Warmest January on record for the lower atmosphere

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:37 PM GMT on February 17, 2010

Share this Blog
2
+

Earth's lower atmosphere recorded its warmest January on record last month, according to data from both the University of Alabama, Hunstville (UAH) and Remote Sensing Systems (Figure 1). The satellite measurements used to take the global temperature of the lower atmosphere began in December 1978, using the Microwave Sounding Unit (MSU) on polar-orbiting satellites. The January 2010 temperature anomaly was an impressive 0.72°C above the 1979 - 1998 average, easily beating the previous record of 0.59°C set in January 2007. Last month's anomaly was the 3rd warmest anomaly for any month, falling just 0.04°C cooler than the record warmest anomalies of 0.76°C from February and April 1998. The January 2010 satellite-measured temperatures continued a trend of very warm conditions we've seen in the lower atmosphere since the current El Niño event began in June 2009. Record high temperatures occurred in November 2009, and were the second highest on record in both July and September 2009, according to UAH. The record-breaking temperatures in the lower atmosphere are due to the heating of the atmosphere by the strong El Niño event that has been heating the waters of the Central and Eastern Pacific since June 2009, combined with the global warming trend of the past few decades. Since we are currently at the lowest level of solar output in decades, the Earth is currently about 0.1°C cooler than if we were near the maximum of the 11-year sunspot cycle. Had we been near solar maximum, we would have set an all-time warmest lower atmosphere temperature anomaly record last month.(Note, though, that there is about a 2-year time lag between solar maximum and when Earth's global temperature responds). It will be interesting to see if the current El Niño event, which is quite a bit weaker than the record-strongest El Niño of 1998, is capable of making 2010 beat 1998 for honors as the warmest year on record in the lower atmosphere.


Figure 1. Temperature of the lowest 8km of the atmosphere measured by satellite via the MSU instrument flown on polar-orbiting satellites between 1979 - 2010. Image credit: Dr. Roy Spencer, University of Alabama, Hunstville.

Real-time display of atmospheric temperatures measured by satellite
The University of Alabama, Huntsville has a handy interactive plotting page that lets one plot up the historical and near-real-time satellite measurements of Earth's global average temperature at various levels of the atmosphere. These temperatures are measured by the MSU instrument on the polar-orbiting NOAA-15 satellite. Note that this is a different instrument than the AQUA satellite's MSU instrument used by UAH to formulate their official monthly global temperature anomaly data set. The two satellites give similar results, although NOAA-15 requires an additional correction to account for drift of the satellite.


Figure 2. Temperature of the global atmosphere at 14,000 feet (4.4 km) as measured by the MSU instrument on the polar-orbiting NOAA-15 satellite. This instrument has been flying since August 1998. The 20-year average (yellow line) and 20-year record highs (pink line) are for the period 1979 - 1998, using versions of the MSU instrument that flew on older satellites. The most recent data (green line), as of February 15, 2010, are marked by a white square, and have now fallen below the record for the date set in 1998. Note that during July 2009, November 2009, and January 2010, record high temperatures were measured at 14,000 feet altitude. A full description of the data is available from the University of Alabama, Hunstville.

Error sources in global atmospheric temperatures measured by satellite
Satellite-measured temperatures of Earth's atmosphere, in my judgment, are inferior to using the surface based system of ground stations and ocean buoys for measuring global temperature changes. I have two reasons for saying this:

1) The satellite temperatures show large global increases when there is an El Niño event. While the surface also experiences an upward spike in temperatures during an El Niño, it is much less pronounced than the atmospheric heating that occurs. Since we live at the surface, those temperatures are more relevant.

2) According to a description of the MSU data available on the Remote Sensing Systems web site where the data is archived,


"The instruments in the MSU series were intended for day to day operational use in weather forecasting and thus are not calibrated to the precision needed for climate studies. A climate quality dataset can be extracted from their measurements only by careful inter-calibration of the eleven distinct MSU instruments."


In other words, it's very tricky to make an accurate measurement of Earth's temperature going back to 1979, when satellite measurements began. You have to merge data from eleven separate satellites, whose instruments were never designed to make the kind of precise long-term climate measurements that are being asked of them. While surface stations also have error sources, I believe that the uncertainty in the satellite-based global temperature measurements are higher.

