Breakdown: That’s not right! Why your backyard temperature gauge is not very accurate

Updated: Jan. 27, 2020 at 3:05 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Let’s face it, we all see the temperature scrolling across a blank sign, or maybe you have your own backyard thermometer. Well those readings always seem a lot warmer than the actual temperature outside. What causes that?

In this episode of the Breakdown, we explain the official way that the National Weather Service measures the temperature you feel when you’re out and about.

There are standards when measuring temperatures outside. There is a white birdhouse-like box at the Memphis International Airport and at the National Weather Service office at the Agricenter International in Memphis.

This box is called a Stevenson box and it is designed to hold a thermometer and record the official temperatures we see each day.

This box is installed over soil or sod and must be at least 100 feet away from concrete or a harder surface that absorbs heat. It usually tries to avoid areas of poor drainage and snow drifts.

When you compare the official temperature reading to the one you might have at your home or business, here’s why your home thermometer may vary greatly from the official temperature.

It’s all about the placement. Your home thermometer may be in direct sunlight, can be near dark surfaces that absorb heat and near houses or concrete, which can radiate heat.

While the official recording Stevenson box is always shading the thermometer, the white paint reduces heat absorption, and the box is placed 4 feet above the ground in an open field.

While your home thermometer or bank temperature might be a good gauge of what you are feeling outside, the official temperature has rules that are set across the world to have a uniform way of taking temperatures.

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