Earth ChangesS


Warming May have Peaked. Has Western Civilization Peaked with It?

Historic Glacial Cycles
© unknown

The only constant in nature is change. We have been able to reconstruct the past using proxy data like fossils, isotopes, polar and glacial ice. They tell us our climate has varied considerably over the last 450 thousand years. The long glaciations (typically 100,000 years) are tied to variations in the sun-earth orbital parameters. They are followed by periods of 10-15,000 years of warmer interglacials.

During the interglacials, global temperatures rise 18F but vary perhaps 2 degrees in millennium length ups and downs. Every great civilization in history has reached its peak during the warm periods during the interglacials periods. Civilizations (Eqyptian, Minoan, Roman) thrived in the warm periods as crops could be grown more successfully in more places allowing for other societal advancement pursuits. They are tied to peaks in solar activity. They have been followed by cooling periods (and civilization declines) as solar activity declined (as it did in what we call the little ice age or Maunder Minimum) with crop failures, famines and migrations.


Spurious Warming in New NOAA Ocean Temperature Product: The Smoking Gun

After crunching data this week from two of our satellite-based microwave sensors, and from NOAA's official sea surface temperature (SST) product ERSST v3b, I think the evidence is pretty clear:

The ERSST v3b product has a spurious warming since 1998 of about 0.2 deg. C, most of which occurred as a jump in 2001.

The following three panels tell the story. In the first panel I've plotted the TRMM Microwave Imager (TMI) SST anomalies (blue) for the latitude band 40N to 40S. I've also plotted SST anomalies from the more recently launched AMSR-E instrument (red), computed over the same latitude band, to show that they are nearly identical. (These SST retrievals do not have any time-dependent adjustments based upon buoy data). The orange curve is anomalies for the entire global (ice-free) oceans, which shows there is little difference with the more restricted latitude band.


TRMM Satellite Suggests July 2009 Not a Record for Sea Surface Temperatures

NOAA/NCDC recently announced that July 2009 set a new record high global sea surface temperature (SST) for the month of July, just edging out July 1998. This would be quite significant since July 1998 was very warm due to a strong El Nino, whereas last month (July, 2009) is just heading into an El Nino which has hardly gotten rolling yet.

If July was indeed a record, one might wonder if we are about to see a string of record warm months if a moderate or strong El Nino does sustain itself, with that natural warming being piled on top of the manmade global warming that the "scientific consensus" is so fond of.

I started out looking at the satellite microwave SSTs from the AMSR-E instrument on NASA's Aqua satellite. Even though those data only extend back to 2002, I though it would provide a sanity check. My last post described a significant discrepancy I found between the NOAA/NCDC "ERSST" trend and the satellite microwave SST trend (from the AMSR-E instrument on Aqua) over the last 7 years...but with the AMSR-E giving a much warmer July 2009 anomaly than the NCDC claimed existed! The discrepancy was so large that my sanity-check turned into me going a little insane trying to figure it out.

So, since we have another satellite dataset with a longer record that would allow a direct comparison between 1998 and 2009, I decided to analyze the full record from the TRMM Microwave Imager (TMI). The TRMM satellite covers the latitudes between 40N and 40S, so a small amount of N. Hemisphere ocean is being missed, and a large chunk of the ocean around Antarctica will be missed as well. But since my analysis of the ERSST and AMSR-E SST data suggested the discrepancy between them was actually between these latitudes as well, I decided that the results should give a pretty good independent check on the NOAA numbers. All of the original data that went into the averaging came from the Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) website, (Link). Anomalies were computed about the mean annual cycle from data over the whole period of record.


Something's Fishy With Global Ocean Temperature Measurements

In my previous blog posting I showed the satellite-based global-average monthly sea surface temperature (SST) variations since mid-2002, which was when the NASA Aqua satellite was launched carrying the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer for EOS (AMSR-E). The AMSR-E instrument (which I serve as the U.S. Science Team Leader for) provides nearly all-weather SST measurements.

The plot I showed yesterday agreed with the NOAA announcement that July 2009 was unusually warm...NOAA claims it was even a new record for July based upon their 100+ year record of global SSTs.

But I didn't know just how warm, since our satellite data extend back to only 2002. So, I decided to download the NOAA/NCDC SST data from their website - which do not include the AMSR-E measurements - to do a more quantitative comparison.


Record July 2009 Sea Surface Temperatures? The View from Space

Since NOAA has announced that their data show July 2009 global-average sea surface temperatures (SSTs) reaching a record high for the month of July, I thought I would take a look at what the combined AMSR-E & TMI instruments on NASA's Aqua and TRMM satellites (respectively) had to say. I thought it might at least provide an independent sanity check since NOAA does not include these satellite data in their operational product.

