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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Quoting NEwxguy:
Complain,complain,Flood,thats all you do is complain.


It's the only way people will listen to me...you didn't see the subliminal message in that post: "Take $500 and send it to Floodman"

It hasn't started working yet, but when it does...
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I found a 1-hour image interval visible loop for Invest 90C, including the southern hemisphere. It was right under my nose here at WU lol.



Notice how the northern center is turning ESE, now at 1.7n. It was up at 3n yesterday morning. I wanna see this thing cross the line lol. It would sure help the southern center get going if the northern piece comes down to join it.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
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Quoting weathermanwannabe:


You never know this far out but the current "set-up" is leaning towards a favorable environment for an active season. However, I would not blow the apocalipse whistle yet as Joe B. did this week as conditions will surely change............We can speculate now on the trends and see what the preliminary outlooks from the "majors" (CSU,. etc) have to say come April in their first outlook....Even Dr. M. mentioned last week that there might be an active season this year........How active is the big question no one can answer right now until it unfolds.


A season with 15 storms is not an apocalypse. Keep in mind JB was the first to call last season a near-bust for hurricane activity long before anyone thought it would be below average.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
Wind shear is forecast to be well below normal according to the CFS in the MDR region:

Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30486
Out to pick up the kids......Have a great day folks......WW
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Warmer planet temperatures could cause longer-lasting weather patterns
Whether it's never-ending heat waves or winter storms, atmospheric blocking can have a significant impact on local agriculture, business and the environment. Although these stagnant weather patterns are often difficult to predict, University of Missouri researchers are now studying whether increasing planet temperatures and carbon dioxide levels could lead to atmospheric blocking and when this blocking might occur, leading to more accurate forecasts.

"In this research, we're trying to see if increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the resulting atmospheric warming will affect the onset and duration of future blocking events," said Tony Lupo, professor and chair of the atmospheric science department at the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. "We're hoping that the research will add cues that could help fellow forecasters better predict blocking and warn people in cases of long-lasting, severe weather."

Atmospheric blocking occurs between 20-40 times each year and usually lasts between 8-11 days, Lupo said. Although they are one of the rarest weather events, blocking can trigger dangerous conditions, such as a 2003 European heat wave that caused 40,000 deaths. Blocking usually results when a powerful, high-pressure area gets stuck in one place and, because they cover a large area, fronts behind them are blocked. Lupo believes that heat sources, such as radiation, condensation, and surface heating and cooling, have a significant role in a blocking's onset and duration. Therefore, planetary warming could increase the frequency and impact of atmospheric blocking.

"It is anticipated that in a warmer world, blocking events will be more numerous, weaker and longer-lived," Lupo said. "This could result in an environment with more storms. We also anticipate the variability of weather patterns will change dramatically over some parts of the world, such as North America, Europe and Asia, but not in others."

Lupo, in collaboration with Russian researchers from the Russian Academy of Sciences, will simulate atmospheric blocking using computer models that mirror known blocking events, then introduce differing carbon dioxide environments into the models to study how the dynamics of blocking events are changed by increased atmospheric temperatures. The project is funded by the US Civilian Research and Development Foundation - one of only 16 grants awarded by the group this year. He is partnering with Russian meteorologists whose research is being supported by the Russian Federation for Basic Research.
http://www.physorg.com/news185719909.html
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CFS forecast:

Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30486
Quoting StormChaser81:


Hey I live in Florida to and right on the west coast, plus my elevation is 3ft above sea level.

There just calling what they see.

Id take it as a warning, but nothing is written in stone, things can change and will. But i does appear to be a more active hurricane season coming for the summer of 2010.


I live in Riverview and am in a flood zone because of the Alafia River.
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big picture
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Quoting MrJoeBlow:
How can they already know about the hurricane season when it so many months away?


You never know this far out but the current "set-up" is leaning towards a favorable environment for an active season. However, I would not blow the apocalipse whistle yet as Joe B. did this week as conditions will surely change............We can speculate now on the trends and see what the preliminary outlooks from the "majors" (CSU,. etc) have to say come April in their first outlook....Even Dr. M. mentioned last week that there might be an active season this year........How active is the big question no one can answer right now until it unfolds.
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Quoting MrJoeBlow:


I live in Florida and what y'all are saying has me hoping y'all are wrong.


Hey I live in Florida to and right on the west coast, plus my elevation is 3ft above sea level.

There just calling what they see.

