Record July 2009 Sea Surface Temperatures? The View from Space

From Roy Spencer’s blog (h/t to Ron de Haan)

August 21st, 2009 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

Since NOAA has announced that their data show July 2009 global-average sea surface temperatures (SSTs) reaching a record high for the month of July, I thought I would take a look at what the combined AMSR-E & TMI instruments on NASA’s Aqua and TRMM satellites (respectively) had to say. I thought it might at least provide an independent sanity check since NOAA does not include these satellite data in their operational product.

The SSTs from AMSR-E are geographically the most complete record of global SSTs available since the instrument is a microwave radiometer and can measure the surface through most cloud conditions. AMSR-E (launched on Aqua in May 2002) provides truly global coverage, while the TMI (which was launched on TRMM in late 1997) does not, so the combined SST product produced by Frank Wentz’s Remote Sensing Systems provides complete global coverage only since the launch of Aqua (mid-2002). Through a cooperative project between RSS, NASA, and UAH, The digital data are available from the same (NASA Discover) website that our daily tropospheric temperatures are displayed, but for the SSTs you have to read the daily binary files and compute the anomalies yourself. I use FORTRAN for this, since it’s the only programming language I know.

As can be seen in the following plot of running 11 day average anomalies, July 2009 was indeed the warmest month during the relatively short Aqua satellite period of record, with the peak anomaly occurring about July 18.

AMSRE-SST-global

Click for larger image

The large and frequent swings in global average temperature are real, and result from changes in the rate at which water evaporates from the ocean surface. These variations are primarily driven by tropical Intraseasonal Oscillations, which change tropical-average surface winds by about 2 knots from lowest wind conditions to highest wind conditions.

As can be seen, the SSTs started to fall fast during the last week of July. If you are wondering what I think they will do in the coming months, well, that’s easy…I have no clue.

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Teresa Van Hove

“The large and frequent swings in global average temperature are real, and result from changes in the rate at which water evaporates from the ocean surface. These variations are primarily driven by tropical Intraseasonal Oscillations, which change tropical-average surface winds by about 2 knots”
Finally something that makes sense of both higher low latitude temps and the colder high latitude temps experienced this summer. I can’t wrap my brain around a lot of the science on this blog but ‘The global heat pump was not working as hard this summer’ makes sense and is consistent with both sets of observations.

Nogw

That´s awesome, 0.2 degrees!!! Who in the world can feel such a nano temperature difference. It is obviously an employee´s compromise so as to not to offend his/her boss. It is so tiny that looks like he/she just wanted to make a tiny lie, kind of free sample bias. Pitiful indeed!

Douglas DC

FTA-“As can be seen, the SSTs started to fall fast during the last week of July. If you are wondering what I think they will do in the coming months, well, that’s easy…I have no clue.”
Hmm that correlates with the apparent decline in El Nino….

Francis

In due time, will shipboard water temperature measurements be correlated with available satellite measurements?
(Also, ARGO and XBT float data…)
When, and where, would this be available?

Robert Wood

It’s not weather, it’s climate!!! … when it’s a Norwegian Blue Climate.

Robert Wood

Francis (17:55:45) get with the program.:
The satellite measurements must be calibrated by the traditional measurements. Please read that sentence again:
The very accurate satellite measurements must be calibrated by the very inaccurate traditional measurements.
By this means, the satellite temps can be “distorted”; I’d hate to bring up the word “fraud”; I really would.

Douglas DC: You wrote, “Hmm that correlates with the apparent decline in El Nino….”
That would be interesting if an El Nino started and then ebbed in “mid-Nino”. Keep in mind that the following graph is of weekly data and it ends in the week centered on August 12th. Also look back at the prior El Nino events and notice that they do dip at times on their rises to the peaks in November, December, January, so you really can’t predict anything from the recent two-week dip. It would be nice, though, if the NINO3.4 SST anomalies did, in fact, follow Dr Spencer’s graph above as you suggested.
http://i26.tinypic.com/16273hz.png
I’ll post an update at my website on Monday when the weekly data is updated.

Steve M.

The very accurate satellite measurements must be calibrated by the very inaccurate traditional measurements.
I was thinking about this today too….
Why the divergence in the land based measurements and satellite based measurements since 2008? From 1979 to 2008 they match pretty well with an offset. Since January of 2008, all bets are off.

