Trenberth takes on UAH satellite data in a new paper

They create an adjustment for the way the Alabama scientists handled data from NOAA-9, a satellite that collected temperature data in the mid-1980s.

From the University of Washington comes this press release:

New research brings satellite measurements and global climate models closer

By Nancy Gohring News and Information For more information: Po-Chedley, pochedls@atmos.uw.edu Trenberth, trenbert@ucar.edu, 303.497.1318

One popular climate record that shows a slower atmospheric warming trend than other studies contains a data calibration problem, and when the problem is corrected the results fall in line with other records and climate models, according to a new University of Washington study.

The finding is important because it helps confirm that models that simulate global warming agree with observations, said Stephen Po-Chedley, a UW graduate student in atmospheric sciences who wrote the paper with Qiang Fu, a UW professor of atmospheric sciences.

They identified a problem with the satellite temperature record put together by the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Researchers there were the first to release such a record, in 1989, and it has often been cited by climate change skeptics to cast doubt on models that show the impact of greenhouse gases on global warming.

In their paper, appearing this month in the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology, Po-Chedley and Fu examined the record from the researchers in Alabama along with satellite temperature records that were subsequently developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Remote Sensing Systems.

The UW researchers are the first to come up with an adjustment for the way the Alabama scientists handled data from NOAA-9, a satellite that collected temperature data in the mid-1980s.

The UW researchers are the first to come up with an adjustment for the way the Alabama scientists handled data from NOAA-9, a satellite that collected temperature data in the mid-1980s.

Scientists like Po-Chedley and Fu have been studying the three records because each comes to a different conclusion.

“There’s been a debate for many, many years about the different results but we didn’t know which had a problem,” Fu said. “This discovery reduces uncertainty, which is very important.”

When they applied their correction to the Alabama-Huntsville climate record for a UW-derived tropospheric temperature measurement, it effectively eliminated differences with the other studies.

Scientists already had noticed that there were issues with the way the Alabama researchers handled data from NOAA-9, one satellite that collected temperature data for a short time in the mid-1980s. But Po-Chedley and Fu are the first to offer a calculation related to the NOAA-9 data for adjusting the Alabama findings, said Kevin Trenberth, a distinguished senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

“It should therefore make for a better record, as long as UAH accepts it,” he said.

To come up with the correction, Po-Chedley and Fu closely examined the way the three teams interpreted readings from NOAA-9 and compared it to data collected from weather balloons about the temperature of the troposphere.

They found that the Alabama research incorrectly factors in the changing temperature of the NOAA-9 satellite itself and devised a method to estimate the impact on the Alabama trend.

Like how a baker might use an oven thermometer to gauge the true temperature of an oven and then adjust the oven dial accordingly, the researchers must adjust the temperature data collected by the satellites.

That’s because the calibration of the instruments used to measure the Earth’s temperature is different after the satellites are launched, and because the satellite readings are calibrated by the temperature of the satellite itself. The groups have each separately made their adjustments in part by comparing the satellite’s data to that of other satellites in service at the same time.

Once Po-Chedley and Fu apply the correction, the Alabama-Huntsville record shows 0.21 F warming per decade in the tropics since 1979, instead of its previous finding of 0.13 F warming. Surface measurements show the temperature of Earth in the tropics has increased by about 0.21 F per decade.

The Remote Sensing Systems and NOAA reports continue to reflect warming of the troposphere that’s close to the surface measurements, with warming of 0.26 F per decade and 0.33 F respectively.

The discrepancy among the records stems from challenges climate researchers face when using weather satellites to measure the temperature of the atmosphere. The records are a composite of over a dozen satellites launched since late 1978 that use microwaves to determine atmospheric temperature.

However, stitching together data collected by those satellites to discover how the climate has changed over time is a complicated matter. Other factors scientists must take into account include the satellite’s drift over time and differences in the instruments used to measure atmospheric temperature on board each satellite.

The temperature reports look largely at the troposphere, which stretches from the surface of the earth to around 10 miles above it, where most weather occurs. Climate models show that this region of the atmosphere will warm considerably due to greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, scientists expect that in some areas, such as over the tropics, the troposphere will warm faster than the surface of the Earth.

