Measurements and models of the temperature change of water samples in Sea Surface Temperature buckets

Carella, G.; Morris, A.K.R. ORCID:; Pascal, R.W.; Yelland, M.J. ORCID:; Berry, D.I.; Morak-Bozzo, S.; Merchant, C.J.; Kent, E. ORCID: 2017 Measurements and models of the temperature change of water samples in Sea Surface Temperature buckets. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 143 (706). 2198-2209.

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Uncertainty in the bias adjustments applied to historical sea surface temperature (SST) measurements made using buckets are thought to make the largest contribution to uncertainty in global surface temperature trends. Measurements of the change in temperature of water samples in wooden and canvas buckets used before World War 2 are compared with the predictions of models that have been used to estimate bias adjustments applied in widely-used gridded analyses of SST. The results show that the models are broadly able to predict the dependence of the temperature change of the water over time on the thermal forcing and the bucket characteristics: volume and geometry; structure and material. However, assumptions inherent in the derivation of the models are likely to affect their applicability. We observed that the water sample needed to be fairly vigorously stirred to agree with results from the model, which assumes well-mixed conditions. There were inconsistences between the model results and previous measurements made in a wind tunnel in 1951. The model assumes non turbulent incident flow and consequently predicts an approximately square-root dependence on airflow speed. The wind tunnel measurements, taken over a wide range of airflows, showed a much stronger dependence. In the presence of turbulence the heat transfer will increase with the turbulent intensity: for measurements made on ships the incident airflow is likely to be turbulent and the intensity of the turbulence is always unknown. Taken together these uncertainties are expected to be substantial and may represent the limiting factor for the direct application of these models to adjust historical SST observations. However, both the models and the observations indicate that the most important parameter driving temperature biases in historical bucket measurements is the difference between the water temperature and the wet-bulb temperature. Solar radiation is also important, but not examined in this paper.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 0035-9009
Additional Keywords: sea surface temperature, climate change, observation bias, error model
Date made live: 12 Apr 2017 09:05 +0 (UTC)

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