Release of the International Surface Temperature Initiative's Global Land Surface Databank

June 2014 - The most comprehensive publicly available archive of surface temperature data has just been released, led by the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climate Data Center with contribution from Met Office scientists.

Weather station records of temperature have long been a fundamental part of our ability to understand and monitor the climate. This new databank, for the first time, provides easy online access to all publicly available records in one place, with version control and traceability to original sources where possible. It contains more than 32000 unique records documenting surface temperatures across the globe from the late 1800s to present.

The databank has been developed by the International Surface Temperature Inititive (ISTI) as a long awaited resource to improve assessment of recent climate changes. It has involved substantial international effort in terms of data collection and reformatting, specific effort to obtain previously unavailable data and scientific work to weed out the many duplicate records. This archive substantially increases the availability of air temperature records that are key to global climate monitoring by bringing temperature records from widely used climate data sets, such as CRUTEM and GHCN, together with many additional and new data records.

The ISTI brings together climate scientists, including Met Office scientists, statisticians, metrologists and software engineers. The ISTI began following a kick-off meeting in September 2010 at the Met Office, and now has formal recognition from the governing world bodies in meteorology ( WMO GCOS), statistics ( ISI-TIES) and metrology ( BIPM). Its aim is to vastly improve the land meteorological data archiving to make substantially more data available to the climate research community and improve the robustness of climate analyses.

Available sources of surface temperature data had until now been scattered across multiple archives, with limited traceability to the original source (paper or digital record). The ISTI has significantly improved this situation. Vast amounts of data remain solely in paper form or are not shared internationally and it is hoped that databank reach and coverage will improve over time. However, this depends largely on grass roots efforts to find, catalogue, scan and digitise old records (e.g., by such groups as ACRE ) and a willingness to share data for free.

Next week (8 to 16 July) around 40 climate scientists (including three from the Met Office) and statisticians from around the world are getting together at the US National Center for Atmospheric Research (Boulder, Colorado) to work on the new ISTI databank records. These are experts in the field of homogenisation and interpolation - two fundamental processes in the creation of climate quality data-products. The aim is that this new databank, and this opportunity to collaborate, will significantly enhance our ability to quantify changes in our climate, regionally and throughout the world.

Last updated: 14 August 2014