October Cooling by Land, or Cooling by Sea?


With apologies to Paul Revere, this post is on the lookout for cooler weather with an eye on both the Land and the Sea.  UAH has updated their tlt (temperatures in lower troposphere) dataset for October.   Previously I have done posts on their reading of ocean air temps as a prelude to updated records from HADSST3. This month I will add a separate graph of land air temps because the comparisons and contrasts are interesting as we contemplate possible cooling in coming months and years.

Presently sea surface temperatures (SST) are the best available indicator of heat content gained or lost from earth’s climate system.  Enthalpy is the thermodynamic term for total heat content in a system, and humidity differences in air parcels affect enthalpy.  Measuring water temperature directly avoids distorted impressions from air measurements.  In addition, ocean covers 71% of the planet surface and thus dominates surface temperature estimates.  Eventually we will likely have reliable means of recording water temperatures at depth.

Recently, Dr. Ole Humlum reported from his research that air temperatures lag 2-3 months behind changes in SST.  He also observed that changes in CO2 atmospheric concentrations lag behind SST by 11-12 months.  This latter point is addressed in a previous post Who to Blame for Rising CO2?

The October update to HadSST3 will appear later this month, but in the meantime we can look at lower troposphere temperatures (TLT) from UAHv6 which are already posted for October. The temperature record is derived from microwave sounding units (MSU) on board satellites like the one pictured above.

The UAH dataset includes temperature results for air above the oceans, and thus should be most comparable to the SSTs. There is the additional feature that ocean air temps avoid Urban Heat Islands (UHI).  The graph below shows monthly anomalies for ocean temps since January 2015.

UAH Oceans 201810

Open image in new tab to enlarge.

The anomalies over the entire ocean dropped to the same value, 0.12C  in August (Tropics were 0.13C).  Warming in previous months was erased, and September added very little warming back. In October, NH and the Tropics rose, while SH cooled, resulting in slight warming.

Taking a longer view, we can look at the record since 1995, that year being an ENSO neutral year and thus a reasonable starting point for considering the past two decades.  On that basis we can see the plateau in ocean temps is persisting. Since last October all oceans have cooled, with offsetting bumps up and down.

Monthly Ocean
Average Since 1995 Ocean 10/2018
Global 0.13 0.17
NH 0.16 0.30
SH 0.11 0.08
Tropics 0.12 0.32

As of October 2018, NH ocean air temps as well as the Tropics are twice the long term average, SH is slightly cooler, and the Global anomaly slightly warmer.   In the Tropics and SH, 2018 is the coolest October since 2014. The Global and NH ocean air temps are the coolest October since 2013.

Land Air Temperatures Plunged in September, then Rose in October

We sometimes overlook that in climate temperature records, while the oceans are measured directly with SSTs, land temps are measured only indirectly.  The land temperature records at surface stations record air temps at 2 meters above ground.  UAH gives tlt anomalies for air over land separately from ocean air temps.  The graph updated for October is below.UAH Land 201810

The greater volatility of the Land temperatures is evident, and also the dominance of NH, which has twice as much land area as SH.  Note how global peaks mirror NH peaks.  In October air over NH and the Tropical land surfaces rose, and SH followed suit.  A table for Land temperatures is below, comparable to the one for Oceans.

Monthly Land
Average Since 1995 Land 10/2018
Global 0.21 0.33
NH 0.23 0.33
SH 0.19 0.33
Tropics 0.18 0.39

In September land air temps were below the average since 1995.  As the table shows, in October the land air anomalies jumped up well above average, demonstrating the higher volatility of these measures.  Still last month was much cooler than October 2017 in all regions.


TLTs include mixing above the oceans and probably some influence from nearby more volatile land temps.  It is striking to now see NH and Global land temps dropping rapidly.  TLT measures started the recent cooling later than SSTs from HadSST3, but are now showing the same pattern.  It seems obvious that despite the three El Ninos, their warming has not persisted, and without them it would probably have cooled since 1995.  Of course, the future has not yet been written.



  1. Wim R · November 9, 2018

    Interesting to see how close to each other land and ocean temperatures stay over longer periods.

    As land temperatures follow generally the temperature of the oceans it would be interesting to see developments in the factor that is influencing strongly ocean surface temperatures: wind.

    Wind is mixing the upper layers of the oceans and is cooling the surface layer. Also wind is cooling the surface by enhancing evaporation. And cold deep upwelling of ocean water (one million cubic kilometers a year) is cooling the surface: the more wind, the more upwelling of cold deep water into the warm surface layer and the lower the ocean surface temperatures.

    Wind over the oceans is a big and rather unknown variable. Influencing strongly the Earth’s average temperatures.


  2. Hifast · November 9, 2018

    Reblogged this on Climate Collections.


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