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Roy Spencer – Satellite v Surface Temperature Measurements

October 22, 2014

By Paul Homewood 


Roy Spencer has an interesting post up:


Why 2014 Won’t Be the Warmest Year on Record


October 21st, 2014 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

Much is being made of the “global” surface thermometer data, which three-quarters the way through 2014 is now suggesting the global average this year will be the warmest in the modern instrumental record.

I claim 2014 won’t be the warmest global-average year on record.

..if for no other reason than this: thermometers cannot measure global averages — only satellites can. The satellite instruments measure nearly every cubic kilometer – hell, every cubic inch — of the lower atmosphere on a daily basis. You can travel hundreds if not thousands of kilometers without finding a thermometer nearby.

(And even if 2014 or 2015 turns out to be the warmest, this is not a cause for concern…more about that later).

The two main research groups tracking global lower-tropospheric temperatures (our UAH group, and the Remote Sensing Systems [RSS] group) show 2014 lagging significantly behind 2010 and especially 1998:





With only 3 months left in the year, there is no realistic way for 2014 to set a record in the satellite data.

Granted, the satellites are less good at sampling right near the poles, but compared to the very sparse data from the thermometer network we are in fat city coverage-wise with the satellite data.

In my opinion, though, a bigger problem than the spotty sampling of the thermometer data is the endless adjustment game applied to the thermometer data. The thermometer network is made up of a patchwork of non-research quality instruments that were never made to monitor long-term temperature changes to tenths or hundredths of a degree, and the huge data voids around the world are either ignored or in-filled with fictitious data.

Furthermore, land-based thermometers are placed where people live, and people build stuff, often replacing cooling vegetation with manmade structures that cause an artificial warming (urban heat island, UHI) effect right around the thermometer. The data adjustment processes in place cannot reliably remove the UHI effect because it can’t be distinguished from real global warming.

Satellite microwave radiometers, however, are equipped with laboratory-calibrated platinum resistance thermometers, which have demonstrated stability to thousandths of a degree over many years, and which are used to continuously calibrate the satellite instruments once every 8 seconds. The satellite measurements still have residual calibration effects that must be adjusted for, but these are usually on the order of hundredths of a degree, rather than tenths or whole degrees in the case of ground-based thermometers.

And, it is of continuing amusement to us that the global warming skeptic community now tracks the RSS satellite product rather than our UAH dataset. RSS was originally supposed to provide a quality check on our product (a worthy and necessary goal) and was heralded by the global warming alarmist community. But since RSS shows a slight cooling trend since the 1998 super El Nino, and the UAH dataset doesn’t, it is more referenced by the skeptic community now. Too funny.

In the meantime, the alarmists will continue to use the outdated, spotty, and heavily-massaged thermometer data to support their case. For a group that trumpets the high-tech climate modeling effort used to guide energy policy — models which have failed to forecast (or even hindcast!) the lack of warming in recent years — they sure do cling bitterly to whatever will support their case.

As British economist Ronald Coase once said, “If you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything.”

So, why are the surface thermometer data used to the exclusion of our best technology — satellites — when tracking global temperatures? Because they better support the narrative of a dangerously warming planet.

Except, as the public can tell, the changes in global temperature aren’t even on their radar screen (sorry for the metaphor).



Read the rest here.

  1. October 22, 2014 2:32 pm

    Here’s the money shot and reflects my comment yesterday:

    “The thermometer network is made up of a patchwork of non-research quality instruments that were never made to monitor long-term temperature changes to tenths or hundredths of a degree, and the huge data voids around the world are either ignored or in-filled with fictitious data.”

    And yet somehow they get an error margin of +/- 0.12C out of the final result.

  2. Ron C. permalink
    October 22, 2014 3:26 pm

    The satellites also show that global warming is not global.

    Current “global warming” is actually rather small outside of the upper northern hemisphere and Arctic. For instance, the following satellite graph shows the tropics only had on the order of 0.1 degrees Celsius (or less) total meaningful average temperature rise over the past 33 years (1979-2012). And SH, warming not so much.

