THE CEOS DATABASE : Missions, Instruments and Measurements
ESSENTIAL CLIMATE VARIABLE - Sea-surface temperature (SST)
DomainOceanicDescriptionThe large-scale spatial patterns of sea-surface temperature (SST) are related to large-scale weather patterns. SST plays important roles in the exchanges of energy, momentum, moisture and gases between the ocean and atmosphere. The heat and moisture exchanges are a main driver of global weather systems and climate patterns. On 25 to 100 km scales, strong SST gradients can contribute to vertical atmospheric circulations that transfer energy and moisture from the atmospheric boundary-layer to the free atmosphere. On smaller scales, SSTs are used to diagnose adverse conditions for coral reefs. [GCOS-195 5.3.1]
Full NameSea-surface temperature (SST)
Satellite Signficant ContributionYes
GCOS Actions
DescriptionWhoTime FramePerformance IndicatorCost Implications
Ensure coordination of contributions to CEOS Virtual Constellations for each ocean surface ECV, in relation to in situ ocean observing systems.Space agencies, in consultation with CEOS Virtual Constellation teams, JCOMM, and GCOS.ContinuousAnnually updated charts on adequacy of commitments to space-based ocean observing system from CEOS.<1M US$ (Mainly by Annex-I Parties and implementation cost covered in Actions below).
Continue the provision of best possible SST fields based on a continuous coverage-mix of polar orbiting IR and geostationary IR measurements, combined with passive microwave coverage, and appropriate linkage with the comprehensive in situ networks noted in O8.Space agencies, coordinated through CEOS, CGMS, and WMO Space Programme.ContinuingAgreement of plans for maintaining a CEOS Virtual Constellation for SST.1-10M US$ (for generation of datasets) (Mainly by Annex-I Parties).
*GCOS-195 Status Categories: Category A: Action completed, perhaps exceeding reasonable expectations. Very good progress on ongoing tasks. Category B: Action largely completed according to expectation. Good progress on ongoing tasks. Category C: Moderate progress overall, although progress may be good for some part of the action. Category D: Limited progress overall, although progress may be moderate or good for some part of the action. Category E: Very little or no progress, or deterioration rather than progress.
GCOS Products
Related Measurements/
from CEOS DB
O.1Integrated sea-surface temperature analyses based on satellite and in situ data recordsSST
Sea surface temperature
CEOS Response[O4 (O.1)]

2015 Update: The CEOS-CGMS Working Group on Climate is supporting the GEO Blue Planet initiative that seeks to bring together all the existing ocean observation programmes within GEO, to add new ones to the GEO portfolio, and to create synergies between them.

[O7 (O.1)]

2015 Update: Deliverable #1
  • The ESA Climate Change Initiative (CCI) Sea Surface Temperature project (SST_cci, see is creating new Climate Data Records (CDRs) of SST from satellite retrievals. The project began in August 2010 and has been extended until 2016. The project scope includes user requirements gathering, algorithm development, algorithm benchmarking, data production and validation, disseminating those data, and obtaining user feedback. ESA SST CCI products are designed as stable, low-bias SST data starting during 1991 and continuing to 31 December 2010 (referred to as the ‘long term’ product). Each SST has associated with it a total uncertainty estimate, and uncertainty estimates for various contributions to that total uncertainty. Future versions of the datasets now in development will span at least 1982–2016, better addressing the need in many climate applications for stable records of global SST that are at least 30 years in length. A user guide is available at The datasets generated to date by SST CCI are available at and from the Centre for Environmental Data Archival via the page
  • NASA maintains a 1km resolution global coverage SST analysis called the Multiscale Ultrahigh Resolution (MUR) L4 analysis based on nighttime satellite SST observations from several satellite instruments. Data are available at
  • NOAA also produces and provides the AVHRR Pathfinder SST Climate Data Record. Currently, Verison 5.2 is available, spanning 1981-2012 in Level 3 Collated form (Casey et al., 2011: In 2015 NOAA will release Version 5.3, which will span 1981-2013 and include Level 2, Level 3 Uncollated, and Level 3 Collated products. (
  • NOAA 1/4° daily Optimum Interpolation Sea Surface Temperature (or daily OISST, is an analysis constructed by combining observations from different platforms (satellites, ships, buoys) on a regular global grid. A spatially complete SST map is produced by interpolating to fill in gaps. Two analyses are produced: AVHRR-Only refers to the OISST that uses satellite SSTs only from from AVHRR and the AVHRR+AMSR uses AVHRR and additional data from AMSR-E, available from 2002 to 2011. The system also produces an anomaly field, an estimate of uncertainty and an estimate of sea ice concentration. A range of different data access points are available at
  • A blended IR+MW satellite climate SST product has been developed by NASA/Remote Sensing Systems from Jume 2002 to present. A separate product covering the region 40N to 40S is available from January 1998. Data are available at
  • JAXA plan to produce a global coverage MW SST climate data product based on AMSRE and AMSR2.
  • The EUMETSAT OSI-SAF plans to initiate MSG SEVIRI reprocessing of SST in 2015 in support of climate SST.
  • The CEOS SST-VC is developing a white paper to describe a justified vision for the SST satellite constellation to address the needs of the SST application community including climate research.
  • The Copernicus Sentinel-3 Sea and Land Surface Temperature Radiometer (SLSTR) will make all L1b data sets available to the international community in a free and open manner.
  • JMA released Himawari-8 L1 data to research community in March 2015, and data is (will be) released from four coordinating universities/agencies outside JMA, including JAXA.
  • JAXA plan to distribute Himawari-8 L1 in July 2015, and release Himawari-8 SST in July or August 2015.
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