The paper does not resolve all the discrepancies among the records, and researchers will continue to look at ways to reconcile those conflicts.

“It will be interesting to see how these differences are resolved in the coming years,” Po-Chedley said.

The research was supported by the National Science Foundation and NOAA.

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Tim Walker

Distinguished? Maybe Kevin is distinguished, but only by his actions. His actions have distinguished him as someone that is party to the ruining of the impression the public has of scientists.

Kurt in Switzerland

This is important. Not only does the scientific world need to finally define what constitutes Global Average Temperature (or Climate), it also needs to solve the reasons behind the discrepancies between various datasets. Here’s to a humane discourse between scientists using different techniques to treat the raw data.
The article begs for a rebuttal from the Huntsville researchers.
Kurt in Switzerland

CodeTech

So, if you don’t like what the data shows, just change the data?

Robert Thomson

“Like how a baker might use an oven thermometer to gauge the true temperature of an oven and then adjust the oven dial accordingly, the researchers must adjust the temperature data collected by the satellites.”
Just so …………………………………. gauge the true temperature and then adjust it. Nothing to see here then ………………………move on!

“The research was supported by the National Science Foundation and NOAA.”
Says it all for me – I’ll wait for Dr Christy .
Of course it could never be the massaged NOAA data at fault that needs to come into alignment.

John A. Fleming

I guess I’ll have to RTFP. Did they treat all three records the same, and re-process with their methodology, or did they attack the outlier data series to make it conform to the other two? IOW, confirmation bias much?

Peter Miller

Adjust – adjust – adjust – this is the ‘climate scientists’ mantra.
Put even more simply: If the data doesn’t fit the models, adjust the data. That’s the first thing they learn in ‘Climate Science’ 101.
In any real science, these clowns and all their adjustments to fit the models would be a laughing stock; however in ‘climate science’ they are taken seriously.
Oh, and let’s not forget the second thing they learn in ‘climate science’ 101: “this clearly needs more study, so please can we have more grants.”

D Caldwell

Looking forward to the response from Spencer & Christy…

ColdinOZ

Now they need to invent an adjustment for radiosonde data

KnR

Start with he results you NEED , work out how to make the data give it .
One classic way , find the set date you like they argue how all other data sets you don’t like need to be ‘adjusted ‘ so its looks like the one you do. And never, ever ask any ‘difficult ‘ questions such is the data set I do like actual any good .

Alvin

With no way (shuttle) to approach the satellite anymore to verify. Convenient.

Rob Potter

So warming of 0.13F was so badly out from 0.21F (ground) that they had to adjust it, but the NOAA estimates is 0.33F and that is just fine?
I’ll wait for John Christy to weigh in on this – unfortunately he out of his office at the moment (according to Roy Spencer) – I wonder if they tried to get this out while he was away and couldn’t respond straight away…..

C.M. Carmichael

Climate science relates to real science the way Astrology relates to Astronomy. Just a distant goofy cousin.

kim2ooo

Tim Walker says:
May 7, 2012 at 1:54 pm
Distinguished? Maybe Kevin is distinguished, but only by his actions. His actions have distinguished him as someone that is party to the ruining of the impression the public has of scientists.
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
IMO: Well said!

Alvin

In 2010: A seven state study conducted from the University of Washington Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race & Sexuality found that Tea Party movement supporters within those states were “more likely to be racially resentful” than the population as a whole, even when controlling for partisanship and ideology.
Sorry for the strawman, but I have never trusted that college since then. The professor that conducted the study refused to share the raw data when pressed.

londo

I bet ya, during the next ice age instrumental record will show an average temperature of +3C at the poles, all in compliance with the climate models at the time.

aaron

If the data do not fit the model, find a way to change the data. This is not the first time we have seen this sort of behavior from the alarmists. Of course it is possible that the satellite data are incorrect but there are now so many examples of exaggeration, group think and now even out right lies (Phil Jones and company) it makes it impossible to know who are the true scientists and who are the frauds. I say let’s take this bit of information on the satellite correction data with a great deal of caution until we have corroborating evidence from multiple sources.

