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 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
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56059
548. MTWX
*weather related* in case no one saw my previous post.
Top U.N. Climate Official Yvo de Boer Resigning

Link
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Concerning the incident is Austin, TX. That man was very, very troubled. He could have sought financial counseling, mental health help, filed bankrupcy and restarted his life again with a clean slate and led a great balance of his life.

Instead, he brewed in his sorrow, then ended his own life,and destroyed his home and an office building. What a shame and what a waste of his life, may God have mercy on his troubled soul.
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
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.

BTW, good to see you again.


Thanks, good to see you as well :)
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700
Quoting Seastep:


I disagree. TARP was necessary as you have to have credit, but the porkulus did very little if anything at all.

If anything it has extended the problem. Has not done anything for the private sector, imo. Plenty for the public sector, though. Woo-hoo, employment up. Raises all around, too... for the public sector.

Same as "spending our way out of the great depression," imo. Per the not-even-close-to-right-leaning UCLA.

And the current admin is spending more. Not going to get into all the complete garbage that the money was spent for. Studies, etc. Studies by universities don't stimulate anything in the economy. Sorry.

Had to get that out. Sorry, anyone who thinks the "stimulus" has done anything cannot possibly have taken a look at what it has been spent on.

You grow the private sector through tax breaks and incentives. Not spending. Can't spend your way to prosperity.

To leave on a positive note, I do like the administration's approach to Nuclear energy and am quite pleased. :)

And, via loans, not "here's some cash to blow."


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.
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Quoting MTWX:

I quite agree... When there is a lack of information the media tends to speculate what happened before changing there story a hundred times as information becomes available. Just saying a lot of individuals tend to jump to conclusions before the facts are there.


And, that's why accurate and timely public information is critical after any incident. Panic and confusion can lead to bigger problems in a heartbeat.
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526. lickitysplit

I disagree. There is no worse bane on society than a government that can just take money from people. Companies can't do that... although, with the help of govt they can ala GM. :)
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Quoting StormW:
Since I don't want to get into the TPC name game out in the middle of nowhere, the forecast as of now calls for 15 total storms west of 55 west. Crucial landfall ideas: seven landfalls, five hurricanes, two or three major landfalls. This is the kind of season that has me worried about Florida as a center point, and from this stage, areas north and west also, but with the center of the congregation of landfalling tracks near Florida.


Daym JB, take it easy.


I hate it when JB reads my mind.


Lol same here. His video showed the European multi-model seasonal forecasts that just came out for February. The May-June-July period shows an excessive area of below-average MSLP in the Caribbean and southwest Atlantic. The Euro temperature and precipitation forecasts follow this well, showing the resulting higher than normal temperature and precipitation associated with higher heat content in that area of the world. If this pattern were to last throughout the summer it would be bad for pretty much all land areas bordering the western Atlantic, including the US. It could also mean an early start to the season. As JB said, it's still early, but the signs are there for a dangerous season.

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700
507. atmoaggie

You trying to do this?

LoL, that's what I did and it seems to have done the same to you too. Its a haunted GIF file :P
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8188
Quoting NttyGrtty:
You forgot to take your pill this morning didn't you? Breathe everybody...and relax. The sun will rise tomorrow and the next slow news day story will take over...


Now this one is funny.
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Quoting MrJoeBlow:

The economy would have crash without the bailout. I don't like it neither but we'd all be in trouble.


I disagree. TARP was necessary as you have to have credit, but the porkulus did very little if anything at all.

If anything it has extended the problem. Has not done anything for the private sector, imo. Plenty for the public sector, though. Woo-hoo, employment up. Raises all around, too... for the public sector.

Same as "spending our way out of the great depression," imo. Per the not-even-close-to-right-leaning UCLA.

And the current admin is spending more. Not going to get into all the complete garbage that the money was spent for. Studies, etc. Studies by universities don't stimulate anything in the economy. Sorry.

Had to get that out. Sorry, anyone who thinks the "stimulus" has done anything cannot possibly have taken a look at what it has been spent on.

You grow the private sector through tax breaks and incentives. Not spending. Can't spend your way to prosperity.

To leave on a positive note, I do like the administration's approach to Nuclear energy and am quite pleased. :)

And, via loans, not "here's some cash to blow."
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting MTWX:

Everyone is crazy in their own way... Everyone also uses different means to take out their frustrations...
70 percent of population is nuts 20 percent can't belief there nuts and 10 percent know there nuts
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56059
Quoting lickitysplit:
This crash in TX is a clear consequence of too much Rush, Hannity, O'Liely and the other Reich Wing nutbags who attack the government at every turn meanwhile cheering on the banksters and insurance company thugs who have put the real hurt on this country.

They've been real effective at keeping the public eye on the boogieman while hiding the people who are actually destroying our economy and country.

I wonder when someone will fly a plane into the HQ of citibank or some insurance company. God forbid, but I'm shocked it hasnt happened yet.
You forgot to take your pill this morning didn't you? Breathe everybody...and relax. The sun will rise tomorrow and the next slow news day story will take over...
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533. 789
Quoting StormW:
Since I don't want to get into the TPC name game out in the middle of nowhere, the forecast as of now calls for 15 total storms west of 55 west. Crucial landfall ideas: seven landfalls, five hurricanes, two or three major landfalls. This is the kind of season that has me worried about Florida as a center point, and from this stage, areas north and west also, but with the center of the congregation of landfalling tracks near Florida.


