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Generalization - Sample report

Monitoring Global Temperature

Scientists are not agreed on the methods that should be used to monitor global temperature. Why? They do not agree with each other because scientists monitor temperature changes in different ways. The traditional method monitors atmospheric temperature at ground level and the satellite method monitors it in the upper atmosphere.  These two methods will be reviewed and compared in this report.

Global warming timeline

Chart 1

The ground level method uses thermometers located near cities to monitor the atmospheric temperature. No thermometers are placed over forests, deserts, water or mountains. The data collected by the ground level method over the past 100 years is summarized in Chart 1. This record, collected by NASA, shows that the earth has experienced a fairly steady increase in temperature.

The satellite method, used to record atmospheric temperature since 1979, monitors global temperature at least 1500m above sea level (Chart 2). Satellites monitor the temperature in a layer of the atmosphere that is 4500m deep and 1000m wide. This layer blankets all surfaces of the earth including land, deserts, forests, mountains, and water.

Global warming timeline 2

Chart 2

Based on recent studies, scientists believe that the first sign of an increase in global temperature occurs in the upper atmosphere because heat-trapping gases accumulate at that level in the atmosphere. Therefore, the satellite method is regarded by some scientists as more reliable for monitoring temperature changes.

The satellite method is not without its problems. Recent research shows that scientists who used satellite methods have produced incorrect readings. They failed to realize that the satellites’ orbits were slipping gradually as atmospheric friction pulled them closer to earth and out of the upper atmosphere where the heat-trapping gases are located.

How does the data collected by these two methods compare? The ground level method, which relies on thermometers located near cities, indicates a gradual temperature increase of approximately one degree over the last 100 years. The satellite method, which records the temperature in the upper atmosphere, shows no consistent increase over 10 years between 1979 and 1988.

Based on the ground level method, the average temperature from 1979 to 1983 was warmer than the temperature from 1984 to 1986, and 1987 was the warmest year. Over the past 20 years, however, the satellite method has shown an overall temperature increase of 0.07 degrees.

It must be remembered that the ground level method has produced a 100 year record, while the satellite method only a 20 year record. The trend or fluctuation in temperature that satellites might record over a 100-year period is unknown. In order to make a reliable comparison, the satellite method will have to be used for a much longer period of time. The satellite method looks promising; especially useful is its record of the temperature in the upper atmosphere.

Scientists are showing increasing interest in the satellite method because it monitors the temperature across all types of the earth’s surface (Chart 3). In contrast, the ground level method relies on thermometers located near cities.  More research is needed to address the following questions. What is the impact of cities on global warming as recorded by the ground level method? How long must temperatures be recorded by satellites to generate significant trends? How should scientists address the impact of atmospheric friction on the satellites’ orbits? Given the potential impact of global warming, it is urgent that scientists address these questions. Time is of the essence!

Global warming graphic

Generalizations

  • Direct – personal experience
  • Direct – observed experience

–       Based on the ground level method, the average temperature from 1979 to 1983 was warmer than the temperature from 1984 to 1986, and 1987 was the warmest year. Over the past 20 years, however, the satellite method has shown an overall temperature increase of 0.07 degrees.  It must be remembered that the ground level method has produced a 100 year record, while the satellite method only a 20 year record.

  • Indirect – testimony of others
  • Indirect – other generalizations

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