Brian Dunbar Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

(Phone: 202/453-1547) Jim Sahli Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala. (Phone: 205/544-0034) Phil Gentry University of Alabama-Huntsville (Phone: 205/895-6414) RELEASE: 90-45

EMBARGOED UNTIL 6 P.M. EST March 29, 1990

SCIENTISTS ADVANCE MONITORING OF GLOBAL ATMOSPHERIC TEMPERATURES An improved technique for potentially measuring global atmospheric temperature changes and possible global warming has been developed by scientists at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala., and the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH). Dr. Roy Spencer, a Marshall scientist in the Earth Science and Applications Division, and Dr. John Christy, a research scientist at UAH's Johnson Research Center, evaluated temperature data gathered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellites since 1979 to monitor monthly temperature variations over the globe to a mean accuracy of 0.01 degree Centigrade, setting a standard against which future temperature trends will be measured. While future global temperature variations were not specifically addressed, the decade from 1979-1988 showed no net warming or cooling trend. The NOAA data had been used previously for localized weather forecasting, which involved only small portions of the data. By developing a 10-year data record with global coverage, Spencer and Christy have immproved upon the surface thermometer network currently used to monitor global temperature. Thermometers are largely restricted to populated areas, leaving the atmosphere over oceans essentially unmeasured. Earlier data used to support claims of global warming during the past 100 years have come from temperatures measured with these thermometers at the Earth's surface. - more - 2 -

While monthly temperature variations measured by the satellites showed poor agreement with the surface thermometer data, annual averages agreed much better. Nothing could be said, however, about the validity of any long term warming trend observed by thermometers before 1979, due to the relatively short satellite data record. The satellite data Christy and Spencer used came from microwave radiometers, developed by NASA, that each day measure the average temperature of the lowest 6 miles of the atmosphere over most of the Earth. By providing a precise record of monthly temperature changes over the Earth, this data will be extremely valuable in improving the understanding and prediction of climate changes. The most dramatic events recorded by the satellites were the 1983 and 1987 El Ninos, when unusually warm water in the tropical Pacific Ocean affected weather conditions worldwide. Similar effects are believed to have contributed to the 1988 drought over the United States. The two El Nino events caused global temperatures to rise more in a few months than might be forecast from several decades of "enhanced greenhouse warming," the researchers noted. Dramatic global coolings, such as that following the 1983 El Nino, were part of the unexpectedly large annual and seasonal global temperature changes observed during the 1980s. Spencer's and Christy's research will be published Friday in Science magazine.- end -

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