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On the scaling effect in global surface air temperature anomalies

by C. A. Varotsos, M. N. Efstathiou
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions ()

Abstract

The annual and the monthly mean values of the land-surface air temperature anomalies during 1880–2011, over both hemispheres, are used to investigate the existence of long-range correlations in their temporal march. The analytical tool employed is the detrended fluctuation analysis which eliminates the noise of the non-stationarities that characterize the land-surface air temperature anomalies in both hemispheres. The main result obtained is that deviations of one sign of the land-surface air temperature anomalies in both hemispheres are generally followed by deviations with the same sign at different time intervals. In other words the land-surface air temperature anomalies exhibit persistent behaviour i.e., deviations tend to keep the same sign. Specifically, the scaling exponents of the annual (monthly) mean land-surface air temperature anomalies, <i>α </i> = 0.65 (0.73–0.75), are roughly equal in both hemispheres approaching to that of the global annual (monthly) mean land-surface air temperature anomalies, <i>α </i> =0.68 (0.80). Taking into account our earlier study according to which the land and sea surface temperature anomalies obey scaling exponents <i>α </i> =0.78 and <i>α </i> = 0.89 in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere, respectively, we conclude that the difference between the scaling exponents in both sea and land contributions to the surface air temperature stems mainly from the sea surface temperature, which exhibits stronger memory in the Southern than in the Northern Hemisphere. This conclusion may be attributed to the fact that oceans have the greatest capacity to store heat, being thus able to regulate the temperature on land with less pronounced persistence. Moreover, the variability of the scaling-exponents of the annual mean values of the land-surface air temperature anomalies versus latitude shows an increasing trend from the low to polar regions starting from the classical random walk (white noise) over tropics. The gradual increase of the scaling exponent from the low to high latitudes (which is stronger over the Southern Hemisphere) could be associated with the poleward increase in climate sensitivity predicted by the global climate models. In this context, the persistence in the land-surface air temperature enhances the feasibility of its reliable long-term forecast, which is very important for various climate applications.

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