>Notes On The GISTEMP Ratio Of Land To Sea Surface Temperature Data

>Over the past few days there has been some blogosphere buzz about the apparent ratio of Land Surface Temperature (LST) Data used in the GISTEMP combined land and sea surface temperature data with 1200km smoothing. I’ll provide a few comparison graphs to explain.

Figure 1 includes a time series graph of the Hadley Centre’s HADCRUT3 Combined Surface Temperature product, from January 1982 to April 2010. Also included is the weighted average of the two datasets that make up the HADCRUT3 data, with the weighting of 27% LST [CRUTEM3] and 73% Sea Surface Temperature (SST) [HADSST2]. Those weightings were required to match the linear trend of the weighted average to the linear trend of the HADCRUT3 combined product. The weighting makes sense, since the global oceans represent about 70% of the surface area of the globe.
Figure 1

Figures 2 and 3 provide similar comparison graphs. Figure 2 shows the NCDC combined surface temperature product and the weighted average of its LST and SST components. To align the linear trends, the weighting required for the components of the NCDC product was also 27% LST data and 73% SST data. Figure 3 shows the GISTEMP product with 250km radius smoothing. For this GISTEMP product, the weighting required for the components was 28.5% LST data and 71.5% SST data. Again, the relationships of the SST and LST data make sense.
Figure 2
Figure 3

Here’s the curiosity. It appears in the GISTEMP Product with 1200km radius smoothing when we apply the same component weighting (28.5% LST data and 71.5% SST data) that we had used on the other GISTEMP combined product. The weighted average of the components of the GISTEMP combined product with 1200km radius smoothing has a significantly lower trend than the actual GISTEMP data. This can be seen in Figure 4.
Figure 4

In order to achieve the same linear trend as the GISTEMP combined product with 1200km radius smoothing, the components have to be weighted with 67% LST data and 33% SST data, almost reversing the ratio of the areas of global oceans and continental land masses.
Figure 5

Figure 6 is a map illustrating the GISTEMP LST data (trends) from 1982 to 2009. Note how the GISTEMP LST data extends out over the oceans. This is not the case for their combined product, because GISS masks the LST data over the oceans in its combined product. So in order to properly create a weighted average of GISTEMP land and sea surface temperature data with 1200km radius smoothing, the land surface data where it extends out over the oceans would first need to be masked.

Figure 6


Much of the divergence between GISTEMP and the Hadley Centre and NCDC combined surface temperature products is likely caused by the fact that GISS deletes SST data in the Southern and Arctic Oceans and replaces it with LST data, which has a significantly higher linear trend than the SST data it replaces. This was discussed in the post GISS Deletes Arctic And Southern Ocean Sea Surface Temperature Data.


It can also appear that GISS extends LST data out over the oceans in areas other than those with seasonal sea ice. In fact, I made this mistake in a comment at Lucia’s The Blackboard this morning. Refer to my Comment#49191 at the bottom of her post NOAA: Hottest June in Record. This illusion can be seen in the following .gif animation of GISTEMP trend maps for the period of 1982 to 2009. The April trend is presented in Figure 7. Note how, in the highlighted area of the North Atlantic, there are differences between the SST trend and the trend of the GISTEMP combined product with 1200km radius smoothing. The Faroe Islands are located between Scotland and Iceland, and GISS uses station data there, so that explains the differences in that area. But what of the area of the North Atlantic west of Ireland and south of Iceland, with the approximate coordinates of 50N-60N, 20W-15W? There aren’t any islands there with weather stations.

Figure 7

In its GISTEMP LST products, GISS also includes surface station data identified as Ship followed by a letter; that is, “Ship J”, “Ship R”, etc. Refer to Figure 8. These can be found using the station locator feature on the GISTEMP Station Data webpage.
Figure 8

Here’s a link to the webpage presented in Figure 8.

I have found little to no information on these GHCN “ship stations”. Are they presenting SST or Nighttime Marine Air Temperature? Dunno. They may have served a purpose when GISS first prepared their GISTEMP product due to the sparseness of SST data in the early SST datasets, but now, these “ship stations” only add an unknown bias to well-documented optimally interpolated SST data. (And if they don’t add a bias either way, then there’s really no reason to have them. All they do is add confusion.)

About Bob Tisdale

Research interest: the long-term aftereffects of El Niño and La Nina events on global sea surface temperature and ocean heat content. Author of the ebook Who Turned on the Heat? and regular contributor at WattsUpWithThat.
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7 Responses to >Notes On The GISTEMP Ratio Of Land To Sea Surface Temperature Data

  1. Bob K says:

    >I looked at ship N 30N 140W using the giss mapping tool with parameters set to 250 km. radius and June 1948.Ship N is halfway between Hawaii and California. It is being used as a land station. The anomalies shown in their data files for 31N 141W are…Land 0.6158SST 0.5189LOTI 0.5749I assume the other ships are used the same way.Ship N is over 1800 km from both Hawaii and California and so would only affect the coastal surface anomalies to a minor extent with a 1200 km radius. The other ships may be closer to land though. They might have a somewhat more significant effect, though I doubt it amounts to much in the overall scheme.

  2. Bob Tisdale says:

    >Bob K: Thanks for looking into it. I also doubt they have any noticeable impact and that they're simply a leftover from the early attempts to reproduce global temperature without SST data.

  3. Anonymous says:

    >Bob, this is off-topic, but I thought you would be interested in this paper by Foltz and McPhaden on declining Saharan dust levels and increased forcing in the Atlantic. It might account for some of the rate of increase in Atlantic OHC.Trends in Saharan dust and tropical Atlantic climate during 1980–2006http://staff.washington.edu/grfoltz/amo_dust4.pdfDB

  4. Bob Tisdale says:

    >DB: Thanks for the link to the paper.

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