Why all this weather talk about Sky Harbor?

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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.


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