Follow the Money

“Like how a baker might use an oven thermometer to gauge the true temperature of an oven and then adjust the oven dial accordingly, the researchers must adjust the temperature data collected by the satellites.”
Funniest thing I’ve read in a while. This terrible analogy should become a meme, a slogan against CAGW, like flinging “post-normal science.”
Post-normal cooking the books? …the data? Cooking the data. LOL.

pochas

They knew what they wanted and they got it.

Glacierman

I have a method that I’m sure Trenberth will gladly accept. Take the UAH numbers, make them bigger, because it “therefore makes for a better record”, because it confirms what Trenberth already knows, that its getting hotter, much hotter, so any data adjustment that makes the trend hotter must be “a better record”. This grad student would be in deep doo doo if their method showed anything else….and the thesis advisor? Hope you have tenure. As for the editor at the journal? Forget about your career until you apologize to Trenberth for allowing it to be published.

Jimbo

Can you imagine them adjusting to show the satellites actually showing cooler than they indicate. Always adjust towards warming. This is a scam.

bubbagyro

Po-Diddley says,
“The finding is important because it helps confirm that models that simulate global warming agree with observations.”
Helps confirm? And that means ???
“When they applied their correction to the Alabama-Huntsville climate record for a UW-derived tropospheric temperature measurement, it effectively eliminated differences with the other studies.”
Was it “effective” in eliminating all differences? Or did it “effectively” (as in “virtually”) eliminate differences (meaning it “maybe” did in some minds)?
“This discovery reduces uncertainty, which is very important.”
Yes, the word “uncertainty” is used in a supposedly scientific paper — this should mean narrowing the standard deviation, or reducing the variance. How much?
I am not being snarky (well, a bit). But Po and Fu could have eased our scientific inquiry a bit by talking about error.
1) SO, the other comparators did not warm up or fatigue?
2) We can assume the comparators (balloons only?) did warm up (or fatigue?), but at different rates in order to correct for the NOAA-9. That would demand, statistically, doing a trend analysis, a complicated algorithm. Or, did they just add a “calculated” amount from each of the NOAA-9 data points.
3) If they did this statistically correctly, then why is the number reported as “0.21 °F/decade, and not “0.21 ± 0.xx °F/decade.
4) Why is it reported as “0.21°F and not 0.12 °C?
Are we comparing balloons with satellites because they have better statistics? If so, what does the pure radiosonde data say, apart from satellites? Of what value, then, the satellites? (I hope the pure radiosonde data are in the paper).

Dr. John Christy and Dr. Roy Spencer will soon produce the UHA Lower Troposphere Global Temperature Report for April 2012 and the Global lower tropospheric temperature anomalies, 1979 thru April 2012.
Then I hope they will produce a rebuttal paper.
Then I expect Dr. Trenberth not to like it and the warmista crowd to continue trusting the pressure-cooked thermometer data over and above any satellite data, even after adjusted to trumpet the intended message.
Watch http://nsstc.uah.edu/climate/ and http://www.drroyspencer.com/latest-global-temperatures/

Mike McMillan

They’ve modified all the actual thermometer readings to match the models, so it’s only fair that they should modify the actual satellite readings, too.

Jimbo

“There’s been a debate for many, many years about the different results but we didn’t know which had a problem,” Fu said.””

What a croc! Fu knew where Fu wanted to find the problem and lo and behold……the satellites.

Other factors scientists must take into account include the satellite’s drift over time and differences in the instruments used to measure atmospheric temperature on board each satellite.

Yes indeed. Now look back down on the ground and you will see the Urban Heat Island effect and related problems. Can we REALLY adjust for this? Does bias creep in?

Skiphil

Re: “adjustments” of data…. It is inherently worthy of suspicion (suggestive at least of confirmation bias) when climate science “adjustments” of data ***always*** seem to favor C-AGW interests. I’ll wait for this to sort out with more perspectives.

Phil.

Fu was one of the researchers whose work identified the errors in the UAH processing of the MSU data which led to S&C’s corrections, so he’s not a neophyte in this area.

Sparkey

I haven’t read the journal article, but I note that the above press release doesn’t say anything about physics. It’s all about “calibration” and “adjustments”. As one who has actually designed Radars for space, I’m highly skeptical of this “calibration”. What the Alabama folks have done has met the test of time AND influenced other applicantions of space based radar. If Christy’s calibration was off that much, that’s a HUGE error in phase, and there’s a bunch of radars out there that are wrong. Given that they are demonstratively not, I’m calling BS.
I doubt there was a single radar expert in the peer review.

