Quantifying exposure biases in early instrumental land surface air temperature observations

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Exposure biases are a pervasive non-climatic change in land air temperature records which have been introduced as a result of changes in the way thermometers were sheltered from solar radiation and the elements over time. Exposure biases have not been widely accounted for in observational records, due to difficulties detecting/correcting the bias using traditional homogenisation techniques; therefore, exposure biases still contribute significant uncertainty to the early period in global temperature compilations. Here, an empirical approach to address the bias arising from the introduction of Stevenson-type screens from the late-19th century is presented. The approach consists of: (1) an empirical analysis of 54 parallel measurement series to identify the characteristics of the exposure bias in four exposure classes; (2) the development of bias-estimation models based on an analysis of which variables influence the bias; and (3) the application of the models to an extended version of CRUTEM5 (CRUTEM5_ext), based on exposure metadata, to quantify and reduce the bias. Step one identified differences between the temperatures recorded in Stevenson screens and early exposures, which vary seasonally, diurnally, and with location and exposure class. The largest biases (in mean temperatures) were found in freestanding exposures (up to −0.78°C annually) and in summer, while the smallest biases were generally found in wall-mounted exposures (near-0°C annually) and in winter. Significant relationships between the bias and temperature, downward top of atmosphere and/or received shortwave downward solar radiation were found in each exposure class and led to the development of three regression-based bias-estimation models. Application of these models to 1,960 mid-latitude stations in CRUTEM5_ext, resulted in small (≤0.016°C) positive adjustments to the Northern Hemisphere mid-latitude mean before 1880, and larger (≤−0.1°C) negative adjustments to the Northern and Southern Hemisphere mid-latitude means between 1882–1934 and 1856–1900, respectively. Larger adjustments were estimated regionally: up to −0.57°C annually and −0.79°C seasonally in individual grid cells.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1611-1635
Number of pages25
JournalInternational Journal of Climatology
Volume44
Issue number5
Early online date13 Mar 2024
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2024

Keywords

  • Stevenson screen
  • exposure bias
  • land air temperature
  • observations
  • parallel measurements

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