Examination of space-based bulk atmospheric temperatures used in climate research

by J.R. Christy et al., March 8, 2018 in InternJournRemoteSensing

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Report 5 (IPCC AR5, 2013) discussed bulk atmospheric temperatures as indicators of climate variability and change. We examine four satellite datasets producing bulk tropospheric temperatures, based on microwave sounding units (MSUs), all updated since IPCC AR5. All datasets produce high correlations of anomalies versus independent observations from radiosondes (balloons), but differ somewhat in the metric of most interest, the linear trend beginning in 1979. The trend is an indicator of the response of the climate system to rising greenhouse gas concentrations and other forcings, and so is critical to understanding the climate. The satellite results indicate a range of near-global (+0.07 to +0.13°C decade−1) and tropical (+0.08 to +0.17°C decade−1) trends (1979–2016), and suggestions are presented to account for these differences. We show evidence that MSUs on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s satellites (NOAA-12 and −14, 1990–2001+) contain spurious warming, especially noticeable in three of the four satellite datasets.

Comparisons with radiosonde datasets independently adjusted for inhomogeneities and Reanalyses suggest the actual tropical (20°S-20°N) trend is +0.10 ± 0.03°C decade−1. This tropical result is over a factor of two less than the trend projected from the average of the IPCC climate model simulations for this same period (+0.27°C decade−1).