Posted at 7:57 AM on August 13, 2008
by Craig Edwards
The historical climate records are the center piece of getting a snapshot of how regional climate might be changing. Under the supervision of the local National Weather Service office, hundreds of volunteers collect and report daily weather observations.
Often with little fanfare, these dedicated citizens provide invaluable information on localized rainfall. Just a year ago, last August, the reports from the cooperative weather network captured the record rainfall in southeast Minnesota, including the record setting rains at Hokah.
There is the potential for a developing conundrum as the volunteer spirit of taking daily weather observations becomes less attractive. The National Weather Service is frequently looking to recruit new observers. It is especially challenging when aging observers, in rural areas, with a long tradition of recording weather, are no longer up to the task.
In attempt to maintain the historical climate records in specific locations, the agency can thread the data if the new observer is within close proximity of the old site. Such is the case for the data collected at Wahpeton/Breckenridge. Observations began in 1931 with a move across the river taking place in 2000.
Tracking records of climate change can get fuzzy when observing sites are changed within a few miles, particularly if there might be changes in elevation and the microclimate, such as the thermometer on a hill top or valley.