Daym JB, take it easy.


I hate it when JB reads my mind.
howdy storm hope the weather didnt effect your move whats up next for the winter any supper storms or are we in the clear for the rest of the winter
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Anyway back to the weather.
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Quoting RitaEvac:
Lets get back to GW




lete nor and say we did
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530. MTWX
Quoting Skepticall:


Not everyone but when "most" planes flying into buildings are acts of terrorism then when you hear of this then you think it "could" be. When my friend texted me saying it was an IRS building then it all changed. If you don't have the correct info then your perception on the crash is totally different.

I quite agree... When there is a lack of information the media tends to speculate what happened before changing there story a hundred times as information becomes available. Just saying a lot of individuals tend to jump to conclusions before the facts are there.
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This man should not fly plane into a building with innocense people in it. I never see him take any personal responsibleity. It always someone else fault in his mind.
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Quoting Skepticall:


We might get some above average temperatures this weekend. Thats a big might though. I wish we had all this snow everybody else got!


I have a feeling with the negative NAO the temps for next week might be a little bit lower than there saying, especially if the low in the gulf that is supposed to form in the gulf stays further south.
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Quoting RitaEvac:
Lets get back to GW


Ya, im done, dont want to get to far off topic.
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Lets get back to GW
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I don't believe this. Now the blog is going to turn into an economy/bailout/big business vs the little man, etc blog. Left versus right is bound to be next.

out of here
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Quoting RitaEvac:


If this kind of conversation were to start spreading like wildfire across the country...who knows what peoples real thoughts would start talking about


I wouldn't doubt it if there were copy cat people. It always happens. Hopefully not, but there is plenty of people that have lost everything and feel the same way as this guy.
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Quoting StormChaser81:


Sane people dont bailout huge companies and let the middle class suffer either.

The economy would have crash without the bailout. I don't like it neither but we'd all be in trouble.
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Quoting tornadodude:


yeah, he definitely in no way is right for what he did, but I agreed with a lot of what he said


Exactly....and we as a society have got to figure out a way to stop this corrupt system
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Quoting StormChaser81:


Sane people dont bailout huge companies and let the middle class suffer either.


If this kind of conversation were to start spreading like wildfire across the country...who knows what peoples real thoughts would start talking about
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Quoting MrJoeBlow:


He is crazy. Sane people do not crash plane into building!


... maybe evil-crazy? IF he really meant to burn house down while his wife and 12-year old daughter were in the family home (I understand the story is still in developmental stages ... and the screenplay for the TV movie for the week).

It's good an everyman-hero has already surfaced -- the window washer.
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 32 Comments: 1918
513. MTWX
Quoting MrJoeBlow:


He is crazy. Sane people do not crash plane into building!

Everyone is crazy in their own way... Everyone also uses different means to take out their frustrations...
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Quoting StormChaser81:


Ya, he does make sense, but took it way to far, a lot of people feel this way, but just keep it bottled up.


yeah, he definitely in no way is right for what he did, but I agreed with a lot of what he said
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Quoting MrJoeBlow:


He is crazy. Sane people do not crash plane into building!


Sane people dont bailout huge companies and let the middle class suffer either.
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Quoting RitaEvac:
This guy wasnt crazy. He was engineer and just coldn't take it anymore. I'm against the action taken, but what he is saying is dead on.

letter by pilot...

http://pppad.blogspot.com/2010/02/alleged-suicide-letter.html


Ya, he does make sense, but took it way to far, a lot of people feel this way, but just keep it bottled up.
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Quoting RitaEvac:
This guy wasnt crazy. He was engineer and just coldn't take it anymore. I'm against the action taken, but what he is saying is dead on.

letter by pilot...

http://pppad.blogspot.com/2010/02/alleged-suicide-letter.html


He is crazy. Sane people do not crash plane into building!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
This guy wasnt crazy. He was engineer and just coldn't take it anymore. I'm against the action taken, but what he is saying is dead on.

letter by pilot...

http://pppad.blogspot.com/2010/02/alleged-suicide-letter.html
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Quoting Ossqss:


I hope this works on this site, ya might have to click it. Pretty cool item. LoL

nope, sorry

Try the link http://www.gifbin.com/982185



Very cool. You trying to do this?

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And you think WE govern everything. Busted a gut reading this.
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Good Afternoon, live feed from KXAN-TV out of Austin, TX. Thankfully no reported fatalities, besides the pilot, may God have mercy on his troubled soul

Link
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
Who says the US is the only one to hype stuff on a slow news day, from BBC News.
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Yowza...

Internet note allegedly posted by pilot in Austin incident

Caution.. does contain profanity
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Quoting Seastep:


Do people have any common sense anymore?


Apparently not. And oh, by the way, I have to go out for a while. Can you keep an eye out on my house for me. I live at 123 Main St., Anyplace, Anystate, USA. ;)
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Quoting PcolaDan:
Want to see something really scary, check out this link.

http://pleaserobme.com/


Do people have any common sense anymore?
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Want to see something really scary, check out this link.

http://pleaserobme.com/
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Quoting MTWX:

Not really an adrenaline junkie... Severe weather has always interested me. Just one of those people who truely wants to know what causes/alters the atmosphere/weather.

:) I understand.

---------------------

I wish the people who throw themselves on the subway tracks would be considerate enough not to do it during Friday rush hour.
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 32 Comments: 1918

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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.

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