Climate Feedback

Blowing in the wind

A new study, published online Sunday by Nature Geoscience, presents solid evidence that temperatures in the Earth’s lower atmosphere are increasing in line with temperature changes on the ground.

This issue has been hotly disputed in the past, partly owing to the fact that temperatures measured in the troposhere – the portion of the atmopshere stretching from 12 to 16 kilometeres above the Earth’s surface – by satellites and weather balloons in the early 1990s didn’t mirror the changes on the ground.

This fact was used as evidence against climate change, despite the fact that it has been long known that there were problems with the original data collection and analysis.

In the search for more accurate measurements, two scientients Robert Allen and Steven Sherwood of Yale University, have now developed a novel approach using wind rather than temperature data. Their research shows that the lower atmosphere has indeed warmed since 1970, as projected by most climate models, and in sync with warming on the ground measured using temperature data.

In a related News and Views article, aslo on Nature Geoscience, Peter Thorn of the UK Met Office Hadley Centre, one of the world’s premier climate modelling facilities, writes:

This is not simply an interesting academic aside — not knowing where observational problems begin and modelling limitations end undermines our ability to understand and predict global climate change.

For further reading on the topic, check out the post over on Real Climate last week discussing the same issue, and highlighting some upcoming papers in the Journal of Climate.

Olive Heffernan


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