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Evaluating biases in sea surface temperature records using coastal weather stations

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JournalQuarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society
DateAccepted/In press - 18 Dec 2017
DateE-pub ahead of print - 28 Dec 2017
DatePublished (current) - 29 Aug 2018
Issue number712
Number of pages12
Pages (from-to)670-681
Early online date28/12/17
Original languageEnglish


Sea surface temperatures form a vital part of global mean surface temperature records. Historical observation methods have changed substantially over time from buckets to engine room intake sensors, hull sensors and drifting buoys, rendering their use for climatological studies problematic. There are substantial uncertainties in the relative biases of different observations which may impact the global temperature record.

Island and coastal weather stations can be compared to coastal sea surface temperature observations to obtain an assessment of changes in bias over time. The process is made more challenging by differences in the rate of warming between air temperatures and sea surface temperatures, and differences across coastal boundaries. A preliminary sea surface temperature reconstruction homogenized using coastal weather station data suggests significant changes to the sea surface temperature record, although there are substantial uncertainties of which only some can be quantified. A large warm excursion in versions 4 and 5 of the NOAA Extended Reconstructed Sea Surface Temperature during World War 2 is rejected, as is a cool excursion around 1910 present in all existing records. The mid-century plateau is cooler than in existing reconstructions.

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    Research areas

  • bucket correction, climate change, global mean surface temperature, sea surface temperature

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