Confusing 5-minute Weather Observations

Caveat Emptor.

Some NOAA websites are beginning to display ASOS (i.e., airport weather) observations every 5-minutes.  An example is  While at first blush this seems like an awesome way to see more timely data, it can cause confusion when comparing it to daily maximum and minimum readings.

Example of 5-minute readings:

The 5-minute readings are actually an "instantaneous" 1-minute observation at the particular time noted. The problem arises in that the maxima and minima are a "5-minute average" of five adjacent individual 1-minute readings.  Consequently, that average could be less than one of the 5-minute readings.

For example, at the hottest time of the day you have an instantaneous 5-minute reading of 85 degrees at 14:30.  However, if the readings at 14:27, 14:28, 14:29 and 14:31 were all 84 degrees, then the maximum reading would be 84.2, which would be rounded to 84.

Correction: In rereading the ASOS criteria I think I misinterpreted how’s it’s calculated (i.e., the 5-min values are the average of the previous five 1-min values) and that rounding due to C to F conversions may be more of a factor.  But overall I am right for the wrong reasons and for the real world the confusion remains with seeing different 5-min values than the climatological max/min temps.

Jan Null, CCM
Golden Gate Weather Services