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Researchers bring extensive world temperature records to Google Earth

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February 6, 2014

The CRUTEM4 dataset provides Google Earth users with access to one of the most widely used...

The CRUTEM4 dataset provides Google Earth users with access to one of the most widely used records of Earth's climate

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Talking about the weather is a pastime as old as language, but climate researchers from the University of East Anglia (UEA) in the UK have just given people a whole lot more to talk about. As part of an ongoing effort to increase the accessibility and transparency of data on past climate and climate change, they've made one of the most widely used records of Earth's climate accessible through Google Earth.

Established in 1971, the UEA's Climate Research Unit (CRU) has become one of the leading institutions involved in the study of natural and anthropogenic climate change. Drawing on monthly weather records from some 6,000 weather stations around the globe, some dating back over 150 years, the researchers are responsible for Climatic Research Unit Temperature Version 4 (CRUTEM4), a widely used dataset of land-surface air temperatures.

By making CRUTEM4 data available through Google Earth, users can zoom in on any of the 6,000 weather stations, drill down through some 20,000 graphs and view monthly, seasonal and annual temperature data, some of which dates back to 1850. The interface places a red and green checkerboard over areas for where data is available. Since some remote areas lack weather stations, there are gaps in the checkerboard.

Gaps in the checkerboard indicate remote areas that lack weather stations

"The data itself comes from the latest CRUTEM4 figures, which have been freely available on our website and via the Met Office," said Dr Tim Osborn from the CRU. "But we wanted to make this key temperature dataset as interactive and user-friendly as possible. 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."

There are already a number of climate datasets available for Google Earth, including those from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Those wishing to view these and the CRUTEM4 dataset need only download Google Earth and open the KML format files. Due to the sheer volume of data, the CRU researchers expect there will be a few errors in their dataset and are encouraging users to alert them to any unusual figures.

Source: University of East Anglia

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
15 Comments

Instant data is fascinating, but observers must be careful to rationalise the "extremes" - keep comments in a climate statistical bell, with tempered arguments not belligerent ones. Convincing doubters of anthropogenic influences needs to be inclusive and not riding specks of hype to batter them.

RaVOLT
6th February, 2014 @ 04:36 pm PST

This is great, but even more impressive for me is the Earth Wind Map (earth.nullschool.net). I am completely hooked watching this weather nerds swirly lava lamp online as it slowly changes through the day.

inchiki
6th February, 2014 @ 07:12 pm PST

Curious word to use: "transparency"

What does that mean? Who has been lying about what, such that they needed to insert that word?

I remember looking up a more than a century of data from a remote station years back, when I wanted to test "transparency" myself. Alarmingly, that data vanished a few years later (perhaps co-incidence, but I can say now that it was reporting some "uncomfortable" stats for a certain side of this debate...)

christopher
6th February, 2014 @ 09:00 pm PST

@christopher, when you're done extrapolating from a single point, I refer you to @ravolt's comment.

Synchro
7th February, 2014 @ 12:51 am PST

The problem with climate change is that it has fallen foul of being a beacon for many to show their political allegiances. If one leans to the right, then one thinks it is all nonsense. Lean the other way and it is terrifyingly dangerous. On most things I lean to the left, but I try my damnedest to let the evidence steer my opinion, when evidence exists, of course. Failing that, or if the evidence is beyond my grasp, I listen to those who are most convincing.

What we can say is that it has been calculated that the greenhouse effect that lies at the heart of the problem is pumping an excess of heat (above the natural cycle) equivalent to four and half Hiroshima sized devices into the atmosphere each and every second. That heat has to go somewhere and so it is not surprising that taking all domains, air, sea and land into consideration, temperatures are rising. The fact that air temperature rise has slowed in recent years is countered by a rise in sea temperatures, especially below 700 meters, exactly in line with what one would expect considering the sequence of La Niña events we have experienced (the last major El Niño was back in 1998).

For a better appreciation of the science of climate change, I use the skepticalscience.com website. Yes, it is 'for' anthropogenic climate change, i.e. it believes in it, but there again, so do 97% of the world's leading climate scientists, which give me confidence that they are correct.

However, we must not forget that it is a scientific issue and something might come up that shows that it is down to some as yet unknown phenomenon, such as the exotic flatulence of the Great Bugblatter Beast of Traal. That said, the debate over climate change is not the same as occurred over plate tectonics. In that debate the notion that the continents floated about on a sea of magma was treated as ludicrous by the leading geologists of the day. (It might even have been a higher percentage than the 97% of leading climatologists who believe in anthropogenic climate change.) We all know where that debate ended.

