Stephan Matthiesen

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Position paper on surface temperatures published - comments are welcome

Earth's surface temperatures; from Merchant et al. 2013, GID (CC-BY 3.0)

The EarthTemp community position paper, which reviews the state of art of measuring the surface temperatures of Earth and recommends steps to improve our understanding, has been published as a discussion paper in the open access journal Geoscientific Instrumentation, Methods and Data Systems (Discussions) (GI(D)). As the paper aims to capture a community position and influence future science funding and policy decisions, all interested colleagues are encouraged to submit comments or reviews during the discussion phase (until 6 August) which will then be considered (together with the invited peer-reviews) when preparing the final version of the paper.

The workshop and the paper

The paper captures the ideas and recommendations developed during the first annual EarthTemp Network meeting in Edinburgh (25-27 June 2012), with 55 invited participants from five continents. The meeting placed particular emphasis on encouraging discussions, networking and collaboration between the participant, featuring networking activities to build relationships across the new community, overviews of the state of the art in the field, and a series of 20 intensive small-group discussions on current gaps in our knowledge and scientific priorities on 5 to 10 year timescales across a number of themes. Chris J. Merchant, the PI of the EarthTemp network, drafted a first version of the paper (available on based on notes and presentations from the chairs of the breakout discussions. The current version for peer-reviewed publication was then developed in several stages, incorporating comments from the Network meeting participants as well as more details, examples and references.

The wider community of surface temperature providers and users now has an opportunity to add comments and reviews during the open review phase of the journal Geoscientific Instrumentation, Methods and Data Systems (Discussions) (GI(D)). Like all open access journals published by the European Geoscientific Union (EGU), GI(D) has a two stage publication process: Submitted papers are published very rapidly after an editor's access review as discussion paper. This discussion paper is then sent out for peer-review to reviewers assigned by the handling editor. At the same time, all interested colleagues also have the opportunity to submit comments or reviews through the GI website. Both the official invited peer reviews and the spontaneous comments are public (the official reviewers may chose to remain anonymous, though), and the authors are required to respond (publicly) and address all comments adequately for the final version of the paper. Besides being open access, this open review system adds another aspect of transparency to the work, as readers can monitor the quality of the reviews and the authors' responses.

The deadline for comments on the GID journal website is 6 August 2013. We plan to communicate the paper and its recommendations widely to a range of scientific organisations, funding and policy bodies to influence the future development of research in this area. At this year's workshop in Copenhagen (12-14 Juni 2013), we also developed some concrete ideas and projects to move the recommendations in the paper forward.

The recommendations

EarthTemp recommendations; from Merchant et al. 2013, GID (CC-BY 3.0)

The workshop identified the following needs for progress towards meeting societal needs for surface temperature understanding and information, which are summarised in the chart and explained in more detail in the paper:

  1. Develop more integrated, collaborative approaches to observing and understanding Earth’s various surface temperatures
  2. Build understanding of the relationships between different surface temperatures, where presently inadequate
  3. Demonstrate novel underpinning applications of various surface temperature datasets in meteorology and climate
  4. Make surface temperature datasets easier to obtain and exploit, for a wider constituency of users
  5. Consistently provide realistic uncertainty information with surface temperature datasets
  6. Undertake large-scale systematic intercomparisons of surface temperature data and their uncertainties
  7. Communicate differences and complementarities of different types of surface temperature datasets in readily understood terms
  8. Rescue, curate and make available valuable surface temperature data that are presently inaccessible
  9. Maintain and/or develop observing systems for surface temperature data
  10. Build capacities to accelerate progress in the accuracy and usability of surface temperature datasets.

Your views and comments

We want to encourage all users and providers of surface temperature data, in all domains and for all applications, to contribute your views on the recommendations made in the paper, through the open review on the GID journal website. In view of recommendations 3 and 4, we would particularly like to hear from users from outside the climatological and meteorological communities, for example scientists who apply temperature data to questions in ecology, health and epidemiology, society, or public engagement: what kind of data is useful for you and what are barriers to their use in your work?


  • Merchant, C. J.; Matthiesen, S.; Rayner, N. A.; Remedios, J. J.; Jones, P. D.; Olesen, F.; Trewin, B.; Thorne, P. W.; Auchmann, R.; Corlett, G. K.; Guillevic, P. C.; Hulley, G. C. (2013): The surface temperatures of the earth: Steps towards integrated understanding of variability and change. Geoscientific Instrumentation, Methods and Data Systems Discussions, 3(1), 305–345. DOI:
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