Comparing historical and modern methods of sea surface temperature measurement – Part 1: Review of methods, field comparisons and dataset adjustments

Matthews, J. B. R.

Sea surface temperature (SST) has been obtained from a variety of different platforms, instruments and depths over the past 150 yr. Modern-day platforms include ships, moored and drifting buoys and satellites. Shipboard methods 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 simultaneous engine intake temperatures. Field and lab experiments demonstrate that cooling of bucket samples prior to measurement provides a plausible explanation for negative average bucket-intake differences. These can also be credibly 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 average bucket-intake differences reported in field studies is often unclear, given that additional temperatures to those from the buckets and intakes have rarely been obtained. Supplementary 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.

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Matthews, J. B. R.: Comparing historical and modern methods of sea surface temperature measurement – Part 1: Review of methods, field comparisons and dataset adjustments. 2013. Copernicus Publications.

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