Introducing's Global Thermometer

Everyone’s talked about it for years. Politicians and activists have tried to change the entire Western economy and social order because of it. Some have made a fortune or become famous ranting about it.

But no one has ever known what it is. Not only has the technology not existed to calculate it but, truth be told, it doesn’t even really exist in any meaningful manner in the first place!

Yet it is quite possibly the hottest single metric in the history of humanity. Forget the number of home runs that Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds hit, George W. Bush’s margin of victory over Al Gore in Florida and the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin, What “it” is could result in poets 1,000 years from now singing Al Gore’s praises.

So what is “it”? (Drum roll, please…)

“It” is the global mean temperature and… (more drum roll please…) now for the first time in world history, the near real-time, near-surface global mean temperature can be seen on’s Global Thermometer.

Now the Global Thermometer is not a “thermometer” per se — i.e., we’re not simply taking measurements of the contraction/expansion of mercury in a glass tube from say Washington, DC and Brisbane, Australia and averaging them together.

The Global Thermometer is not even like our 2005 effort which processed temperature readings from about 1,000 surface-based temperature stations located around the globe.

The Global Thermometer derives the near-real time, near surface global mean temperature from the University of Alabama-Huntsville’s publicly available, preliminary AMSU satellite data.

Update: There has been a little confusion caused by the wording that would fit on the daily temperature graphics. Let us be unequivocal, we are not comparing AMSU data with NOAA’s NCDC near-surface land and sea temperature amalgam, nor would we wish to do so. The simulated NCDC 1901-2000 daily mean temperature series used is our derivation from satellite data, not from the near-surface data from the National Climatic Data Center. We named it the simulated NCDC series for the simple reason it largely reproduces their derived monthly averages and surely they deserve the hat tip for trying to establish those. The daily differences you see listed and the Year-To-Date time series compare like-for-like satellite-derived figures, not mid-troposphere against near-surface data. We apologize for not making that sufficiently clear from the get-go. End update.

More than a mere temperature estimate — which could be made by anyone with a spreadsheet and some free time — this daily number is a measure of both the near-surface temperature (where people live) and the net amount of energy in a large slab of the atmosphere (see image below), i.e., the weather-active region that so affects people’s lives.

Cross section of the Earths atmosphere

Fortunately, the AMSU’s “Channel 5” data, which is nominally focused on the 600 millibar (about 14,000 feet or 4 kilometers in altitude) region of the atmosphere, “sees” the entire region of interest from surface to 5 millibar (up to about 70,000 feet or 20 kilometers).

Why do we want to look at such a large chunk of the atmosphere, even including a bit of the stratosphere?

Mainly because a global mean temperature is a largely meaningless and entirely synthetic metric. There is no “global mean” location where people actually live and experience this fantasy metric. Other than telling us whether we are in an ice age or interglacial period, the global mean temperature isn’t really very informative.

On the other hand, a little basic knowledge of the world, namely that the tropics receive the largest amount of solar radiation and do not vary in temperature very much, allows us to infer quite a bit from small changes in bulk atmospheric temperature. How? Because the tropics are so stable temperature-wise, small changes in net atmospheric temperature suggest either larger low-to-high latitude temperature gradients (when the atmosphere is generally cooler) or lower such gradients (when the atmosphere is warmer).

OK. So what?

These temperature gradients are basically the Earth’s weather engine — both vertically, as the temperature varies with altitude, and horizontally, as the temperature varies with latitude. “Mother Nature” is a born meddler and hates gradients. She is constantly trying to transfer abundant warmth and moisture from where there is plenty to where there is little.

The greater the disparity, the stronger and faster the winds and the higher the flow of tropical moisture to higher latitudes as “Ma” (Gaia, Pachamama, [insert favored Earth deity here]…) tries to “balance” the planet (or at least rearrange its thermal furniture).’s Global Thermometer could very well be looking at the birth of a brand new “global storminess and extreme weather event potential” indicator! Perhaps we’ll develop an odometer-style readout ranging from green, when the planet is comparatively warmer to red when the net disparity is greatest and extreme weather more likely. Stay tuned for that!

Meanwhile, bear in mind that Earth’s surface temperature cycles a couple of degrees Centigrade warmer than the yearly average in the northern summer and a couple below that average in the northern winter, so absolute temperature is not really that important — except for debates about whether the planet has a fever and whether Dr. Obama should bleed it of CO2!

