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 February 2020. Previously I have done posts on their reading of ocean air temps as a prelude to updated records from HADSST3. This month also has 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?
After a technical enhancement to HadSST3 delayed March and April updates, May resumed a pattern of HadSST updates mid month. For comparison we can look at lower troposphere temperatures (TLT) from UAHv6 which are now posted for February. 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). Recently there was a change in UAH processing of satellite drift corrections, including dropping one platform which can no longer be corrected. The graphs below are taken from the new and current dataset.
The graph below shows monthly anomalies for ocean temps since January 2015. After a June rise in ocean air temps, all regions dropped back down to May levels in July and August. A spike occured in September, followed by plummenting October ocean air temps in the Tropics and SH. In November that drop partly warmed back, then leveling slightly downword with continued cooling in NH.
2020 started with NH warming slightly, still cooler than the previous months back to September. SH and Tropics also rose slightly resulting in a Global rise. Now in February there is an anomaly spike of 0.32C in NH, rarely seen in the ocean data. The Tropics and SH also rose, resulting in an uptick Globally.
Land Air Temperatures Showing a Seesaw Pattern
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 sample air temps at 2 meters above ground. UAH gives tlt anomalies for air over land separately from ocean air temps. The graph updated for February 2020 is below.
Here we have freash evidence of the greater volatility of the Land temperatures, along with an extraordinary departures, first by SH land followed by NH Despite the small amount of SH land, it spiked in July, then dropped in August so sharply along with the Tropics that it pulled the global average downward against slight warming in NH. In November SH jumped up beyond any month in this period. Despite this spike along with a rise in the Tropics, NH land temps dropped sharply. The larger NH land area pulled the Global average downward. December reversed the situation with the SH dropping as sharply as it rose, while NH rose to the same anomaly, pulling the Global up slightly.
2020 started with sharp drops in both SH and NH, with the Global anomaly dropping as a result. Now in February comes a spike of 0.42C in NH land air, nearing 2016 levels. Meanwhile SH land continued dropping. The behavior of SH and NH land temps is puzzling, to say the least. it is also a reminder that global averages can conceal important underlying volatility.
The longer term picture from UAH is a return to the mean for the period starting with 1995. 2019 average rose but currently lacks any El Nino to sustain it.
TLTs include mixing above the oceans and probably some influence from nearby more volatile land temps. Clearly NH and Global land temps have been dropping in a seesaw pattern, more than 1C lower than the 2016 peak, prior to these last several months. 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.