Apparent Reason for January 2013 Tropospheric Warmth

February 20th, 2013 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

NASA’s Tropical Rain Measuring Mission (TRMM) has been, in my opinion, a huge success. It has been operating for over 15 years now, which makes me feel pretty old since I was involved in the early design of the TRMM Microwave Imager (TMI) that flies on TRMM. I campaigned for it to carry 10.7 GHz channels which would allow sensitivity to heavy rain, as well as all-weather sea surface temperatures. TRMM also carries the first spaceborne precipitation radar, which was built by Japan.

Given my recent post about the strong warming of global tropospheric temperatures in January 2013, I thought I would follow up with a comparison between tropical SSTs, tropospheric temperature, rainfall, etc. in January. The data support my previous claim: the anomalous tropospheric warmth was the result of a temporary increase in convective heat transport from the surface to the atmosphere, as evidenced by cooling SSTs, and well-above average precipitation. (Bob Tisdale has also addressed the SST issue in January, from a different set of [IR-sensing] satellites).

The following plot shows TMI monthly SST anomalies averaged over 38oN to 38oS since January 1998, the first full month of operations, and the maximum latitude range which TRMM has continuously covered over its 15+year lifetime:

Note that TRMM started operations in the middle of the historic 1997/98 El Nino event, so the beginning of the time series is very warm.

Also note the dip in SSTs in January, 2013. This was the same time as the AMSU instruments recorded an anomalously warm January.

The next plot shows the monthly rainfall anomalies for the same period of time, and it is clear that rainfall activity (and thus latent heating of the troposphere) was well above average in January:

I have other plots (cloud water, surface wind speed), but the above two plots tell the crux of the story: Above-average moist convective heat transport from the ocean surface to the atmosphere appears to have led to sea surface cooling, and tropospheric warming, in January 2013.


14 Responses to “Apparent Reason for January 2013 Tropospheric Warmth”

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  1. RW says:

    Good call.

  2. Doug Cotton says:

    Well, Roy, for once I agree with you. As I have always said, the mean temperature data should be weighted far more heavily than 70% for the oceans because of the relative thermal energy content compared with land and atmosphere.

    Your sea surface plot very clearly indicates that there has been no warming since 1998. This is because carbon dioxide has nothing to do with climate except perhaps for a minuscule net cooling effect of about 0.1 degree.

    Water vapour (and radiating gases) help heat transfer more quickly to upper, cooler altitudes or to space. This leap frogging effect has a temperature levelling effect, opposing the gravitationally induced thermal gradient which is explained in my <a href="http://principia-scientific.org/publications/PROM/PROM-COTTON_Planetary_Core_and_Surface_Temperatures.pdf&quot;>new paper that also explains core temperatures.

    As you will note in the paper, there is evidence of the gravitationally induced gradient in …

    (a) Over 800 laboratory experiments since 2002

    (b) In the atmospheric temperature data for Venus, Earth and other planets

    (c) In the bore hole measurements in the outer 10Km of Earth’s solid crust

    (d) In the Arctic Ocean where the influence of the Sun is less and there is no significant thermocline.

    I remind people of the content of the paper which hammers the last nail in the greenhouse coffin.
     

    ABSTRACT

    The paper explains why the physics involved in atmospheric and sub-surface heat transfer appears to have been misunderstood, and incorrectly applied, when postulating that a radiative “greenhouse effect” is responsible for warming the surfaces of planets such as Venus and our own Earth.

    A detailed discussion of the application of the Second Law of Thermodynamics endeavours to settle the much debated issue as to whether or not a thermal gradient evolves spontaneously in still air in a gravitational field. The author is aware of attempted rebuttals of this hypothesis, but cogent counter arguments are presented, together with reference to empirical evidence.

    The ramifications are substantial, in that they eliminate any need for any “greenhouse” explanation as to why the surface temperatures are as observed. No other valid reason appears plausible to explain how the required energy gets into the planetary surfaces, this being especially obvious in regard to the high temperatures measured at the surface of the crust of Venus.

    The paper includes some counter-intuitive concepts which sceptical readers may be tempted to reject out of hand. Physics sometimes has some surprises, and so you are encouraged to read and understand the argument step by step, for it is based on sound physics, and unlocks some mysteries of the Solar System, including core and mantle temperatures, not previously explained in this manner to the best of the author’s knowledge.