Remember too, that the tropics are relatively stable as far as temperatures go so if the world’s atmosphere cools, the potential energy transfer from tropics to poles increases. On the other hand, if the atmosphere is warmer than has historically been the case, then you can expect reduced wind speeds and less extreme precipitation events. If nothing else,’s Global Thermometer might turn out to be useful as a sell signal for wind energy stocks.


  1. CO2 has virtually nothing to do with atmospheric heating. It is a trace gas in air, 0.038% and a poor absorber of IR from sunlight. Water vapor is seven times better at IR absorption and has 80 times as many molecules generating 560 times the heating effect or 99.8% of it! Why are we even talking about CO2?

    Carbon combustion generate 80% of all our energy. Control and taxing of carbon will give the elected ruling class more power than anything that has happened in 800 years! It is just that simple.

    For common sense, science and humor see The Two Minute Conservative at Also on Kindle.

  2. Or, more accurately, Witch Doctor Obama, chanting and shaking sheaves of regulations over it.

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  4. The theory of GHG’s violates the laws of thermodynamics so is invalid.

    Since we only emit 3-4% of the total annual CO2 budget through fossil fuel use, regardless of the total mass which alarmists keep quoting which sounds bad until you know what we add as a proportion of the total, we actually do nothing to drive climate or temperature.

    Concentrating on CO2 is a political attempt to control the population by telling people that unless they do as they are told the planet will die. Total rubbish. The planet loves CO2. It is the gas that gave the planet life. Without it there would be no life.

  5. The ice was over ONE MILE thick 12,000 years ago where I lived in Western New York. Why haven’t we found all the Cave Man Factories that must have caused this almost inconceivable amount of global warming? It’s amazing to me how little strength there is to the Man-Made Global Warming hypothesis, yet Politicians and the media accept it blindly. It’s so arrogant to assume some temperature from the 1800’s is the correct one for eternity. Peace to All…

  6. Sorry John but we do not agree there is any conflict between greenhouse theory and the 2nd Law. This oft-repeated claim comes from a basic misunderstanding of greenhouse effect, which is not a warming per se but a reduced rate of cooling via feedback. To believe that there can be no radiant energy transfer from cold to warm is to believe that solar radiation can not arrive on Earth because it is coming from the cold of space, through a less cold atmosphere to a rather warmer planet surface. It assumes Earth could not radiate energy to space in the direction of any stars because they are warmer than Earth – do you believe these emissions perform a U-turn if the line-of-sight receiver is too warm? In fact Earth’s surface is the intercept hemisphere for roughly half of all emissions from the atmosphere and since it is infrared-opaque absorbs those emissions, regardless of temperature disparity. While the rate of transfer from the atmosphere to Earth is lower than Earth’s net emissions this feedback slows net cooling with the inevitable result that Earth’s equilibrium temperature is higher than if there were no infrared absorbers in the atmosphere. Greenhouse effect exists without the slightest conflict with the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics for the simple reason that “radiative heat flow” is an entirely flawed concept.

    You will have a lot less difficulty with it if you consider the rate of cooling of two identical items, one emitting in all directions without feedback and the other surrounded by a cooler shell, also emitting happily in all directions, the bulk of the emissions from inner surface of the surrounding shell must collide with the surrounded object. Which will cool more rapidly? The object without feedback is analogous to a greenhouse-free atmosphere. All you need do now is visualize the additional energy flow from the sun to see Earth with and without greenhouse effect. The equilibrium temperature of the surrounded object will certainly be higher due to feedback from the cooler surrounding shell but not because of any “heat flow from a cooler to warmer object”. “Heat flow” is an inappropriate concept for radiant energy.

  7. There is one problem with all the “shield” hypotheses and that is that gases cannot form surfaces to act as reflectors. The “ozone shield” and “IR reflection by a CO2 layer” are utter nonsense, but they have gotten grants funded by ignorant Congressmen.

