Errors in Estimating Temperatures Using the Average of Tmax and Tmin—Analysis of the USCRN Temperature Stations

Watts Up With That?

Guest post by Lance Wallace


The traditional estimate of temperature at measuring stations has been to average the highest (Tmax) and lowest (Tmin) daily measurements. This leads to error in estimating the true mean temperature. What is the magnitude of this error and how does it depend on geographic and climatic variables? The US Climate Reference Network (USCRN) of temperature measuring stations is employed to estimate the error for each station in the network. The 10th-90th percentile range of the errors extends from -0.5 to +0.5 C. Latitude and relative humidity (RH) are found to exert the largest influences on the error, explaining about 28% of the variance. A majority of stations have a consistent under- or over-estimate during all four seasons. The station behavior is also consistent across the years.


Historically, temperature measurements used to estimate climate change have depended on thermometers that record…

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