Satellite & balloon climate data corroborates slower warming

Satellite & balloon climate data corroborates slower warming

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A detailed comparison of atmospheric temperature data gathered by satellites with widely used data gathered by weather balloons corroborates both the accuracy of the satellite data and the rate of global warming seen in that data. Using NOAA satellite readings of temperatures in the lower atmosphere, scientists at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) produced a dataset that shows global atmospheric warming at the rate of about 0.07 degrees C (about 0.13 degrees Fahrenheit) per decade since November 1978. The study published in the JAOT describes an updated global temperature dataset using NOAA satellite measurements of the atmosphere’s microwave emissions, which change with the temperature. In this new version, the UAH team applied a more accurate accounting for temperature changes caused by the satellites’ east-west drift. To test the accuracy of the new dataset, Christy and his colleagues used independent data from 28 radiosonde weather balloon sites in an area bounded by eastern Canada, the Caribbean, Alaska and the Marshall Islands in the Western Pacific. They also used American, British and Russian composite datasets of hundreds of weather balloon sites around the world. They used balloon data to test the satellite readings because balloon-borne thermometers and satellites both measure temperatures in deep layers of the atmosphere — comparing apples to apples.
Ultimately, the team calculated a 95 percent confidence in the satellite-based temperature trend within plus or minus 0.05 degrees Celsius per decade. If the satellite data are reliable and accurate over the wide range of environments and climates represented by the balloon weather stations, Christy said, it is likely to be reliable over the rest of the globe. Many climate models forecast that global warming should be happening at a rate much faster than that seen by either the UAH satellite dataset or the weather balloon data.