Alan S. Blue

I think it might be interesting to see what this precise graph looks like when lined up with the various hurricane intensity charts. (Throw in all the cyclones and other measurable storm systems.)
That is: Can we connect the temperature changes to any specific storm features? Or are even the Katrinas just too small to be discernible directly from their thermal effects on the global sea temperature chart?
Directly determining the “cloud feedback” would be excellent.

lucklucky

Sea temperature of 0.2 degree diference can be measured reliably at Sea all over world !? How?

eric

Clearly the high sea surface temperatures are a result of the Urban Heat Island effect.
Just kidding.

Kum Dollison

It seems like I read, a while back, that the SST can be as much as 2 Degrees Cooler after a Hurricane has gone through. If that’s true, and considering that a major hurricane can be as much as 3, or 4 hundred miles across, and that one can travel a couple of thousand miles after forming (that could be as much as 600 – 800,000 sq miles, right?) that’s a pretty big swath.
Add in the fact that we, normally, have fourteen, or fifteen (I’m kinda pulling these numbers out of a hat) Named Storms, and seven, or eight (yep, same hat) hurricanes just in the Atlantic, and it seems like a couple of seasons of greatly reduced activity would surely leave a considerable amount of “warmer” water than would an “average” season. Especially, when the “Global” Hurriane/Typhoon/Storm index is way down for a couple of years, such as it is now.

Steve S.

NOAA chief Jane Lubchenco says, “climate models are robust enough to predict wind patterns 100 years from now”.
See what happens when you get to that pay grade?
You get smarter?

Wow, its may melting ice in north pole. So scary…

Dave Wendt

Given the recent kerfuffle between Steig et al and Hu McCulloch over the team’s corrigendum, or is that upyourreaerendum, I would like to point out that I beat Ron into comments on this by almost 2 hrs. I feel like Rodney Dangerfield!
Dave Wendt (14:15:48) :
Dr. Spencer has a new post up on his site about this
Record July 2009 Sea Surface Temperatures? The View from Space
http://www.drroyspencer.com/2009/08/record-july-2009-sea-surface-temperatures-the-view-from-space/
Ron de Haan (16:36:19) :
http://www.drroyspencer.com/2009/08/record-july-2009-sea-surface-temperatures-the-view-from-space/

So, are the “monthly corrupted (er, corrected) temperatures” recorded (for the official, long-term GISS and HADCRU records) based on a number-days-at-temperature method, or monthly-high + monthly low temperature/2 (net average temperature)?
If the latter, then a single three or four day hot spell of “high” temperatures could skew the whole month’s “average temperature”, when actually 26 days were below the anomaly average and four days were higher than the anomaly average.

Kum Dollison

UAH has “Ocean” in 1998/July listed as 0.45. 2009/July as 0.38
http://vortex.nsstc.uah.edu/data/msu/t2lt/uahncdc.lt
April 1998 was much hotter across the board: Global, Land, Ocean.
Ocean temps seem to move at the same time, or a month or two Before, Global.
Looks like monthly is pretty much “wiggle-watching.”

Ray

This is a plot of running 11 day average anomalies where the noise is already about 0.1 deg. How about the non-averaged signal? Is the noise bigger than 0.2 deg?

rbateman

Ray (22:29:58) :
Signal to noise = 2:1.
Confidence is hereby inducted.
So, if I subtracted the apparent noise, would I be looking at 0.1C anomaly?

MAG

I’m with Francis – where are the Argo data??? If not available – why not?

gaoxing

SST might probably not be the most relevant measurement for global warming. But still, it’s interesting to follow the game Earth keeps on playing with AGW-believers, and Skeptics as well, depending of which parameters we observe. Only one thing is for sure: It’s not game over!

crosspatch

So I had a thought today. (amazing, eh?)
Imagine a hurricane season where storms track across the gulf stream into the Gulf of Mexico. Now imagine a season where storms track ALONG the gulf stream. Do seasons where storms track along the gulf stream cause a reduction in heat delivery to Northern latitudes and result in lower temperatures and greater ice pack? Do years where storms track mainly into the gulf only briefly crossing the gulf stream result in warmer arctic conditions?
Would a persistent change in the Bermuda High such that storms tracked along the gulf stream for several years result in colder conditions overall?
Note the number of Atlantic storms in the 1960’s and the conditions then. Note the number of Gulf of Mexico storms in the 2000’s and the conditions then.
Just wondering if dissipation of heat by storms traveling along the stream results in a significantly cooler gulf stream when it arrives up North.

