USHCN Waste Water Treatment Plants

I’ve been involved in meteorology in one way or another since 1976, and while I knew of the vast number of COOP stations around the USA, I never knew that a good number of them are at sewage treatment plants until I started my project. It seems to me, that given the physical makeup of these facilities, they are one of the worst possible environments to measure air temperature. But like many historical stations, they weren’t chosen with the environment in mind, but rather if there was a human being present 7 days a week whom could take the high/low temps and rainfall and write it down on an NCDC B44 form.

This week I visited a few stations in southern California, and Santa Barbara is one of those USHCN stations that is also a sewage treatment plant. Conicidentally, a few other USHCN stations that are also WWTP’s were posted by volunteers. So I thought I’d give you the grand tour.

Sanat Barbara WWTP and USHCN station
Above: aerial view of Santa Barbara WWTP and USHCN climate station of record

Placement of Santa Barbara's MMTS Temperature Sensor - looking NW
Above: Placement of Santa Barbara’s MMTS Temperature Sensor – looking NW

Here’s one from Tifton, GA taken by Joel McDade:
Tifton, GA WWTP and USHCN station
more pictures here

Cheraw, SC taken by L. Nettles:
Cheraw, SC WWTP and USHCN
more pictures here

Albany, GA from Joel McDade:
Albany, GA WWTP and USHCN

more pictures here

Zumbota, MN from Don Kostuch
Zumrota, MN WWTP and USHCN
more pictures here

And let’s not forget Urbana, OH, by Steve Tiemeir
Urbana, OH WWTP and USHCN
more pictures here

There’s lots more, but you get the idea. volunteer Don Kostuch wrote this to me about WWTP’s recently:

“I spoke with the curator in New Hampton IA. He gave me these figures for his plant last January:
780,000 gal/day
Incoming temp 55F
Outgoing temp 43F

I calculate this heat loss is about 3 million btu/hr.

The population is about 3500 so each person releases about 1000 btu/hr at the plant on a cold day.

The effect on the sensor depends on the placement, temperature, wind, location of the tanks, etc. which I have not attempted to analyze, but it seems to be worth some careful attention.

The worst example I saw was in Winnebago, MN where the sensor is above and in the middle of four large tanks all huddled together in about a 100
ft square. The population there is about 1500 so the heat released would be about 1.5 million btu/hr in an area of about 10000 sq.ft.”

And, as population grows in a city so would waste water volume. So it stands to reason the a temperature sensor at a WWTP would be directly sensing waste heat produced by population growth, and the amount of waste heat would grow proportionately with population.

Perhaps we should call the WWTP effect “P-UHI”.


  1. L Nettles
    Posted Jul 21, 2007 at 4:04 PM | Permalink

    In the interests of full disclosure, in the Cheraw S.C. photos the building shown in the background is a water filtration plant. Cheraw gets its drinking water from the Great Pee Dee River just a short distance away. The waste water treatment plant is just to the East of the sensor and is shown in the Google Earth map of the site but not in the photos of the site inspection.

  2. steven mosher
    Posted Jul 21, 2007 at 5:11 PM | Permalink

    Resisting the urge to makes comments about getting drinking water from the great Pee
    Dee river, I would note the following, most purification processes spew heat:
    Burning heretics or boiling poo water.

    What I find odd is the number of stations that have been placed in the places most likely to be
    skewed by human activity.

    24/7 monitoring or even daily monitoring ( not remote) looks like it pushed selection
    of sites to places where humans exist 24/7.

    the post office, the newspaper, the firestation, the airport, the sewage treatment place.

    unintended consequence of requiring daily reportage.

  3. steven mosher
    Posted Jul 21, 2007 at 5:49 PM | Permalink

    Santa barbara adjustment. Conforms to my specualtion. A poorly sited station is
    Cooled first and then warmed. Preserving a hockey stick in the current period.

  4. L Nettles
    Posted Jul 21, 2007 at 6:38 PM | Permalink

    #2 wasamatter you don’t recognize a great straight line when you see one? I was tempted to omit the name of the river, but regional pride wouldn’t let me and we are used to the reactions of strangers. It is a Native American name. I doubt the filtration plant generates any heat, I would expect a cooling effect to be more likely.

  5. TAC
    Posted Jul 21, 2007 at 6:50 PM | Permalink

    steven mosher (#2),
    What I find odd is the number of stations that have been placed in the places most likely to be
    skewed by human activity.
    This actually isn’t so surprising. To quote Willy Sutton, “that’s where the money is.” Airports and sewage treatment plants have large budgets and can afford the luxury of collecting local weather data. The places we really want to sample — those unaffected by humanity –typically have no budget at all.

    In short, Anthony Watts’s research has convinced me that the USHCN is a dog’s breakfast of stations; it is not a “network” of sites that could be used to discern a climate signal.

    In short, we’re all going to have to look elsewhere to figure out what’s really happening.

  6. joel Hammer
    Posted Jul 21, 2007 at 8:57 PM | Permalink

    Is anything positive going to come out of this sort of activity?

    Is somebody putting together data to write a paper or to present this information to Congress? After all, this may be the smoking gun that exposes the global warming alarm for a scam.

