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January 15, 2014
Taking Earth’s Temperature from Space

A land surface temperature validation site in Gobabeb, Namibia, is one of four stations operated by the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. Temperature readings will be used in GlobTemperature to validate the quality of the satellite measurements.

The European Space Agency’s new GlobTemperature project merges data from several spaceborne sensors to give scientists a one-stop shop for land, lake and ice temperature data.

Information on land surface temperature is a key parameter for studying the Earth system. It plays an important role in physical processes such as atmospheric convection and surface evaporation, biological processes like vegetation sensitivity to stress and to fire, and chemical processes such as emissions of gases from the surface to the atmosphere.

Long-term trends in surface temperature can also be an indicator of climate change. It is also difficult to convert the satellite measurements of the temperature of the solid land surface to the commonly used air temperature. An example of this is the difference in temperature between hot tarmac and cooler grass on a summer’s day even at the same air temperature. In addition, satellite data suffer from gaps due to cloud cover or provide limited sampling of the day/night temperature cycle.

To fill these gaps and better meet users’ needs for land surface temperature data, the European Space Agency (ESA) recently initiated the GlobTemperature project under the Data User Element Program. GlobTemperature will merge surface temperature data from a variety of satellites into a common format, which will be made available in a single online archive.

Image courtesy of ESA/F. Olesen, KIT, Germany.

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