Measuring global temperatures: Satellites or thermometers?

weather satelliteThe official global temperature numbers are in, and NOAA and NASA have decided that 2015 was the warmest year on record. Based mostly upon surface thermometers, the official pronouncement ignores the other two primary ways of measuring global air temperatures, satellites and radiosondes (weather balloons).

The fact that those ignored temperature datasets suggest little or no warming for about 18 years now, it is worth outlining the primary differences between these three measurement systems.

Three Ways to Measure Global Temperatures

The primary ways to monitor global average air temperatures are surface based thermometers (since the late 1800s), radiosondes (weather balloons, since about the 1950s), and satellites measuring microwave emissions (since 1979). Other technologies, such as GPS satellite based methods have limited record length and have not yet gained wide acceptance for accuracy.

While the thermometers measure near-surface temperature, the satellites and radiosondes measure the average temperature of a deep layer of the lower atmosphere. Based upon our understanding of how the atmosphere works, the deep layer temperatures are supposed to warm (and cool) somewhat more strongly than the surface temperatures. In other words, variations in global average temperature are expected to be magnified with height, say through the lowest 10 km of atmosphere. We indeed see this during warm El Nino years (like 2015) and cool La Nina years.

The satellite record is the shortest, and since most warming has occurred since the 1970s anyway we often talk about temperature trends since 1979 so that we can compare all three datasets over a common period.

Temperatures of the deep ocean, which I will not address in detail, have warmed by amounts so small — hundredths of a degree — that it is debatable whether they are accurate enough to be of much use. Sea surface temperatures, also indicating modest warming in recent decades, involve an entirely new set of problems, with rather sparse sampling by a mixture of bucket temperatures from many years ago, to newer ship engine intake temperatures, buoys, and since the early 1980s infrared satellite measurements.

How Much Warming?

Since 1979, it is generally accepted that the satellites and radiosondes measure 50% less of a warming trend than the surface thermometer data do, rather than 30-50% greater warming trend that theory predicts for warming aloft versus at the surface.

This is a substantial disagreement.

Why the Disagreement?

There are different possibilities for the disagreement:

1) Surface thermometer analyses are spuriously overestimating the true temperature trend
2) Satellites and radiosondes are spuriously underestimating the true temperature trend
3) All data are largely correct, and are telling us something new about how the climate system operates under long-term warming.

First let’s look at the fundamental basis for each measurement.

Read rest…

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Comments (11)

  • Avatar

    Amber

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    Why don’t we site the specific year instead of saying “on record” ? Most people don’t have a clue that the “record ” started about four years after Leonardo DiCaprio was born .

    If a survey was done I guarantee most people have no clue when the data started to be collected and whether it is land based , satellite, or the current trend “adjusted ” NOAA data without
    2/3 of the world’s surface being included .

    Right now global warming promoters are getting away with their typical slight of hand
    half truth to fan the scary global warming members .

    The earth has been far warmer than the
    current estimates of selective massaged data . Why not say, while estimating ,that the earth has been 10 % warmer than the present time based on the studies of historic earth temperatures.
    Isn’t it time to be honest with people about the date of the record , the probability of error , the sources of information and things excluded ?

    Setting that aside, in the perfect world ,to achieve a 90% probability or better estimate what about the current means of data collection and calculations needs to be improved ?

    NOAA ‘s attempt to recast numbers smells like political motivated fudge and they certainty are not going out of their way to
    educate the public about the date of the record they refer to and how it was arrived at .

    The current method of sharing information is get the scary headline then
    sometime later reveal that …well those calculations were only land based readings . This form of misinformation manipulation and arguably deceit is disturbing from an organization that sells itself as being scientifically credible .

    Funny how the satellite data was considered just fine till it didn’t show what the government wanted .

    The satellite data collection system was started was started to provide better information because obviously the inconsistency and accuracy of land based readings has credibility challenges .

    What was the business case for launching
    weather monitoring satellites ?. No mention of greater accuracy ,short comings with land based and water based system ?

    Sticking land based thermometers on airport tarmacs while missing almost entire continents is not going to produce highly accurate estimates yet the public is fed a load of crap that these pronouncements are credible .

    So the next scary pronouncement of “record ” temperatures should at least say” the record … since Leonardo Dicaprio was 4 years old, or some reference point to inform the public instead the manipulative garbage they are being fed now .

