Warmest January on record for the lower atmosphere

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

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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

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Member Since: September 22, 2005 Posts: 11 Comments: 2032
198. Skyepony (Mod)
txag~ Warmer air holds more water..you just explained the why..like this met ed site..

In summary, temperature determines the maximum amount of water vapor that can exist in the air. The higher the temperature, the greater the potential percentages of water vapor in the air.


This also goes into why WV currently doesn't get much above 4% now & the why it would get higher in a warmer world.. There is experiments out there to be done on one's stove.
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TAO/Triton SST and wind data showing the impressively strong burst of westerly surface wind anomalies coming eastward across the equatorial Pacific. Invest 90C formed in the middle of the large area of convergence and upward motion caused by this burst of westerlies butting up against the easterly trade winds.



Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 628 Comments: 26455

Sources and parameters: GHCN_GISS_HR2SST_1200km_Anom01_2010_2010_1951_1980
Note: Gray areas signify missing data.
Note: Ocean data are not used over land nor within 100km of a reporting land station.



http://data.giss.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/gistemp/do_nmap.py?year_last=2010&month_last=1&sat=4&sst=1&type=a noms&mean_gen=01&year1=2010&year2=2010&base1=1951&base2=1980&radius=1200&pol=reg
Member Since: September 22, 2005 Posts: 11 Comments: 2032
I'm off, fellow scientists and wanna-be's, to risk my neck on the daily drive home. I leave you with this little tid-bit from C.~1300AD: Science - knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through the scientific method and concerned with the physical world and its phenomena. All the answers are out there, I just haven't found them yet and, respectfully, neither have you. To quote from the great movie Rudy, "I am sure of only two things: there is a God and I'm not Him" Tomorrow...
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Quoting TheCaneWhisperer:
One positive outcome of greater SST's would be that storms could form farther east, increasing chances of re-curvature.


All depends on the Bermuda high position too. We could have more powerful storms way before the island with high SST's off the coast of Africa. We could also have very powerful land falling storms.
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One positive outcome of greater SST's would be that storms could form farther east, increasing chances of re-curvature.
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1000 AM HST WED FEB 17 2010

FOR THE CENTRAL NORTH PACIFIC...BETWEEN 140W AND 180

1. An area of thunderstorms about 1300 miles south of Honolulu is associated with a low pressure area straddling the equator. This area of disturbed weather has remained stationary for several days and is expected to linger there for awhile. Though tropical cyclone development is more likely to occur south of the equator in the southern hemisphere, there is slight chance of formation north of the equator.

However, Tropical storm formation is not expected in the central north Pacific over the next 48 hours.
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Quoting Skyepony:
NttyGrtty~ Ya ever heard "it's too cold to snow"? Or did ya know the fact that warmer air holds more water vapor than colder air?

Warmer air doesn't hold more water vapor. The vapor pressure of water is higher when the temperature is higher. As air is cooled, the evaporation rate decreases more rapidly than does the condensation rate with the result that there comes a temperature (the dew point temperature) where the evaporation is less than the condensation and a droplet can grow into a cloud drop.

Evaporation increases with temperature, not because the holding capacity of the air changes, but because the more energetic molecules can evaporate more readily (with, of course, the caveat that evaporation is also influenced by things other than temperature, as described above).
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Well,if Storm is correct and the -NAO hangs around,we can expect more of the same through March,the neverending winter on the east coast.
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 862 Comments: 15079
Quoting Jeff9641:


Impressive Loop Current with 80 degree water. Is this current always this well defined?


Yes, Especially during winter months and most especially because of the cold from the unusual cold snaps and water temps near the land make the circulation stands out more against the colder waters.
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Quoting wunderkidcayman:
hey guys have a look at #5 on the list
Uhm, they just had 1 m. flash flood during dry season.
Member Since: September 22, 2005 Posts: 11 Comments: 2032
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Quoting TheCaneWhisperer:


Thank You, TCW...
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Quoting Jeff9641:


This all will start mid next week when Dallas gets hammered by another SNOWSTORM then moves E toward the Georgia and Carolina coast with severe wx in Florida possible twice next week.


