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 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
498. MTWX
Top U.N. Climate Official Yvo de Boer Resigning
Link
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Weekend Outlook Posted:
South Florida StormWatch
(main site)
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Smoking Gun on "pilot."
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Quoting Floodman:


That is pretty damned cool!


Very.
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494. MTWX
After 9/11 everyone just assumes any incident involving an aircraft is a "terrorist attack". Ignorance at its best!!
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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


That is pretty damned cool!
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Quoting MrJoeBlow:
Now they said he did not steal the plane and he left a suicide note. Why would anybody do this? If somebody want to kill themself they should leave everybody else out of it. I hope nobody else is hurt.


Who knows? Mentally imbalanced people do strange and dangerous stuff...

Columbine


Virginia Tech

Amish School Shooting

Texas tower shooting
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Definitely agree that the nets (all of them) hype this stuff. But, seems they are reporting accurately as possible. I have not heard anything insinuating a full-blown terrorist anything. Just an intentional act by an individual.

Sounds to me like he probably had a tax lien on his house and they were about to foreclose on him.

Burn down the house to lessen the asset value and then...

People snap sometimes, unfortunately.
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Now they said he did not steal the plane and he left a suicide note. Why would anybody do this? If somebody want to kill themself they should leave everybody else out of it. I hope nobody else is hurt.
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Quoting PcolaDan:
For those interested, the sky is falling too. :)


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


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488. MTWX
Quoting MrJoeBlow:
This is a terrorist attack no matter if it is small. How can somebody steal a plane? Planes should be locked up.


Planes don't have keys
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Quoting AwakeInMaryland:

Thanks for the posts, Tom.

And this link...gee, the kid was only 15-years old, and flying a plane...I still don't drive a stick shift...


Yeah, amazing.

He was only in the air long enough for a Coast Guard helicopter to follow him.. they signaled for him to land and watched the crash...

I have a good friend who is the Tampa FD PIO.. he worked the scene. The crash happened across the Hillsborough River from the NBC affiliate... talk about around the clock coverage...
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Quoting MrJoeBlow:
This is a terrorist attack no matter if it is small. How can somebody steal a plane? Planes should be locked up.
There still using the honor system.
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485. MTWX
Quoting AwakeInMaryland:

Thanks for the posts, Tom.

And this link...gee, the kid was only 15-years old, and flying a plane...I still don't drive a stick shift...

taking off and flying are the easy parts... landing is what is difficult.
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Quoting Floodman:


And which channel were you watching? The FBI channel?
Bwwwhhhaahaahaa!.....I guess there is a channel for everything these days...Any early predictions for the 2012..oh, I mean the 2010 Hurricane season?
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For those interested, the sky is falling too. :)

from a reliable source - undercover initials C.L.
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This is a terrorist attack no matter if it is small. How can somebody steal a plane? Planes should be locked up.
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Quoting TampaTom:
Tampa Plane Crash of 2002

Thanks for the posts, Tom.

And this link...gee, the kid was only 15-years old, and flying a plane...I still don't drive a stick shift...
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 32 Comments: 1918
It ain't easy being an Emergency PIO...
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479. MTWX
Quoting NttyGrtty:
Well said...golf clap!!

seconded!!
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Quoting TampaTom:
OK, hold the hysteria...

Just because someone flew a plane into a building in Austin doesn't mean a coordinated terror attack is taking place.

To a terrorist, they don't care about killing people in particular... they care about making a statement. Fly two jets into the WTC, and you destroy a symbol of American financial might. Bomb a nightclub where American servicemen and women are enjoying R&R... and you have destroyed the untouchable military.

Yes, this guy did fly into a building where the FBI is set up... but it wouldn't seem to send a big message worldwide about the vulnerabilities of the United States.

A larger 'statement' attack like the Oklahoma City bombing would be more along the lines of what a terrorist would be looking to do.

Were fighters scrambled? I bet they would after 9/11... probably SOP since then.

Just ease off the terrorism attack stuff... let the investigators do their work and let's not give into panic...
Well said...golf clap!!
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Quoting Floodman:


That's what "they" want us to think...the good about paranoia is that it...well, okay, there's nothig good about paranoia


lmao!
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OK, hold the hysteria...

Just because someone flew a plane into a building in Austin doesn't mean a coordinated terror attack is taking place.

To a terrorist, they don't care about killing people in particular... they care about making a statement. Fly two jets into the WTC, and you destroy a symbol of American financial might. Bomb a nightclub where American servicemen and women are enjoying R&R... and you have destroyed the untouchable military.

Yes, this guy did fly into a building where the FBI is set up... but it wouldn't seem to send a big message worldwide about the vulnerabilities of the United States.

A larger 'statement' attack like the Oklahoma City bombing would be more along the lines of what a terrorist would be looking to do.

Were fighters scrambled? I bet they would after 9/11... probably SOP since then.

Just ease off the terrorism attack stuff... let the investigators do their work and let's not give into panic...
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Quoting MTWX:

LOL!! Might be the Taliban Network


Yeah man...they pay the "unidentified Federal Official"
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Evening.

Nature Geoscience study: Oceans are acidifying 10 times faster today than 55 million years ago when a mass extinction of marine species occurred

http://climateprogress.org/2010/02/18/ocean-acidification-study-mass-extinction-of-marine-life-natu re-geoscience/
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From the Austin-American Statesman:

"CNN quotes an unidentified federal official as saying the person operating the plane allegedly had burned down his house and appeared to have hit the building intentionally."

