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 GeoffreyWPB:


I read and respect your posts all the time. The scenerio I brought up happened a few weeks ago. Just curious if the odds of that happening can be calculated.

Of course, they can. Just need a statistician...or a bookie...
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
748. beell
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Quoting BtnTx:
Micro**** helped me make $millions: No Regrets


Ehh, I know your position. Linux aptitude gets me paid, too.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
Quoting beell:
Check out the hint of a closed low at 120 hrs/850mb right off the coast of Brownsville.

Link

Got a nice Vort max with it at 850.

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Drak, if Dallas-Ft Worth, TX receives 2" of snow, we will set an all time record for yearly snowfall. Our records go back to 1898.
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744. xcool
atmoaggie ;lol
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743. beell
Check out the hint of a closed low at 120 hrs/850mb right off the coast of Brownsville.

Link
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Area Forecast Discussion
NWS Dallas-Ft Worth, TX
Issued at 3:05PM CST today, the portion dealing with next Tu/We:

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.

82/JLD
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Quoting atmoaggie:

Don't get carried away, there...

And, sorry, first reaction is to square and minus one your initial odds, but brain is asleep.


I read and respect your posts all the time. The scenerio I brought up happened a few weeks ago. Just curious if the odds of that happening can be calculated.
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740. BtnTx
Quoting atmoaggie:

Micro$#!t sux.

*this message brought to you by the stable, free, and secure OS, a.k.a. Linux*
Micro**** helped me make $millions: No Regrets

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Quoting Bordonaro:
00Z 2/19/10 GFS Run, Surface Map 120HRS out, Tu 2-23-10, Dallas-Ft Worth, TX snow &/or ice event:


That looks like mainly snow to me. 850mb temps running between -3C to -6C and 850mb-700mb thickness running sub 152dm.
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Quoting Drakoen:
GFS 00z shows significant snow storm for Texas

No kidding! It has been showing snow in the solution on and off for a few days now, but this is by far the most shown thus far.



Height of the storm (120 hours)



Liquid equivalent for the duration of the event (36 hours ending 138 hours out).
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00Z 2/19/10 GFS Run
Surface Map 120HRS out, Tu 2-23-10 @6PM CST Dallas-Ft Worth, TX snow &/or ice event:
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:


Aggie...you are ultra-smart...have an answer?

Don't get carried away, there...

And, sorry, first reaction is to square and minus one your initial odds, but brain is asleep.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
Quoting xcool:
Vista. sux

Micro$#!t sux.

*this message brought to you by the stable, free, and secure OS, a.k.a. Linux*
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
GeoffreyWPB:
Off topic here also...

For you mathematicians or statisticians, I work at a Greyhound race track. There are 8 Greyhounds in each race. We have 15 races per afternoon. The odds of any particular order of finish are 40,320-1. Now my question%u2026.What would the odds be if the same exact order of finish happened in two consecutive races? And thank you for those who answered via email.


Aggie...you are ultra-smart...have an answer?
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GFS 00z shows significant snow storm for Texas
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732. xcool
Vista. sux
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731. BtnTx
Quoting Tazmanian:
hey guys is window 7 the best or what?
I use Windows 7 Professional & XP Professional on laptops w/4G RAM and I like them both better than Vista. Both are fast and effective.
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Quoting AstroHurricane001:
Either this is a glitch, or the entire global oceans warmed by 1C since yesterday. Most of the 30C+ and 31C+ temperatures in the Indian and Pacific Oceans did not exist on this map yesterday:

Okay, everyone that uses the WU SST map for in-depth analysis raise your hand...

(Really, that map is usually suspect. To be used for a general glance, only, IMHO.)
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
I know Grothar can figure it out.
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728. xcool
16-7-4 2010 "_
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727. xcool
windows 7 useing low RAM like windows XP :)
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Quoting Tazmanian:
hey guys is window 7 the best or what?


It runs a lot smoother than vista I will say that much.
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Off topic here also...

For you mathematicians or statisticians, I work at a Greyhound race track. There are 8 Greyhounds in each race. We have 15 races per afternoon. The odds of any particular order of finish are 40,320-1. Now my question….What would the odds be if the same exact order of finish happened in two consecutive races? And thank you for those who answered via email.
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hey guys is window 7 the best or what?
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Either this is a glitch, or the entire global oceans warmed by 1C since yesterday. Most of the 30C+ and 31C+ temperatures in the Indian and Pacific Oceans did not exist on this map yesterday:



Current global SST anomalies:

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Quoting NttyGrtty:
Excellent MONOnomial...color change...add the rest in the document you posted and a month or so of analysis...just for fun


LoL, the image did not change, I think our perception of it did!

I still can't afford it...no matter the cost... XD

Have a happy all, L8R
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8185
Quoting Ossqss:


Well, lets start with this item.

If you can make the pink dots go away by staring at the center, and only see the rotating green one, it should be free. LoL

Just for fun....... :0)

Excellent MONOnomial...color change...add the rest in the document you posted and a month or so of analysis...just for fun
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
As always...I am going off my clock-mometer...Drak, are you close to the Lake Worth-Palm Springs limits? I know you use the WU PWS. Not that it matters.


