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Can climate trends be calculated from re-analysis data?

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  • Physics


Several global quantities are computed from the ERA40 re-analysis for the period 1958-2001 and explored for trends. These are discussed in the context of changes to the global observing system. Temperature, integrated water vapor (IWV) and kinetic energy are considered. The ERA40 global mean temperature in the lower troposphere has a trend of +0.11K per decade over the period of 1979-2001, which is slightly higher than the MSU measurements, but within the estimated error limit. For the period 1958-2001 the warming trend is 0.14 K per decade but this is likely to be an artefact of changes in the observing system. When this is corrected for, the warming trend is reduced to 0.10 K per decade. The global trend in IWV for the period 1979-2001 is +0.36 mm per decade. This is about twice as high as the trend determined from the Clausius-Clapeyron relation assuming conservation of relative humidity. It is also larger than results from free climate model integrations driven by the same observed sea surface temperature (SST) as used in ERA40. It is suggested that the large trend in IWV does not represent a genuine climate trend but an artefact caused by changes in the global observing system such as the use of SSM/I and more satellite soundings in later years. Recent results are in good agreement with GPS measurements. The IWV trend for the period 1958-2001 is still higher but reduced to +0.16 mm per decade when corrected for changes in the observing systems. Total kinetic energy shows an increasing global trend. Results from data assimilation experiments strongly suggest that this trend is also incorrect and mainly caused by the huge changes in the global observing system in 1979. When this is corrected for no significant change in global kinetic energy from 1958 onwards can be found.

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