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Carl A. Mears
and
Frank J. Wentz

Abstract

Temperature sounding microwave radiometers flown on polar-orbiting weather satellites provide a long-term, global-scale record of upper-atmosphere temperatures, beginning in late 1978 and continuing to the present. The focus of this paper is a lower-tropospheric temperature product constructed using measurements made by the Microwave Sounding Unit channel 2 and the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit channel 5. The temperature weighting functions for these channels peak in the middle to upper troposphere. By using a weighted average of measurements made at different Earth incidence angles, the effective weighting function can be lowered so that it peaks in the lower troposphere. Previous versions of this dataset used general circulation model output to remove the effects of drifting local measurement time on the measured temperatures. This paper presents a method to optimize these adjustments using information from the satellite measurements themselves. The new method finds a global-mean land diurnal cycle that peaks later in the afternoon, leading to improved agreement between measurements made by co-orbiting satellites. The changes result in global-scale warming [global trend (70°S–80°N, 1979–2016) = 0.174°C decade−1], ~30% larger than our previous version of the dataset [global trend (70°S–80°N, 1979–2016) = 0.134°C decade−1]. This change is primarily due to the changes in the adjustment for drifting local measurement time. The new dataset shows more warming than most similar datasets constructed from satellites or radiosonde data. However, comparisons with total column water vapor over the oceans suggest that the new dataset may not show enough warming in the tropics.

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Carl A. Mears
and
Frank J. Wentz

Abstract

Temperature sounding microwave radiometers flown on polar-orbiting weather satellites provide a long-term, global-scale record of upper-atmosphere temperatures, beginning in late 1978 and continuing to the present. The focus of this paper is the midtropospheric measurements made by the Microwave Sounding Unit (MSU) channel 2 and the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit (AMSU) channel 5. Previous versions of the Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) dataset have used a diurnal climatology derived from general circulation model output to remove the effects of drifting local measurement time. This paper presents evidence that this previous method is not sufficiently accurate and presents several alternative methods to optimize these adjustments using information from the satellite measurements themselves. These are used to construct a number of candidate climate data records using measurements from 15 MSU and AMSU satellites. The new methods result in improved agreement between measurements made by different satellites at the same time. A method is chosen based on an optimized second harmonic adjustment to produce a new version of the RSS dataset, version 4.0. The new dataset shows substantially increased global-scale warming relative to the previous version of the dataset, particularly after 1998. The new dataset shows more warming than most other midtropospheric data records constructed from the same set of satellites. It is also shown that the new dataset is consistent with long-term changes in total column water vapor over the tropical oceans, lending support to its long-term accuracy.

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Carl A. Mears
,
Matthias C. Schabel
, and
Frank J. Wentz

Abstract

Over the period from 1979 to 2001, tropospheric trends derived from a widely cited analysis of the Microwave Sounding Unit (MSU) temperature record show little or no warming, while surface temperature trends based on in situ observations show a pronounced warming of ∼0.2 K decade−1. This discrepancy between trends at the surface and in the upper atmosphere has been a source of significant debate. Model predictions of amplification of warming with height in the troposphere are clearly inconsistent with the available observations, leading some researchers to question the adequacy of their representation of the water vapor greenhouse feedback. A reanalysis of the MSU channel 2 dataset, with the objective of providing a second independent source of these data, is described in this paper. Results presented herein show a global trend of 0.097 ± 0.020 K decade−1, generally agreeing with the work of Prabhakara et al. but in disagreement with the MSU analysis of Christy and Spencer, which shows significantly less (∼0.09 K decade−1) warming. Differences in the various methodologies are discussed and it is demonstrated that the principal source of these discrepancies is in the treatment of errors due to variations in the temperature of the MSU hot calibration target.

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