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John R. Christy

Abstract

The International Surface Temperature Initiative is a worldwide effort to locate weather observations, digitize them for public access, and attach provenance to them. As part of that effort, this study sought documents of temperature observations for the nation of Uganda. Although scattered reports were found for the 1890s, consistent record keeping appears to have begun in 1900. Data were keyed in from images of several types of old forms as well as accessed electronically from several sources to extend the time series of 32 stations with at least 4 yr of data back as far as data were available. Important gaps still remain; 1979–93 has virtually no observations from any station. Because many stations were represented by more than one data source, a scheme is described to extract the “best guess” values for each station of monthly averages of the daily maximum, minimum, and mean temperature. A preliminary examination of the national time series indicates that, since the early twentieth century, it appears that Uganda experienced essentially no change in monthly-average daily maximum temperature but did experience a considerable rise in monthly-average daily minimum temperature, concentrated in the last three decades. Because there are many gaps in the data, it is hoped that readers with information on extant data that were not discovered for this study will contact the author or the project so that the data may be archived.

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WHEN WAS THE HOTTEST SUMMER?

A State Climatologist Struggles for an Answer

John R. Christy

To answer this very common though surprisingly difficult question, a technique was developed to reconstruct a local temperature time series of summer average maximum temperatures in north-central Alabama since 1893. The results show that the warmest summer was 1925 at 34.9° ±0.4°C but that 5 other years are statistically so close they could not be eliminated as contenders. (The trend is −0.13°C decade−1.) Our insistence that this ambiguity be recognized by the inquirer, usually the media, causes confusion and reduces their interest level because they desire an absolute answer to, in their view, a very simple question.

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John R. Christy

Abstract

Coats raises issues regarding the utility of the snowfall metric presented by Christy in “Searching for information in 133 years of California snowfall observations,” suggesting that variance issues need more attention and that alternative metrics would be more useful than snowfall. Although discussed by Christy, the variance question is further addressed here. Regarding other metrics, it is shown that they are either inconsistently measured for long-term analysis or are actually consistent with Christy’s findings. In addition, it is demonstrated that Tahoe City, discussed by Coats, is inappropriate for examining long-term precipitation trends because of inconsistent measuring practices through time. Christy’s results remain unchanged.

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John R. Christy

Abstract

Monthly snowfall totals from over 500 stations in California, some of which date back to 1878, are examined. Most data were accessed through the NOAA archive, but several thousand station months of data were separately keyed in from image files of original documents. Over 26 000 of these entries were new relative to the NOAA archive, generally providing data prior to 1920. The stations were then subdivided into 18 regions for the construction of representative time series of each area. There were problems with the basic data—the most difficult with which to deal was the increasing presence of “zero” totals that should have been recorded as “missing.” This and other issues reduce the confidence that the regional time series are representative of true variations and trends, especially for regions with few systematically reporting stations. Interpreting linear trends on time series with infrequent large anomalies of one sign (i.e., heavy snowfall years) and unresolved data issues should be done with caution. For those regions characterized by consistent monitoring and with the most robust statistical reproducibility, no statistically significant trends in their periods of record (up to 133 years) nor in the most recent 50 years are found. This result encompasses the main snowfall region of the western slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

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Masami Sakamoto and John R. Christy

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A Japanese long-term reanalysis (JRA-25) was completed in 2006 utilizing the comprehensive set of observations from the 40-yr ECMWF Re-Analysis (ERA-40). JRA-25 and ERA-40 adopted the same type of assimilation systems: 3DVAR with direct use of satellite sounding radiances. Long-term upper-air thermal tendencies in both reanalyses are examined and compared with the observational deep-layer temperatures of the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) and Remote Sensing Systems (RSS). The upper-air temperature tendencies in the reanalyses are significantly different from those of UAH and RSS, and they appear to be influenced by the way the observations of the Television and Infrared Observation Satellite (TIROS) Operational Vertical Sounder (TOVS) are used.

This study focuses on documenting problems in TOVS assimilation, especially problems in bias corrections used in the reanalyses. Referring to quantitative results in an examination of biases between the reanalyses and raw TOVS observations, this study identifies (i) spurious thermal tendencies derived from transitions in TOVS and in the reanalysis calculation streams, (ii) an excessive enhancement of the tropical water cycle in ERA-40, and (iii) an excessive cooling trend and unstable behavior in the stratospheric temperature in JRA-25.