  3. Doug Cotton says:

    Sorry about the typo with the link. That paragraph should be ..

    Water vapour (and radiating gases) help heat transfer more quickly to upper, cooler altitudes or to space. This leap frogging effect has a temperature levelling effect, opposing the gravitationally induced thermal gradient which is explained in my new paper that also explains core temperatures.

  4. Jim Cripwell says:

    Is there any possibility that the SSW event that started at the beginning of January has anything at all to do with what happened to the satellite temperature reading in January?

  5. Alex Harvey says:

    Roy,

    Are you in a position to speculate on what this means about whether or not we are seeing global warming resuming – i.e. will this heat now transferred from the ocean to atmosphere stay there?

    Best regards,
    Alex Harvey

  6. Doug Cotton says:

    Atmospheric temperatures at all levels in the troposphere will be lower in February than they were in January. Those in the stratosphere will be fairly similar to January.

    Expect 2013 to be slightly warmer than 2012, but by 2015 slight cooling will be evident, continuing until about 2027.

    Long-term the world can expect a period of 500 years of cooling (between 1.2 and 1.8 C degrees over that period) to commence within 50 to 200 years from now.

    Water vapour concentrations will probably increase during cooling periods and Solar activity decrease. Extra carbon dioxide would have to double to cause an extra 0.1 degree of cooling.

  7. It DOES look like the Feb. temps will come down considerably:
    http://http://discover.itsc.uah.edu/amsutemps

    As RW has pointed out, after a surge of temporary warming, the atmosphere radiates the extra energy to space.

  8. steveta_uk says:

    DC says: “Your sea surface plot very clearly indicates that there has been no warming since 1998.”

    It shows no tropical (ish) warming over this period, but many theorists have argued that various thermostatic mechanisms (jet stream drift, trpocial storms, etc) cap the tropical temps despite warming, hence the major effects are expected in polar regions.

  9. Doug Cotton says:

    Yes of course the water vapour and carbon dioxide molecules in the atmosphere radiate the extra energy to space and have a cooling effect. Radiation can only transfer heat to cooler regions or to space. Any radiation which strikes a warmer target does not transfer heat to that target but, instead, its energy is immediately re-emitted as part of the target’s SBL quota of radiation. All bodies radiate their SBL quota, but they may not be converting their own thermal energy to electromagnetic energy in the process.

    So heat has a one way journey to space, and radiative equilibrium is an autonomous (automatic) result simply because there is a propensity towards thermodynamic equilibrium.

    Meanwhile, the thermal gradient is established by diffusion processes (and conduction beneath the surface) and, when the level of the plot is established by the need for radiative equilibrium, then the plot passes through the surface at a certain pre-determined temperature.

    It then continues through the crust and mantle and supports the core temperature, all the while maintaining a gradient based on the negative ratio of the acceleration due to gravity to the mean specific heat in any particular location. As observed, the subsurface thermal plot is strongly curved, and this dispels the notion of a liner conduction plot from core to surface. It also implies that estimates of terrestrial heat flow (based on the gradient) are fictitious.

  10. Doug Cotton says:

    Steveta. Your “many theorists” are not presenting their arguments based on any solid foundation in physics, as I have done all along. Their theories are figments of the imagination, because they ignore all the underlying parameters which control planetary core and surface temperatures, as explained in my paper.

    What caps tropical temperatures is water vapour. Real data from real cities (as analysed in the Appendix of my paper) shows a strong indication of such, and certainly no evidence of positive feedback due to water vapour.

  11. Jim Cripwell says:

    We now have NOAA/NCDC data for Jan 2013 0.54 C land plus ocean; compared with 0.41 C for Dec 2012.

  12. Hi Roy,

    Interesting article. Thank you.

    I am wondering, if you applied your ENSO adjustment to the last significant warming period, circa 1980-1998, what would be the ‘underlying’ rate of warming for SST’s? And would that be consistent with CMIP5 models?

  13. David Appell says:

    Doug Cotton says:
    “Radiation can only transfer heat to cooler regions or to space. Any radiation which strikes a warmer target does not transfer heat to that target but, instead, its energy is immediately re-emitted as part of the target’s SBL quota of radiation.”

    Really? And how does the target know the temperature of the body that emits the radiation it receives?