Resolving the Discrepancy Between Satellite, Terrestrial, and Balloon Temperature Records

Charlie Nelson
director foreseechange
July 2003

My article “Satellite Data Supports Global Warming Trend” attempts to resolve the discrepancy between three temperature records.  Both terrestrial and balloon data show statistically significant upward trends in temperature, while the satellite data has not – until now.  I also suggest a possible physical reason for the earlier discrepancy.

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Despite the satellite data having the shortest time series (from 1979) many commentators and analysts have used the apparent discrepancy to declare that global warming is not happening.  With such a short time series, that was a rickety crutch.  Now it has collapsed.

The editors of CO2 Science Magazine, Dr Craig D Idso and Dr Keith Idso, concluded in the editorial of 15 June 2000 that “The global surface air temperature record must be wrong” (www.co2science.org).  This conclusion was based primarily on the discrepancy between surface and satellite readings despite the fact that the former extends back to 1880, while the latter only started in 1979.  They incorrectly claim that the weather balloon data also shows no warming.  My paper shows that the balloon data, which commenced in 1958 does have a statistically significant upward trend.  In fact all three records are highly correlated.

A search of the Australian Financial Review archives from 1992 to 2000 shows several references to the satellite data “proving” that there has been no global warming: 

These commentators have been too quick to accept a very short time series as being a valid indicator of long term trends and have blithely dismissed longer term terrestrial and balloon data.  Also, they have not questioned whether there could be good reason for the apparent discrepancy, perhaps because it suited their biases.

It is to be hoped that these and other doubters can now stop contending that there is no global warming and move on to the next issue – what action should we take to mitigate global warming and to adapt to it?

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