Ron de Haan

Dave Wendt (21:48:32) :
Given the recent kerfuffle between Steig et al and Hu McCulloch over the team’s corrigendum, or is that upyourreaerendum, I would like to point out that I beat Ron into comments on this by almost 2 hrs. I feel like Rodney Dangerfield!
Dave Wendt (14:15:48) :
Dr. Spencer has a new post up on his site about this
Record July 2009 Sea Surface Temperatures? The View from Space
http://www.drroyspencer.com/2009/08/record-july-2009-sea-surface-temperatures-the-view-from-space/
Ron de Haan (16:36:19) :
http://www.drroyspencer.com/2009/08/record-july-2009-sea-surface-temperatures-the-view-from-space/
Dave, you not only beat me by two hours, you can also prove it.
The science is settled.

JimB

“crosspatch (01:19:28) :
So I had a thought today. (amazing, eh?)
Imagine a hurricane season where storms track across the gulf stream into the Gulf of Mexico. Now imagine a season where storms track ALONG the gulf stream. Do seasons where storms track along the gulf stream cause a reduction in heat delivery to Northern latitudes and result in lower temperatures and greater ice pack? Do years where storms track mainly into the gulf only briefly crossing the gulf stream result in warmer arctic conditions?”
Interesting idea.
If it’s true, this should be a doozy of an example. Wunderground has current tracks taking the storm past us in N.E., on up to Nova Scotia where it looks like Halifax will get quite a spanking, and then the 5-day forecast takes it accross the northern Atlantic back over to the UK, where it makes landfall as a tropical storm.
http://www.wunderground.com/tropical/tracking/at200903_5day.html#a_topad
If you click on the historical tracking map on that link, it looks like the last storm that may have done this was back in 1883.
JimB

Dan Lee

Just eyeballing the graph, why didn’t the headlines read, “Lowest January SST anoms on record! Highest SSTs only 18 months later! Earth experiencing record mood swings!”
Honestly I kept wondering where all the fuss was a year and a half ago when it looked like SSTs were plummeting. Or was that when they were insisting that there was something wrong with the satellites?

As a layman, I understand only one thing here. If the global sea surface temperature data are reliable (which is subject to specialists’ opinion), in July 2009 the average sea surface temperature briefly (for couple of days) exceeded previous peaks observed since 2002. Since then it has sharply fallen to the much lower level. There are no reliable data registered before 2002 that could be compared with this set of data.
On the basis of this 7-years long set of supposedly reliable data, is it possible to make far-fetched conclusions about coral bleaching, Arctic ice melting, or decades-long global warming trend? Shouldn’t a self-respecting journalist limit his/her conclusions to the same period of time that is represented by the data being discussed?

Gary Pearse

High SST hasn’t stopped the re-freeze-up north of 80deg. The DMI on the right sidebar above shows a decisive plunge below freezing that is likely to deepen for the duration of the season to mid-May 2010 at least. The weather at Alert, Nunavut, Canada (82. 31N) is showing the same thing and there has been some new snow plus more in the forecast:
http://www.wunderground.com/global/stations/71082.html
And the weather at the “North Pole Cam” which has wandered to about 83N shows sub zero temps:
http://www.arctic.noaa.gov/gallery_np_weatherdata.html
Wintry scene August 21st 2009: http://www.arctic.noaa.gov/npole/2009/images/noaa1-2009-0821-172433.jpg
http://www.arctic.noaa.gov/gallery_np_weatherdata.html
Dip in the sea anyone?

Jim

crosspatch,
Hurricane Bill is moving up the coast right on top of the Gulf Stream this week. It would be very interesting to see the before and after SST’s to see how much surface heat was removed…

“crosspatch (01:19:28) : said
So I had a thought today. (amazing, eh?)”
If your huricane hypothesis has any credence I will lay claim to it. If not I would like to point out I always thought it was a stupid idea 🙂
Hope someone will report whether Hurricane Bill provides any evidence of my (your) interesting idea.
tonyb

A couple of days ago the Weather Channel reported that the global SST was 10 degrees above “normal”. I wonder where they got that number.

