In the previous post, I compared early twentieth-century warming with the post-1975 warming in the Berkeley Earth Global temperature anomaly. From a visual inspection of the graphs, I determined that the greater warming in the later period is due to more land-based warming, as the warming in the oceans (70% of the global area) was very much the same. The Berkeley Earth data ends in 2013, so does not include the impact of the strong El Niño event in the last three years.

Global average temperature series page of the Met Office Hadley Centre Observation Datasets has the average annual temperature anomalies for CRUTEM4 (land-surface air temperature) and HADSST3 (sea-surface temperature)  and HADCRUT4 (combined). From these datasets, I have derived the graph in Figure 1.

Figure 1 : Graph of Hadley Centre annual temperature anomalies for Land (CRUTEM4), Sea (HADSST3) and Combined (HADCRUT4)

  Comparing the early twentieth-century with 1975-2010,

  • Land warming is considerably greater in the later period.
  • Combined land and sea warming is slightly more in the later period.
  • Sea surface warming is slightly less in the later period.
  • In the early period, the surface anomalies for land and sea have very similar trends, whilst in the later period, the warming of the land is considerably greater than the sea surface warming.

The impact is more clearly shown with 7 year centred moving average figures in Figure 2.

Figure 2 : Graph of Hadley Centre 7 year moving average temperature anomalies for Land (CRUTEM4), Sea (HADSST3) and Combined (HADCRUT4)

This is not just a feature of the HADCRUT dataset. NOAA Global Surface Temperature Anomalies for land, ocean and combined show similar patterns. Figure 3 is on the same basis as Figure 2.

Figure 3 : Graph of NOAA 7 year moving average temperature anomalies for Land, Ocean and Combined.

The major common feature is that the estimated land temperature anomalies have shown a much greater warming trend that the sea surface anomalies since 1980, but no such divergence existed in the early twentieth century warming period. Given that the temperature data sets are far from complete in terms of coverage, and the data is of variable quality, is this divergence a reflection of the true average temperature anomalies based on far more complete and accurate data? There are a number of alternative possibilities that need to be investigated to help determine (using beancounter terminology) whether the estimates are a true and fair reflection of the prespective that more perfect data and techniques would provide. My list might be far from exhaustive.

  1. The sea-surface temperature set understates the post-1975 warming trend due to biases within data set.
  2. The spatial distribution of data changed considerably over time. For instance, in recent decades more data has become available from the Arctic, a region with the largest temperature increases in both the early twentieth century and post-1975.
  3. Land data homogenization techniques may have suppressed differences in climate trends where data is sparser. Alternatively, due to relative differences in climatic trends between nearby locations increasing over time, the further back in time homogenization goes, the more accentuated these differences and therefore the greater the suppression of genuine climatic differences. These aspects I discussed here and here.
  4. There is deliberate manipulation of the data to exaggerate recent warming. Having looked at numerous examples three years ago, this is a perspective that I do not believe to have had any significant impact. However, simply believing something not to be the case, even with examples, does not mean that it is not there.
  5. Strong beliefs about how the data should look have, over time and multiple data adjustments created biases within the land temperature anomalies.

What I do believe is that an expert opinion to whether this divergence between the land and sea surface anomalies is a “true and fair view” of the actual state of affairs can only be reached by a detailed examination of the data. Jumping to conclusions – which is evident from many people across the broad spectrum of opinions on catastrophic anthropogenic global warming debate – will fall short of the most rounded opinion that can be gleaned from the data.

Kevin Marshall


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1 Comment

  1. Does data coverage impact the HADCRUT4 and NASA GISS Temperature Anomalies? | ManicBeancounter

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