Berkeley: The Weather Record

Mid-November, and the temperature stayed above 70 tonight–“tonight” meaning Sunday night though it’s past midnight now–until well past dark. The forecasts say there are high winds from the north and east just above the tops of our mountains and ridges, and that’s one thing keeping things warm. Walking through the neighborhood this evening, you keep encountering distinct pockets of summery warm air.

Checking the local weather records maintained by the Western Regional Climate Center, I see Berkeley’s record high for November 14 listed as 74, set in 2008. In fact, that 2008 record was the first day in a three-day string of records. On the 15th and 16th two years ago, Berkeley’s highs were 81 and 82 degrees. That 74 record for November 14 was, until today, the lowest high temperature record for the month up to November 21 (the record for that date: 74, set in 1919).

The November 14 record was rewritten today. To what, I’m not precisely sure, because I’m not precisely sure which Berkeley weather station is “official.” I’ve got two candidates.

One is on a rooftop at 2111 Bancroft Way in downtown Berkeley, just west of the southwest corner of the UC-Berkeley campus. Here’s the weather station site, complete with current observations (this is the downtown station that appears on Weather Underground; you can see the enclosure for the station in this Google satellite view). The high at this site today, for what it’s worth: 79.5 degrees.

OK, that’s one. I was led on a wild goose chase for the second potential official Berkeley weather station by a loose reading of a UC-Berkeley website that describes “The Berkeley Weather Station, 1886-present.” The page mentions that this station is an old and established member of the “Cooperative Weather Observer Program (CWOP)”–an effort that Thomas Jefferson dreamed up back in the 18th century. Looking for a listing for Berkeley’s “CWOP” data, I Googled that acronym. Sure enough, there is a Berkeley station listed: CW1634. A couple oddities, though: The latitude and longitude coordinates for that station put it in a residential neighborhood near the Claremont Hotel, a mile or more from campus. A little more poking around, and I established that CWOP also stands for “Citizen Weather Observer Program” and that CW1634 is at a private home with a contact email belonging to the founder of a well-known local software company. The high at this station today: 81.

So, back to “The Berkeley Weather Station.” I tried to track this down before and didn’t quite get there. Thanks to devoting about two and a half hours to just sitting and sorting through different possibilities, I found a page that gives a precise location for the station, which is at 310 feet above sea level, just outside McCone Hall, near Euclid Avenue and Hearst Street. I tried contacting the guy listed as running the observation program in hopes that I could get access to daily data from the station, but I must have said I’m a blogger, and he ignored me. In any case, this is the station that has provided the data that appears in the Western Regional Climate Center tables that include the high temperature records set in 2008.

Not sure what the high was up there today. A project for another time.

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