Guest commentary by Steve Sherwood
There are four independent instrumental records of sufficient length and potential accuracy to tell us about 20th-century climate change. The two longest ones are of temperature near the Earth’s surface: a vast network of weather stations over land areas, and ship data from the oceans. While land surface observations go back hundreds of years in a few places, data of sufficient coverage for estimating global temperature have been available only since the end of the 19th century. These have shown about a 0.7 C warming over land during the last century, with somewhat less increase indicated over oceans. The land records contain artifacts due to things like urbanization or tree growth around station locations, buildings or air conditioners being installed near stations, etc., but laborious data screening, correction procedures, and a-posteriori tests have convinced nearly all researchers that the reported land warming trend must be largely correct. Qualitative indicators like sea ice coverage, spring thaw dates, and melting permafrost provide strong additional evidence that trends have been positive at middle and high northern latitudes, while glacier retreat suggests warming aloft at lower latitudes.