  8. While you are entirely correct about there being no “shield” nor “reflection” – these are merely sloppy conceptual descriptors. The fact remains that Earth occupies almost 50% of the emission sphere for atmospheric molecules and consequently almost 50% of emissions by infrared reactive atmospheric molecules are intercepted by the infrared-opaque Earth. And so it must be unless you believe emissions “put on their indicators and chuck a U-turn” :)

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  10. It’s really not too difficult Adrian, consider a right circular cone, the base having a radius of almost 4,000 miles, similar to Earth’s and the height being less than 5 miles, similar to the majority of greenhouse gas molecules. From the emitting molecule’s point of view, even at the top of the cone any emission in any direction greater than 0.07 degrees “below” the horizontal has to pass through the base – Earth – and the lower the altitude of the emitting molecule the nearer that emission cone becomes to being a perfect hemisphere, at 1 mile it’s 0.01 degrees (and molecules located in low points of surface imperfections, such as in valleys or below mountain crests or trees or anything at all, find their unobstructed emission cones reduced to less than one hemisphere). While there is significant exchange of energy within the atmosphere the base case is that Earth occupies roughly half of all possible emission directions.

  11. Yes Adrian, I have seen what I consider your strawman argument before but I’m still unimpressed. “Reflection” is a complete miscomprehension of the topic and it’s hardly worth the math to attempt to overwhelm an absence of understanding.

    The physics and simple geometry (not “my idea”, as you refer to it) you dispute is that of random directional emission of infrared radiation (conceptualized as “a photon”) at a molecular level and geometrically it is not significantly different from a binary state machine – from an emission perspective GHGs either emit away from Earth or toward it and it is very close to a 50:50 split. The Earth’s diameter is so large in relation to the height of the troposphere that Earth effectively blocks half of all possible emission directions. Regardless of the number of transactions occurring roughly half are toward Earth, slowing cooling.

    To argue this does not happen is pointless when anyone with a suitable IR thermometer can go into the dark of night and measure infrared radiation from the night sky. In fact a quick Bing reveals Dr. Roy Spencer has bothered to do exactly that (in a slightly more sophisticated manner). You might also wish to visit his defense of the greenhouse effect and his discussion on the relative contribution of CO2.

    The existence of the misnamed greenhouse effect is not an issue and denial of same will simply get you sin-binned in the rubber room.

    :Edited to fix link

  12. Again, CO2 is a poor absorber of IR and who says it re-emits at all? From were doe the energy for the kinetic energy of molecules come if ny from absorbing such radiation?

    In any such system as you describe water vapor would continue to be 99.8% of the game as it is a far better absorber by a factor of seven, as the absorption charts and E = (h x c)/w show and whatever re-emissions occur would largely come from water vapor molecules from the surface to 12 miles high. CO2 would again contribute no more than 0.2% to the overnight atmospheric heating. It is just that simple.

  13. And your point is what, exactly, Adrian? You dived into the conversation in response to my pointing out there is no conflict between greenhouse theory and the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, tried to obfuscate with the introduction of hard surfaces – a nonsense concept which seems to be something of an obsession of yours, stated the obvious in that you don’t understand emission geometry and now you want to shift targets again and irrelevantly introduce specific compounds. The question being addressed was “does the greenhouse effect really exist”; the answer is “yes” and anyone who cares to do so can point an infrared thermometer at the night sky and detect downwelling radiation for themselves.

    I strongly suspect you are peppering the site with gibberish in order to seed it with links back to your blog & boost its ratings.

  14. The Second Law of Thermodynamics here has no application.

    Your ice cream cone geometry is also none applicable. My argument against surfaces as reflectors has to do with the properties of gases as they cannot form reflectors which were alluded to in your hypothesis.

    “Emission geometry” is nonsense. I have dealt with this in the piece I cited on

    “Greenhouse effect” is a misnomer as the atmosphere does not function in the manner of a greenhouse as it is not contained within a glazed enclosure. That two molecules absorb IR energy to heat the atmosphere is another mechanism and that one is an insignificant trace while the other is responsible for 99.8% of all atmospheric heating is the point, but these endless postings about myths continue.

    That I post links to my conservative political website is no more or less questionable than your promoting this website where you do your ego trip. I am entitled to mine as well.

  15. As impressed as I am by your sense of entitlement Adrian the fact is you are not entitled to waste my time. Go play in your own sandbox for a while.

    General note: Adrian has been sin-binned, partly for serial gibberish and obfuscation but mostly for spam posting.

    Posters are welcome to link back to their own sites but please make sure your posts are on topic and have something intelligent to add to the conversation.

  16. IF there were 400 ppm of CO2, and IF human activity produced 5% of said molecules of CO2, THEN, there would be 40 molecules of CO2 and 99,960 molecules of almost entirely nitrogen (N2) and oxygen (O2), 2 of said CO2 molecules contributed by human activity.. To think that 40 molecules of a given gas could have any measurable effect on the temperature of 99,960 other molecules is quite absurd. Specific heat capacity of gases says no. To even consider that 2 molecules of CO2 would have an effect on the temperature of 99,960 other molecules is folly in spades.