    The average person cannot possibly understand the data sources and statistical methods used in this debate. Then, the average person has no choice but to try to judge the integrity of the various debaters, which is hard to do at a distance. But, anybody can see that data from these sorts of installations is just no good.

    Imagine a Congressman every week between now and the election getting up on the House Floor and reading yet another description of a poorly installed weather station into the Congressional record. Imagine if the news media gets enthused over it. Imagine if the late night talk show hosts got into it!!

    Yes. Get a hot babe, or a least a guy with good hair, to be your assistant, and she go on the air as the spokesperson for people doing this sort of investigative work.

  7. jae
    Posted Jul 21, 2007 at 9:39 PM | Permalink

    Don’t worry about these things. The wind renders all anomolies equal.

  8. Andrey Levin
    Posted Jul 22, 2007 at 1:21 AM | Permalink

    Sewage Treatment Plants (STP) appears to be lousy spot to place weather station. STP technology evolved with time. At first it was simple settling ponds, than activated sludge lagoons were added, than anaerobic digesters. Activated sludge ponds are constantly aerated, giving up substantial amount of CO2 and water vapor. Anaerobic digesters biodegrade primary and excess activated sludge, producing substantial amount of biogas ‘€” 65% CO2 35% methane by volume. Methane is combusted on the spot, sometimes in boilers, sometimes in diesel-generators. Excess heat is used to keep digesters (huge circular capped concrete tanks) at temperature optimum for mesophilic microorganisms ‘€” 35 degree C, day and night, 365 days a year. Amount of sewage increased faster than population, and is usually close to 200 gallons per capita per day. Water vapor, CO2, rejected heat from exhaust and anaerobic digesters ‘€” enough to bias temperature measurements up as STP technology evolved and amount of treated sewage increased over time.

  9. Posted Jul 22, 2007 at 2:15 AM | Permalink

    #2 Steven,

    It seemed like a good idea at the time.

  10. steven mosher
    Posted Jul 22, 2007 at 6:30 PM | Permalink

    all of the siting issues are covered by the anomaly method and the homogenieity

    you have 10 bad sites that show a 2C warming
    you have 10 good sites that show no WARMING.

    “homogeneize them.” Have each show a 1C warming.
    Then hide the code for your adjustment.

    THERE IS A REASON why gavin suggested that I just look at the good sites.
    the reason is that the “adjustments” impute warming into sites that show no warming.

  11. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted Jul 22, 2007 at 11:44 PM | Permalink

    The weather stations on land are a mess as shown, but following the debate on the Great Global Warming Swindle, one of the Australian profs said that the land temperature measurements agreed with sea measurements so they must both be right (???). If CA contributors continue to show many bad land stations, does this mean that the Team response will be to show lots of good sea stations? I am simple minded. How does one measure a temperature increase in the sea? Does one measure right down to the bottom of the sea, take spot readings every x metres, smooth them, adjust them, avearge them, project them up into the sky and down into the basement? What assumptions are made in these models? Can they produce a hockey stick?

  12. Al
    Posted Jul 24, 2007 at 12:50 PM | Permalink

    “How does one measure a temperature increase in the sea?”

    By changing the type of bucket and the standard practices within the time period of observation. AKA – exactly the same way they do the land measurements – egregiously.

  13. Tamara Garcia
    Posted Nov 7, 2007 at 2:42 AM | Permalink

    I know that CO2 can be used to low the pH and to removal phosphorus in a wastewater treatment plant. I would like to know the quantity (grafic CO2/pH) and what pH is normaly there before the secundary treatment. Do you know some other uses of CO2 in a wastewater treatment plant?

  14. SteveSadlov
    Posted Jan 7, 2008 at 10:57 AM | Permalink

    Anthony did a really good job of presenting and answering interview questions this morning on KSFO 560 AM (San Francisco) a reasonably high powered station covering the entire SF-SJ-OAK Metro (4th largest media market in the US) a large area of its hinterlands and even part of the Sacramento Metro. Needless to say, being during morning drive time, many heard it. The talk host is also a meteorologist (and ex KCBS, Channel 5, San Francisco weathercaster). The interview featured Surface Stations, presenting a compendium of the site and the activities (and volunteers) underpinning it. It also included a specific mention of the subject matter (and,ahem, certain other sorts of … um …. matter) relevant to this thread. Kudos!

  15. SteveSadlov
    Posted Jan 7, 2008 at 11:20 AM | Permalink


  16. Larry
    Posted Jan 7, 2008 at 11:44 AM | Permalink

    Anthony, FWIW, that last picture is a headworks, and that’s “influent”, not “effluent”.

    Most sewage treatment process don’t make a lot of heat, but there are a few that do; anaerobic sludge digestion, sludge incineration (!), flaring of digester gas, and enriched O2 digestion. It’s not obvious from these photos that any of these processes are present in these plants, but there are enough standard bad siting practices (near A/C units, etc.) for these stations to be suspect.

  17. Posted Nov 5, 2008 at 2:21 PM | Permalink

    I know that CO2 can be used to low the pH and to removal phosphorus in a wastewater treatment plant.

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