NOAA 2000-306
Contact: Pat Viets


The first of a new generation of climate observing stations was unveiled today at the North Carolina Arboretum, Asheville, N.C., the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced. The unveiling took place during the World Botanic Gardens Congress, a major gathering of international plant conservation and horticultural experts.

The climate station is the first in a network of automated climate stations called the U.S. Climate Reference Network. The network will potentially consist of 500 climate stations around the country designed for climate monitoring and for placing current climate anomalies into historical perspective. The stations will monitor temperature, precipitation, solar radiation, and wind speed. Hourly observations of these variables will be transmitted in near-real time, and the data and information from the station will be distributed by the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville.

"The goal of the network is to provide future long-term observations of temperature and precipitation that can be coupled to past long-term observations," said Rosina Bierbaum of the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy. "In this way, we can detect present and future climate change."

Tom Karl, director of the climate center, noted, "In 1999 the U.S. National Academy of Sciences asked whether the nation was making measurements, collecting data, and making it available in a way that would enable scientists to increase our understanding of natural and human-induced climate change. Our response was that improvements were needed, and we recommended the development of the Climate Reference Network. This network will provide the United States with a reference network that meets the requirements of the Global Climate Observing System."

"Conservationists, plant ecologists and gardeners are intimately dependent on the ability to monitor weather conditions and predict future trends," said George Briggs, executive director of the North Carolina Arboretum. "This unique partnership between the National Climatic Data Center and the North Carolina Arboretum is a critical step in marrying botanical and horticultural sciences to the atmospheric sciences and will provide vital data over the short and long term."

The station at the North Carolina Arboretum will feature an interactive computer kiosk in the Visitor Education Center. It will offer visitors the opportunity to access weather and climate information.