There is one major difference between the two positions. With plate tectonics we are dealing with geological issues and subsequently with geological timescales. We don't have that luxury with climate change. Even if it were due to the sun; say, (we know it isn't) and we know that we have no control over it, does not mean that we are not approaching a tipping point that will lead us to a runaway condition to much higher temperatures that our ancestors will have to live with, if they can. That tipping point concerns the melting of the methane clathrates. (Methane is a very potent greenhouse gas.) We are already measuring an increased rate of methane release and the danger is that that could soon become self-sustaining. We should also bear in mind that the rate of increase in temperatures is phenomenal compared to geological history and CO2 atmospheric content is higher than at any time during the last 25,000 years. Also, sea-levels today are about six meters lower than they were when CO2 was at the same level as it is today. In short we are in very unknown, and I believe dangerous, territory.

So, even if the increase in temperature we have experienced is due to some unknown cause, we do know, thanks to Fourier's notions and Tyndall's experiments that proved them correct, that if we pump CO2 into the atmosphere, it has the effect of increasing temperatures. It follows then that if we wish to combat the increasing temperatures, i.e. we want to protect the lives of our progeny, we need to reduce CO2 release into the atmosphere, period.

Perhaps an analogy might help. Imagine we are all on a cruise liner doing one of those sightseeing tours into the Arctic Circle. There is an iceberg dead ahead. We know that we did not put it there, nor did we create it in the first place. The questions is simple: Do we slow down and steer round it or carry on full speed ahead without altering course? At that level the answer is pretty simple. Unfortunately, we have the equivalent situation where there is a small group of passengers (possibly the owners looking to profit in some way from carrying on without change to course or speed) who are putting it about that the iceberg is all an illusion and is not going to do any harm. Not only that, they are spending vast amounts of money to promote their cause.

The question we all have to ask ourselves is this: Do we have the right to risk the well-being of future generations for the sake of the profits the fossil fuel industry has, is and will continue to make from business as usual? Even if we are convinced that it is all a scam, doesn't the increased frequency of extreme weather events - inline with climate model predictions - give us pause? Do we care what our children and grandchildren will think of us? I can hear them now: "They knew! They knew that they were risking our lives and yet did nothing! Damn them!" (Expletives deleted) I suspect we can all expect to be turning in our graves if temperatures rise to the levels currently being predicted.

I will not reply to any comments to the contrary. I am not a climate scientist and have only outlined here how I personally view the climate change debate. I can only repeat my recommendation that anyone who wishes to disagree goes to skepticalscience.com, where I am sure they will obtain an accurate account of the science of climate change and also see many of the myths regarding it debunked. It is a subject of such importance that we cannot afford to let dogma, no matter on which side, influence our thinking.

Mel Tisdale
7th February, 2014 @ 02:57 am PST

@ synchro

What he was doing was not extrapolating: he was merely revealing a propensity to edit. Just a single "suppressio veri" - a little inaccuracy- a lie; not a damned lie, and not a lot of statistical hogwash: of which there is an awful lot around.

Chris Goodwin
7th February, 2014 @ 09:15 am PST

The below link graphs out the "corrections" that NOAA has made to the temp readings. What Google is getting are these altered readings.

Noticed how before 1950 almost 100% of the adjustments are colder and afterward almost 100% are warmer.

Yeah, I trust government.

Rann Xeroxx
7th February, 2014 @ 12:50 pm PST

"Christopher" - The debate on climate change is OVER.

The NEW debate, is how to DEAL with climate change.

Of course, if you are now willing to call Google Earth a co-conspirator in the Climate Change "hoax", well then, I got nuthin' for ya.

Xander77
7th February, 2014 @ 01:41 pm PST

Climate is always changing and only fools think they can control it. That doesn't mean you can't be a good steward though. Everything needs balance. Reducing emissions in the US by a factor of 10 is useless and a case of diminishing returns when you can cut the air in China or India. In terms of CO2, in the age of the dinosaurs, it was 500 times higher than it is now. It suited them just fine. Looking forward to having a T-rex as a pet.

Dekarate
7th February, 2014 @ 03:17 pm PST

This project may be an outgrowth of the CRU's 2009 "climategate" hacked emails scandal, which appeared to reveal data fudging. After three independent reviews, the CRU scientists' "rigor and honesty" was upheld. However, Sir Muir Russell's review noted, “failures, evasions, misleading actions, unjustifiable delays, and pervasive unhelpfulness – all of which amounts to severely sub-optimal academic practice.”

