Global Temperature Records Now Available On Google Earth
February 6, 2014

Global Temperature Records Now Available On Google Earth

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Thanks to the efforts of researchers from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit and the King Abdulaziz University Center of Excellence for Climate Change Research, visitors to Google Earth now have access to the world’s temperature records, making it easier than ever to analyze the weather-related data.

The project was headed up by UEA’s Dr. Tim Osborn and Professor P.D. Jones and features one of the most widely-used records of the climate system, the Climatic Research Unit Temperature Version 4 (CRUTEM4) land-surface air temperature dataset. It is part of an ongoing effort to make climate data more accessible and transparent.

“The new Google Earth format allows users to scroll around the world, zoom in on 6,000 weather stations, and view monthly, seasonal and annual temperature data more easily than ever before,” the university said in a statement Tuesday, adding that users can access up to 20,000 graphs with temperature records dating back to 1850.

“The beauty of using Google Earth is that you can instantly see where the weather stations are, zoom in on specific countries, and see station datasets much more clearly,” Dr. Osborn explained. “The data itself comes from the latest CRUTEM4 figures, which have been freely available on our website and via the Met Office. But we wanted to make this key temperature dataset as interactive and user-friendly as possible.”

According to the researchers, who have published a paper detailing their work in the journal Earth System Science Data, the new online interface details how the world has been divided into 5° latitude and longitude grid boxes. Each box is approximately 550km (330 miles) wide along the Equator and become narrower as they near the North and South poles, they added.

The red and green checkerboard pattern covers the majority of the globe, and indicates regions of land where climate station data is available, Dr. Osborn and Professor Jones explained. Clicking on one of the grid boxes allows the user to gain access to that area’s annual temperature records, as well as additional downloadable data.

The Google Earth interface was developed using Keyhole Markup Language (KML). A mathematical description of the information used to construct CRUTEM4, as well as earlier versions of the dataset, is also available. This project grants users easier access, but the developers of the program expect there to be some errors in the data.

“This dataset combines monthly records from 6,000 weather stations around the world – some of which date back more than 150 years. That’s a lot of data, so we would expect to see a few errors. We very much encourage people to alert us to any records that seem unusual,” Dr. Osborn said.

“There are some gaps in the grid – this is because there are no weather stations in remote areas such as the Sahara. Users may also spot that the location of some weather stations is not exact,” he added. “This is because the information we have about the latitude and longitude of each station is limited to 1 decimal place, so the station markers could be a few kilometers from the actual location.”

While Dr. Osborn said that these issues do not constitute any scientific problems, since the temperature records are not dependent upon the exact location of the weather stations. However, he said that it is something that he and his colleagues expect will improve in the future, once more detailed location information is available.