Assessing the value of Microwave Sounding Unit–radiosonde comparisons in ascertaining errors in climate data records of tropospheric temperatures



[1] Multidecadal-scale changes in atmospheric temperature have been measured by both radiosondes and the satellite-borne microwave sounding unit (MSU). Both measurement systems exhibit substantial time varying biases that need to removed to the extent possible from the raw data before they can be used to assess climate trends. A number of methods have been developed for each measurement system, leading to the creation of several homogenized data sets. In this work, we evaluate the agreement between MSU and homogenized radiosonde data sets on multiyear (predominantly 5-year) time scales and find that MSU data sets are often more similar to each other than to radiosonde data sets and vice versa. Furthermore, on these times scales the differences between MSU data sets are often not larger than published internal uncertainty estimates for the RSS product alone and therefore may not be statistically significant when the internal uncertainty in each data set is taken into account. Given the data limitations it is concluded that using radiosondes to validate multidecadal-scale trends in MSU data, or vice versa, or trying to use such metrics alone to pick a ‘winner’ is an ill-conditioned approach and has limited utility without one or more of additional independent measurements, or methodological, or physical analysis.