152.4.3 Global Combined Land and Sea Surface Temperature

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WGI AR5 Fig2-19

Figure 2.19 Decadal global mean surface temperature (GMST) anomalies (white vertical lines in grey blocks) and their uncertainties (90% confidence intervals as grey blocks) based upon the land-surface air temperature (LSAT) and sea surface temperature (SST) combined HadCRUT4 (v4.1.1.0) ensemble (Morice et al., 2012). Anomalies are relative to a 1961–1990 climatology. 1850s indicates the period 1850-1859, and so on. NCDC MLOST and GISS data set best-estimates are also shown.

WGI AR5 Fig2-20

Figure 2.20 Annual global mean surface temperature (GMST) anomalies relative to a 1961–1990 climatology from the latest version of the three combined land-surface air temperature (LSAT) and sea surface temperature (SST) data sets (HadCRUT4, GISS and NCDC MLOST). Published data set uncertainties are not included for reasons discussed in Box 2.1.

WGI AR5 Fig2-21

Figure 2.21 Trends in surface temperature from the three data sets of Figure 2.20 for 1901–2012. White areas indicate incomplete or missing data. Trends have been calculated only for those grid boxes with greater than 70% complete records and more than 20% data availability in first and last decile of the period. Black plus signs (+) indicate grid boxes where trends are significant (i.e., a trend of zero lies outside the 90% confidence interval). Differences in coverage primarily reflect the degree of interpolation to account for data void regions undertaken by the data set providers ranging from none beyond grid box averaging (HadCRUT4) to substantial (GISS).

WGI AR5 Fig2-22

Figure 2.22 Trends in surface temperature from NCDC MLOST for three nonconsectutive shorter periods (1911–1940; 1951–1980; 1981–2012). White areas indicate incomplete or missing data. Trends and significance have been calculated as in Figure 2.21.

AR4 concluded that the GMST had increased, with the last 50 years increasing at almost double the rate of the last 100 years. Subsequent developments in LSAT and SST have led to better understanding of the data and their uncertainties as discussed in preceding sections. This improved understanding has led to revised global products. Changes have been made to all three GMST data sets that were used in AR4 (Hansen et al., 2010; Morice et al., 2012; Vose et al., 2012b). These are now in somewhat better agreement with each other over recent years, in large part because HadCRUT4 now better samples the NH high latitude land regions (Jones et al., 2012; Morice et al., 2012) which comparisons to reanalyses had shown led to a propensity for HadCRUT3 to underestimate recent warming (Simmons et al., 2010).

Starting in the 1980s each decade has been significantly warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since the 1850s in HadCRUT4, a data set that explicitly quantifies a large number of sources of uncertainty (Figure 2.19). Each of the last three decades is also the warmest in the other two GMST data sets, but these have substantially less mature and complete uncertainty estimates, precluding such an assessment of significance of their decadal differences. The GISS and MLOST data sets fall outside the 90% CI of HadCRUT4 for several decades in the 20th century (Figure 2.19). These decadal differences could reflect residual biases in one or more data set, an incomplete treatment of uncertainties in HadCRUT4.1 or a combination of these effects (Box 2.1). The data sets utilize different LSAT (Section 2.4.1) and SST (Section 2.4.2) component records (Supplementary Material 2.SM.4.3.4) that in the case of SST differ somewhat in their multi-decadal trend behaviour (Table 2.6 compare HadSST3 and ERSSTv3b).

All ten of the warmest years have occurred since 1997, with 2010 and 2005 effectively tied for the warmest year on record in all three products. However, uncertainties on individual annual values are sufficiently large that the ten warmest years are statistically indistinguishable from one another. The global-mean trends are significant for all data sets and multi-decadal periods considered in Table 2.7. Using HadCRUT4 and its uncertainty estimates, the warming from 1850–1900 to 1986–2005 (reference period for the modelling chapters and Annex I) is 0.61 [0.55 to 0.67] °C (90% confidence interval), and the warming from 1850–1900 to 2003–2012 (the most recent decade) is 0.78 [0.72 to 0.85] °C (Supplementary Material 2.SM.4.3.3).

