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ClimateMovie Fact Check: The satellite records

22 May 2024 | Science Notes

In our earlier fact check on the exaggerated northern hemisphere land warming record we made passing reference to the temperature record from weather satellites, which was discussed in Climate The Movie by Roy Spencer, one of the scientists who, along with John Christy, developed the monitoring technology. This week we thought we should revisit the topic because some data denialists insist that the Spencer-Christy data set is wrong, has been debunked, etc. Spencer was quoted in the movie as saying “Our satellite data begins in January of 1979 – that’s when we have complete global coverage – and we have it right up to the present.” And Will Happer adds: “We’re lucky to have a few independent scientists like John Christy and Roy Spencer with their satellite measurements of temperature... there’s this independent and probably better way of measuring the whole globe’s temperature. Which is not alarming at all.” There are two facts to check: the measurements are valid and they are not alarming at all. True and true.

The Spencer-Christy data set, called the UAH data after their home institution of the University of Alabama in Huntsville, has long shown that the atmosphere is not warming nearly as fast as climate models predict it should. The validity of the Spencer-Christy method was vigorously attacked in the early part of the last decade because it showed so little change where the models all said warming should be strongest. The US government commissioned a big report on the subject which hemmed and hawed and said the surface data was probably right and the satellites probably wrong except, er, the weather balloon data also looked a lot like the satellite record. Then a pair of engineers in California discovered a small error in Spencer and Christy’s work which had the effect of turning a slight cooling into a slight warming, though not enough to match model predictions.

A ray of hope for modelers came in the form of the STAR data set from NOAA, for which government scientists re-did the Spencer-Christy data set and found enough warming to validate the government’s climate models. But as we reported last year, after years of Christy and Spencer patiently critiquing the NOAA work, the government scientists re-did their calculations and concluded, and commendably said out loud, that the UAH series was right, and the STAR data now agree with it. So does the ongoing weather balloon record. So there are now no grounds for ignoring the weather satellite record.

Comparison of the satellite data against climate models, as Christy and his coauthor Ross McKitrick did in a 2020 study, shows that the models all warm too rapidly:

“All model runs warmed faster than observations both globally and in the tropics, in most cases significantly.”

Because the rate of warming in the models that warm the least is not at all alarming, that means warming in the data itself is likewise not at all alarming.

Once more, Martin Durkin’s movie checks out.

4 comments on “ClimateMovie Fact Check: The satellite records”

  1. As I noted in my comments on earlier articles, the global climate warming change fraud has been entirely debunked by the science these fraudsters so love to follow. This satellite/balloon data is the coup de gras!

  2. I did a word search in the IPCC AR6 with 3000+ pages for satellite data for Earths temperature record. It returned 13 satellite records, NONE of these included any temperature from satellites. The IPCC has been very careful in it's selection of data to use.

  3. This article is ddeceptive
    Global Average temperatures
    1979 Charny Report average predictions for the next few hundred years
    +0.3 degrees C. warming per decade

    Surface averages since 1975
    +0.2 degrees C. per decade

    UAH satellite average since 1979
    +0.15 degrees C. per decade
    RSS satellite is higher.
    All averages since 2007
    +0.3 degrees C. per decade
    US only average since 2005
    (USCRN rural weather stations)
    +0.34 degrees C. per decade

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