    Can government agencies be charged with wire fraud ?

  • Avatar

    Mike Haseler

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    I’m sorry, there is no way on earth the surface data is credible. Not only is it heavily adjusted, but it suffers from urban heating (due to historical siting near urban centres that then grew). Watts has shown many times the sites are poor quality – and worse the academics compiling the data either don’t care or are in denial.

    Then we see the intentional change of methods in order to produce warming, the repeated and very credible accusations of fraudulent changes to temperature data at many sites. We have the fact surface data is far from global.

    Yes satellites are not ideal – but at least they are corroborated by independent measurement from met balloon data.

    So, on the one hand we have surface data with multiple reasons to believe it has been “upjusted” on the other we have independently corroborated satellites. – It’s not a difficult decision which to base our views on.

  • Avatar

    Amber

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    Mike Haseler “No way on earth the surface data is credible ” . Agreed, how could it be ?
    It was never set up to provide an earth temperature with accuracy and certainly not to the point where fractions of one degree changes are credible representations of the earth’s temperature .

    More than half the weather stations in Antarctica for example were put in place during the 1980’s and prior to that less than 50 weather stations were operating in an area bigger than the USA . Like wise ocean weather buoys are relatively new starting in the 1980’s replacing a small fleet of weather ships . The point is weather “records ” are relatively new and
    land based ones have location and coverage issues amongst other things .

    Claims of highest or lowest on record on the scale of an earth measurement are
    fraught with complications that cannot
    make various assertions debatable .

    Dr. Spencer’s article is a welcome insight .

  • Avatar

    Tez

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    Great points Amber

    Until they stop mixing lies with their half truths, I won’t believe a word the scare mongers say.

    How can any scientific paper be truthful when its’ foundation is corrupted/manipulated data bases?

  • Avatar

    Me

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    [quote name=”Amber”]Mike Haseler “No way on earth the surface data is credible ” . Agreed, how could it be ?
    It was never set up to provide an earth temperature with accuracy and certainly not to the point where fractions of one degree changes are credible representations of the earth’s temperature .

    More than half the weather stations in Antarctica for example were put in place during the 1980’s and prior to that less than 50 weather stations were operating in an area bigger than the USA . Like wise ocean weather buoys are relatively new starting in the 1980’s replacing a small fleet of weather ships . The point is weather “records ” are relatively new and
    land based ones have location and coverage issues amongst other things .

    Claims of highest or lowest on record on the scale of an earth measurement are
    fraught with complications that cannot
    make various assertions debatable .

    Dr. Spencer’s article is a welcome insight .[/quote]
    Mike Haseler “No way on earth the surface data is credible ” . Agreed, how could it be?
    It was never set up to provide an earth temperature with accuracy and certainly not to the point where fractions of one degree changes are credible representations of the earth’s temperature.

    More than half the weather stations in Antarctica for example were put in place during the 1980’s and prior to that less than 50 weather stations were operating in an area bigger than the USA. Like Wise Ocean weather buoys are relatively new starting in the 1980’s replacing a small fleet of weather ships. The point is weather “records ” are relatively new and
    land based ones have location and coverage issues amongst other things.

    Claims of highest or lowest on record on the scale of an earth measurement are
    fraught with complications that cannot
    make various assertions debatable.

    Dr. Spencer’s article is a welcome insight.

    There, fixed that fer ya!

  • Avatar

    Me

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    So Amber, the advice that you told Me, you ignored because you are special, err somethang err somethang to that effect!

  • Avatar

    Me

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    It must be since it was not so obvious??? 😆

  • Avatar

    Me

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    It’s the message we are saying, not the spelling or grammar, the message. If you don’t like it then be as PC as ya can be, And people like us will just be our selves!

  • Avatar

    Me

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    PPM, power, prestige, and money! Anyone that can think for them selves will know! It’s science and not religion, it’s science not government, and it’s science not consensus. PPM is the value we give it, it is the value they take advantage of.

  • Avatar

    Stan Hawryluk

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    A climate scientist is someone who plays with the data until it tells him what he wants to hear. They are comparable to psychiatrists in the courtroom

  • Avatar

    Amber

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    Stan further to your comment . That way they are never wrong and the funding money is assured . But can we continue to call it science ? Climate Data Manipulator just seems to be a better fit .

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