High temperatures and runways?

courtesy click2houston.com

You’ve probably heard jokes asking why the weather report comes from the airport when “no one lives there.”

Without question, knowing weather conditions is paramount for pilots and, thus, official weather reporting stations around the country are at airports. And before all the technology of the last decades, having a person present most of the time to take and report the weather readings was important too! In addition, high-level weather equipment is expensive to own and maintain and governments have to pick the most efficient and necessary spot for placement. Again, airports.

But just where that equipment is at those airports might make a difference in readings. I had a long-time viewer send me this email:

Frank, It seems like Hobby keeps breaking its temp records, 84 twice this past week but other official climate sights (sic) haven’t gotten above 82. These readings seem suspect. I believe the ASOS (weather station) at Hobby has been moved recently, maybe closer to a runway.🤔 Anyway just some FYI. Jack

First, Hobby was indeed slightly warmer than other spots the last days of December. I put this side-by-side comparison together of Hobby and Bush airports:

Hobby was consistently slightly warmer than Bush

Dan Reilly of the National Weather Service Houston confirmed the weather equipment was moved in 2019 closer to runway 35 due to construction at Hobby (Have you been there lately??). I found the current weather station on a Google map:

You can see the runway, station and construction area

The natural assumption is that moving the weather station closer to a runway and, therefore, hotter concrete and airplane engines would increase the heat and give a higher-than-normal air temperature reading. I think I could also argue that construction in the area would do the same thing. Honestly, it’s hard to say.

Again, from Dan Reilly: That is a tough question to answer. Would have to do a careful analysis but I suppose it could have an effect. Was moved March 2019. The thinking from our office is any effect should be pretty minor. Also Lance (Woods) points out there has been considerable urbanization around that airport over the years. So it would be difficult to isolate the impact of moving the ASOS (weather station) but would be worth trying to do.

Dan also points out that, for Houston, IAH is the official site for climate purposes.

And to that end, the IAH official ASOS site is also near a runway:

The official ASOS reporting site for Houston is near runway 15R

I wouldn’t jump to any quick conclusions regarding daily temperature data but, as Dan said, it’s worth looking into, and thanks to Jack for bringing it up!


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About the Authors:

KPRC 2's chief meteorologist with three decades of experience forecasting Houston's weather.

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, consumer and business news and local crime coverage.