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: 99 - 49

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

Thanks? Dr. M.

Not going to get into the comment fray. Adios.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
Quoting Minnemike:

correction, only florida counts


Its good to see even non-Floridians realising this :)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Has the 2010 El Nino had a more significant impact on the US than the 1998 El Nino?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Floodman:


Ahhh, but as far as CC goes, only the United Staes counts; temperature variations elsewhere on the earth have no bearing on the debate...remember, only the US counts!
WOW easy big fella... :-P
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Anybody see the 12z gfs? Lots more cold into the south next week if it is to be believed.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
93. RJY
To rely on any temperature data as a "whole" is suspect at this point. Why?

Take a look at this....

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article7026317.ece

Then review the findings here:
http://www.surfacestations.org/

Can anyone believe what any government organization is telling us at this point? If you do, you aren't thinking for yourself.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Floodman:


Ahhh, but as far as CC goes, only the United Staes counts; temperature variations elsewhere on the earth have no bearing on the debate...remember, only the US counts!

correction, only florida counts
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Jeff9641:


It's been warmer in Vancouver than Orlando the last several nights. Daytime highs are close as well. I am sick of this cold already. I've never seen it like this here before. I'm 30 and born & raised in Florida.


Ya, I've lived in Florida my whole life and never seen such long spells of cold. But it doesnt mean anything being so cold, the atmosphere changes, heat goes up and cold goes down.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
There have been some nasty heatwaves in the Southern Hemisphere. Rio de Janerio set a record for the most 100 degree days in a summer yesterday, with their 6th. 104 degrees. And there have been more positive heat departures around the globe this year than negative ones.


Ahhh, but as far as CC goes, only the United Staes counts; temperature variations elsewhere on the earth have no bearing on the debate...remember, only the US counts!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting StormW:


Looking at the forecast, through March...and the CFS is indicating by the MSLP monthly means, through the peak of hurricane season. The CFS is predicting the following monthly means of the A/B high:

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



It's going to be an interesting year, StormW!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Climate is not the same as relatively recent weather events and history.
Geez, even a weather-newbie, communications major, former beltway bureaucrat knows that. zzzzzzzzzzz
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Jeff9641:
If GW is occuring then why all the cold this winter. Notice AL GORE is in hiding right now along with JFLORIDA.


Have you seen the temps and variance from normal winter snowfall in Canada? One cold winter in the eastern CONUS doesn't prove anything, one way or another
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Keys99:
Hope everyone is keeping warm. This is probably old news here, but should add fodder to the discussions.

Utah delivers vote of no confidence for 'climate alarmists'
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/feb/12/utah-climate-alarmists


And as we all know, British tabloids and the the Utah legislature are both well known for their scientific acumen...we can all relax now, Utah has spoken!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting StormW:


Looking at the forecast, through March...and the CFS is indicating by the MSLP monthly means, through the peak of hurricane season. The CFS is predicting the following monthly means of the A/B high.


It may be an interesting year this H-Season....If we bounce back to ENSO neutral conditions, and, a negative NAO, that generally favors landfalling canes as we enter the Cape Verde season.....Have to ultimately see where the A/B high parks for Summer some July/August.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
That NAO has done wonders for our winter up here in the New England.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Jeff9641:


More snow appears to be coming to your area next week. Could get 4 to 8" of snow if the models verify.


Yep, I've been seeing that, but the local mets are saying we'll be about average temp wise with a chance of rain...LOL
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Hope everyone is keeping warm. This is probably old news here, but should add fodder to the discussions.

Utah delivers vote of no confidence for 'climate alarmists'
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/feb/12/utah-climate-alarmists
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
LOL...guess he didn't see that Canada is way down on their average snowfall and are in the midst of the warmest winter on record...

well in a normal winter we should have about 80 to 90 cm snowcover by now with at least another 50 to 100 cm left in the winter to come so far since nov 15 till now we had 33 cm of snow and at the moment there is no snow cover on the ground or very very little as for temps its been cold but not as cold as it should be so ya something is up what remains to be seen


And there you have it...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Just another piece promoting GW in the face of all the news about faked data and manipulated numbers. Now they are saying that GW is causing the cold. They are just trying to keep the hoax alive. Looking for spring here.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
72. Thanks again for the info, Oz! Very helpful. BTW, a friend asked me to ask YOU (and the blog) about the Nissan XTerra...sorry, see what I've gone and done now :(

Is the Sportage just too small for you? Or do you see other problems/drawbacks?

I'll take this to wu-mail if it's bothering anybody...

ADD: Absolutely, da Main Man deserves to be paid...and quite modestly, at that. I just kind of love SOME, a few, junk ads... sometimes it's useful when my blog is doing its consumer-corner bit...but there's plenty of other, more objective sources for consumer info.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting AwakeInMaryland:
I still need to pay dues...but I don't want some of these cool ads to disappear; movie trailers, cruises...


I do not miss the ads at all.

Consider paying the man. :)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting AwakeInMaryland:
Oz, was the Kia 4x4 you recommended the other day the Borrego? (For some reason, I don't think so.) It's gorgeous, but more than I need. Maybe the Sportage...I see a lot of them on the road.

Sorry to have to ask again... I'd love a discrete notepad for WU...sure asking a lot for a measly $10.

