A new interpretation for temperature data from satellites, published earlier this year, raised controversy when its authors claimed it eliminated doubt that, on average, the lower atmosphere is getting warmer as fast as the Earth’s surface.
Now, in another study headed by the same researcher to be published Dec. 15 in the Journal of Climate, direct temperature data from other scientists has validated the satellite interpretation. A team headed by Qiang Fu, a University of Washington atmospheric sciences associate professor, earlier examined measurements collected from January 1979 through December 2001 by devices called microwave-sounding units on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellites. Different channels of the microwave-sounding units measure radiation at different frequencies, providing data for different layers of the atmosphere.
In the case of the troposphere, the layer from the surface to an altitude of about 7.5 miles, where most weather occurs, it was believed there had been less warming than what was recorded at the surface. However, Fu’s team determined the satellite readings of the troposphere were imprecise because about one-fifth of the signal actually came from a higher atmosphere layer called the stratosphere, which for the last few decades has been cooling several times faster than the troposphere has been warming. The group devised a method to remove the stratosphere signal from the satellite data and was left with results that closely matched the warming at the surface. That work was published in May in the journal Nature.
Vince Stricherz | EurekAlert!
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