That's a ways out.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29714
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hey guys have a look at #5 on the list
Link
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ECMWF/GFS comparison (8-10 day mean):

Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29714
6-10 day temperature outlook:

Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29714
Global Coverage


http://www.weatheroffice.gc.ca/ensemble/naefs/semaine2_combinee_e.html
Member Since: September 22, 2005 Posts: 11 Comments: 2032
The teleconnections seems to favor cold air displace to the south with an active southern storm track. The GFS ensembles show the Artic oscillation diving to values as observed in early January. The NAO looks to remain negative with a slightly positive PNA.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29714
Microwave imagery shows that the deep fetch of tropical moisture coming into an extratropical low in the Gulf of Alaska extends down south all the way to Hawaii, and actually has a weak connection to the moisture from Invest 90C:

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 628 Comments: 26455
Temperature anomaly forecast: day 8 to 14 Outlooks

http://www.weatheroffice.gc.ca/ensemble/naefs/semaine2_combinee_e.html
Member Since: September 22, 2005 Posts: 11 Comments: 2032
Can someone post the SST's for the Caribbean?
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The SST anomalies are troubling for today. With the continuation of the current pattern expected and a further slacking El Nino, could be quite a bit toastier than usual in the MDR this year.
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Quoting StormChaser81:


All we need is a cold front before the low and we might get another shot at some froozen precip. Will have to wait and see.


Indeed!!! Check out the next 14 days.:)

Coming cold!

Coming cold!
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Quoting StormChaser81:


All we need is a cold front before the low and we might get another shot at some froozen precip. Will have to wait and see.


Indeed!!! Check out the next 14 days.:)

Coming cold!

Coming cold!
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Quoting StormChaser81:


All we need is a cold front before the low and we might get another shot at some froozen precip. Will have to wait and see.


Indeed!!! Check out the next 14 days.:)

Coming cold!

Coming cold!
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167. Skyepony (Mod)
Drak~ Been watching that, one of those consistent big storms way out. Usually we get one bad El Nino winter outbreak ..
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Another really pretty shot of Invest 90C as the sun rose this morning:

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 628 Comments: 26455
On TwisterData.com, it shows the GFS predicting another snow event for the deep south starting about 174 hours out. 204-216 hours out it shows the entire state of GA under snow except for north of Atlanta. How funny. Even the coast getting 0.5-1 inch, with much of more inland Ga getting up to 2-3 inches. Link

Member Since: July 7, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 3237
164. Skyepony (Mod)
Flood that's pretty general about everyone clinging to their side's info.. Last week I & a few "ultra AGW advocates" discussed how ice free winters sounded ridiculous..especially between 2013 & 2030 as stated in a Ottowan article..said I'd keep an eye out for more on the study & did... I wonder about the mistake. I see the same quote just summer changed to winter.. So the Ottowah article looks like horrid editing & really without the links looked less creditable anyhow. & here more uncredibles pick it up ( here is where AGW splits with maybe the group your really refuring too)..from the World War 4 Report..
Barber and more than 300 scientists from around the world spent last winter on the Canadian Coast Guard research ship Amundsen in the Arctic—the first research vessel to remain mobile in open water during the winter season. Canada's federal government provided $156 million for the study. Barber said that before the expedition, it was assumed the Arctic would be ice-free in the winter by 2100. "We expect it will happen much faster than that... somewhere between 2013 and 2030 are our estimates right now." (Canwest, Feb. 5)

I guess they did use a reference..lol. I kinda think it was part of a longer quote (the whole thing maybe in the one I posted about earlier)..talking about ice free winters in 2100, stating we used to think ice free summers would be ~2050 & now we realize it's all happening faster 2013-2030.. Then someone removed what we used to think & the editor lets slip something that looks like ice free winter by 2013-30..

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Another FAQ page with more than I could ever think of on snow. Ya just never know what you can learn on any given day, like this one :) L8R

Q: Is there such a thing as a "Category 5" snowstorm?

A: Yes. In 2006, the National Weather Service began ranking major snowstorms in the Northeast by categories from 1-5, similar to those used to describe hurricane strength. The categories, from "notable" to "extreme," determine how widespread the storm is, how much snow falls and how many people are disrupted. Only two storms in the past century would have rated a Category 5 on the scale: The March 1993 "Superstorm" and the January 1996 blizzard.

The official term for the scale is the Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale. The NWS has determined that last month's Valentine's Day storm was a Category 3 "major" winter storm.

(Answered by Doyle Rice, USA TODAY's weather editor, March 11, 2007)

Answers archive: Winter, snow, ice
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Quoting Drakoen:
GFS 12z run indicates the potential for another low pressure system to form in the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday with the potential to bring another snow storm to the deep south. Something to keep an eye next week.


OMG WE'RE GONNA HAVE A HURRICANE! lol
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Quoting Ossqss:
125 47n91w, It is important to consider the snow type also. 1" of rain can make the equivalent of 2"- 20 or more inches of snow. How you home is engineered and constructed is the defining factor when it comes to it's ability to support a load. That varies significantly.

As referenced in a previous post, building codes in many areas play a very important role in safety. Hurricane Wilma, in S FLA., showed that most new structures, up to code, suffered little damage. Older structures suffered extensive damage.

This was an interesting site for snow info :)

http://nsidc.org/snow/faq.html


Right on!

I skimmed through my data and see that I've received 6.22 inches of liquid in the form of snow this winter. All precipitation has fallen in the form of snow since December 1st, so it's easy to calculate.

