variations as natural climatic changes. Because the stations are monitoring U.S. climate over the long haul, LeDuc said, NOAA must locate them on federal or state property and not on private lands. Initial installation will cost less than long-term maintenance, she said.

NOAA’s Office of Systems Development in Silver Spring, Md., is managing the Climate Reference Network field operation. A typical ground station consists of a slatted wind fence surrounding a precipitation gauge, plus an 11-foot tower supporting a satellite communications antenna, a solar panel and battery, and a series of sensors.