I'm back near the turnpike and 441 your are closer to the coast.
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Quoting NttyGrtty:
It appears legit but I would have to test the assumptions and run the polynomials, How much money do you have? I'm not cheap...LOL!


Well, lets start with this item.

If you can make the pink dots go away by staring at the center, and only see the rotating green one, it should be free. LoL

Just for fun....... :0)

Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8185
Press, finally some spring weather this weekend. Beats the snow from last week.
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Was 49 an hour ago. Drak almost directly across from you on the other cost, just a bit further south.
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Let's see if the GFS starts spitting out Hurricanes in April like it did last year.
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715. JRRP
Quoting StormW:


Even though it's not "set in stone", you can look at the parameters and extrapolate out. I mean, just by the weakening of El Nino and above avg SST's in the Atlantic MDR, where would you think most of the energy will be? Yes, conditions change, however the CFS has done a good job at predicting the monthly mean SLP as I've noticed in past seasons. The pressures it is giving, indicates for the most part, a negative NAO, which in turn implies a weaker A/B high. Weaker A/B high, weaker trades. Weaker trades would provide warmer SST's, and heat build up in the tropical MDR. The weaker A/B high would also contribute to less upwelling off the African coast, and somewhat reduce SAL outbreaks.

With a weakening El Nino, and if neutral conditions are in place, the combination of the lack of energy, and weaker Atlantic trades would have the tendency to lessen wind shear.

Right now, I personally feel the real unknown factors at the moment are TCHP, Sahel rainfall, strentgh of the AEJ, and the timing of El Nino's demise, as far as the atmosphere finally settling out.

The setup right now of the SST's in the Atlantic are aiding or should aid in more moisture in the MDR.

Given this, and the fact we just had 9 named storms in a moderate to strong El Nino, wouldn't you say the 2010 season is going to be more active? I think Bastardi's number of 15 is not out of the question, though my preliminary is 14, 7, 3.


pretty interesting
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 5340
As always...I am going off my clock-mometer...Drak, are you close to the Lake Worth-Palm Springs limits? I know you use the WU PWS. Not that it matters.
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
Down to 50 here in Lake Worth, Fla.


It's 45 degrees at my house here in suburban Lake Worth
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Quoting StormW:


Even though it's not "set in stone", you can look at the parameters and extrapolate out. I mean, just by the weakening of El Nino and above avg SST's in the Atlantic MDR, where would you think most of the energy will be? Yes, conditions change, however the CFS has done a good job at predicting the monthly mean SLP as I've noticed in past seasons. The pressures it is giving, indicates for the most part, a negative NAO, which in turn implies a weaker A/B high. Weaker A/B high, weaker trades. Weaker trades would provide warmer SST's, and heat build up in the tropical MDR. The weaker A/B high would also contribute to less upwelling off the African coast, and somewhat reduce SAL outbreaks.

With a weakening El Nino, and if neutral conditions are in place, the combination of the lack of energy, and weaker Atlantic trades would have the tendency to lessen wind shear.

Right now, I personally feel the real unknown factors at the moment are TCHP, Sahel rainfall, strentgh of the AEJ, and the timing of El Nino's demise, as far as the atmosphere finally settling out.

The setup right now of the SST's in the Atlantic are aiding or should aid in more moisture in the MDR.

Given this, and the fact we just had 9 named storms in a moderate to strong El Nino, wouldn't you say the 2010 season is going to be more active? I think Bastardi's number of 15 is not out of the question, though my preliminary is 14, 7, 3.



that is just an outstanding explanation of something I, too, have wondered about...if you can make me understand, you,ve really done something...
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Down to 50 here in Lake Worth, Fla.
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hey guys check this out

17 Feb 2009


17 Feb 2010
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run the polynomials


Do these come in vanilla?
j/k
;>)
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:


Since when does "some more snow" equate a blizzard?

he said no more major storms and this one is supposed to be major
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Quoting Ossqss:


You said you were a math guy. What is your take on this item? PDF

Is it legit?

http://economics.huji.ac.il/facultye/beenstock/Nature_Paper091209.pdf
It appears legit but I would have to test the assumptions and run the polynomials, How much money do you have? I'm not cheap...LOL!
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704. JRRP
Quoting Tazmanian:




it is way way way way way way way way way too soon to say how the ACE will be this season you have too wait in tell the season is overe too find out

ok
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 5340
Quoting all4hurricanes:
We're supposed to get more snow Monday and Tuesday, I thought Dr. Masters said no more blizzards for at least a week.


Since when does "some more snow" equate a blizzard?
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Quoting all4hurricanes:
We're supposed to get more snow Monday and Tuesday, I thought Dr. Masters said no more blizzards for at least a week.

I believe Monday will make one full week since Dr Masters said that.

An active spit-flow pattern will develop on Sunday and continue throughout next week. This will be an interesting weather week to ten days!
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We're supposed to get more snow Monday and Tuesday, I thought Dr. Masters said no more blizzards for at least a week.
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Quoting JRRP:
how will be the ACE this season ???




it is way way way way way way way way way too soon to say how the ACE will be this season you have too wait in tell the season is overe too find out
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699. JRRP
how will be the ACE this season ???
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 5340

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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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