The satellite confirms NASA's key temperature data: the planet is warming and fast




The temperature was around 100 degrees at the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Mo., in July 2016. (Charlie Riedel / AP)

A set of high-profile NASA temperature data, which has been pronounced in the last five years as the warmest in the world and the globe one centigrade warmer than in the last years of the nineteenth century, has found new support from independent satellite records, suggesting that the findings are at a good time. foot, the scientists reported on Tuesday.

In any case, according to the researchers, the pace of climate change could be somewhat more severe than what was previously recognized, at least in the part of the world that is warming more rapidly: its higher latitudes.

"We may have been underestimating how much hotter [the Arctic’s] "said Gavin Schmidt, who directs NASA's Goddard Space Studies Institute, which maintains temperature data, and who co-authored the new study published in Environmental Research Letters.

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The flagship data set of NASA, known as GISTEMP, is one of the two kept by US government agencies, while the other is managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Both sets of data, along with several others maintained by institutions and academic groups around the world, are based on a merger of the records of thousands of thermometers distributed on Earth's land surfaces and an increasing volume of oceanic measurements of buoys and other instruments.

As the data sets have shown not only constant global warming but also a series of new temperature records, they have undergone greater scrutiny, with occasional criticisms of the high-profile findings and how they come together. However, the research groups have maintained that their methods are valid and that the different records agree considerably more than they disagree, suggesting that the warming trend they are showing is more or less correct.

Enter NASA's Aqua satellite, which has been in orbit since 2002, and carries an infrared device that is capable of independently measuring the temperatures on Earth's surface and, in fact, does so with a greater degree of resolution that characterizes the NASA climate data set. .

The temperature record provided by the satellite, which extends from 2003 to 2018 today, supports NASA's finding that 2016 was the hottest year recorded and, in general, that the warming trend continues as it has been. affirmed the surface thermometers. Joel Susskind of NASA.

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"What ends is a really impressive correspondence between the trends seen in this satellite product, which is totally independent of surface temperatures, and the interpretations of weather stations," said Schmidt, one of three Susskind partners. . -authors

Here is a study figure that shows how close the NASA data set from 2003 to 2017 matches the findings of the atmospheric infrared probe on the Aqua satellite, or AIRS, and how these in turn track other Three sets of global temperature data:

"What ends is a really impressive correspondence between the trends seen in this satellite product, which is totally independent of surface temperatures, and the interpretations of weather stations," said Schmidt, one of three Susskind partners. . -authors

Here is a study figure that shows how close the NASA data set from 2003 to 2017 matches the findings of the atmospheric infrared probe on the Aqua satellite, or AIRS, and how these in turn track other Three sets of global temperature data:

In particular, AIRS sometimes shows more warming than the NASA data set, and especially in the Arctic, a region where measurements are scarce and warming is faster. Surprisingly, he even finds that in the Barents and Kara Seas in the Arctic, the warming trend is 2.5 degrees Celsius, or 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit, per decade.

This suggests that, in any case, the Earth as a whole can heat up faster than NASA has claimed so far, not more slowly.

"These findings should help eliminate any lingering concerns that modern warming is in any way due to the location of sensors in urban heat islands or other measurement errors on the surface," said Zeke Hausfather, a University researcher. from California in Berkeley that works in another of the temperature data sets, called Berkeley Earth, and commented on the new study, in which he did not participate.

"The AIRS satellite data captures the entire surface of the planet and shows that, in any case, our surface measurements are slightly underestimating the speed of modern warming," he said.

The study also reinforces that "the Arctic is heating up much faster than the rest of the world, and that correctly estimating temperatures in the region is important to understand what is happening in the world at large," Hausfather said.

The new research "confirms (once again) from an independent source that surface temperature records over the last two decades are solid," added Ed Hawkins, a climate researcher at the University of Reading in Britain, by mail. electronic.

The methodologies used to calculate the temperature of the Earth are being improved all the time, and the data sets are constantly updated with the latest information. There will be lively debates about how to address some of the problems involved in this process, such as that cities tend to be warmer than the countryside, and that records are much more numerous and reliable today than at the end of the 19th century. or a little before, when the data sets begin.

But the new study suggests that none of this weakens the main conclusion: warming is ongoing; and the Earth continues to push record temperatures, at least in the context of the last 140 years or so.

"For all the problems that exist, the patterns are not only correct from the qualitative point of view, they are also quite correct in quantitative terms," ​​Schmidt said.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the AIRS satellite temperature data set started in 2013, instead of 2003. The error has been corrected.


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