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Comparison of Radiosonde and GCM Vertical Temperature Trend Profiles: Effects of Dataset Choice and Data Homogenization

John R. LanzanteNOAA/Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey

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Melissa FreeNOAA/Air Resources Laboratory, Silver Spring, Maryland

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Abstract

In comparisons of radiosonde vertical temperature trend profiles with comparable profiles derived from selected Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) general circulation models (GCMs) driven by major external forcings of the latter part of the twentieth century, model trends exhibit a positive bias relative to radiosonde trends in the majority of cases for both time periods examined (1960–99 and 1979–99). Homogeneity adjustments made in the Radiosonde Atmospheric Temperature Products for Assessing Climate (RATPAC) and Hadley Centre Atmospheric Temperatures, version 2 (HadAT2), radiosonde datasets, which are applied by dataset developers to account for time-varying biases introduced by historical changes in instruments and measurement practices, reduce the relative bias in most cases. Although some differences were found between the two observed datasets, in general the observed trend profiles were more similar to one another than either was to the GCM profiles.

In the troposphere, adjustment has a greater impact on improving agreement of the shapes of the trend profiles than on improving agreement of the layer mean trends, whereas in the stratosphere the opposite is true. Agreement between the shapes of GCM and radiosonde trend profiles is generally better in the stratosphere than the troposphere, with more complexity to the profiles in the latter than the former. In the troposphere the tropics exhibit the poorest agreement between GCM and radiosonde trend profiles, but also the largest improvement in agreement resulting from homogeneity adjustment.

In the stratosphere, radiosonde trends indicate more cooling than GCMs. For the 1979–99 period, a disproportionate amount of this discrepancy arises several months after the eruption of Mount Pinatubo, at which time temperatures in the radiosonde time series cool abruptly by ∼0.5 K compared to those derived from GCMs, and this difference persists to the end of the record.

* Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online Web site: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/2008JCLI2287.s1

Corresponding author address: John R. Lanzante, NOAA/Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton University, P.O. Box 308, Princeton, NJ 08542. Email: john.lanzante@noaa.gov

Abstract

In comparisons of radiosonde vertical temperature trend profiles with comparable profiles derived from selected Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) general circulation models (GCMs) driven by major external forcings of the latter part of the twentieth century, model trends exhibit a positive bias relative to radiosonde trends in the majority of cases for both time periods examined (1960–99 and 1979–99). Homogeneity adjustments made in the Radiosonde Atmospheric Temperature Products for Assessing Climate (RATPAC) and Hadley Centre Atmospheric Temperatures, version 2 (HadAT2), radiosonde datasets, which are applied by dataset developers to account for time-varying biases introduced by historical changes in instruments and measurement practices, reduce the relative bias in most cases. Although some differences were found between the two observed datasets, in general the observed trend profiles were more similar to one another than either was to the GCM profiles.

In the troposphere, adjustment has a greater impact on improving agreement of the shapes of the trend profiles than on improving agreement of the layer mean trends, whereas in the stratosphere the opposite is true. Agreement between the shapes of GCM and radiosonde trend profiles is generally better in the stratosphere than the troposphere, with more complexity to the profiles in the latter than the former. In the troposphere the tropics exhibit the poorest agreement between GCM and radiosonde trend profiles, but also the largest improvement in agreement resulting from homogeneity adjustment.

In the stratosphere, radiosonde trends indicate more cooling than GCMs. For the 1979–99 period, a disproportionate amount of this discrepancy arises several months after the eruption of Mount Pinatubo, at which time temperatures in the radiosonde time series cool abruptly by ∼0.5 K compared to those derived from GCMs, and this difference persists to the end of the record.

* Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online Web site: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/2008JCLI2287.s1

Corresponding author address: John R. Lanzante, NOAA/Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton University, P.O. Box 308, Princeton, NJ 08542. Email: john.lanzante@noaa.gov

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