Stapleton will once again be home to an official weather observation station. When the Stapleton airport closed in 1995, the National Weather Service moved Denver’s official weather observation station to Denver International Airport (DIA) twenty miles east of the city. The National Weather Service shares vital weather observation data with airports across the country.
But often weather conditions at DIA are noticeably different than downtown. “So there’s always been a huge interest in having real-time observations from the Denver metro area,” says National Weather Service meteorologist Greg Hanson. “It’s usually warmer at DIA and gets less precipitation than the city.”
Later this fall, a new weather service tower will be constructed at its old Stapleton site, near The Urban Farm. Funded with private donations, the new tower will generate continuous weather information that will be used to make more accurate weather forecasts. Contractors will also continue to release weather balloons twice a day from the small, domed building on the old Stapleton site, an operation that never stopped after the old airport closed.
Weather balloons are still the primary source of data from above the ground. Every day, weather balloons are released at exactly the same time from nearly 900 sites around the world. In Denver, the release happens at 5 am and 5 pm. The balloons measure temperature, humidity, wind speeds and pressure.
Additionally, the National Weather Service relies on a team of a dozen volunteer observers in the Denver area who measure temperature and rainfall once a day. Until recently, the agency also received data from a private weather tower located near the Museum of Nature and Science. That equipment was dismantled when the City Park Golf Course began its reconstruction and donated to Metro State University’s meteorology program. According to Hanson, losing that tower created a “data gap” which up until now has not been filled.
The new Stapleton tower will hold equipment that is used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and meets National Weather Service standards for high- quality data. Hanson said he hopes the new tower will be up and running by this summer. “We have the equipment on hand. We have the site identified. We can start building it as soon as we get through the legal process of signing all of the agreements and contracts.”