By PAUL GLADER
The placement of the brass rain gauge at the end of a boat dock at Mohonk Preserve in New Paltz has been criticized.
Weather experts are tangling over a 114-year-old thermometer at the Mohonk Preserve, New York's largest nonprofit nature preserve.
Set on a rocky spot near the Mohonk Mountain House close by the Hudson River in New Paltz, the white thermometer box has been visited by weather observers every day between 4 and 5 p.m. since 1896. While there, the observers record the high and low temperatures for the past 24 hours.
In an article appearing in the current issue of the "Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology," academics from Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory say that the century-old weather station at the preserve offers a powerful commentary on climate change. "The site is optimal for daily climate analysis," write Ben Cook and his co-authors, noting that the station has been in the same spot and has had methodical recording over the years.
The Mohonk Preserve regularly invites research scientists to analyze its meticulously collected historical data on weather, plant life and wildlife for patterns related to climate change and other factors.
Self-described climate-change critic Anthony Watts of Chico, Calif., questions such claims following a 2009 investigation of the Mohonk site by surfacestations.org, a website that researches and challenges climate station records and surveys. The former TV weather forecaster and weather equipment entrepreneur notes that the thermometer box is wind-sheltered and is situated near artificial heat sources, such as a building with a chimney, and that there are trees nearby, the shade and reflections from which can influence temperature readings.
He also notes the thermometer box is 29 inches from the ground; 59 inches is the standard. "They err in saying that site is optimal," said Mr. Watts. "The lower the thermometer and closer to the surface of the earth it is, the warmer the temperature."
Mohonk botanist Paul C. Huth, who has taken weather records for 36 years, agrees the site has flaws but said it can't be changed. "We're trying to maintain a standard of method and observation."
Mr. Watts also criticizes the placement of the brass rain gauge at the end of a boat dock. "It makes me wonder how many kids dump Pepsi in there or peed," he said.
Mr. Huth also shrugs off that criticism. "We're out there all the time," he said. "Attendants are well-trained to keep their eyes on the facilities."
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