Nathan Lenssen: “How Do We Know the Temperature of the Earth?”

by | Jul 20, 2023 | Climate Change, Ocean and Atmospheric Physics, Remote Sensing, Sustainable Future, Uncategorized, Using Data Sets

The annual global mean temperature anomaly is an important and highly publicized index of climate change. Changes in the global mean temperature are a result of an energy imbalance in the Earth system. Over the past 150 years, human emission of greenhouse gases has led to increased global temperatures with the last seven years being the seven warmest years on record. This increased global mean temperature results in regional climate changes in temperature and precipitation that impact life on Earth. While the global mean temperature is important, it is not straightforward to calculate, particularly 100+ years ago. In this session, we will explore the history of global mean temperature calculations, discuss how scientists currently calculate changes in the temperature of the Earth, show how confident these calculations of global temperature are, and discuss the various sources of data used to calculate and verify the temperature record over the past 150+ years. 


Nathan Lennsen’s slide show (pdf)

GISS Surface Temperature Analysis

Additional Resources

Global Energy Balance, Greenhouse Effect, and Climate Change

National Weather Service webpage with a suggested activity to pair with a lessonNASA ClimateKids video and page on the greenhouse effect
NASA resources outlining the link between greenhouse gases and climate changeA reputable source discussing the scientific understanding of climate change

Information about NASA GISTEMP

The current release of GISTEMPA large list of frequently asked questions about global temperature
The history of GISTEMP (Referenced extensively in this talk)Trees And Offsetting Your Carbon Footprint (Everything You Need To Know)
Data access and technical information about NOAA Global Historical Climatology Network (GHCN) (advanced) discussion of how scientists make sure station data is correct

Sea Surface Temperature– NASA description on how sea surface temperature is and has been measured

4th National Climate assessment

6th IPCC AR6 Climate Change 2021:

The Physical Science Basis