I'll go take a core sample this evening and see how that compares. My NWS Office has been asking for weekly core samples from their observers, but I really haven't had the time to add that to my schedule. Maybe I'll reconsider.
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Quoting Jeff9641:


Yep, another big storm is in the making next week. This pattern doesn't seem to want to break. One big storm after another coming out of the Gulf. I wish there was a snow map available for next week.


All we need is a cold front before the low and we might get another shot at some froozen precip. Will have to wait and see.
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Quoting Jeff9641:


Yep, another big storm is in the making next week. This pattern doesn't seem to want to break. One big storm after another coming out of the Gulf. I wish there was a snow map available for next week.


The ECMWF is showing a similar pattern to the GFS as well. Should be interesting.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29714
Quoting Jeff9641:
Winter '09-'10: Season of records




An amazing, though clearly little-known, scientific fact: We get more snow storms in warm years!

Results for the November–December period showed that most of the United States had experienced 61%– 80% of the storms in warmer-than-normal years. Assessment of the January–February temperature conditions again showed that most of the United States had 71%–80% of their snowstorms in warmer-than-normal years. In the March–April season 61%–80% of all snowstorms in the central and southern United States had occurred in warmer-than-normal years…. Thus, these comparative results reveal that a future with wetter and warmer winters, which is one outcome expected (National Assessment Synthesis Team 2001), will bring more snowstorms than in 1901–2000. Agee (1991) found that long-term warming trends in the United States were associated with increasing cyclonic activity in North America, further indicating that a warmer future climate will generate more winter storms.
http://climateprogress.org/2010/02/15/an-amazing-though-clearly-little-known-scientific-fact-we-get -more-snow-storms-in-warm-years/
Member Since: September 22, 2005 Posts: 11 Comments: 2032
Quoting jeffs713:
Well, yeah. That doesn't take away from the fact that in order to scientifically test a hypothesis or theory, you have to... keep all other factors constant. I don't see how your statements in any way refute what Skye said.
Again with the declaring something a fact. Refer to 126. and 134. Might want to look at 128. again too. Didn't intend to start a silly yelling contest, simple said the amount of moisture "air" can hold depends on more than temperature. And, please notice, I did not state that as a "fact"...
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Quoting all4hurricanes:

vamei formed around that latitude as well as ekeka looks pretty good right now


Yeah but Vamei and Ekeka didn't have a competing centers in the opposite hemisphere lol.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 628 Comments: 26455
Windsat of 90C from last night near 2N 168.5W:

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 628 Comments: 26455
Quoting Levi32:
Anyone notice Invest 90C in the Central Pacific south of Hawaii? I find this feature to be quite interesting. First of all it's rare to have an invest anywhere east of the international date line during the winter in the northern hemisphere. However, it's not all in the northern hemisphere. The whole mass is centered right over the equator, with a sort of double-low structure. The northern center is at 2N (90C invest) and the southern center is in the southern hemisphere near 4S. Watching this loop you can see the two centers trying to spin opposite ways due to them being in different hemispheres. The outflow patterns also show this.

This whole large area of convection is a result of a very strong negative SOI pulse (the -80 a few days ago) that is moving eastward across the Pacific. The MJO has also been active in the central Pacific over the last week, although it is beginning to fade.

The system is too close to the equator for any significant tropical development in either hemisphere, but I find it very cool.


vamei formed around that latitude as well as ekeka looks pretty good right now
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GFS 12z run indicates the potential for another low pressure system to form in the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday with the potential to bring another snow storm to the deep south. Something to keep an eye next week.

Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29714
Quoting GetReal:
The AGW Smoking Gun

Don't you think it's strange that we observe warming than?
Member Since: September 22, 2005 Posts: 11 Comments: 2032
Quoting Floodman:
Yeah, but when Toronto is short 80% of their average snowfall and their temps are 20-30F warmer than average for the wnter, what does that say?

I'm a moderate when it comes to the whole CC debate, but it angers me when people make generalized statments like "It's 10 degrees in Richmond Virginia, where's the AGW now?" It's being felt in Canada! Deniers are just as guilty as the ultra AGW advocates when it comes to using only the data that proves their statements and ignoring the rest...
Flood, might I suggest that even the terms used by both sides add to the fray. The term denier implies that something known as fact (see my other posts for that opinion, if you care) is being denied. The term advocate implies support of a known fact. Skeptic and supporter may work better. I'm a math guy so the issue is simple: until we have valid, objective data that can be translated into useful information at some level of statistical significance, GW, CC, and next weeks term for it is, today, a theory that is neither proven nor disproven. Everything short of that is opinion, to which each person here, or not here, is entitled to. My $.02.
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About JeffMasters

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