Joe

So, if we grant for a moment that the “real” value is 0.21F / decade then why is a UAH figure of 0.13F (a 0.08F or 38% error) a problem, while a NOAA figure of 0.33F (0.12F or 57% error) is “close to” reality?
Don’t suppose the direction of error has anthing to do with it?

Old Nanook

I would sure like to know if Trenberth is a US citizen and/or if he is lawfully able to work in the US. We would be a lot better off if he could return to his home country of residence, New Zealand, and contribute to the socialist, isolationist and environmental-wacko policies there.

S Basinger

“They create an adjustment for the way the Alabama scientists handled data from NOAA-9, a satellite that collected temperature data in the mid-1980s.”
When the data contradicts your conclusions, adjust the data. This type of elite thinking can only be from the brilliant minds of Climate Science. Well played, gentlemen.

shrnfr

Having done some of the early work in the field during the 1970s on Nimbus-E and Nimbus-F I call bullshit. Our temperature profiles retrieved from those instruments (NEMS and SCAMS) did not have a systemic bias at any pressure level in the retrieval. Errors at a given pressure level? Yeah sure, the inversion is an under-determined problem. And yes, we used RAOBs for “ground truth”. But what they are implying is that there are gremlins in the cold load and or the frequency that systematically shift the weighting functions or render the brightness temperatures systematically biased in a way that gives them the “happy” result that they want. I cannot speak for the AMSU and later instruments, but if anything, I suspect they were much more advanced technically and more accurate as a result.

son of mulder

Why did they share the data when they knew they would try to find something wrong with it? ;>)

Louis Hooffstetter

The link ‘Satellite Temperature Measurements FAQ’ says:
“Weather balloons are used as an independent check for the (satellite) microwave sounding unit. Because the weather balloon measurement is independent of the temperature of the satellite (which warms and cools based on the angle in which the sun hits it), the UW researchers were able to conclude that the Alabama measurements of Earth temperature for one of its satellites (NOAA-9) were affected by the satellite temperature itself. This indicates that the Alabama research(ers) mis-calibrated the NOAA-9 satellite.”
It’s certainly possible that the satellite sensor is out of calibration, as we’ve seen before with sea ice detectors. If it is, I hope Spencer & Christy acknowledge the error and congratulate the authors for finding it. However, if this “miscalibration” can’t be replicated by others and proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, it’s just another blatant example of Trenberth and the ‘Gang that Couldn’t Adjust Straight’ adjusting empirical data to fit their beloved models. They have destroyed their credibility numerous times already. Let’s see how this pans out.

sophocles

CodeTech says:
May 7, 2012 at 1:54 pm
So, if you don’t like what the data shows, just change the data?
=====================================================
only if “…it’s obviously wrong.”

Kasuha

Strange that they mention UAH so much – there’s virtually no difference between RSS and UAH and in fact RSS is recently the one that shows less warming.
Apart of that the press release says nothing except that they yet again don’t feel like discussing it on professional level among scientists and rather release a paper about how bad the UAH team is. Let’s wait for Dr. Spencer’s opinion.

Jim Clarke

It is truly remarkable that every single adjustment to actual data over the last 25 years required that the data be ‘ warmed’. How did we manage to create such a wide variety of instrumentation, with each and every one of them having a cold bias? It is now blatantly obvious that engineers have been involved in a global conspiracy to hide the excessive warming we are all suffering and dying from.
And they are so good at it that no one is suffering or dying.

Richdo

The UW FAQ on this “study” can be found here: http://www.washington.edu/news/articles/satellite-temperature-measurements-faq
I think my head is going to explode! If any of this has scientific merit why the #$%^ did it take >20years to figure it out?

Green Sand

So just where is this missing “heat”?
If satellites cannot find it in the deep oceans, then ipso facto their ability to quantify surface data is to be doubted.
For those in need – sarc/off

Well, we shouldn’t be surprised by this. We must get our minds right before the next IPCC meeting.
The revisions of our climate indicators has gone well past laughable.

mikemUK

It’s a sad reflection on ‘climate science’ that whenever certain names appear in a Blog you mentally check your wallet.
You could have knocked me down with a feather when I learned that if you adjust satellite data, it agrees with the models.