Dr. John Christy of the University of Alabama, Huntsville, made a series of efforts to perform the careful inter-calibration needed beginning in the 1990s, and for over a decade successfully defended his conclusion that the MSU instruments were showing a much lower level of tropospheric warming than what climate models predicted. Christy was probably the most quoted scientist by the "greenhouse skeptics" during that period, and testified numerous times before Congress about his findings. This discrepancy was a prime argument Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) used in his famed 2003 speech when he referred to the threat of catastrophic global warming as the "greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people." Greenhouse contrarian Dr. S. Fred Singer, who has probably more Congressional testimony about global warming under his belt than any other scientist, headlined his SEPP website for many years with the quote, "Computer models forecast rapidly rising global temperatures, but data from weather satellites and balloon instruments show no warming whatsoever. Nevertheless, these same unreliable computer models underpin the Global Climate Treaty." Michael Crichton also used the tropospheric warming discrepancy to give climate models a bad rap in his State of Fear novel. However, a series of papers published in 2004 and 2005 showed that the satellite inter-calibration methods used by Christy were incorrect. Christy conceded that his analysis had been in error, and participated in writing a statement put out by NOAA's Climate Change Science Program that detailed the error.

Climate change contrarians continue to prefer using the UAH satellite data to look at global temperature trends, since that data set shows less warming than the regular surface station data sets, and rates 1998 as the warmest year on record. The UAH data shows that in the 31-year period from 1979 - 2009, Earth's lower atmospheric temperature warmed by 0.13°C per decade. A separate analysis of the satellite data by Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) puts this number at 0.15°C per decade. For comparison, NASA's GISS and the UK HadCRUT surface data sets (which don't use satellite data) show warming of 0.16°C and 0.15°C per decade, respectively. You can generate these numbers yourself, using the excellent woodfortrees.org plotting tools. The amount of global warming predicted in the 2007 IPCC report for the period 2010 - 2030 was 0.20°C per decade, so we are running about 25% below this predicted level of warming, when averaging over the past 31 years.

For further reading: I have a 2006 blog post on this, and realclimate.org has a technical discussion.

Portlight continues relief efforts in Haiti
The Portlight.org disaster-relief effort continues in Haiti, with another container of specifically-requested medical supplies being shipped today. At the request of Portlight's on-site coordinator, Richard Lumarque, Portlight is committed to sending another container with 500 tents plus food and water. The cost of each shipment is $4300, so your donations are greatly appreciated! Please visit the Portlight.org blog to learn more and to donate. Floodman's blog has the latest info on Portlight's plan for Haitian relief.


Figure 3. Richard Lumarque, Portlight's on-site coordinator in Haiti, poses with double-amputee Darline Exidor, who received a wheelchair from Portlight. Portlight's team of ten relief workers has been laboring full-time the past two weeks to deliver donated supplies and assess the needs of the earthquake survivors.

Next post
I'll have a new post on Thursday or Friday.

Jeff Masters

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

or Join

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 349 - 299

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16Blog Index

thanks doc i will give a listen
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
348. JeffMasters (Admin)
Quoting SunnyDay55:
Greetings Dr. Masters! Long-time lurker but I needed to comment. I'm a politics geek in addition to being a weather geek. The XM radio in my car defaults to the POTUS station and yesterday afternoon on my drive home from work I heard most of your interview w/Pete Dominick. Can't stand him but I did enjoy hearing your thoughts and diplomatic responses to the callers about climate change. Great job!

And Thank You for this site. I check it constantly during hurricane season - I live in western Palm Beach County.


Thanks, it was interesting to hear what was on people's minds on this issue. Here is the link for those who want to listen to the 20 minute interview.

Jeff Masters
Quoting StormW:

StormW, any chance you could label the images you are posting please.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
quiet in here this morning

yep
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
344. JeffMasters (Admin)
Quoting drg0dOwnCountry:
Dr. Masters you write:"The amount of global warming predicted in the 2007 IPCC report for the period 2010 - 2030 was 0.20C per decade, so we are running about 25% below this predicted level of warming, when averaging over the past 31 years."

