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Temporal Homogenization of Monthly Radiosonde Temperature Data. Part II: Trends, Sensitivities, and MSU Comparison

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  • 1 NOAA/Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey
  • 2 NOAA/Air Resources Laboratory, Silver Spring, Maryland
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Abstract

Trends in radiosonde-based temperatures and lower-tropospheric lapse rates are presented for the time periods 1959–97 and 1979–97, including their vertical, horizontal, and seasonal variations. A novel aspect is that estimates are made globally of the effects of artificial (instrumental or procedural) changes on the derived trends using data homogenization procedures introduced in a companion paper (Part I). Credibility of the data homogenization scheme is established by comparison with independent satellite temperature measurements derived from the microwave sounding unit (MSU) instruments for 1979–97. The various analyses are performed using monthly mean temperatures from a near–globally distributed network of 87 radiosonde stations.

The severity of instrument-related problems, which varies markedly by geographic region, was found, in general, to increase from the lower troposphere to the lower stratosphere, although surface data were found to be as problematic as data from the stratosphere. Except for the surface, there is a tendency for changes in instruments to artificially lower temperature readings with time, so that adjusting the data to account for this results in increased tropospheric warming and decreased stratospheric cooling. Furthermore, the adjustments tend to enhance warming in the upper troposphere more than in the lower troposphere; such sensitivity may have implications for “fingerprint” assessments of climate change. However, the most sensitive part of the vertical profile with regard to its shape was near the surface, particularly at regional scales. In particular, the lower-tropospheric lapse rate was found to be especially sensitive to adjustment as well as spatial sampling. In the lower stratosphere, instrument-related biases were found to artificially inflate latitudinal differences, leading to statistically significantly more cooling in the Tropics than elsewhere. After adjustment there were no significant differences between the latitude zones.

Corresponding author address: Dr. John R. Lanzante, NOAA/Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08542. Email: jrl@gfdl.noaa.gov

Abstract

Trends in radiosonde-based temperatures and lower-tropospheric lapse rates are presented for the time periods 1959–97 and 1979–97, including their vertical, horizontal, and seasonal variations. A novel aspect is that estimates are made globally of the effects of artificial (instrumental or procedural) changes on the derived trends using data homogenization procedures introduced in a companion paper (Part I). Credibility of the data homogenization scheme is established by comparison with independent satellite temperature measurements derived from the microwave sounding unit (MSU) instruments for 1979–97. The various analyses are performed using monthly mean temperatures from a near–globally distributed network of 87 radiosonde stations.

The severity of instrument-related problems, which varies markedly by geographic region, was found, in general, to increase from the lower troposphere to the lower stratosphere, although surface data were found to be as problematic as data from the stratosphere. Except for the surface, there is a tendency for changes in instruments to artificially lower temperature readings with time, so that adjusting the data to account for this results in increased tropospheric warming and decreased stratospheric cooling. Furthermore, the adjustments tend to enhance warming in the upper troposphere more than in the lower troposphere; such sensitivity may have implications for “fingerprint” assessments of climate change. However, the most sensitive part of the vertical profile with regard to its shape was near the surface, particularly at regional scales. In particular, the lower-tropospheric lapse rate was found to be especially sensitive to adjustment as well as spatial sampling. In the lower stratosphere, instrument-related biases were found to artificially inflate latitudinal differences, leading to statistically significantly more cooling in the Tropics than elsewhere. After adjustment there were no significant differences between the latitude zones.

Corresponding author address: Dr. John R. Lanzante, NOAA/Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08542. Email: jrl@gfdl.noaa.gov

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