Monday, June 30, 2014

USRCRN Stations

The New Mexico Climate Center will soon be able to gather climate data from even more monitoring stations in New Mexico with the addition of 15 stations that were formerly part of the U.S. Regional Climate Reference Network (USRCRN). Soon the precipitation and temperature data form these sites will be available through our website.

The USRCRN was a pilot project set up in 2009-2011 by NOAA's National Climate Data Center.  The project began in the Southwest United States. The high-quality weather stations in the network are spaced at 130 km spatial resolution and are focused on gathering temperature and precipitation information in order to detect regional climate signals. The sites were carefully chosen and many stations are situated in remote areas. The stations in New Mexico started recording data in 2009. (Note that this network is not the same one as the U.S. Climate Reference Network.)

Map of USRCRN sites in New Mexico and Arizona (shown in black). The blue points are sites in the USCRN network. Map from

Unfortunately, budget cuts mean that the data from many of these USRCRN stations stopped being ingested and made available at the USRCRN website as of June 1, 2014. Five of the stations in New Mexico were de-installed. Theses stations were at Kiowa and Rita Blanca Grasslands (Clayton), BLM near Kenna (Elida),  BLM Hagerman, Kiowa and Rita Grasslands (Mills), and BLM near Ramon (Vaughn). (The equipment from these sites will be divided up and given to climate offices in the Southwestern states.) Management of the 15 remaining stations will be moved to various local individuals and organizations who are willing to help. We have had strong commitments for most of them. (One of these stations is the highest in the network at 10,000 feet on Magdalena Ridge.) The remaining stations will still collect precipitation and temperature data; the issue will be finding a way to ingest that data into our website. We're working now to find a way to get those data into our website.

The USRCRN station at Carrizozo in Lincoln County, New Mexico. 
The following diagram describes the set-up of each station (image from

The data loggers on the remaining open stations are still collecting the data from the  precipitation gauges and the temperature sensors. The collected information goes to the GOES satellite through the GOES antenna. Our task is to find a way to get that information from the satellite.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Another view of Elephant Butte Reservoir

If you live in New Mexico, follow the news about the drought, and concerned about water supplies you probably have seen a graphic comparing Elephant Butte Reservoir this year with 1994. If you have not viewed this, I urge you to see it on the NASA Earth Observatory webpage. I can't count the number of times someone has emailed this to my inbox.  The number of times it has been emailed brings to attention the importance of this body of water to the region and how it responds to upstream water supply and downstream demand.  Max Bleiweiss, Director of CARSAME, printed a couple of Landsat 8 images of the reservoir about a month apart that I found striking. He compared June 6 and July 8, 2013 on a poster side by side similar to the images below.
Elephant Butte storage on June 6 was 172,470 acre-ft and 60,327 on July 8.  The July date was about the minimum storage for the year after the irrigation. I find it amazing what one month of  about 2000 cubic feet per second flow out of the reservoir can do to the appearance of the lake. Even with a record low irrigation season, you can still a lot of changes.  Since the north end (greenish color) of the reservoir is shallow, most of the changes are seen there. Based on the US Bureau of Reclamation data the difference in surface area between the two dates was 3,190 acres.