A pathway to generating Climate Data Records of sea-surface temperature from satellite measurements

Peter J. Minnett, Gary K. Corlett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


In addition to having known uncertainty characteristics, Climate Data Records (CDRs) of geophysical variables derived from satellite measurements must be of sufficient length to resolve signals that might reveal the signatures of climate change against a background of larger, unrelated variability. The length of the record requires using satellite measurements from many instruments over several decades, and the uncertainty requirement implies that a consistent approach be used to establish the errors in the satellite retrievals over the entire period. Retrieving sea-surface temperature (SST) from satellite is a relatively mature topic, and the uncertainties of satellite retrievals are determined by comparison with collocated independent measurements. To avoid the complicating effects of near-surface temperature gradients in the upper ocean, the best validating measurements are from ship-board radiometers that measure, at source, the surface emission that is measured in space, after modification by its propagation through the atmosphere. To attain sufficient accuracy, such ship-based radiometers must use internal blackbody calibration targets, but to determine the uncertainties in these radiometric measurements, i.e. to confirm that the internal calibration is effective, it is necessary to conduct verification of the field calibration using independent blackbodies with accurately known emissivity and at very accurately measured temperatures. This is a well-justifiable approach to providing the necessary underpinning of a Climate Data Record of SST.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)44-51
Number of pages8
JournalDeep-Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography
StatePublished - Nov 15 2012


  • Climate Data Records
  • Electromagnetic skin effect
  • SI traceability
  • Satellite radiometry
  • Sea-surface temperature
  • Thermal skin effect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography


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