The SSTs from AMSR-E are geographically the most complete record of global SSTs available since the instrument is a microwave radiometer and can measure the surface through most cloud conditions. AMSR-E (launched on Aqua in May 2002) provides truly global coverage, while the TMI (which was launched on TRMM in late 1997) does not, so the combined SST product produced by Frank Wentz's Remote Sensing Systems provides complete global coverage only since the launch of Aqua (mid-2002). Through a cooperative project between RSS, NASA, and UAH, The digital data are available from the same (NASA Discover) website that our daily tropospheric temperatures are displayed, but for the SSTs you have to read the daily binary files and compute the anomalies yourself. I use FORTRAN for this, since it's the only programming language I know.

Bizarro Earth

6.4 Earthquake Jolts Qinghai, China

AN earthquake measuring 6.4 on the Richter scale struck remote Qinghai Province in northwest China at 9:52 am today, the China Earthquake Administration said.

There were no immediate reports of casualties or property losses, local government said.

The epicenter was located at 37.6 degrees north latitude and 95.8 east longitude and was near the Dachaidan region in the Mongolian-Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Haixi, according to theChina Earthquake Administration.

The epicenter was about 110 km away from Delingha City, the capital of the prefecture, and about 150 km away from Golmud, another major city in the Haixi prefecture.

Brick Wall

Sea Surface Temperatures "warmest on record"...but

There is a lot of wailing an gnashing of teeth today over this Associated Press story titled:

Please take a moment to read that story above as I can't post it here. Associated Press has declared war on bloggers.

First a few caveats:
  1. Yes (as mentioned about the northeast USA beach water temperatures in the AP article) we have some very warm sea surface temperatures this summer, we also had the coolest summer surface temperatures on record in many places in the USA.
  2. The AP story is written by Seth Borenstein. Seth tends to report the warmest side of things in the worst way, so take the story with a grain of salt. For example, Portland Maine also set a new record low for July Temperatures, see here. I don't think Seth covered that one nor the -50°F all time statewide Maine record low on January 16th, 2009 seen here. One should also note that NOAA reported "July Temperature Below-Average for the U.S." How quickly we forget. I'm not trying to pick a weather -vs- climate food fight, but simply pointing this out for balance. We've had some cold events this year also.
  3. Sea temperature spikes like this have have happened before. More on that later.
In the story Seth says: "The result has meant lots of swimming at beaches in Maine with pleasant 72-degree water."

To check that out, I utilized the Rutgers SST satellite page here. This image showing coastal Maine from NOAA-15 on August 18th seemed fairly representative and was one of the few that was almost completely filled with SST data. As you can see on this summary page, there is a lot of missing data. With this much missing data, one wonders if SST data averages are accurate.


Ancient Bird's Feathers Had Iridescent Glow

Feather fossil
© Jakob Vinther/Yale University
Scientists discovered that nanostructures found in this 40-million-year-old fossil were responsible for producing iridescent colors in the living feather.
Nanostructures preserved in feather fossils more than 40 million years old show evidence that those feathers were once vivid and iridescent in color, paleontologists say.

Iridescence is the quality of changing color depending on the angle of observation - it's what makes you see a rainbow in an oil slick.

Many insects, such as butterflies, display iridescent colors on their wings, as do many modern birds on their feathers.

The simplest iridescent feather colors are produced by light scattering off the feather's surface and a smooth surface of melanin pigment granules within the feather protein.

Scientists found smooth layers of these melanin structures, called melanosomes, when they examined feather fossils from the Messel Shale in Germany with an electron microscope.


US: Brisk July portends frigid, snowy winter, experts say

Meteorologists at AccuWeather have a name for 2009: "Year Without True Summer." The worst part? It could lead to the truest of winters.

July's below-average temperatures could mean heavy snowfalls and bitter cold this winter along the Eastern Seaboard, according to the State College-based service and its chief meteorologist, Joe Bastardi. Whether Pittsburgh will feel the chill is tough to say: It's on the edge of the predicted snow belt and might or might not be hit, depending on where the storms blow, AccuWeather meteorologist Kate Walters said.

But these types of long-term forecasts are difficult to make accurately, other meteorologists said. The National Weather Service has a less detailed long-range outlook that in part contradicts AccuWeather's. And Weather Channel meteorologists declined to comment, telling their spokesman that such predictions are just too hard to make.

"They vary greatly, depending on their detail. The more detail, the less likely they are to be accurate," said Lee Hendricks, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service's Pittsburgh office. "It gets real (uncertain) beyond (90 days). All you're doing is trying to play the game of percentages."

Evil Rays

Arctic temperature headed below freezing

There's a couple of indicators that at least for Arctic temperature, the numbers are headed south. First the weather plot from the drifting buoy that is connected with NOAA's North Pole Cam:
Artic temp graph 08-2009
© unknown

After some very brief excursions above freezing, it is now averaging below freezing. See the raw weather data here. The temperatures from the buoy have been hitting -2°C regularly the past nineteen days.

Another indication is the north pole cam itself.
NOrth Pole Camera