We analyze surface air temperature data from available meteorological stations with principal focus on the period 1880–1985. The temperature changes at mid- and high latitude stations separated by less than 1000 km are shown to be highly correlated; at low latitudes the correlation falls off more rapidly with distance for nearby stations. We combine the station data in a way which is designed to provide accurate long-term variations. Error estimates are based in part on studies of how accurately the actual station distributions are able to reproduce temperature change in a global data set produced by a three-dimensional general circulation model with realistic variability. We find that meaningful global temperature change can be obtained for the past century, despite the fact that the meteorological stations are confined mainly to continental and island locations. The results indicate a global warming of about 0.5°–0.7°C in the past century, with warming of similar magnitude in both hemispheres; the northern hemisphere result is similar to that found by several other investigators. A strong warming trend between 1965 and 1980 raised the global mean temperature in 1980 and 1981 to the highest level in the period of instrumental records. The warm period in recent years differs qualitatively from the earlier warm period centered about 1940; the earlier warming was focused at high northern latitudes, while the recent warming is more global. We present selected graphs and maps of the temperature change in each of the eight latitude zones. A computer tape of the derived regional and global temperature changes is available from the authors.
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