UAH satellite temperature record

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The UAH satellite temperature record is a dataset developed by Drs. John R. Christy and Roy W. Spencer at the University of Alabama at Huntsville and based on the Microwave Sounding Unit (MSU) lower tropospheric temperature records (MSU 2LT)[1]. Christy and Spencer used it in publishing "a series of papers starting about 1990 that implied the troposphere was warming at a much slower rate than the surface temperature record and climate models indicated..."[2], which made their dataset "an icon for global warming skeptics". But the discrepancy turned out to be an artifact of their having applied incorrect adjustments to the data[3]. As Ray Pierrehumbert at RealClimate put it:

"Spencer and Christy sat by for most of a decade allowing — indeed encouraging — the use of their data set as an icon for global warming skeptics. They committed serial errors in the data analysis, but insisted they were right and models and thermometers were wrong. They did little or nothing to root out possible sources of errors, and left it to others to clean up the mess, as has now been done[4]"

Articles and resources


  1. Gavin Schmidt (2005-08-11). Et Tu LT?. RealClimate. Retrieved on 2010-12-14. “Three papers this week in Science that the discrepancy has been mostly resolved – in favour of the models. ... The MSU records are derived from a series of satellites that have been in orbit since late 1978. Each satellite has had different calibration problems (due to orbital decay, sensor issues etc.) and stringing them together has been fraught with difficulty. Different groups have made different decisions about how to do this and this has lead to quite some differences in MSU products particularly between the UAH group (Spencer and Christy) and the RSS group (Wentz, Mears and colleagues) . The differences have been mostly seen in the trends, rather than the monthly or interannual variability...”
  2. Dan Satterfield (2010-09-12). A history of satellite measurements of global warming. Skeptical Science. Retrieved on 2010-12-11. “John Christy and Roy Spencer of the University of Alabama published a series of papers [based on it] starting about 1990 that implied the troposphere was warming at a much slower rate than the surface temperature record and climate models indicate”
  3. No byline (2005-08-11). Climate change: Heat and light. The Economist. Retrieved on 2010-12-11. “An unexplained anomaly in the climate seems to have been the result of bad data”
  4. Ray Pierrehumbert (2008-05-21). How to cook a graph in three easy lessons. RealClimate. Retrieved on 2010-12-11.

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