Why all this weather talk about Sky Harbor?

Posted: Updated:
The array of weather instruments at Sky Harbor Airport. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The array of weather instruments at Sky Harbor Airport. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
This is an aerial view of Sky Harbor that shows where the weather station is located. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) This is an aerial view of Sky Harbor that shows where the weather station is located. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
A closer look at the thermometer at Sky Harbor Airport, where the temperature is taken. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) A closer look at the thermometer at Sky Harbor Airport, where the temperature is taken. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
The ultrasonic anemometer at Sky Harbor, which measures the wind. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The ultrasonic anemometer at Sky Harbor, which measures the wind. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Official rainfall falls are measured here at the automated rain gauge at Sky Harbor Airport. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Official rainfall falls are measured here at the automated rain gauge at Sky Harbor Airport. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV) -

The thing about temperature is that it can vary greatly over small distances. That’s why many times you’ll see our Valley temperature map and your neighborhood might be 100, but the next one over is 96. Then another city is 102.

It would be very confusing if we tried to track, on an annual basis, all the different weather stations in Maricopa County. When you add up public and private weather information, there are hundreds of stations around metro Phoenix.

That’s why you hear us talking about Sky Harbor Airport so often. That’s the one set of weather instruments, even though they’ve moved more than 15 times over the years, that has reported Phoenix weather since 1895. Remember, there was no Sky Harbor until 1935. In those days, the airport was nicknamed “The Farm,” because it was in such a rural location.

The weather station is located in the southeast corner of the airport property near the Salt River Bed. We made a map with an arrow. The control tower is nearly a half mile away. There are all sorts of devices measuring the atmosphere here, recording everything from temperature to solar energy to visibility. And it does it 24/7.

The temperature gauge looks kind of like a mushroom. When your phone says it’s 115 in Phoenix, this is where the data is coming from. The thermometer is aspirated, which is a fancy way of saying it draws air through the column constantly so it just doesn’t bake away in the sun giving values that are too high like the inside of a metal shed at 4 p.m., June 21.

The wind gauge doesn’t look like the anemometer I grew up watching. Gone are the rotating wind cups, replaced by ultrasonic sensors. The sensors are much more accurate than the cups and are mounted 10 meters off the ground.

The rain gauge still retains a bit of the old “bucket” look, but its surrounded by all kinds of slats which cut the wind, making the rain readings more accurate.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


  • Arizona's Family Weather BlogMore>>

  • Sneak peek at monsoon forecast

    Sneak peek at monsoon forecast

    Tuesday, May 22 2018 10:49 PM EDT2018-05-23 02:49:08 GMT
    Arizona could see more rain than usual during the monsoon. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)Arizona could see more rain than usual during the monsoon. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

    After an especially dry winter and spring, could this upcoming monsoon season bring Arizona the rain we've been waiting for? Meteorologist April Warnecke takes a look at the updated forecast for the 2018 monsoon season.

    More >

    After an especially dry winter and spring, could this upcoming monsoon season bring Arizona the rain we've been waiting for? Meteorologist April Warnecke takes a look at the updated forecast for the 2018 monsoon season.

    More >
  • Radar spots Hawaiian volcano eruption

    Radar spots Hawaiian volcano eruption

    Friday, May 18 2018 6:02 AM EDT2018-05-18 10:02:18 GMT
    Early Thursday the show continued when the Kilauea volcano's summit rocketed ash and smoke thousands of feet into the air. (Source: USGS)Early Thursday the show continued when the Kilauea volcano's summit rocketed ash and smoke thousands of feet into the air. (Source: USGS)

    It's been a wild couple of weeks in Hawaii as volcanic activity has kept the world's attention captive. While this was visible to many on the ground, a very important weather tool also was able to spot it.

    More >

    It's been a wild couple of weeks in Hawaii as volcanic activity has kept the world's attention captive. While this was visible to many on the ground, a very important weather tool also was able to spot it.

    More >
  • Ignore the man with the long paintbrush pole walking through the desert

    Ignore the man with the long paintbrush pole walking through the desert

    Thursday, May 17 2018 9:59 PM EDT2018-05-18 01:59:04 GMT
    (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)(Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

    Taking photos of saguaro blooms high in the sky isn't as hard as you may think.

    More >

    Taking photos of saguaro blooms high in the sky isn't as hard as you may think.

    More >