I still need to pay dues...but I don't want some of these cool ads to disappear; movie trailers, cruises...


It's the Kia Sorento.

I have 4 Kia vehicles. The oldest is my 2002 Kia Sedona, the first one off the boat back in November 2001. Since all my kids are adults and drive their own Kia cars, I have pressed the mini-van into hurricane chaser duty. It now only seats two, with a bed in the back.

Since it is low profile, I can get into parking garages. News crews and other chasers with high profile vehicles cannot enter a normal parking garage...and must find someplace out in the open to park.

Advantage - Me! :)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Oz, was the Kia 4x4 you recommended the other day the Borrego? (For some reason, I don't think so.) It's gorgeous, but more than I need. Maybe the Sportage...I see a lot of them on the road.

Sorry to have to ask again... I'd love a discrete notepad for WU...sure asking a lot for a measly $10.

I still need to pay dues...but I don't want some of these cool ads to disappear; movie trailers, cruises...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
How long is the negative NAO forecasted to last?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting CycloneOz:
Hey Doug.

Did you see the new cameras we're getting?


Yes i did! Very Cool!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting NJTom:
I would love to see a record warm month in the northeastern US just once! We are consistently get screwed out of our fair share of global warming while the west almost always has above average temperatures.


I'll have to look back at my records,I believe November was above normal,about the only month in the past year for the Northeast.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting TampaTom:


They asked for the biggest fool in EM... and look who stepped forward! :-)

NOT! lol. The biggest fools are so foolish they don't know they are fools... obviously, I need a nap already, in lieu of lunch.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Hey Doug.

Did you see the new cameras we're getting?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I would love to see a record warm month in the northeastern US just once! We are consistently get screwed out of our fair share of global warming while the west almost always has above average temperatures.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Patrap:


I'll definitely be there Tom..Looking forward to it.


FYI - here's the info:

Thursday, April 1, 2010
3:30 – 5:00 p.m.
Title: Bridging the Gap: How Do We More Effectively Communicate?

I'm moderating the work session and presenting 'Power to the pipsqueaks! Teaching Preparedness to children'
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting jeffs713:

Has JB released his annual prediction of an apocolypto-cane destroying the northeast yet?


If you would read his blog, you would know just how dumb that is.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting AwakeInMaryland:


Inquiring Minds Want to Know

Oh gosh, how did you get the April Fool's Day slot?!

That day should be reserved for the (bad words, acronyms...take your pick)!!!


They asked for the biggest fool in EM... and look who stepped forward! :-)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I seen on tv that there was no global warming since 1995.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
58. JRRP
Quoting hurricane23:
Though early its worth keeping an eye on sst's across the eastern tropical atlantic and main development region as the trade winds have been almost nonexistent therefore allowing things to really warm. Should be interesting to watch how things evolve in the comings months.




like 1998
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 5988
LOL...guess he didn't see that Canada is way down on their average snowfall and are in the midst of the warmest winter on record...

well in a normal winter we should have about 80 to 90 cm snowcover by now with at least another 50 to 100 cm left in the winter to come so far since nov 15 till now we had 33 cm of snow and at the moment there is no snow cover on the ground or very very little as for temps its been cold but not as cold as it should be so ya something is up what remains to be seen
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Though early its worth keeping an eye on sst's across the eastern tropical atlantic and main development region as the trade winds have been almost nonexistent therefore allowing things to really warm. Should be interesting to watch how things evolve in the comings months.



Member Since: Posts: Comments:
This was interesting :)

Team finds subtropical waters flushing through Greenland fjord
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8186
GM,all,haven't been around in a while,I'm still amazed the volatility of the subject of GW,from both sides.Its a fascinating subject,and always reading articles from both sides,but whenever there is a discussion the subject gets buried under all the anonymosity from both sides.It's too bad,its an interesting subject.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting TampaTom:


Hey, Pat, I'll be there teaching on April 1 at 3:30 p.m.... Just in case anyone finds themselves there and wants to sit in.


I'll definitely be there Tom..Looking forward to it.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Floodman:


LOL...guess he didn't see that Canada is way down on their average snowfall and are in the midst of the warmest winter on record...
remember flood some people only see what they want to see
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
thanks for udate doc these tempos showing warmer than normal are gonna put a few in a loop but like anything you get warmer areas and colder areas just mom natures way to keep everyone guessing


Cognitive Dissonance!! Thank you, been trying to think of that since Doc posted new entry!

Feel much better now...

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting weathermanwannabe:
Morning......Just left the Bank and a gentleman making a deposit was speaking with the Teller about GW issues. The Teller was talking about the shrinking glacier fields that she sees on the Discovery Channel and his take: "Don't tell me there's global warming when all we've had this year is bitter cold and snow in Northern Florida and Southern AL/GA...I go by what I can actually see everyday, not what I hear on TV" and he was pretty adamant and animated in his comments........I was not about to jump into the conversation and stayed on the fence........ :)


LOL...guess he didn't see that Canada is way down on their average snowfall and are in the midst of the warmest winter on record...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
thanks for udate doc these tempos showing warmer than normal are gonna put a few in a loop but like anything you get warmer areas and colder areas just mom natures way to keep everyone guessing
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Viewing: 99 - 49

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.