Problems with the Use of Climatological Data to Detect Climatic Change at High Latitudes

Sue Ann Bowling


Although warming due to increased amounts of CO2 and other greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere is predicted to be greatest in high latitudes, results of the GISS model have already indicated that the ratio of warming to interannual variability will be relatively small, which will make any change hard to detect [Hansen et al, 1988]. In addition, the climatological data set at high latitudes is scanty and subject to most of the same problems as those in the temperatue zone. In fact, the extreme ground inversions, low sun angles, and seasonal polar night or continuous daylight conditions may lead to systematic errors with magnitudes much greater than would be predicted from midlatitude experience.

The Alaskan record demonstrates possible magnitudes of some of these systematic errors. Both winter and summer heat island effects are large. Site changes (including documentation problems) may have unexpectedly large effects, and virtually the entire state was affected by a change in time zones made in 1983.

Full paper

Originally published 1992 in Proceedings of: International Conference on the Role of the Polar Regions in Global Change, held June 11-15, 1990 at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Vol I pp 206-209.