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Publication Title | Comparing historical and modern methods of sea surface

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Ocean Sci., 9, 683–694, 2013 doi:10.5194/os-9-683-2013

© Author(s) 2013. CC Attribution 3.0 License.

Ocean Science

Solid Earth

temperature measurement – Part 1: Review of methods, field comparisons and dataset adjustments

J. B. R. Matthews

School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada Correspondence to: J. B. R. Matthews (

Received: 3 August 2012 – Published in Ocean Sci. Discuss.: 20 September 2012 Revised: 31 May 2013 – Accepted: 12 June 2013 – Published: 30 July 2013

Abstract. Sea surface temperature (SST) has been obtained from a variety of different platforms, instruments and depths over the past 150yr. Modern-day platforms include ships, moored and drifting buoys and satellites. Shipboard meth- ods include temperature measurement of seawater sampled by bucket and flowing through engine cooling water intakes.

Here I review SST measurement methods, studies

analysing shipboard methods by field or lab experiment and

adjustments applied to historical SST datasets to account for

variable methods. In general, bucket temperatures have been

found to average a few tenths of a C cooler than simul- taneous engine intake temperatures. Field and lab experi- ments demonstrate that cooling of bucket samples prior to measurement provides a plausible explanation for negative average bucket-intake differences. These can also be cred- ibly attributed to systematic errors in intake temperatures, which have been found to average overly-warm by >0.5 ◦C on some vessels. However, the precise origin of non-zero av- erage bucket-intake differences reported in field studies is of- ten unclear, given that additional temperatures to those from the buckets and intakes have rarely been obtained. Supple- mentary accurate in situ temperatures are required to reveal individual errors in bucket and intake temperatures, and the role of near-surface temperature gradients. There is a need for further field experiments of the type reported in Part 2 to address this and other limitations of previous studies.

1 Introduction

Published by Copernicus Publications on behalf of the European Geosciences Union.


Comparing historical and modern methods of sea surface

The Cryosphere

Sea surface temperature (SST) is a fundamental geophysical parameter. SST observations are used in climate change de- tection, as a boundary condition for atmosphere-only models and to diagnose the phase of the El Nin ̃o–Southern Oscilla- tion (ENSO). The importance of SST to climate science is reflected in its designation as an Essential Climate Variable of the Global Climate Observing System.

Here I review methods of SST measurement, field and lab analyses of shipboard methods and adjustments applied to historical SST datasets to reduce heterogeneity generated by variable methods. Section 2 describes historical and modern methods and changes in their prevalence over time. Section 3 reviews studies evaluating shipboard methods by field ex- periment or using wind tunnels. Adjustments developed for bucket and engine cooling water intake temperatures are de- scribed in Sect. 4. Error in bucket temperatures can strongly depend on the length of time between sampling and tempera- ture measurement (the so-called exposure time). In Sect. 5 an attempt is made to constrain the range of historical variation in this interval using information in the literature. Synthesis and conclusions are presented in Sect. 6.

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