The results of this study suggest that any inconsistencies in TOVS usage can lead to serious inconsistencies in the reanalyses. Therefore, time-consuming efforts to obtain reliable observational information from TOVS are necessary for further progress in reanalyses.

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John R. Christy and William B. Norris

Abstract

The temperature records of 28 Australian radiosonde stations were compared with the bulk-layer temperatures of three satellite products of The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) and Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) for the period 1979–2006. The purpose was to use the satellite data as “reference truth” to quantify the effect of changes in station equipment, software, and operations on the reported upper air temperatures and resulting trends. The products are lower troposphere (LT), midtroposphere (MT), and lower stratosphere (LS).

Four periods of significant shifts in temperatures were found in the radiosondes relative to both satellite datasets. In the first two shifts—around 1982/83 and 1987/88—the radiosondes experienced an accumulated LT and MT warming shift of 0.5 K on average. These shifts coincided with equipment changes. If unadjusted for these shifts, the radiosondes report spurious tropospheric warming of almost 0.2 K decade−1. For LS in the first period, there is relative warming but in the second, cooling. If unadjusted, the radiosondes overstate LS cooling by about −0.15 K decade−1.

The third (early 1990s) and fourth (1998 LT and MT and 2002 LS) shifts are less robustly connected to changes in the radiosondes. Errors in the construction methodology of the satellite products likely account for at least part of the discrepancies but cannot be attributed with confidence to a specific cause. Having opposite signs in the two periods, the last two discrepancies tend to cancel each other. The net effect of these last two shifts on the overall LT and MT trends of ±0.03 K decade−1 is small.

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John R. Christy and Richard T. McNider

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Three time series of average summer [June–August (JJA)] daily maximum temperature (TMax) are developed for three interior regions of Alabama from stations with varying periods of record and unknown inhomogeneities. The time frame is 1883–2014. Inhomogeneities for each station’s time series are determined from pairwise comparisons with no use of station metadata other than location. The time series for the three adjoining regions are constructed separately and are then combined as a whole assuming trends over 132 yr will have little spatial variation either intraregionally or interregionally for these spatial scales. Varying the parameters of the construction methodology creates 333 time series with a central trend value based on the largest group of stations of −0.07°C decade−1 with a best-guess estimate of measurement uncertainty from −0.12° to −0.02°C decade−1. This best-guess result is insignificantly different (0.01°C decade−1) from a similar regional calculation using NOAA’s divisional dataset based on daily data from the Global Historical Climatology Network (nClimDiv) beginning in 1895. Summer TMax is a better proxy, when compared with daily minimum temperature and thus daily average temperature, for the deeper tropospheric temperature (where the enhanced greenhouse signal is maximized) as a result of afternoon convective mixing. Thus, TMax more closely represents a critical climate parameter: atmospheric heat content. Comparison between JJA TMax and deep tropospheric temperature anomalies indicates modest agreement (r 2 = 0.51) for interior Alabama while agreement for the conterminous United States as given by TMax from the nClimDiv dataset is much better (r 2 = 0.86). Seventy-seven CMIP5 climate model runs are examined for Alabama and indicate no skill at replicating long-term temperature and precipitation changes since 1895.

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Roy W. Spencer and John R. Christy

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In Part I of this study, monthly 2.5° gridpoint anomalies in the TIROS-N satellite series Microwave Sounding Unit (MSU) channel 2 brightness temperatures during 1979–88 are evaluated with multiple satellites and radiosonde data for their climate temperature monitoring capability. The MSU anomalies are computed about a 10-year mean annual cycle at each grid point, with the MSUs intercalibrated to a common arbitrary level. The intercalibrations remove relative biases between instruments of up to several tenths of a degree celsius. The monthly gridpoint anomaly agreement between concurrently operating satellites reveals single-satellite precision generally better than 0.07°C in the tropics and better than 0.15°C at higher latitudes. Monthly anomalies in radiosonde channel 2 brightness temperatures computed with the radiative transfer equation compare very closely to the MSU measured anomalies in all climate zones, with correlations generally from 0.94 to 0.98 and standard errors of 0.15°C in the tropics to 0.30°C at high latitudes. Simplification of these radiative transfer calculations to a static weighting profile applied to the radiosonde temperature profile leads to an average degradation of only 0.02° in the monthly skill. In terms of a more traditionally measured quantity, the MSU channel 2 anomalies match best with either the radiosonde 100–20-kPa or 100–15-kPa layer anomalies. No significant spurious trends were found in the 10-yr satellite dataset compared to the radiosondes that would indicate a calibration drift in either system. Thus, sequentially launched, overlapping passive microwave radiometers provide a useful system for monitoring intraseasonal to interannual climate anomalies and offer hope for monitoring of interdecadal trends from space. The Appendix includes previously unpublished details of the MSU gridpoint anomaly dataset construction. Part II of this study addresses the removal from channel 2 of the temperature influence above the 30-kPa level, providing a sharper and thus potentially more useful weighting function for monitoring lower tropospheric temperatures.

