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Weather monitoring location was picked for aviation safety

Isn't the airport the dumbest locale to judge the Medford weather? Why is Medford weather data taken at the airport?

— John G., Medford

That's a very concise couple of questions, John.

To summarize, you want to know why the hottest and driest spot in the valley was selected as the site to observe Medford's weather? In fact, the Medford airport is the driest spot west of the Cascades, according to Shad Keene, meteorologist with the National Weather Service office at the airport.

The quick answer to your question, John, is that the National Weather Service installed its observation equipment at the airport for aviation safety.

In addition to monitoring temperature and rainfall, the Automated Service Observing System, or ASOS, also measures cloud depth and visibility, an important consideration when landing or taking off. By the way, the ASOS cost $100,000 and data is available round-the-clock.

A team of four people at the weather service maintains the ASOS in addition to radar equipment and other observation stations throughout Southern Oregon.

"This is one of the most sophisticated observation systems that exists," Keene said.

You can go to weather.gov/medford to see real-time data.

The observation system is located in the hottest and driest spot, but it is generally representative of temperatures throughout the valley, Keene said. Temperatures can be three to five degrees cooler in other parts of the valley, he said. Also, rainfall amounts can vary considerably from location to location.

The airport also is located in one of the foggiest spots in the valley, which is another reason why the ASOS is so important for aviation safety, Keene said.

"Aviation safety is number one," he said.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.