    IFR and UVR do not come FROM outer space, but are radiated from the sun through a rather hard vacuum.

    Knowledge of the fundamentals of chemistry and physics sure would be of use. Temperature is simply not a useful proxy for heat content once H2O gets into the mix, due to the specific heat of fusion and the specific heat of vaporization of H2O.

    This entire folly about CO2 is all about getting taxpayer money (government grants) and has nothing to do with actual science. The new color of green is brown . . . as in “dead” brown. The only effect a bit more CO2 would have is more green plant mass, and greater crop yields.

  17. En passant you raise a really important point Larry, one which may greatly assist those having difficulty visualizing energy transfer from a cooler intermediary.

    Larry correctly states:

    IFR and UVR do not come FROM outer space, but are radiated from the sun through a rather hard vacuum.

    Take particular note of the source of the energy under discussion – the sun, not space.

    Now consider the radiative feedback we call, with seriously poor connotation, “greenhouse effect”. It is not that the atmosphere literally acts in the physical manner of a greenhouse but metaphorically the result is the same and the name is not particularly important. Neither is it important that the atmosphere is cooler than the Earth. Remember that Earth’s primary radiative energy input arrives from the hotter sun via the cold of space and the cooler-than-Earth atmosphere – it doesn’t matter that space and the atmosphere are cooler than Earth, the energy arrives just the same (I’m fairly sure that’s uncontentious).

    Consider the source of radiative feedback from greenhouse effect. Does it come from the sun, the Earth or the atmosphere?

    If you said the sun then yes, ultimately that is true but we are interested in something a little more immediate.

    If you said the atmosphere that would only be trivially true since the atmosphere is largely transparent to incoming solar radiation but if you said “Earth” then take a full point.

    The Earth’s surface under solar radiation heats far beyond atmospheric temperature and transfers some of this energy to the atmosphere via conduction, convection (latent and sensible heat through evapotranspiration) and infrared radiation (IR). In some wavelengths the atmosphere is insensitive to Earth’s IR, which passes directly to space via the IR “windows” but Earth redistributes a significant portion of intercepted solar radiation to the atmosphere. Then what happens?

    Actually a host of chaotic energy interactions as molecules transfer acquired energy through collision and conduction or, in the transactions of interest – greenhouse gases (GHGs) emit the “additional” energy in a random direction. Statistically virtually half these emissions will be toward Earth and half away from it.

    This is the point at which some people become really dogmatic and imagine various effects from different molecules and speak of “mirrors” and stratospheric altitudes but this is a nonsense. Greenhouse effect begins at Earth’s surface (Es) plus one molecule. Not one atmospheric layer, not one mile, not one foot but one molecule (Es+1). If that molecule is a greenhouse gas then it will absorb and emit or conduct that energy – either warming the atmosphere or emitting the energy either toward Earth or away from it. You can see that half the energy intercepted and emitted by GHGs at an altitude of Es+1 returns to Earth because the only possible emission directions are either away from Earth or toward it. The same transactions occur at Earth plus two molecules (Es+2), complicated by the potential intercepts of molecules at Es+1, then you need consider the transactions at Es+3; Es+2; Es+1 and you can readily see that it is really quite difficult for Earth’s surface IR to escape in GHG-sensitive bandwidths.

    This is also why additional greenhouse gases have very little additional effect – Earth’s atmosphere is already virtually opaque in the bandwidths of interest in the high energy transfer regions of the tropics and temperate zones and there is already competition for radiation which these gases can absorb. Adding CO2 to the atmosphere can make a difference in the super-cold and hence super-dry polar atmospheres (both north and particularly south) but there isn’t a great deal of Earth IR transmission in these regions to intercept.

    The bottom line is: heck yes, greenhouse effect is real but adding CO2 makes trivial and likely unmeasurable difference to it.

    Edited to improve notation

  18. Nice thread. Supercilious, but nice.
    To the warmist(s)… we are significantly lower than the last peak interglacial. If we warm up a bit we may equal or slightly exceed the last interglacial peak.
    So What?!?
    How many Goracles can dance on the head of a Greenpeace dork? That has about the same significance to the planet. duh. (idiots)


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