Atmospheric Science

Icy Complications

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Science  07 Nov 2003:
Vol. 302, Issue 5647, pp. 951
DOI: 10.1126/science.302.5647.951d

Satellite measurements of lower tropospheric microwave emissions have been used to estimate tropospheric temperatures. These data have been interpreted as showing little or no warming there since 1978, in apparent contradiction to surface temperature analyses, which show a strong temperature increase over the same period. It is thought that these temperature series should agree. Two possible explanations exist: either one or both of the temperature records is wrong, or the records are correct and there is an unknown physical basis for the difference. Some suspect that the problem lies with the tropospheric temperature estimates, because calculating accurate atmospheric temperatures from the microwave data is an extremely complicated and difficult operation.

Swanson examined the satellite data in conjunction with tropospheric temperature measurements made with radiosondes lofted from Antarctica and found that the records differ significantly. On the basis of anomalous temperature reversals contained in the microwave-based temperature reconstructions, and observations of sea ice, he suggests that the lower troposphere temperatures inferred for latitudes above 60° are inaccurate because of the influence of the annual sea ice cycle. — HJS

Geophys. Res. Lett. 30, 10.1029/2003GL017938 (2003).

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