  3. Ron C. permalink
    October 22, 2014 3:49 pm

    Further to Dr. Spencer’s point about RSS and UAH, the comparable graph below shows RSS warming is less than UAH, close to zero for both Tropics and SH.

  4. David permalink
    October 22, 2014 5:34 pm

    As Paul’s September 2014 global temperature update will no doubt show, in the ’12 month average – 1981-2010 Baseline’ data UAH is in near exact agreement with the surface data sets re temperatures over the past 12 months.

    Like the surface data sets, UAH is strongly at odds with RSS.

    UAH will not register a new record year in 2014. It’s not measuring exactly the same thing as the surface data after all. So far though it’s on course to finish inside the top 5 warmest; possibly higher.

    • October 22, 2014 6:06 pm

      In other words, 5th warmest from the last 17 yrs, during a El Nino year!

      Pardon me if I don’t run for the hills!

    • October 22, 2014 7:45 pm

      Now I’ve had a nice tea, time for a more considered reply!

      It’s always nice to agree, so let’s see if we can agree on a few more things:

      1) One of Roy’s main concerns is that the surface datasets are not reliable in the longer term. E.g. UHI does not alter on a year to year basis. But for comparisons back to 1970 or 1930, they cannot be relied on.

      2) Nobody, NOAA, NASA, Met Office or MSM should go around declaring “record years/months” until the more accurate satellite datasets confirm this fact, albeit a couple of months later.

      3) As we agree that UAH is in near agreement with the surface sets, we should henceforth disband the latter, which would save huge sums of money that could be better employed fighting climate change.
      There will still, of course, be RSS to cross check against UAH.

      • Otter (ClimateOtter on Twitter) permalink
        October 22, 2014 8:05 pm

        Paul, as those few of us paying attention know, they don’t expect the vast majority to keep track- most people will think this was ‘the hottest year EVUH!’ long after that has been disproven, if not from now on (until the next ‘hottest’)

  5. October 22, 2014 6:53 pm

    So, why the divergence of UAH and RSS from 2010?

    • October 22, 2014 7:37 pm

      “We needed to drop some stations because had too much data.” – Gavin Schmidt

      “There’s no station within 1000km in the Arctic but I have a pretty good idea what the temperature should be there” – Gavin Schmidt

      “Central Africa should be really warm, right??” – Gavin Schmidt

      “UHI actually has a cooling effect.” – Gavin Schmidt

      “The dog ate my homework.” – Gavin Schmidt

  6. Ron C. permalink
    October 22, 2014 7:42 pm

    The slight divergence starts as Spencer says from around 2000; notice in the graphs that RSS NH anomaly is already above 0.4C then and is slightly lower now. UAH started this century with NH anomaly around 0.3C and shows 0.4C now. UAH was also lower in 1993. All in all UAH appears more volatile.

    Still these differences are small compared to surface stations variety.

  7. October 22, 2014 7:51 pm

    Paul asks
    Henry asks
    What happened in 2010 to cause the difference between RSS and UAH?
    Why did I not get any answers on this question from Roy when I asked him?

  8. Ron C. permalink
    October 22, 2014 7:53 pm

    Here’s a comparison of RSS and UAH global anomalies

  9. Ron C. permalink
    October 22, 2014 8:00 pm

    Of course, if you really want to compare UAH and RSS, nobody does it better than Bob Tisdale

  10. Ron C. permalink
    October 22, 2014 8:16 pm

    Here is IMO the best graph from Bob Tisdale on this topic:

    These are global average anomalies by latitudes, showing both RSS and UAH, period 1979 to Feb 2014. Clearly, you can see the more north you go the more the warming. And UAH is more volatile. This does not address the stoppage after 1998 El Nino year.

  11. Ron C. permalink
    October 22, 2014 8:40 pm


    In your graphs, 2002 is the chosen (arbitrary) point in time, showing warming trend before, and cooling trend afterward. But you can also fix the trend at zero and go back in time until a positive trend appears. For RSS, that is 18 years

    • October 23, 2014 6:07 am

      And you will keep fooling yourself with this until it is too late.
      Unfortunately climate change is coming, naturally. Global cooling is here already.
      Currently, I have three data sets of my own and if you set the speed of warming out against time, I get 3 almost perfect curves.
      That cannot be simply a coincident?