Roy Spencer said:
“As can be seen, the SSTs started to fall fast during the last week of July. If you are wondering what I think they will do in the coming months, well, that’s easy…I have no clue.”
But I do and you can check the argument for yourself at: http://climatechange1.wordpress.com/
Incidentally, ENSO 3.4 is a very poor guide to the change in global tropical temperature and therefore the temperature of the globe as a whole. Why spend a lot of money and effort trying to work out what drives the temperature in an unrepresentative section of the tropical Pacific? Its a complete red herring.
‘If the trade winds blow the ocean cools’ is not a new observation.
Looks to me like the southern ocean is largely back into negative territory. It is in the South that El Nino is manufactured.

Retired Engineer

The term “global SST” bothers me. The entire Earth? (at least the wet part) That’s a lot of water, some warmer, some colder. What is the footprint or measuring area? Obviously, some of it overlaps land, at least part of the time. Resolution better than 0.1 degree C (perhaps 0.01, just eyeballing the graph) seems just a bit over the top.
I suspect the signal/noise ratio is somewhat lower than the satellite operators will admit.

Alexander Feht: You wrote, “There are no reliable data registered before 2002 that could be compared with this set of data.”
How did you come to that conclusion? Satellite-based SST data has been available since Nov 1981. Here’s a link to my monthly update for July 2009.
http://bobtisdale.blogspot.com/2009/08/july-2009-sst-anomaly-update.html
In addition to that, the Hadley Centre produces two long-term SST reconstruction datasets (HADSST and HADISST), and the NCDC has a few more that are available (ERSST.v2 and ERSST.v3b). But you have to keep in mind that those datasets are reconstructions and have more and more gaps in time and space between readings the further back in time one goes.
And the researchers at Hadley Centre and NCDC are continuously finding “anomalous” shifts in the data that they can’t explain so they make updates. Hadley Centre is working on one now to correct what they call a discontinuity in the data around 1945. Refer to “A large discontinuity in the mid-twentieth century in observed global-mean surface temperature”
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v453/n7195/abs/nature06982.html
And here’s an article about the paper:
http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/case-against-climate-change-discredited-by-study-835856.html
As you can see, they blame a change in sampling methods for the shift.
Curiously, (and unfortunately for the researchers because it shows a weakness in their conclusion) that same shift appears in Cloud Cover and Marine Air Temperature data.
http://bobtisdale.blogspot.com/2009/03/large-1945-sst-discontinuity-also.html
It also appears, but inverted, in wind speed data:
http://bobtisdale.blogspot.com/2009/03/part-2-of-large-sst-discontinuity-also.html
So there is longer term data. You just have to know where they tweaked it and why.

anubisxiii

So we have had the LOWEST SST ON RECORD!!!! and the HIGHEST SST ON RECORD!!! in about the last 18 months. Both anomalous by about the same margin. Doesn’t seem like anything to get worked up about, especially since the period of record is so short.
Unless, of course, you are suffering from a severe case of confirmation bias.

Stephen Wilde

Interesting to see the interplay between the rate of oceanic energy release (slight El Nino) and the climate responses which appear to be quite rapid.
We seem to have a continuing development of polar cooling despite the current tendency towards El Nino conditions.
The mid latitude jets overall are still more equatorward than they were during the late 20th Century warming spell which may explain why Hurricane Bill is being drawn into the mid latitude jet stream rather than driving into the Gulf of Mexico.
Unless the air circulation systems move more poleward than they are at present then there will be no resumption of warming global air temperatures.
If we have had a background CO2 warming for the past decade which had been offset by the recent La Nina then this return towards warmer ocean surfaces ought to have had a stronger effect in mitigating the current polar cooling.
The big test will be whether or not the warmer ocean surfaces release enough energy to mitigate the development of large and intense cold areas over the northern continents this winter.
Note that warmer ocean surfaces involve a reducing ocean energy content unless the solar input is enough to replace the energy lost.
Warmer SSTs usually result in a cooling ocean bulk but a warmer air (for a time).

