Denver’s weather is currently gauged at Denver International Airport. That’s a problem, said National Weather Service meteorologist Greg Hanson.
He said a common complaint he hears is that DIA — located about 17 miles directly northeast from downtown — is too far east and doesn’t adequately represent the city’s weather, since the area is typically colder and drier than Denver proper.
On Monday, Denver City Council will vote on whether to allow the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees the National Weather Service, to outfit an old weather station a little closer to downtown, at the old Stapleton airport. Denver would partner with the NWS to build the site that meteorologists hope will provided more accurate data for the city.
The new weather station equipment would be installed near Urban Farm, a nonprofit farm geared toward kids, at 10200 Smith Rd. The site used to have a weather station, and Hanson said the NWS still has a presence there, since the agency used to operate the site back when Stapleton International Airport was still running. Hanson said staffers still release weather balloons there twice a day, and it’s one of only three places in Colorado that does this. The balloon rises with with an instrument called a radiosonde that measures temperature, humidity, pressure and has GPS so it can be tracked.
Hanson said the Urban Farm’s current building, located in the Central Park neighborhood, used to house the NWS offices before the agency moved to Boulder in the mid-1990s.
Reestablishing the former weather station would mean installing a new 30-foot radio tower on city park land (Urban Farm leases the land from the city).
The tower would be equipped with a wind sensor and gauges to measure temperature, precipitation and pressure.
The agreement would run from August 1 to July 31, 2039, according to city documents. The city isn’t charging the agency any money for the agreement. Scott Gilmore, deputy director of Denver Parks and Recreation, said that’s because NWS will be collecting weather data for the entire city to make sure people are safe and the city gets accurate information.
“Park land is very precious in the city and county of Denver,” Gillmore said. “We just don’t allow any groups to just come into parks and run their businesses or do activities.”
Gilmore said people have been trying to move a weather station closer to central Denver for years. One such effort included local meteorologist Mike Nelson, who helped set up a station at City Park Golf Course in 2009 with help from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. The site’s equipment was donated by a Finnish instrument company.
Nelson, chief meteorologist at 7News, said the equipment was taken down when the golf course was shuttered for redevelopment. And Nelson said new management at the museum had a “change in philosophy” and didn’t want to continue managing a weather station there. He’s working to get that equipment back up, but this time at the Auraria campus, where Nelson would like to see it managed by Metropolitan State University of Denver students.
Nelson said he used to visit the weather station at the old Stapleton airport site pretty regularly in the 1990s.
“The real value of reestablishing the Stapleton site is we had seven decades of weather records there,” Nelson said.
The new station in Central Park would compliment the existing one at DIA, Hanson said, to continue “high quality observation” closer to the Denver metro area.