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John R. Christy and William B. Norris

Abstract

Radiosonde datasets of temperature often suffer from discontinuities due to changes in instrumentation, location, observing practices, and algorithms. To identify temporal discontinuities that affect the VIZ/Sippican family of radiosondes, the 1979–2004 time series of a composite of 31 VIZ stations are compared to composites of collocated values of layer temperatures from two microwave sounding unit datasets—the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) and Remote Sensing Systems (RSS). Discontinuities in the radiosonde time series relative to the two satellite datasets were detected with high significance and with similar magnitudes; however, some instances occurred where only one satellite dataset differed from the radiosondes. For the products known as lower troposphere (LT; surface–300 hPa) and midtroposphere (MT; surface–75-hPa layer), significant discontinuities relative to both satellite datasets were found—two cases for LT and four for MT. These are likely associated with changes in the radiosonde system. Three apparent radiosonde discontinuities were also determined for the lower-stratospheric product (LS; 150–15 hPa). Because they cannot be definitely traced to changes in the radiosonde system, they could be the result of common errors in the satellite products. When adjustments are applied to the radiosondes based independently on each satellite dataset, 26-yr trends of UAH (RSS) are consistent with the radiosondes for LT, MT, and LS at the level of ±0.06, ±0.04, and ±0.07 (±0.12, ±0.10, and ±0.10) K decade−1. Also, simple statistical retrievals based on radiosonde-derived relationships of LT, MT, and LS indicate a higher level of consistency with UAH products than with those of RSS.

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Roy W. Spencer and John R. Christy

Abstract

Microwave Sounding Unit channel 4 data from the TIROS-N series of NOAA satellites are intercalibrated to provide a continuous global record of deep-layer averaged lower stratospheric temperatures during 1979–1991. A 13-year record of temperature anomalies is time averaged into pentads and months on a 2.5° grid. The monthly gridpoint anomalies are validated with ten years of radiosonde data during 1979–88. The calibration stability of each satellite's measurements is evaluated during satellite overlap periods, the longest of which reveal no measurable instrumental drift at the level of 0.01°C yr−1. Intercomparisons between NOAA-6 and NOAA-7 anomalies indicate monthly gridpoint precision of 0.05°C in the tropics to around 0.10°C in the extratropies, and signal-to-noise ratios generally over 500, while global monthly precision is 0.01° to 0.02°C. These precision and stability statistics are much better than have been previously reported by other investigators for MSU channel 4. Pentad precision is about 0.10°C in the tropics to around 0.25°C at high latitudes and signal-to- noise ratios generally over 250 in the tropics and high latitude but 100–200 in the middle latitudes. Radiosonde comparisons to the monthly gridpoint anomalies have correlations ranging from 0.90 in the tropics (when the interannual variability is smallest) to as high as 0.99 at high-latitude stations. The corresponding standard error of estimate is generally around 0.3°C.

A significant difference in decadal trends is found between the satellite and radiosonde systems, with a step change of 0.217°C (sondes cooler) compared to the satellite measurements. Investigations of the possible sources of the discrepancy lead us to suspect that the gradual transition from on-site calibration of sondes with thermometers to factory calibration of sondes around 1982 might have caused a change in the calibration, although this conclusion must be viewed as tentative.

The largest globally averaged temperature variations during 1979–91 occur after the El Chichón (1982) and Pinatubo (1991) volcanic eruptions. These warm events are superimposed upon a net downward trend in temperatures during the period. This cooling trend has more of a step function than linear character, with the step occurring during the El Chichón warm event. It is strongest in polar regions and the Northern Hemisphere middle latitudes. These characteristics are qualitatively consistent with radiative adjustments expected to occur with observed ozone depictions.

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