Firstoff i think it is a little early to make a statement for the current anual record? And second the warmth so far for 2010 is 0.18C.

NOAA: Warmest January in both satellite records
Warming is 0.18C
(.32F) decade
http://climateprogress.org/2010/02/16/noaa-warmest-january-on-record-in-both-satellite-records/

Or maybe i understand something wrong, please point it out.


The warming in January temperatures, only, is 0.18C per decade for the past 31 years in the UAH satellite record. If you average over all months, the number is around 0.13C per decade.

Jeff Masters
quiet in here this morning
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
....but...but...Dr. Masters...it snowed in Texas!!!!!!!!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting PensacolaDoug:


He never calls me!

talk about a long distance phone call. he's taking that to the max.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting AussieStorm:
President Obama is on the phone to STS-130
Link


He never calls me!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
President Obama is on the phone to STS-130
Link
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting StormW:


The numbers represent the monthly mean or average of the strength of the A/B high...The CFS model is believing the average pressure for each month in the tropics is the data posted (i.e. for instance, the CFS feels the average SLP for the month of March will work out to be 1018 mb (millibars)

MAR 1018mb
APR 1020mb
MAY 1022mb
JUN 1026mb
JUL 1026mb
AUG 1024mb
SEP 1019mb

Basically, with the exception of June and July, the NAO is going to be mostly negative, which would most likely allow for storms to track further west...better chance of U.S. landfalls.

Thank you :-)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

models say the disturbance will die or weaken I don't think it will develop
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
331. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Mauritius Meteorological Services
Tropical Cyclone Advisory Number THIRTEEN
FORTE TEMPETE TROPICALE GELANE (12-20092010)
10:00 AM Réunion February 18 2010
=================================

At 6:00 AM UTC, Severe Tropical Storm Gelane (975 hPa) located at 14.9S 62.1E has 10 minute sustained winds of 60 knots with gusts of 80 knots. The cyclone is reported as moving south southeast at 3 knots.

Dvorak Intensity: T4.0/4.0/S0.0/12 HRS

Storm Force Winds
================
10 NM from the center extending up to 20 NM in the southern semi-circle

Gale-Force Winds
================
40 NM from the center extending up to 90 NM in the southeastern quadrant

Near Gale-Force Winds
=======================
50 NM from the center extending up to 70 NM in the southwestern quadrant and 110 NM in the southeastern quardrant

Forecast and Intensity
======================
12 HRS: 15.5S 62.0E - 60 knots (Forte Tempête Tropicale)
24 HRS: 16.1S 61.7E - 50 knots (Forte Tempête Tropicale)
48 HRS: 17.9S 61.1E - 40 knots (Tempête Tropicale Modereé)
72 HRS: 19.9S 60.2E - 30 knots (DEPRESSION Tropicale)

Additional Information
========================
Very last satellite pictures show again an ill-defined ans small eye. An upper level outflow channel is still present poleward. System is currently caught between two opposite steering flows: A northwesterly flow steered by a mid level equatorial ridge and the easterly flow from the subtropical ridge. On Saturday, steering flow associated with the equatorial ridge is forecasted to strengthen north of the system at the same time. A weakness in the subtropical ridge should take place southwest of GELANE. According to most of the available numerical weather prediction models, GELANE is expected to track southward and then south southwest to southwestward.

Present forecast is in the mean of the tracks issued from the available numerical weather prediction models. The models spread is still large.

It now appears that northerly shear could persist over the next 2 days despite a rather good environment on the western edge of the upper level ridge, Beyond, it should degrade progressively as an upper level trough is coming from the west with increasing northwesterly shear.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting tornadodude:
have a goodnight all! (:


Oh, welcome back and goodnight! (I was watching the tube.)

We still have lots of snow...our yorkie was walking on top of snow (crusted over) in the nearby soccer field -- I started to go over to play with him, but the snow was still up to my knees!