Differences between data sets are much smaller than both interannual variability and the long-term trend (Figure 2.20). Since 1901 almost the whole globe has experienced surface warming (Figure 2.21). Warming has not been linear; most warming occurred in two periods: around 1900 to around 1940 and around 1970 onwards (Figure 2.22. Shorter periods are noisier and so proportionately less of the sampled globe exhibits statistically significant trends at the grid box level (Figure 2.22). The two periods of global mean warming exhibit very distinct spatial signatures. The early 20th century warming was largely a NH mid- to high-latitude phenomenon, whereas the more recent warming is more global in nature. These distinctions may yield important information as to causes (Chapter 10). Differences between data sets are larger in earlier periods (Figures 2.19, 2.20), particularly prior to the 1950s when observational sampling is much more geographically incomplete (and many of the well sampled areas may have been globally unrepresentative (Brönnimann, 2009)), data errors and subsequent methodological impacts are larger (Thompson et al., 2008), and different ways of accounting for data void regions are more important (Vose et al., 2005b).

Much interest has focussed on the period since 1998 and an observed reduction in warming trend, most marked in NH winter (Cohen et al., 2012). Various investigators have pointed out the limitations of such short-term trend analysis in the presence of auto-correlated series variability and that several other similar length phases of no warming exist in all the observational records and in climate model simulations (Easterling and Wehner, 2009; Peterson et al., 2009; Liebmann et al., 2010; Foster and Rahmstorf, 2011; Santer et al., 2011). This issue is discussed in the context of model behaviour, forcings and natural variability in Box 9.2 and Section 10.3.1. Regardless, all global combined LSAT and SST data sets exhibit a statistically non-significant warming trend over 1998–2012 (0.042°C ± 0.093°C per decade (HadCRUT4); 0.037°C ± 0.085°C per decade (NCDC MLOST); 0.069°C ± 0.082°C per decade (GISS)). An average of the trends from these three data sets yields an estimated change for the 1998–2012 period of 0.05 [–0.05 to +0.15] °C per decade. Trends of this short length are very sensitive to the precise period selection with trends calculated in the same manner for the 15-year periods starting in 1995, 1996, and 1997 being 0.13 [0.02 to 0.24], 0.14 [0.03 to 0.24] and 0.07 [–0.02 to 0.18] (all °C per decade), respectively.

In summary, it is certain that globally averaged near surface temperatures have increased since the late 19th century. Each of the past three decades has been warmer than all the previous decades in the instrumental record, and the decade of the 2000s has been the warmest. The globally averaged combined land and ocean surface temperature data as calculated by a linear trend, show a warming of 0.85 [0.65 to 1.06] °C, over the period 1880–2012, when multiple independently produced datasets exist, about 0.89°C [0.69 to 1.08] °C over the period 1901–2012, and about 0.72 [0.49° to 0.89] °C over the period 1951–2012. The total increase between the average of the 1850–1900 period and the 2003–2012 period is 0.78 [0.72 to 0.85] °C and the total increase between the average of the 1850–1900 period and the reference period for projections 1986−2005 is 0.61 [0.55 to 0.67] °C, based on the single longest dataset available. For the longest period when calculation of regional trends is sufficiently complete (1901–2012), almost the entire globe has experienced surface warming. In addition to robust multi-decadal warming, global mean surface temperature exhibits substantial decadal and interannual variability. Owing to natural variability, trends based on short records are very sensitive to the beginning and end dates and do not in general reflect long-term climate trends. As one example, the rate of warming over the past 15 years (1998–2012; 0.05 [–0.05 to +0.15] °C per decade), which begins with a strong El Niño, is smaller than the rate calculated since 1951 (1951–2012; 0.12 [0.08 to 0.14] °C per decade)Trends for 15-year periods starting in 1995, 1996, and 1997 are 0.13 [0.02 to 0.24], 0.14 [0.03 to 0.24] and 0.07 [–0.02 to 0.18], respectively.

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