I just posted a new mystery that has emerged about these SST measurements…so far, I’m clueless as to what is going on:
http://drroyspencer.com

Paul Maynard

Totally off thread
WUWT that readers might want to go to the Radio 4 website for the listen again version of “Any Questions” for an exchange between Jonathan Porritt, a well know UK AGW alarmist and James Delingpole, who recent interviewd Plimer for the Spectator.
Porritt made sevral outrageous statements suugesting that the like so of Delingpole were lying and actually got away with a 7 metre SLR that JP did not counter. JP also under the delusion that the UK media publish lies about CC when 99% of them, with BBC in the van, recylcling the usual AGW tosh.
JP mentioned the 30,000 scientists who has signed Oregon which left Dimbleby incredulous. Usual retort that they weren’t all climate scientists. But then neither is Porrit.
Cheers
Paul

Kum Dollison

My first guess is that your satellites have picked up a patch of warm water, somewhere, sometime, where the the other guys didn’t have measurements.

Arn Riewe

Nogw (17:37:12) :
“That´s awesome, 0.2 degrees!!! Who in the world can feel such a nano temperature difference.”
Debbie Stabenow!, our crack Senator from the state of Michigan. No instrumentation or pesky calibration required!
http://motorcitytimes.com/mct/debbie-stabenow-can-feel-global-warming-when-she-is-flying/

Gene Nemetz

SST is just one part of a big, complicated puzzle. The emphasis by some on SST while leaving out other facets of global climate, like, for example, what Arctic ice is doing, makes me feel, once again, there is a bias on the alarm side of the global warming issue.
The North Pole ‘ice free in five years’, and being in a ‘death spiral’, predictions are not panning out. North Pole ice is in a growing trend. But that is not headlined in the media. Instead, a temperature reading from part of one month is.
They ‘strain out a gnat and swallow a camel’. The gnats are getting shorter lived all the time while the camels are getting bigger.

Kum Dollison

You had huge numbers for So. Extent, land (especially,) an Ocean; and, also, SH, land (again, especially,) and Ocean. Might want to look, there.

Gene Nemetz

Speaking of that North Pole (Arctic) ice, the DMi graph is getting even more interesting. I would like to see an update from those who are predicting an ice free North Pole….
http://ocean.dmi.dk/arctic/icecover.uk.php
reply: WE HAD ONE A COUPLE OF DAYS AGO SEE HERE
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/08/18/nsidc-on-arctic-ice-it-is-now-unlikely-that-2009-will-see-a-record-low-extent/

Paul Maynard

Re Radio 4
Bad typing
Porritt made several outrageous statements suugesting that the likes of Delingpole were lying and actually got away with a 7 metre SLR that JD did not counter. JP also under the delusion that the UK media publish lies about CC when 99% of them, with BBC in the van, recycling the usual AGW tosh.
Regards
Paul

And so goes the debate on a subject that is so controversial that politics has made a place for itself in science and global control. How long are the real cycles and how far apart?

Daryl M

Roy Spencer (09:19:13) :
I just posted a new mystery that has emerged about these SST measurements…so far, I’m clueless as to what is going on:
Dr. Spencer, thank you for your refreshingly honest and humble insights.

UK John

according to my reading of Dr Spencer’s Graph above, Dec 2007 is a record low SST ( highly significant in my opinion! )

IanM

crosspatch (01:19:28) wrote:
Do seasons where storms track along the gulf stream cause a reduction in heat delivery to Northern latitudes and result in lower temperatures and greater ice pack? Do years where storms track mainly into the gulf only briefly crossing the gulf stream result in warmer arctic conditions?
Crosspatch-
I don’t know if this information is relevant to your question, but…..I have read more than once that it is NOT the Gulf Stream that keeps northern Europe milder than it would otherwise be that far north. The warming was creditted to the temperature of the air, which was kept ‘warm” by the Atlantic. The explanation was that N. Europe has a “maritime” climate, like that of British Columbia (and even southern Alaska), where it is milder air that keeps the climate mild.
IanM

Gene Nemetz

reply: WE HAD ONE A COUPLE OF DAYS AGO SEE HERE
Opps, you’re right. I remember now.

Dave Wendt

Ron de Haan (03:12:27)
Dave, you not only beat me by two hours, you can also prove it.
The science is settled.
Ron, you’ve once again demonstrated that WUWT is populated by people with more scientific integrity than any of its competition. I see Anthony has still not updated his h/t though, I may have to be in touch with my attorney. Given the irony challenged state of the scientific types around here, I will hasten to add, in the words of one my childhood favorites, Foghorn Leghorn, “That’s a joke, son”.