Id take it as a warning, but nothing is written in stone, things can change and will. But i does appear to be a more active hurricane season coming for the summer of 2010.
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Quoting MrJoeBlow:
How can they already know about the hurricane season when it so many months away?


We can't know everything this far out, but it's not that hard to look at the big picture towards the end of winter and see what the major trends should be during the summer.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
Quoting StormChaser81:


Model runs and watching how the atmosphere and water are reacting can give a excellent profile of a up coming hurricane season. This also use historical records to see similar patterns.


I live in Florida and what y'all are saying has me hoping y'all are wrong.
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Wowie this is all too technically for me.
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Quoting MrJoeBlow:
How can they already know about the hurricane season when it so many months away?


Model runs and watching how the atmosphere and water are reacting can give a excellent profile of a up coming hurricane season. They also use historical records to see similar patterns.
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To add to what Drakoen posted about the ECMWF ensembles,here are all the ENSO models Febuary forecasts.Almost all have El Nino gone when Summer arrives.

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Complain,complain,Flood,thats all you do is complain.
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How can they already know about the hurricane season when it so many months away?
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I think we could get an early start to hurricane season as the EUROSIP suggests much above normal average precipitation in the Caribbean in May, June, and July with a 50-70% chance of being in the highest 20% in climatology. This would also correlate with the forecast of below normal pressures in the region during that forecast period.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30486
Quoting Floodman:
Okay, who put in a photo from one of their subscription sites? everythie I refresh, I get asked for login info ofr a UK met site


My fault, I keep forgetting about that.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30486
Quoting StormW:




Thank you for answering me Storm!
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A portion of the Dallas-Ft Worth, TX Area Forecast Discussion from 3:05PM CST today, hinting at wintry precip for either Tu/We 2/23 or 24TH.

THE MODELS CONTINUE TO SUFFER FROM DISCREPANCIES BEYOND SUNDAY
WITH EACH MODEL BRINGING STORM SYSTEMS ACROSS NORTH TEXAS ON
DIFFERENT DAYS. THE ECMWF BRINGS ANOTHER STRONG SHORTWAVE ACROSS
SOUTH TEXAS ON TUESDAY WITH PRECIPITATION ACROSS MAINLY THE
SOUTHERN HALF OF NORTH TEXAS. THE ECMWF HINTS THAT TEMPERATURES
WILL BE COOL ENOUGH FOR WINTER PRECIPITATION ON TUESDAY. ON THE
OTHER HAND...THE GFS BRINGS THE NEXT SHORTWAVE ACROSS ON
WEDNESDAY WITH THE PRECIPITATION HOLDING OFF UNTIL WEDNESDAY. THE
GFS ALSO HINTS AT WINTER PRECIPITATION ASSOCIATED WITH THIS
SYSTEM. UNTIL THE MODELS CAN CONVERGE ON A SOLUTION OR MORE
CONSISTENCY CAN BE REACHED...WILL CONTINUE WITH A PERSISTENCE
FORECAST OF LOW POPS AND ALL LIQUID QPF IN THE EXTENDED PORTION OF
THE FORECAST...BUT CONTINUE TO CLOSELY WATCH NEXT WEEK.

WITH AN ACTIVE PATTERN CONTINUING NEXT WEEK...HAVE TRENDED ON THE
COOLER SIDE OF MOS WITH REGARD TO TEMPERATURES.
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Okay, who put in a photo from one of their subscription sites? everythie I refresh, I get asked for login info ofr a UK met site
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Quoting StormW:


Based on what looks to be going on with the current SST state...with a cold PDO, and the set up of the SST anomaly pattern in the Atlantic, most likely below avg in the EPAC, unless the warm pool of water hangs in in CPAC...could be average..but, genrally, when we have an increase in activity, it's usuallly below avg in EPAC...unless neutral with a warm bias, could be near avge.


