Importance of Climate Measurement Standards

Climate measurement standards ensure compatibility for observing methodology which in turn increases the quality data. Standards provide a critical level playing field….the same bench mark from which we can all measure so that data are collected consistently through the years and between stations.

In the real world, standards cannot be fully met all of the time (e.g., instrument exposure). Every site has factors which bias the measurements in some way or another. A good precipitation site is not necessarily a good temperature location, is not necessarily a good wind location,…etc. However, standards do provide a critical, compatible, framework for the collection of the measurements.

Adherence to standards increases the accuracy, continuity, comparability, and representativeness of data. On the flip side, a lack of adherence to standards increases the uncertainty in the data record and blurs our ability to confidently assess natural climate variability and trends. As uncertainty increases, so does the risk of making inaccurate assessments of what is happening to our climate.

In operating climate observing systems, we must do all we can reasonably do to comply with observing standards. Like our judicial system, the issue is not whether you agree with the standard (or law). The point is we must all apply the same principles across the table equitably for the system to work. In society, a lack of adherence to standards (laws) can led to anarchy (look at the lawless driving conditions today and the mess they create if your skeptical!). In the climate world, the same situation leads to incompatible, inconsistent data (the current controversy over inconsistent methodology for snowfall measurements is a great example).