CMIP3 Models Versus 20th Century Land Surface Temperature Anomalies

I was writing the summary post for my recent series that compare observed Global Surface Temperatures to the IPCC and CMIP3 Climate Model outputs when I realized I had not presented Land Surface Temperature Anomaly comparisons.


This post illustrates observed Global Land Surface Temperature anomalies using CRUTEM3 data. It is the Land Surface Temperature portion of the HADCRUT3 combined Land-Plus-Sea Surface Temperature anomaly data that the IPCC used in their AR4 Chapter 9, Figure 9.5 comparisons to Multi-Model Ensemble Mean data. In this post, the CRUTEM3 observations are compared to the Multi-Model Mean of the CMIP3 archive, which contain the models the IPCC used as the source for AR4. (The “land only points” option was used at the KNMI Climate Explorer to mask the marine air temperature portion.) The base years for anomalies are the same as the IPCC used in their Figure 9.5 (1901-1950), which is why the data in the comparisons of the model mean and observations appear so awkward during the late warming period, Figure 1. But as we can see the trend of the Multi-Model Mean aligns itself well with the observed rate at which surface temperature rose during the late warming period.

Figure 1

Based on the comparisons in the earlier posts, see here, here, here, and here, we would expect the modeled and observed trends during the late warming to agree well. Likewise, we would expect trends during the early 20th Century “flat temperature” period and early warming period to agree quite poorly, since they didn’t agree well with Sea Surface Temperature or Combined Land+Sea Surface Temperature datasets. That leaves the question, how well does the trend of the models match the trend of the Land Surface Temperature anomaly observations during the mid-20thCentury “flat temperature” period.

The answer: Not so good. More realistically, the match is terrible. See Figure 2.

Figure 2

Note: The early warming period peaked (or ended) in 1938 with the Land Surface Temperature observations. This is different than the Sea Surface Temperature data and Combined Land+Sea Surface Temperature anomaly datasets, which both peaked in 1944.

Figures 3 and 4 show, as expected, how poorly the trends of the Multi-Model Mean match the observed Land Surface Temperature anomaly trends during the early warming period (Figure 3), and the early “flat temperature” period (Figure 4).

Figure 3


Figure 4


…someone thinks NCDC or GISTEMP (dTs) land surface temperature data would offer significantly different results, as shown in Figure 5, there is little difference between the three datasets.

Figure 5


The climate models used by the IPCC show little to no skill at being able the reproduce the Land Surface Temperatures of the 20th Century, especially during the early “flat temperature” and early warming periods. These failures are similar to the other datasets examined in this series of posts. The failure of the models to match the decline in Land Surface Temperature during the mid-20th Century “flat temperature” period is similar to the results using the recently released updated version of the Hadley Centre’s Sea Surface Temperature data, HADSST3.

ABOUT: Bob Tisdale – Climate Observations


The CRUTEM3, NCDC, and GISS dTs Land Surface Temperature data is available through the KNMI Climate Explorer, specifically at the Monthly observations webpage, and the model mean data for land surface temperature anomalies is found at the Monthly CMIP3+ scenario runs webpage by selecting the “only land points” option on the “Field” page.

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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16 Responses to CMIP3 Models Versus 20th Century Land Surface Temperature Anomalies

  1. Pascvaks says:

    To me, the impact of Solar Cycles 21 (7606-8606), 22 (8609-9603), and 23 (9605-0810) are perplexing, in that they each appeared to raise the global land surface and sea surface temp anomalies (while previous cycles did not “rise“ anthing, and still earlier cycles did/didn‘t). Assuming that the Sun was not “instantly” responsible (meaning there was no BIG change that we can point to and say “There! The Sun in Cycle 21, 22, and 23 did it, right there, and there, and there!”), but that rather the Sun’s greatest effect is cumulative and, like a wave, Earth temps rise and fall over time, that it’s a “Whole Planet Phenomena” (a natural rhythm), is there anything that we can point to now that shows all this better than the IPCC‘s “global temp anomalies“? Is it something like a cumulative warming and “rise” of the top 700m of global ocean water temps? And then a cooling and “fall” of this 700m layer? And that the AMO and PDO and Polar Ice are locations and best ways to “watch” the big rhythm-event unfold/happen? I’m getting the feeling that we’re dealing with something on&in&above the planet, and not a change in sunspots today or tomorrow, and certainly not a miniscule rise in some gas that plants really do love over the period of the past 150 years.

    (Does any of this make any sense?;-)

    As always, very much appreciate all the time and effort you put into your Blog. Best to you!

  2. Bob Tisdale says:

    Pascvaks, wouldn’t it be nice to have access to and the ability to set up coupled GCMs?

  3. George says:

    I am curious about something. I have seen plots for ocean heat content 0-700m globally. What I am interested in is heat content anomaly for Southern Hemisphere and Northern Hemisphere separately. I am interested in the difference between them, in particular, plotted against El Nino / La Nina activity.

    What I am wondering is if Nino/Nina events cause the ocean heat content between hemispheres to become more balanced or less balanced or if it makes no difference. I am wondering if the net impact might be to balance heat content anomaly between hemispheres.

