NEWS AN D Notes Scientists Taking Earths Temperature Address Laboratory in Livermore, California, is the lead author Different Readings on the other paper and Gaffen is a contributor. Both pa- pers involve scientists at a number of different institutes. Parents trying to determine the temperature of a "Our findings support the idea that the difference feverish child may stick a thermometer under the is largely real and that it may be due to a combination tongue and under the arm and get slightly different of natural and manmade factors," said Santer. Gaffen measurements. Scientists trying to learn if the earth's temperature is rising also rely on measurements taken and colleagues used data from radiosondes (weather at various places—the earth's surface and its atmo- balloons carrying instrument packages) to obtain in- sphere—which also often produce different readings. dependent data on both surface and lower-troposphere In both cases, the mere fact that the measurements temperature change. The troposphere is the area of the in different places give slightly varied answers does atmosphere where weather occurs, extending about not necessarily mean that one or the other is wrong. seven miles from the earth's surface to the next layer, This issue is investigated in two papers published in the stratosphere. Their findings show that the tempera- the 18 February issue of the journal Science. ture trends are consistent with the satellite and surface "Scientists have puzzled over the difference be- results since 1979. tween the findings from the satellites, which measured "Previous work with the satellite data suggested temperatures in the atmosphere, and those measure- little or no temperature trend in the past 20 years, while ments that were obtained from the surface observing the surface data show marked warming. We find that systems," said Dian Gaffen, a research meteorologist a third observing system, radiosondes, shows the same with NOAA's Air Resources Laboratory in Silver pattern as the satellite and surface data in the Tropics, Spring, Maryland, lead author of one of the papers. where the surface and tropospheric temperature change Benjamin Santer of the Lawrence Livermore National show the largest differences," said Gaffen. "The radio- sondes also show that the tropical atmosphere has be- come slightly more unstable since 1979, when the satellite data began. But when we look further back, to 1960, we see more consistent warming at the sur- TELEVISIO N SEALS OF APPROVAL face and in the lower troposphere, which tells us that the past two decades might not be representative of longer-term changes." 1106 Wesley Hohenstein In the companion paper, Santer and colleagues 1107 Michelle Leigh Budenstein found that the discrepancies can partially be attributed 1108 James Wieland 2000 to the fact that the surface observing system does not 1109 Jamie Warriner 2000 cover some parts of the globe, unlike the satellite sys- 1110 Tammie Souza 2000 tem. Computer model simulations of the climate sys- 1111 Randy Peterson 2000 tem indicate that the remaining differential cannot be 1112 Thomas Messner 2000 explained by the natural variability of the climate sys- 1113 Rick Mecklenburg 2000 tem or by climate change resulting from increases in 1114 Sandhya Patel 2000 greenhouse gases alone. 1115 William Gordon 2000 The Santer et al. paper shows that different climate 1116 James Patrick Holcomb 2000 "forcing factors" may have had quite different influ- ences on surface and atmospheric temperature. In- creases in greenhouse gases probably act to warm the troposphere more than the surface. In contrast, the 1100 Vol. 8 J, No. 5 , May 2000
Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society – American Meteorological Society
Published: May 1, 2000
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