Accurately measuring the Earth’s land temperature

Accurately measuring the Earth’s land temperature
Evidence suggests that long-term trends in the Earth’s land temperature and surface temperature can be an indicator of climate change.

The University of Leicester, UK, researchers are leading a major new project to accurately measure the Earth’s land temperature in order to enhance climate monitoring processes over land.

Evidence suggests that long-term trends in the Earth’s land temperature and surface temperature can be an indicator of climate change. Satellite observations of surface temperature can provide unique and detailed knowledge to better facilitate the understanding of climate change.

The Land Surface Temperature CCI project is part of a collaboration effort to understand surface temperature change across domains within the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Climate Change Initiative (CCI), which is working towards satellite-based product requirements for climate.

Understanding Earth’s land temperature

Accurate knowledge of land surface temperature plays an essential role in describing the physics of land-surface processes at regional, and global scales, as they combine information on both the surface-atmosphere interactions and energy fluxes within the Earth Climate System, providing vital information for:

  • Monitoring drought
  • Impacts on human health and
  • Changes in vegetation.

The team from the university’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, who are part of the National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO) in the UK, will lead a consortium of thirteen international institutions. This consortium will work collaboratively on methods to produce the most comprehensive global land surface temperature data for climate science.

How will the research be conducted?

The researchers will use data from a variety of satellites to provide an accurate view of the Earth’s land temperature across all surfaces over the past 20 to 25 years.

Recent research has shown that land surface temperature anomalies are related to anomalies in air temperature when averaged globally, confirming the general idea of a warming planet given by traditional climate observations.

New sensors are already proving valuable in capturing current heatwaves and allowing unprecedented coverage of the UK. The researchers will use these new sensors and develop innovative techniques to merge data from different satellites into combined long-term satellite records for climate.

Dr Darren Ghent from the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leicester and NCEO, principal investigator of the project, said: “Satellite observations of land surface temperatures, and their change, are increasingly important for evaluating models of the Earth system and for observing long-term change. This University of Leicester-led project will make the significant steps forward to ensure the full potential of long-term satellite land surface temperature data is realised, to deliver the necessary improvements demanded for climate science.

He concluded: “The project aims to deliver a significant improvement on the capability of current satellite data records to meet the strict requirements for climate applications of land surface temperature data, through close cooperation between leading surface temperature scientists and the climate modelling and service communities.”

The land surface temperature CCI Project has just begun Phase I, which will run for the next three years.

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