    One thing struck my eye recently and that was a mention in a paper that during the LGM we had a very persistent La Nina sort of wind pattern. I also note that the Earth’s absorption / radiation energy balance is not symmetrical between Northern and Southern hemispheres because one hemisphere has much more land area than the other and land and ocean have different properties (ocean, for example, will emit roughly the same LWIR day and night while land has an extreme diurnal difference). So in the face of changes in insolation and the orbital changes, the two hemispheres would behave much differently. The Southern Hemisphere would be expected to shed more heat at night than the Northern Hemisphere would because at 1hr before dawn, I would expect to see much more LWIR radiating from the Southern Hemisphere than from the Northern Hemisphere (Imagine I have a satellite “parked” at the 1hr before dawn location and measured both hemispheres over a 24hr period, I would expect the Southern Hemisphere to emit more total radiation over a 24 hour period than the Northern Hemisphere would).

    So … is there a place where I can find ocean heat content by hemisphere rather than global?

  4. Bob Tisdale says:

    George: Thanks for the reminder. Somewhere along the line I plotted the difference between the OHC of the Northern and Southern Hemispheres and compared it to scaled and inverted NINO3.4 SST anomalies. I couldn’t find the spreadsheet or the post so I cranked out another one:

    Note the upward shift in the delta OHC during the transition from El Niño to La Niña in 1998. It suggested to me that El Niño events MIGHT transport warm water from the Southern Hemisphere to the Northern Hemisphere. This was something I wanted to investigate further but never got around to it. I know OHC in the SPCZ dropped during the 1997/98 El Niño and the primary return of warm water from the eastern to western tropical Pacific (Rossby Wave) during the transition from El Niño to La Niña was in the Northern Hemisphere. And I remember reading a paper that described and quantified the volumes of water transported but I can’t find it. I’ll try to do a post about it after the first of the year, breaking the data down further into North and South Pacific OHC and take a look at the Atlantic too, just in case.

    The KNMI Climate Explorer has the NODC OHC data and you can break it down by coordinates there. The output is in Gigajoules per square meter.
    They’ve recently changed their security, so you’ll likely have to sign in, but that’s no big deal.

    Enjoy your holidays.

  5. George says:

    Thank you very much. What I had been wondering is if maybe the events were a response to imbalance. Now one thing is that since there is less water in the Northern Hemisphere, the total amount of heat energy for a given energy/liter of water will be different between hemispheres.

    And I also wanted to ask you what you use for generating the graphs. I like how they look.

    And happiest of holidays to you.

  6. George says:

    Ooops what I meant by that is that for a given amount of energy per unit of surface, the Southern Hemisphere would have more energy than the Northern hemisphere.

    So lets say every grid has Xgigajoules/square something. Add them all up and the Southern Hemisphere has much more energy in the system than the Northern Hemisphere does. This would be most apparently in the Northern Hemisphere winter when the total energy between hemispheres is at its greatest difference and this is when we see Nino activity reach its peak.

  7. Bob Tisdale says:

    George: I use EXCEL.

  8. From Peru says:

    AA clue about what had the models missed is in the spatial distribution of temperature anomalies.

    In the GISTEMP page, you have:

    Annual Mean Temperature Change for Hemispheres:

    The temperature pattern is different between both hemispheres. In the southern hemisphere the warm anomalies are smaller, and temperatures rise all the time, more slowly at the beginning and then more fast in the last decades. In the Northern Hemisphere, the warming is not only bigger, but shows the pattern of warming (1900-1940), slight cooling (1940-1975) and warming again (1975-2010).

    From this is evident that the disagreement between the models and temperature data is strong in the Northern Hemisphere while in the Southern Hemisphere the warming is more alike the models.

    More clues are in the temperature records for different latitude bands:
    Zonal Means:

    Now is evident that the warming (1900-1940)-cooling(1940-1975)-warming(1975-2011) pattern is stronger in the Northern latitudes and became more similar to the models prediction the more south one take the temperature data.

    So something strange is happening in the North. I suspect that the problem is that the models got their forcings wrong. If this is the case, then the missing forcing contribution must be significant in the Northern latitudes (specially in the Arctic) and very weak in the South.

    The forcing that could produce this pattern is likely sulfate + black carbon emissions (industrial pollution). It was emitted in the 20th century mainly in North America and Europe, resulting in a strong forcing over the North (particularly in the Arctic, where the pollution accumulates) and a weak forcing in the Southern Hemisphere.

  9. From Peru says:

    Oops! My second link is wrong

    The zonal means graph found at


  11. Pingback: On The IPCC’s Undue Confidence In Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere Climate Models – A Summary Of Recent Posts | Watts Up With That?

  12. Pingback: On The IPCC’s Undue Confidence In Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere Climate Models – A Summary Of Recent Posts | TaJnB | TheAverageJoeNewsBlogg

  13. Scorle says:

    As I stated already elsewhere, you have to take SO2-emissions in account.
    Without any calculation you can imagine that the it mirrors the disturbance in the temperature development you would expect if ther wan’t any aerosol in play.

  14. Bob Tisdale says:

    Scorle: Don’t the CMIP3 forcings include SO2 emissions as part of their anthropogenic aerosols? They are discussed in Chapter 2 of the IPCC’s AR4:

    Click to access ar4-wg1-chapter2.pdf

  15. Pingback: Preview of CMIP5/IPCC AR5 Global Surface Temperature Simulations and the HadCRUT4 Dataset | Bob Tisdale – Climate Observations

  16. Pingback: Preview of CMIP5/IPCC AR5 Global Surface Temperature Simulations and the HadCRUT4 Dataset | Watts Up With That?

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