Thanks.....There seems to be a "tentative" connection between E-Pac and Atlantic Basin activity.....If the trade winds keep E-pac activity down in that basin, we may well see an uptick on the Atlantic side....As I mentioned this morning, and all other things being equal (warm sst's in the Atlantic) I will be looking closely at sheer levels as we approach June in the MDR for that time of the year, and, SAL levels as we approach the Cape Verde part of the season.
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The ECMWF and Glosea ensemble members show the NINO 3.4 region reaching neutral conditions by the start of the hurricane season:



Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30486
Quoting all4hurricanes:

way too close to the equator and it's looks like the southern center is organizing. looks like this will be a southern hemisphere event


Southern center is still the most disorganized of the two but I also believe it will eventually take over. It has the stronger convection and outflow pattern which should eventually overwhelm the northern center. It also has the seasonal advantage.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
Here's the best satellite loop for viewing Invest 90C. All other sites will only give images every 3 hours for the southern hemisphere. So far I cannot find a visible loop with anything less than 3-hour intervals that includes the southern hemisphere, so I've had to be satisfied with visible images and this IR loop.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
Quoting StormW:


Generally, as implied with a negative NAO, the trof we generally see recurve hurricanes is displaced more northward, not being able to extend further south, hence allowing for a more westward motion, or shall I say component, to tropical systems, especially if they develop in the MDR. Not saying that there can't be recurvature, as it all depends on where and how strong a system develops. Generally I've noticed, anything that gets going below 15N, in a negative NAO, usually makes it further west.


It will be an interesting season this year; any thoughts Storm on what we can expect in the E-Pac this season based upon current trends?
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way too close to the equator and it's looks like the southern center is organizing. looks like this will be a southern hemisphere event
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Oh man...it's just like yesterday. The precipitable water image from microwave imagery shows a connection in the moisture plume from 90C northeastward east of Hawaii. That plume goes on northward across the entire north Pacific right into my back yard where it's down-pouring right now in all of southern Alaska. Love it.



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sea surface temps
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Things look to be cold with the trough out in the east with negative NAO and sharply negative AO:

Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30486
Quoting Seastep:
Levi - you have me actually having a sat loop up all day again.


Lol, I'm glad someone else finds this interesting. I can't get over how unique and special this situation is out in the central Pacific. It's the middle of nowhere but that's why only a few see it.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Here are the approximate positions of the two centers based on animated satellite imagery and 850mb vorticity.

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
Quoting Seastep:


Well, I for one am not liking StormW's agreement with JB on that topic!


Ya his thinking is the same as mine, not a good scenario coming into play with SST's climbing that fast.
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26c isothem depth
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Quoting StormChaser81:
If the trade winds stay slack and the waters continue to warm over the Atlantic & Caribbean, what happens to the steering patterns for the 2010 hurricane season?


Well, I for one am not liking StormW's agreement with JB on that topic!
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If the trade winds stay slack and the waters continue to warm over the Atlantic & Caribbean, what happens to the steering patterns for the 2010 hurricane season?
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Levi - you have me actually having a sat loop up all day again.
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Quoting Levi32:
Beautiful sunrise shot of Invest 90C as the first visible full-disks come in today.

trying real hard i don't know if it can do it but its trying
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Quoting Bordonaro:


As the El Nino winds down, Atlantic/Carribbean waters will continue to warm and this is going to be the seeds for a very active 2010 Atlantic Hurricane season.


Yeah. Those waters from CV all the way to the loop current do seem quite warm for this early on to me. Purely gut/iirc on that.
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Beautiful sunrise shot of Invest 90C as the first visible full-disks come in today.

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
as sun crosses the line on mar 21 and heads north we got a couple of weeks maybe a month for a little more cooling possible its going to be interesting as too how the ITCZ starts firing up and if it generates enough cloudiness to help cool those temps as well as we get further along into spring and eventually summer


As the El Nino winds down, Atlantic/Carribbean waters will continue to warm and this is going to be the seeds for a very active 2010 Atlantic Hurricane season.
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Quoting MrJoeBlow:


I am saying if we let the big bank fail and the car dealer too then the economy would have been in serious trouble with millions laid off. That is what I am saying.


Fair enough. Although I'm a "let 'em fail" guy.

GM could have done the bankruptcy without govt help and actually solved the major problems with their cost structure.

Unfortunately, the way it was done, most of that has not been solved and it will all just happen again. Their cost structure is messed up and a normal bankruptcy would have allowed them to change that.

OK. Sorry. I'll stop now. Not the place nor the time. I promise.
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Quoting StormW:


Agreed! Especially if we remain in a fairly negative NAO, or even just above neutral...won't allow for much of a strong trade wind regime. Let's hope the SST Anomalies don't remain where they are at right now.
as sun crosses the line on mar 21 and heads north we got a couple of weeks maybe a month for a little more cooling possible its going to be interesting as too how the ITCZ starts firing up and if it generates enough cloudiness to help cool those temps as well as we get further along into spring and eventually summer
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.