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Toward Estimating Climatic Trends in SST. Part I: Methods of Measurement

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  • 1 National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, United Kingdom
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Abstract

To assess climatic changes in sea surface temperature (SST), changes in the measurement method with time and the effect of these changes on the mean SST must be quantified. Observations from the International Comprehensive Ocean–Atmosphere Data Set (ICOADS) have been analyzed for the period from 1970 to 1997 using both SST measurement metadata contained within the dataset and a World Meteorological Organization (WMO) catalog of observing ships. The WMO metadata were particularly important in identifying engine-intake SSTs during the 1970s, but increased method identification over the entire period. There are strong regional variations in the preferred SST measurement method, with engine-intake SST most common in the Pacific and bucket SST preferred by countries bordering the Atlantic. The number of engine-intake SSTs increases over time and becomes more numerous than buckets by the early 1980s.

There are significant differences between SST observations made by different methods. The rounding of reports is more common for engine-intake SST than for either bucket or hull sensor SST, which degrades its quality. Significant time-varying biases exist between SST derived from buckets and from engine intakes. The SST difference has a strong seasonal signal with bucket SST being relatively cold in winter, probably resulting from heat loss from the buckets, and warm in summer, probably resulting from solar warming or the sampling of a shallow warm layer. There is also a long-term trend with engine-intake SST being relatively warm in the early period but with a small annual mean difference between the two methods by 1990.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Elizabeth C. Kent, National Oceanography Centre, European Way, Southampton SO14 3ZH, United Kingdom. Email: Elizabeth.C.Kent@noc.soton.ac.uk

Abstract

To assess climatic changes in sea surface temperature (SST), changes in the measurement method with time and the effect of these changes on the mean SST must be quantified. Observations from the International Comprehensive Ocean–Atmosphere Data Set (ICOADS) have been analyzed for the period from 1970 to 1997 using both SST measurement metadata contained within the dataset and a World Meteorological Organization (WMO) catalog of observing ships. The WMO metadata were particularly important in identifying engine-intake SSTs during the 1970s, but increased method identification over the entire period. There are strong regional variations in the preferred SST measurement method, with engine-intake SST most common in the Pacific and bucket SST preferred by countries bordering the Atlantic. The number of engine-intake SSTs increases over time and becomes more numerous than buckets by the early 1980s.

There are significant differences between SST observations made by different methods. The rounding of reports is more common for engine-intake SST than for either bucket or hull sensor SST, which degrades its quality. Significant time-varying biases exist between SST derived from buckets and from engine intakes. The SST difference has a strong seasonal signal with bucket SST being relatively cold in winter, probably resulting from heat loss from the buckets, and warm in summer, probably resulting from solar warming or the sampling of a shallow warm layer. There is also a long-term trend with engine-intake SST being relatively warm in the early period but with a small annual mean difference between the two methods by 1990.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Elizabeth C. Kent, National Oceanography Centre, European Way, Southampton SO14 3ZH, United Kingdom. Email: Elizabeth.C.Kent@noc.soton.ac.uk

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