The UK has also addressed the politicization of climate research through its courts. On Oct. 10, 2007 Justice Burton of the High Court, London, found that Al Gore’s global warming film “An Inconvenient Truth” contained 9 factual errors. He ruled that it constituted “political indoctrination” under Section 406 of the U.K. Education Act. This ruling meant the film could not be shown in British schools without teachers “offering a balanced presentation of opposing views.”

The planet's climate has changed repeatedly over the past 95 million years. e.g. as evidenced by tropical turtle and fern fossils in Canada's arctic, and mummified tree remains on arctic Ellesmere Island. The trees lived there in a cooling period 2 to 8 million years ago.

Similarly Canada is no longer under a mile-thick ice sheet, which melted 12,000 years before humans used petroleum. Global warming on Mars is also difficult to account for by a CO2 model.

Climate has changed markedly even in recorded history. Greenland’s Hvalsey Church still stands as stone ruins. It once served a farming community which thrived during the Medieval Warm Period a thousand years ago, but was frozen out by the ensuing Little Ice Age.

There is however one statistically astute group who are convinced climate risks are real, and can even provide probability tables for those risks: insurance actuaries in global reinsurance corporations.

bajessup
7th February, 2014 @ 11:07 pm PST

Mel, you should take RaVOLT's initial comment to heart. You're quoting media talking points as though they were fact.

That 97% figure came from a discredited, self-selecting "survey" by Naomi Oreskes, years ago. ("Self-selecting" in that her "search" of the literature was actually a search for the specific phrase "global climate change". Science papers -- whether they were about climate or not -- that weren't about greenhouse gas were unlikely to mention "global climate change" at all... and in fact few if any did.) Only those papers which specifically mentioned that phrase were included in her "statistics". So of course her statistics were completely invalid.

Self-selection is one of the many well-known methods of "lying with statistics". Somebody else tried exactly the same thing this year. The difference is that this time, it was soundly shouted down for its deliberately bogus "statistics".

There is not a "97%" consensus, and never was. And even if there had been, "consensus" is not science. Just ask Galileo. On the contrary: the history of major advancements in science has been one of overturning the consensus. And often it has been only one person or a few people who did so, despite the world scientific "consensus" being against them.

Anne Ominous
8th February, 2014 @ 02:01 pm PST

bajesup:

There were FIVE "independent" reviews. But it is difficult to call several of them "independent", because they were either conducted or commissioned by the very institutions whose reputations were at stake. It is rare that a review board is going to find against the very institution that commissioned it, regardless of how "independent" it is claimed to be.

The only reviews that can be said to be by disinterested parties, with a straight face anyway, were the review by the House of Commons, and the Wegman report to the U.S. Senate.

Regardless of that, ALL 5 of the reviews had some scathing comments for the researchers, even if they were worded politely. In the words of the House of Commons, the researchers might not have been guilty of "violating standard scientific practices", but also "... those practices have to change." The Wegman report concluded "The statistical methods employed do not support their conclusions."

Despite the oft-repeated claim that the Wegman report "was not peer reviewed", on the contrary it was reviewed by 6 professional statisticians of good repute before the report was presented, and none of them had any objection to its content.

Anne Ominous
8th February, 2014 @ 02:17 pm PST

Riiigghht, believe the ones that caught cooking the books and admitting in private E-mails they couldn't explain why the numbers didn't support their theory!

maak
8th February, 2014 @ 05:09 pm PST

As an Englishman, I am ashamed of the East Anglia Center and especially those who have had and do have oversight of the mob there.

I am not a scientist but my wife is (30yrs) and as Head of her Department she would have sacked (after review) those involved as whatever they touch is tainted and tainted everyone in collaboration with them.

(Plus there has never been full disclosure and a proper audit and accounting).

That they haven't been says it all about the field and their peers in the UK both at tertiary level and publishing level. (if you can't get published you don't exist and can't be quoted).

I am all for full transparency both 1. because of the potential importance of the issue and 2. because of the unprofessional behaviour and attitudes of those who claim to be in the field.

It is for the best for science and all the economies and countries of the world.

Unfortunately as the emails showed the heart values of the doc allied leaders of the field and guardians of the raw data is unprofessional and compromised and therefore this new regime instigated by them must be seen to be compromised as how can you know whether the data is safe or has some been destroyed.

Maybe if there were some people in Jail the public might have better confidence in the offenders and the institutions they come from.

MickMac
8th February, 2014 @ 06:54 pm PST

Interesting data point: "9 factual errors." How inconvenient.

Bruce H. Anderson
10th February, 2014 @ 06:28 am PST
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