Good night, all.
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 32 Comments: 1918
Quoting Levi32:


It's the result of a strong negative SOI burst coming east across the equatorial Pacific. Right now it's basically just a large area of surface convergence and upward motion due to the westerly anomalies in the central Pacific. There are 2 apparent centers, one north of the equator (Invest 90C) and another south of the equator which is not as well-defined. Overall the whole thing is disorganized and too close to the equator to develop significantly, but I find it very intriguing to watch the two centers try to spin opposite directions in opposite hemispheres.


Good to see you back, Levi!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
have a goodnight all! (:
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting MrstormX:
Hey wats up with the invest in the CPAC.


It's the result of a strong negative SOI burst coming east across the equatorial Pacific. Right now it's basically just a large area of surface convergence and upward motion due to the westerly anomalies in the central Pacific. There are 2 apparent centers, one north of the equator (Invest 90C) and another south of the equator which is not as well-defined. Overall the whole thing is disorganized and too close to the equator to develop significantly, but I find it very intriguing to watch the two centers try to spin opposite directions in opposite hemispheres.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26661
326. xcool
high risk for hurricane OR TS FROM Houston TO KEY WEST Florida .2010 .IMO ;)))))
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting xcool:
i'm call for 16-7-4 2010 hurricane season .


I'm calling 17-9-6 for 2010
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
324. xcool
i'm call for 16-7-4 2010 hurricane season .
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
guys I know that some of us is getting a little jummpy about the hurricane season but when it comes we will be hearing this all the time and sometimes it bothers,sometimes



Link
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
321. xcool
oh kool .
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting xcool:
hey matt how was nola ??


I didnt end up going :(

one of my friends that has family down there got in a wreck and didnt feel like going :P

but we went to Chicago and that was fun
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
319. xcool
hey matt how was nola ??
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
howdy all
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting xcool:
AwakeInMaryland hey thank .yeah he get very big fast ...

Awwwwwww, a little "Saint," lol! (:
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 32 Comments: 1918
ah march the end of winter not that we had one up here but i am glad its almost over and we get back in the warmer weather
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
iam always lurking
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
good to see you friend
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
evening stormW
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
guys I know that this is a little old but I think you will enjoy
Link
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
308. xcool
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
if you look at the usgs website there has been a couple close to that depth in the last day.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Hey wats up with the invest in the CPAC.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
305. xcool
;)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
304. xcool
AwakeInMaryland hey thank .yeah he get very big fast ...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting AstroHurricane001:


Last year in early April, we got 20 cm of snow from one storm. In early April 2003, we had 40 cm from a storm. That's the same year when the temperature dropped from 29C to 0C in about 12 hours in late March.
i agree it can happen but i also remember three days later it all melted
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Look at how small the <20C zone of the Humboldt is. However the warm water from the SE of the warm Pacific pool is drifting into Pine Island Bay.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:

Quoting AstroHurricane001:


Unfortunately, it still predicts no major snowstorm for S. Ontario until possibly a week into March.






by then the heat from the daytime sun will be getting stronger and anything that falls will more than likly melt away as fast as it came once we get into early march our snow chances will drop off even more my big concearn will be ice storms as we progress towards spring transition and thats when we get normally a lot of freezing rain events on average in march we get only about 40 cm of snow over the entire march month so unless we get clobber which i think will not be the case our winter is done here we just got to get the next 30 over with and we should be in the clear for this year there is 26 days till march 15 the end of our winter snow clearing contract and the start of our landscaping contract


Last year in early April, we got 20 cm of snow from one storm. In early April 2003, we had 40 cm from a storm. That's the same year when the temperature dropped from 29C to 0C in about 12 hours in late March.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I never realized they would be so deep,wow!

Depth - 562.5 km (349.5 miles) set by location program

http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/recenteqsww/Quakes/us2010swaf.php#details

Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8186
Invest 90-C sort of reminds me of western Pacific Typhoon Vamei in 2001, check this link out to see how a tropical cyclone forms close to the equator,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vamei
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Viewing: 349 - 299

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16Blog Index

Top of Page

About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

Local Weather

Mostly Cloudy
20 °C
Mostly Cloudy