Climate Data

MSU/AMSU Atmospheric Temperature Climate Data Record, Remote Sensing Systems (RSS)

A long (30-year+) data set of atmospheric temperatures for 4 tropopsheric and lower stratopsheric layers has been derived from brightness temperatures measured by the Microwave Sounding Unit (MSU) and Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit (AMSU). This page describes the data sets developed by Remote Sensing Systems (RSS); other options exist for comparisons. One of the most important adjustments to the original brightness temperatures is accounting for changes in the measurement time of day as the orbit of the satellite drifts. Model comparisons should include calculations of synthetic brightness temperatures from the model output.

Key Strengths:

  • Long data set of atmospheric temperatures extending greater than 30 years
  • Can be used to study long-term trends and spatial patterns
  • Well-documented data sets with comprehensive error estimates

Key Limitations:

  • Long-term trends depend on adjustments for changing local measurement times; errors in these adjustments could lead to long-term uncertainty
  • Not useful for absolute temperature measurements

Expert Developer Guidance

#The following is by Carl Mears (Remote Sensing Systems), February 2012:

Key Strengths: Datasets are stable and well documented. Comprehensive error estimates are available.  Dataset extends for more than 30 years, so climate change-related trends and discernable.

Key Weaknesses: Long-term trends depend on adjustments for changing local measurement times due to drifts in each satellites orbits. Possible errors in these adjustments cause long-term uncertainty.

Strategies for Comparing to Models: As these are brightness temperatures, synthetic brightness temperatures must be calculated from model output in order to do a comparison. For the tropospheric channels, the synthetic brightness temperatures contain contributions from surface emission (and thus changing sea ice), water vapor and clouds in addition to the dominant atmospheric temperature contribution.

What corrections/adjustments are applied to the operational data from NOAA/NASA?: The two most important adjustments are:

1. Adjustment made to account for changes in the local measurement time as the orbit of each satellite drifts, thus aliasing the diurnal cycle into the long term record.

2. Adjustments for calibration drifts that occur as the temperature of the hot calibration target changes.  

There are also adjustments for Earth incidence angle/satellite height that are particularly important for the lower tropospheric channel, TLT.  Without these adjustments, the decay of orbital height over time leads to an artificial cooling signal in the data.

These data can be used to calculate long-term trends, but the user should be aware that there is substantial uncertainty in the trends that are obtained which should be accounted for when comparing to other datasets or model output. The internal uncertainty in the dataset has been estimated using a Monte-Carlo technique, which resulted in 400 realizations of each dataset that can be interrogated by users to determine the uncertainty in their application.  The Monte-Carlo analysis found that uncertainty in long term trends is dominated by uncertainty in the local measurement time adjustment applied.  The data over the ocean are more reliable than trends over land because the diurnal/measurement time adjustment is typically smaller over the ocean.

The uncertainty in the overall absolute brightness temperature is probably quite large, possibly as large as 1.0K.  These data should not be used to diagnose absolute temperature, but only temperature changes and spatial patterns.

There are comparable datasets available from NOAA/STAR and from the University of Alabama, Huntsville (UAH). ##

Technical Notes

MSU/AMSU Channels

TLT Temperature Lower Troposphere MSU 2 and AMSU 5

TMT Temperature Middle Troposphere MSU 2 and AMSU 5

TTS = Temperature Troposphere / Stratosphere  MSU 3 and AMSU 7

TLS Temperature Lower Stratosphere MSU 4 and AMSU 9

Further details are available on the RSS descriptive website linked above.

Years of Record

1979/01 to 2012/12
temporal metadataID:

Formats

Timestep

Monthly

Data Time Period Extended?

yes, data set is extended

Domain

Spatial Resolution

2.5 x 2.5 degrees x 4 layers

Ocean or Land

Ocean&Land

Missing Data Flag

depends on variable

Vertical Levels

Input Data

Satellite Microwave Sounder Measurements

Earth system components and main variables

MSU/AMSU Atmospheric Temperature Climate Data Record, Remote Sensing Systems (RSS)

A long (30-year+) data set of atmospheric temperatures for 4 tropopsheric and lower stratopsheric layers has been derived from brightness temperatures measured by the Microwave Sounding Unit (MSU) and Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit (AMSU). This page describes the data sets developed by Remote Sensing Systems (RSS); other options exist for comparisons. One of the most important adjustments to the original brightness temperatures is accounting for changes in the measurement time of day as the orbit of the satellite drifts. Model comparisons should include calculations of synthetic brightness temperatures from the model output.

Suggested Data Citation

Mears, CA, FJ Wentz, 2009, Construction of the Remote Sensing Systems V3.2 atmospheric temperature records from the MSU and AMSU microwave sounders, Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology, 26, 1040-1056.
Mears, CA, FJ Wentz, 2009, Construction of the RSS V3.2 lower tropospheric dataset from the MSU and AMSU microwave sounders, Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology, 26, 1493-1509.

Data Access: Please Cite data sources, following the data providers' instructions.

Usage Restrictions

Users are requested to reference RSS, and notify RSS if a paper is published

Key Figures

Click the thumbnails to view larger sizes

Thumbnails

Captions

Weighting function for each channel. (contributed by C Mears)
Trend in lower tropospheric temperature, 1979-2011. (contributed by C Mears)
Trend in middle tropospheric temperature, 1979-2011. (contributed by C Mears)
Trend in lower stratospheric temperature, 1979-2011. (contributed by C Mears)

Cite this page

Mears, Carl & National Center for Atmospheric Research Staff (Eds). Last modified 08 Oct 2013. "The Climate Data Guide: MSU/AMSU Atmospheric Temperature Climate Data Record, Remote Sensing Systems (RSS)." Retrieved from https://climatedataguide.ucar.edu/climate-data/msuamsu-atmospheric-temperature-climate-data-record-remote-sensing-systems-rss.

Acknowledgement of any material taken from this page is appreciated. On behalf of experts who have contributed data, advice, and/or figures, please cite their work as well.