NOTE: all the links on this page open in separate pages.

The lack of high quality surface measurements of precipitation and air temperature historically has hampered the ability of climate scientists to fully characterize the national and regional climate signals with confidence. The U.S. Climate Reference Network (USCRN) provides the Nation with a climate-quality benchmark observing system for real-time measurements of air temperature and precipitation that meets national commitments to monitor the climate of the U.S. for the next 50–100 years.

The USCRN also provides a platform for additional sensors that can be easily added. Currently, sensors for solar radiation, relative humidity, wind speed, soil moisture and land surface temperature have been added. Observations from the Network also provide critical anchor points for other networks, both public and private. Society and the economy benefit from the USCRN as the near-real time data are used in the decision support activities for weather warnings. Data are also used to improve both short- and long-term forecasts to protect lives and property.

In collaboration with NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), ARL researchers from the Atmospheric Turbulence and Diffusion Division provide the engineering design and measurement capabilities and expertise for the stations, including the deployment and maintenance of the sites and regular calibration of the sensors. They also provide analysis of emerging sensor technologies for future applications. High quality data for all sites in near-real time are provided by NCEI.

The USCRN consists of 115 stations in the 48 contiguous United States, as well as 18 stations installed in Alaska and 2 in Hawaii to cover extreme environments. An additional station is located in Canada to benchmark the U.S. network with our North American partners. Each station is strategically placed away from urban and suburban influences to avoid any possible locally-induced biases in the climate record. The USCRN reports multiple observations per hour for temperature and precipitation. This temporal resolution of the data provides additional climate information, such as precipitation intensity and duration of extreme events. All of the stations in the contiguous States, with the exception of one, are equipped with soil moisture, soil temperature, and relative humidity sensors, which are supported by the National Integrated Drought Information System.

Soil moisture information is invaluable for weather and climate, runoff potential and flood control, soil erosion, reservoir management and water quality. Soil moisture plays an important role in the development of weather patterns and the production of precipitation. Soil moisture information can be used for reservoir management, early warning of droughts, irrigation scheduling, and crop yield forecasting. Measuring soil moisture in the U.S. is approached using in situ measurement networks, remote sensing and numerical modeling. To date, the USCRN is the only ground-based soil moisture network that spans the entire continental U.S. with a distribution of stations in nearly all the many different topographical, vegetation, and climate environments of the country.

For more information about the USCRN including detailed documentation, datasets, latest observations and news see the US Climate Reference Network page at NCEI.