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Central Park Weather: Vegetative Overgrowth Affecting Weather Readings - WABC-TV

(New York-WABC, August 22, 2003) - Forecasting the weather is not easy.
Government equipment can often be blamed for giving faulty weather
information. As Bill Evans explains, a big culprit may be some of the
equipment buried in Central Park.

Rainfall, snowfall, and the temperature are all vital information
recorded 24 hours a day at the weather station located in the heart of
Central Park.

But meteorologists like Michael Schlacter have serious concerns about the
accuracy of the stations data. It sits amid overgrown vegetation and he
says thats the problem. The leaves can trigger snow gauges and trees can
warp rain and wind measurements. On this hot day, a temperature gauge is
in the shade instead of direct sunlight.

Michael Schlacter, Weather 2000: "Its kind of like driving a car
without a speedometer, odometer, and gas gauge. You are running with
false information."

The weather instruments at Belvedere Castle have long adorned the top.
There used to be a government meteorologist here in the city to keep an
eye on them. But now the nearest meteorologist is 60 miles that way.

But National Weather Service meteorologists say they knew the weather
readings in the park would never be as keenly accurate as the ones at
the airports where guidelines prevent foliage from being within 100 feet
of the station.

Schlacter: "We knew that at times we would have flaky readings, that
leaves would fall in gauges, that we would have problems with
visibility sensors."

[NWS Meteorologist-in-Charge Michael] Wyllie says the weather station is
there because it was historically significant to maintain its presence
in the park.

He says theres been a lot of growth because of the wet spring at so much
in fact that temperatures have routinely been recorded lower in the park
than at the airports.

Wyllie: "We are actually having a micro climate system there because of
the vegetation."

Imperfect perhaps but nonetheless the system provides the official record
of weather for the country's largest city. And Michael Schlacter says
its a city that deserves better.

Schlacter: "I think New Yorkers deserve a lot better, and I think they
deserve the best weather station money can buy."

Copyright 2003 ABC Inc., WABC-TV Inc.