      Similarly, you can draw a hyperbolic & parabolic curve for the decline in the solar magnetic field strength.

      It appears (to me) that as the solar polar fields are weakening,

      more USW is able to escape from the sun to form more ozone, peroxides and nitrogenous oxides which are lying at the TOA. In turn, these substances deflect more sunlight to space when there is more of it. So, ironically, or paradoxically, if you like, when the sun is “brighter’, perhaps even somewhat hotter, earth will get cooler. This is a defense system that earth has in place to protect us from too much harmful UV (C).

  12. October 23, 2014 6:29 am

    it seems a comment of mine @RonC went missing?

    • October 23, 2014 9:05 am

      It was in pending, as more than one link.

      Just released it

  13. October 23, 2014 12:51 pm

    @Ron C
    something went wrong with the link I gave for the weakening polar solar field strengths.
    Let me try again

  14. Ron C. permalink
    October 23, 2014 1:17 pm


    Thanks for the link to your work. The analysis is impressive and persuasive. I agree that cooling is the more likely prospect, and may well be happening already (as you demonstrate). Ironically, and as usual, the alarmists have it upside down: the climate is in fact changing, but it is likely cooling not warming.

    I also find the dimming/brightening theory interesting, though it has been perverted into an aerosol explanation. Lately, though, some scientists are pointing to cloudiness as the driving factor:
    AFAIK the connection to solar activity is not yet proven.

  15. October 23, 2014 1:43 pm

    I had to find an explanation for my own results – so as to come up with an explanation as to why the speed of warming was decelerating similar to the speed of a thrown ball (in K or C/ yearsquare), i.e. quadratic.
    Although we have the Schwabe solar cycle of ca. 11 years and the Hale cycle of 22 years there seems to be a declining trend in solar polar field strengths, quadratic in nature if you look at it “on average”. (parabolic/hyperbolic). From other investigations I know ozone starting going down in 1951 and started going up again in 1995.
    So this whole CFC scare story was another red herring….Earth’s TOA chemistry builds it own protection against harmful radiation from the sun.

    Anyway, I now know how it all fits together. The Gleissberg cycle suggests 44 years of warming followed by 44 years of cooling. From 1927-2016 is one full cycle consisting of 4 quadrants (4 Hale cycles).
    This is looking at energy in. Earth may react slower or quicker on what comes in, depending on a number of factors.
    I sent some information to Paul from before they started with the carbon dioxide nonsense where this cycle is discussed and he may or may not consider publishing parts of it, in due course,

    as, I am sure, the cold sets in….

  16. October 23, 2014 2:19 pm

    just in case you did not get why I showed you that graph shown in my previous comment, – never mind the fact that the amounts of radiation heat from the sun’s 5525K and 210-310K from earth displayed, are completely out of proportion –

    just see how the absorption that are apparent in the spectra of the individual components of the atmosphere affect the outgoing radiation of earth and see how they affect the incoming radiation. For example, let us look at the absorption of ozone at between 9-10 um? It makes a dent in earth’s outgoing radiation at 9-10. In other words what happens: Radiation from earth of 9-10 goes up, hits on the ozone, most of which is high up in the sky and which is already absorbed to capacity, and therefore a great percentage (at least 50%, probably more) is sent back to earth, leading to entrapment of heat, leading to delay in cooling, leading to a warming effect. Also look at water vapor and CO2 around 2 um and see how that makes a dent in the incoming solar radiation. Notice that the ozone shields us from a lot of sunlight by absorbing and re-radiating in the UV region. In fact, if you really grasp what you are seeing in this graph/ representation (from a cloudless day), you would realize that without the ozone and CO2 and H2O and other GHG’s you will get a lot more radiation on your head. In fact, you would probably fry.

    So, a little bit of more ozone (and others that we cannot/donot even measure) TOA makes a big difference in what is allowed through the atmosphere.

  17. July 13, 2015 12:41 pm

    Am I missing something or is everybody ignorant of the fact that the 1970’s and early 1980’s were historically cold and were considered a mini-ice age. Of course temperatures got warmer since then. I note that only the years or decades that show warming ever get mentioned.


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