A reanalysis of the MSU channel 2 tropospheric temperature record

Carl A. Mears, Matthias C. Schabel, Frank J. Wentz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

234 Scopus citations


Over the period from 1979 to 2001, tropospheric trends derived from a widely cited analysis of the Microwave Sounding Unit (MSU) temperature record show little or no warming, while surface temperature trends based on in situ observations show a pronounced warming of ∼0.2 K decade-1. This discrepancy between trends at the surface and in the upper atmosphere has been a source of significant debate. Model predictions of amplification of warming with height in the troposphere are clearly inconsistent with the available observations, leading some researchers to question the adequacy of their representation of the water vapor greenhouse feedback. A reanalysis of the MSU channel 2 dataset, with the objective of providing a second independent source of these data, is described in this paper. Results presented herein show a global trend of 0.097 ± 0.020 K decade-1, generally agreeing with the work of Prabhakara et al. but in disagreement with the MSU analysis of Christy and Spencer, which shows significantly less (∼0.09 K decade-1) warming. Differences in the various methodologies are discussed and it is demonstrated that the principal source of these discrepancies is in the treatment of errors due to variations in the temperature of the MSU hot calibration target.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3650-3664
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 15 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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