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World Climate Records Now Available on Google Earth

Feb 05, 2014 03:22 PM EST

In a move to make data about the climate of the past and climate change, a team from University of East Anglia (UEA) has modified the Google Earth map program to include the CRUTEM4 land-surface air temperature dataset, which is one of science's most widely used records of the climate system.

The CRUTEM4 data set has temperature records dating back to 1850 for some of the 6,000 weather stations it collects its information from. The data has always been publicly available, but by overlaying the dataset in the easy-to-use Google Earth format, more people will be able to comprehend and access the data than before by making it more accessible and more transparent, the researchers said.

"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," said Tim Osborn from UEA's Climatic Research Unit. Osborn and his colleagues published a paper detailing their project in the journal Earth System Science Data.

While Osborn contends that making the data available on Google Earth will give it a much wider distribution, such a complex data set is likely to contain errors in the system.

"This dataset combines monthly records from 6,000 weather stations around the world - some of which date back more than 150 years," Osborn said. "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."

While the dataset is robust, it is by no means comprehensive, Osborn added.

"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. 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," he said.

"This isn't a problem scientifically because the temperature records do not depend on the precise location of each station," Osborn added. "But it is something which will improve over time as more detailed location information becomes available."

From the researchers:

For instructions about accessing and using the CRUTEM Google Earth interface (and to find out more about the project) visit To view the new Google Earth interface download Google Earth, then click here CRUTEM4-2013-03_gridboxes.kml.

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