About once a week, we get an email (or phone call) complaining that our current temperature for Payson is wrong. When I point to the weather map and show that's it's 42 in Chandler, but you look outside your Chandler home and see 44 degrees on your own thermometer, I'm sure you wouldn't think twice about that. But the difference in reported temperatures versus actual temperatures many viewers are seeing in Payson is much bigger. We're talking 10-15 degrees.
Payson sits at an elevation of 5,000 feet. It's generally about 15-20 degrees cooler than the Valley during the afternoons. In the winter, they get their fair share of both rain and snow. In fact, this last storm was cold enough to bring the area about 2 inches.
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I mentioned the elevation, but the topography is the factor that's most influencing the temperature differences. The elevation around town doesn't change more than about 200 feet. But the natural surface features of the land can lead to big differences, especially during the morning hours when cool air pools in the lower valleys in the area. Take a look at the temperature differences this morning around the Payson area at 7 a.m. There's a 13-degree difference between the coldest and warmest station in Payson.
Temperatures are more uniform later in the day as we warm up and the air mixes. Here's a look at those same stations around 11 a.m. Wednesday. Five out of the six reporting weather stations around town are within 3 degrees of each other.
"Topography is the main issue," Michael Langevin with the National Weather Service in Flagstaff tells me. "One more thing might be wind. If it's calm, temperatures will be cooler. If there is just a little bit of wind, the temps will be a little warmer."
So it doesn't take much in a spot like Payson to see a big variation in morning temperatures. When a few viewers said our temperature was showing too cold, we changed our map to show a different weather station in the area. But then we received emails that it was way too warm. There are more than 15,000 people in Payson. The temperature we report, or even the "official" temperature at the airport, are not going to be representative for all of them. But know that we're aware of this and that by understanding the terrain of that area, you'll know why there's such a variation in beautiful Rim Country.
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