I note this line:
“compared it to data collected from weather balloons about the temperature of the troposphere.”
How close is “about the temperature”?

RE: Kasuha says:
May 7, 2012 at 3:18 pm
Strange that they mention UAH so much – there’s virtually no difference between RSS and UAH and in fact RSS is recently the one that shows less warming.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I did a crude match up of the two with an offset to mate the starting anomaly.
http://i247.photobucket.com/albums/gg136/BigLee57/trend5.png
I will leave it to readers to determine why UAH is slammed hardest…….. Trenberth?

Kev-in-UK

This is back to the age-old (as in within the climate debate) problem of ‘what is real data’? All satellite/sensor data is calibrated against some ‘standard’. Even thermometers are calibrated against reference standards. If the calibration is ‘out’ – the data is out – period. if the calibration changes with time, as in say, ‘drift’ of satellite sensors – how do we recalibrate? Do they bring satellites back to earth to run ‘checks’? (To my knowledge this has never been done and is to all intent and purpose, impossible!) So back to the problem – which data is ‘real’ and ‘valid’?
THEN – some smartarse decides to ‘check’ the data – and ‘adjust’ it – and this is supposed to be fecking science????? Oh FFS, come on folks, this is most likely to be BS………………
Put it another way – if this is good science, the Pope is likely to be Elvis reincarnated – (OMG, I bet there are some that will believe that’s possible too…..aarrgghh!)

Latitude

They found that the Alabama research incorrectly factors in the changing temperature of the NOAA-9 satellite itself and devised a method to estimate the impact on the Alabama trend.
=============================
So I take it the NOAA-9 satellite gradually gets warmer…………………..a trend

Latitude

Lee Kington says:
May 7, 2012 at 3:37 pm
RE: Kasuha says:
May 7, 2012 at 3:18 pm
Strange that they mention UAH so much – there’s virtually no difference between RSS and UAH and in fact RSS is recently the one that shows less warming.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I did a crude match up of the two with an offset to mate the starting anomaly.
http://i247.photobucket.com/albums/gg136/BigLee57/trend5.png
I will leave it to readers to determine why UAH is slammed hardest…….. Trenberth?
=============
slam dunk………….

Dan in California

Has there ever been an example of data being “adjusted” to make AGW less? Every time I see an “adjustment”, it makes recent temperatures hotter and past temperatures colder.

DirkH

It was about time the warmist antiscientists start to destroy the satellite measurements.

Since NOAA-9 warms throughout its lifetime, this introduces a spurious cooling into the satellite measurement, which subsequently affects the entire 30-plus year record.
This is from their website. I would like to see the data regarding the warming of NOAA-9 over its lifetime. Why would that be? Normally, after a few weeks of outgassing a satellites temperature range stabilizes unless there is something wrong with the paint coatings used for thermal control. This could heat the spacecraft over time but usually this is a log function, not a linear one.
I would like to see their data on this one as it does not correspond to the on board calibration of the instruments.

John West

From the abstract: “This study evaluates the selection of the MSU TMT warm target factor for the NOAA-9 satellite using five homogenized radiosonde products as references. The analysis reveals that the UAH TMT product has a positive bias of 0.062 ± 0.040 in the warm target factor that artificially reduces the global TMT trend by 0.050 K decade−1 for 1979 – 2009. Accounting for this bias increases the global UAH TMT trend from 0.038 K decade−1 to 0.088 K decade−1, effectively eliminating the trend difference between UAH and RSS and decreasing the trend difference between UAH and NOAA by 56%. “
http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/JTECH-D-11-00147.1
From the press release: “Once Po-Chedley and Fu apply the correction, the Alabama-Huntsville record shows 0.21 F warming per decade in the tropics since 1979, instead of its previous finding of 0.13 F warming.
http://www.washington.edu/news/articles/new-research-brings-satellite-measurements-and-global-climate-models-closer
Uh ……doesn’t 0.088 K = 0.1584 F not 0.21 F?
What am I missing? The press release doesn’t seem to match the Abstract.