I love the "unidentified Federal Official"; how do I get that job?
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472. MTWX
Quoting MrJoeBlow:
I just seen on tv that the plane crash was by a terrorist. He done it on purpose.

No. Just another hard working American who got screwed on their taxes.
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471. MTWX
Quoting Floodman:


And which channel were you watching? The FBI channel?

LOL!! Might be the Taliban Network
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Quoting Floodman:

LOL! I did not point that statement at you; I was quoting the law enforcement spokesmen...



You forgot the quotation marks :P

Have a happy all -- L8R
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Quoting MrJoeBlow:
I just seen on tv that the plane crash was by a terrorist. He done it on purpose.


And which channel were you watching? The FBI channel?
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I can't believe we just had another attack and I'm just wondering why anybody would do this. They was doing this on purpose and did stuff at there house too.
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467. MTWX
Quoting AwakeInMaryland:
AND a bomb threat on a United Airline flight... is it a full moon or what is going on?

Wishing for a real hurricane? And I thought I was an adrenaline-junky...not even close, I guess.

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.
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Quoting TampaTom:


I sure am...

However, we're on the local response. WE did have an episode like this a few years back - a plane intentionally crashed into a downtown building.

Panic at first - and confusion - but very soon it was determined to be a disturbed kid who 'idolized' Osama Bin Laden. Tampa PD and FD cordoned the area off and haz mat was brought in to check for 'dangerous' substances... none found.

There's a very good chance this is a solo act... seems to 'small scale' for a terror attack...


That's what "they" want us to think...the good about paranoia is that it...well, okay, there's nothig good about paranoia
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F 16s were scrambled right outta of Ellington Field right up the road from me, and I'm in the Houston/Galveston area
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I just seen on tv that the plane crash was by a terrorist. He done it on purpose.
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Quoting MTWX:
*sigh* Hurricane exercise going on right now for us... Wish it was the real thing...



According to J Bastardi, You and Cyclone Oz will be very busy this year.
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Tampa Plane Crash of 2002
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Quoting Ossqss:


Perhaps I took your reference to irresponsibility the wrong way. If so, my apology. I only said it appeared to be intentional and isolated.

It's all about perception in the end anyhow :)



LOL! I did not point that statement at you; I was quoting the law enforcement spokesmen...

BTW: eyewitness accounts state that the plane banked into the building; that having been said, the eyewitnesses that I heard could not say whether the plane was a standard prop aircraft or a small jet...makes me wonder how good a witness either of the two men are...
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Quoting Skyepony:


Main Development Region

thanks :-)
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Quoting AwakeInMaryland:
It's all okay, guys...

I'm pretty good at sorting fact from fiction, or rumor... I understand it's all preliminary conjecture and what appears to be true, may not be... but staff is now going down from DC.

I was in the shared HHS/Voice of America building a few blocks from the Capitol Bldg. during 9-11. After that, life is gravy. Just part of the job and life's work to discern BS from facts and educated opinion... appreciate all input as long as it's not hype.

ADD: NORAD??!! Wow, we ARE a nervous people...I'm guessing that's regular policy and procedure these days?? Not sure, you all may know more. Is TampaTom here?


I sure am...

However, we're on the local response. WE did have an episode like this a few years back - a plane intentionally crashed into a downtown building.

Panic at first - and confusion - but very soon it was determined to be a disturbed kid who 'idolized' Osama Bin Laden. Tampa PD and FD cordoned the area off and haz mat was brought in to check for 'dangerous' substances... none found.

There's a very good chance this is a solo act... seems to 'small scale' for a terror attack...
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458. JRRP
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Quoting Seastep:
Can't get N enough to do anything without getting ripped apart by shear.

My first visit to CIMSS in quite a while.



Lol yeah...and that's why it's not hurricane season in the central/east Pacific. The subtropical jet is too far south. Now if it were heading west like it usually would it would have a better chance.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26654
Any act that strikes terror in someone is a terrorist attack. Just saying
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Can't get N enough to do anything without getting ripped apart by shear.

My first visit to CIMSS in quite a while.

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Quoting MTWX:
*sigh* Hurricane exercise going on right now for us... Wish it was the real thing...


It is the real thing lol...it's just not in the Atlantic...

The interesting part about this whole thing is not just the structure of this system with dual centers, but the fact that this system is a direct result of the insane SOI burst of negative 80 that we saw last week. This burst of westerlies is working its way east, which is why this disturbance is also moving east, opposite to the normal wind flow that would usually take it west in either hemisphere. You can see this clearly in the image below. The disturbance actually formed from the surface convergence and resulting upward motion as the burst of westerlies butted up against the easterly trade winds.

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26654
Quoting MTWX:
*sigh* Hurricane exercise going on right now for us... Wish it was the real thing...


Yeah, kinda like pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training.
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AND a bomb threat on a United Airline flight... is it a full moon or what is going on?

Wishing for a real hurricane? And I thought I was an adrenaline-junky...not even close, I guess.
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 32 Comments: 1918
451. MTWX
*sigh* Hurricane exercise going on right now for us... Wish it was the real thing...
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Oh my gosh, they're saying the plane took off from Georgetown, TX, municipal airport!

I really DID spend almost a month in the Holiday Inn Express in Georgetown during Texas flooding... life is just too weird -- it's okay, go ahead and laugh (at me, because I am -- not at crash)!
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 32 Comments: 1918
Yes, very interesting Levi.

Thanks.
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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.