PRISM: Creating Temperature Files

PRISM's data prep routines are used to convert daily temperature data to PRISM-ready format. Although all possible data formats cannot be accommodated, an updated external PRISM data prep routine covers formats currently used by NOAA. Procedures to convert text files of columnar temperature data (i.e. produced in EXCEL, SPSS, or SAS), a utility that speeds the updating of temperature data, and an editor to use with small ASCII files, are also included in the Data Prep Menu in PRISM.

Professor Kelly Kissock’s page at the University of Dayton

The easiest way to retrieve temperature data is to go to Professor Kissock’s page at the University of Dayton. The site states; “This site contains files of daily average temperatures for 157 U.S. and 167 international cities. The files are updated on a regular basis and contain data from January 1, 1995 to present. Source data for this site are from the National Climatic Data Center. The data is available for research and non-commercial purposes only. This rich dataset will support 99% of all PRISM analysis.


In 1998, after publication of the PRISM Users Guide, NOAA revised the system of providing temperature data to users. Users may request data from NOAA's National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) located at Files are available for a fee, except those on an .EDU domain. EDU users have free access to all NOAA data.

To accommodate these changes we have revised the existing NOAA to TPS program and renamed it NOAATOCOLS. The program is no longer embedded in PRISM, but provided as an external utility. The program inputs raw NOAA data (text files) and converts them to a columnar format so the embedded PRISM Utility, Column to TPS can be used to create PRISM-ready temperature files.

Data Quality

We recommend using only First Order Summary of the Day Temperature Data (TD-3210) from primary weather stations. Primary stations are typically located at airports and military installations. These stations have been collecting data for many years (some since 1948), the data is now collected electronically, has undergone quality control procedures by NOAA and is considered to be the most reliable. You should collect at least 10 years of average or min/max  daily temperatures in order to create a 10-year normalization period and cover the period of your billing data. We currently recommend acquiring daily data for January 1998 through the latest dates available from NOAA,
Follow the instructions in the PRISM USERS Manual on page II-85 to convert this columnar file to a PRISM ready .TPS file. A revised version of these pages is also included here.