Climate models and theoretical expectations have predicted that the upper troposphere should be warming faster than the surface. Surprisingly, direct temperature observations from radiosonde and satellite data have often not shown this expected trend. However, non-climatic biases have been found in such measurements. Here we apply the thermal-wind equation to wind measurements from radiosonde data, which seem to be more stable than the temperature data. We derive estimates of temperature trends for the upper troposphere to the lower stratosphere since 1970. Over the period of observations, we find a maximum warming trend of 0.65±0.47 K per decade near the 200 hPa pressure level, below the tropical tropopause. Warming patterns are consistent with model predictions except for small discrepancies close to the tropopause. Our findings are inconsistent with the trends derived from radiosonde temperature datasets and from NCEP reanalyses of temperature and wind fields. The agreement with models increases confidence in current model-based predictions of future climate change.
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We acknowledge the individual modelling groups, the Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison and the WCRP’s Working Group on Coupled Modeling for their roles in making available the WCRP CMIP3 multimodel dataset. Support of this dataset is provided by the Office of Science, US Department of Energy. We also thank P. Thorne and L. Haimberger for providing key datasets.
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Allen, R., Sherwood, S. Warming maximum in the tropical upper troposphere deduced from thermal winds. Nature Geosci 1, 399–403 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo208
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