Journal of Meteorological Research

, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 289–306 | Cite as

An Analysis of the Discontinuity in Chinese Radiosonde Temperature Data Using Satellite Observation as a Reference

  • Yanjun GuoEmail author
  • Chengzhi Zou
  • Panmao Zhai
  • Guofu Wang
Regular Articles


Reconciling upper-air temperature trends derived from radiosonde and satellite observations is a necessary step to confidently determine the global warming rate. This study examines the raw and homogenized radiosonde observations over China and compares them with layer-mean atmospheric temperatures derived from satellite microwave observations for the lower-troposphere (TLT), mid-troposphere (TMT), upper-troposphere (TUT), and lower-stratosphere (TLS) by three research groups. Comparisons are for averages over China, excluding the Tibetan Plateau, and at individual stations where metadata contain information on radiosonde instrument changes. It is found that major differences between the satellite and radiosonde observations are related to artificial systematic changes. The radiosonde system updates in the early 2000s over China caused significant discontinuities and led the radiosonde temperature trends to exhibit less warming in the middle and upper troposphere and more cooling in the lower stratosphere than satellite temperatures. Homogenized radiosonde data have been further adjusted by using the shift-point adjustment approaches to match with satellite products for China averages. The obtained trends during 1979-2015 from the re-adjusted radiosonde observation are respectively 0.203 ± 0.066, 0.128 ± 0.044, 0.034 ± 0.039, and -0.329 ± 0.135 K decade-1 for TLT, TMT, TUT, and TLS equivalents. Compared to satellite trends, the re-adjusted radiosonde trends are within 0.01 K decade-1 for TMT and TUT, 0.054 K decade-1 warmer for TLT, and 0.051 K decade-1 cooler for TLS. The results suggest that the use of satellite data as a reference is helpful in identifying and removing inhomogeneities of radiosonde temperatures over China and reconciling their trends to satellite microwave observations. Future efforts are to homogenize radiosonde temperatures at individual stations over China by using similar approaches.

Key words

radiosonde temperature homogenization satellite microwave sounding unit China upper air temperature trends 



We thank NOAA’s Satellite Applications and Research (STAR), University of Alabama Huntsville (UAH), Remote Sensing System (RSS), Met Office Hadley Centre (MOHC), and National Meteorological Information Center (NMIC) of the China Meteorological Administration (CMA) for providing MSU and radiosonde temperature data. Thanks go to Dr. Chen Zhe for providing homogenized radiosonde temperature data and Mr. Zhang Siqi for programming support. The views, opinions, and findings contained in this report are those of the authors and should not be construed as an official NOAA or U.S. government position, policy, or decision.


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Copyright information

© The Chinese Meteorological Society and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yanjun Guo
    • 1
    Email author
  • Chengzhi Zou
    • 2
  • Panmao Zhai
    • 3
  • Guofu Wang
    • 1
  1. 1.National Climate CenterChina Meteorological AdministrationBeijingChina
  2. 2.Center for Satellite Applications and ResearchNational Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration / National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information ServiceCollege ParkUSA
  3. 3.Chinese Academy of Meteorolgical SciencesChina Meteorological AdministrationBeijingChina

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