Taking the Earth’s Temperatures by Satellite

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Just like a physician measures a person’s temperature in order to check his or her health, a new project from the European Space Agency (ESA) hopes to track temperatures of the Earth’s surface by satellite. This project, called GlobTemperature, will be a compilation of data from different satellite sensors that are taking measurements of surface temperatures, similar to a doctor’s thermometer. GlobTemperature will combine all of this information about surface temperature from the Earth’s land, water, and ice and make it available to scientists in a single collection online.

The reasoning behind the project is the potential temperature measurements from satellites have for unlocking previous limitations on studying the Earth. Up until now, climatologists and meteorologists have relied mainly on air temperature measurements to determine weather and climate patterns because of problems with data from satellites. Data about the Earth’s temperatures from satellites is extremely complex and come in a variety of formats. Satellite data is also filled with gaps because of things like cloud cover. Plus, it is challenging to translate solid land surface temperatures from satellites to air temperatures, which are more frequently used.

The ESA is hoping to change all that with the availability of GlobTemperature. The data gathered through the project could have a wide variety of uses because land surface temperatures are essential for understanding life on the Earth. Surface temperatures play important roles in many natural processes like the emission of gases from the surface of the planet to the atmosphere, the sensitivity of vegetation, and the convection of the atmosphere that produces weather patterns. The temperatures of the Earth’s land over time can play an important role as clues in climate change, too.

Map showing global monthly land surface temperature from Envisat’s AATSR for July 2006. Source: University of Leicester.

Map showing global monthly land surface temperature from Envisat’s AATSR for July 2006. Source: University of Leicester.

Ultimately, the goal of the project is to better meet user’s needs when it comes to satellite data on Earth surface temperatures. One of the uses for GlobTemperature currently in development is to provide a more accurate depiction of day and night temperatures. To demonstrate how this satellite data can benefit scientists, five case studies in different regions of the globe are being done. There is also an open user consultation being planned for June of 2014, and GlobTemperature is intended to continue for the next three years.

See: Taking Earth’s Temperature – European Space Agency

Global land surface temperature anomaly from Envisat’s AATSR for July 2006 compared to average temperatures. Red depicts areas with a higher temperature than average, while blue shows cooler areas. The 2006 heatwave over Central and Northern Europe is clearly visible. Source: University of Leicester.

Global land surface temperature anomaly from Envisat’s AATSR for July 2006 compared to average temperatures. Red depicts areas with a higher temperature than average, while blue shows cooler areas. The 2006 heatwave over Central and Northern Europe is clearly visible. Source: University of Leicester.



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