Climate Data

Climate Data Records: Overview

As defined by a US National Research Council committee, a Climate Data Record (CDR) is "a time series of measurements of sufficient length, consistency and continuity to determine climate variability and change." In the US, agencies such as NASA and NOAA have sponsored operational and grant programs to create and curate CDRs. The focus has been on the reprocessing of satellite-derived records. The NOAA program includes a "research to operations" initiative to transfer the development of routine and widely used data records from an individual PI's research group to an operational NOAA center. NASA also uses the broader term "Earth Science Data Records (ESDR)," which includes CDRs and is described by NASA as "a unified and coherent set of observations of a given parameter of the Earth system, which is optimized to meet specific requirements in addressing science questions." 

The European Space Agency (ESA) has also launched an initiative to provide satellite based CDRs (Hollmann et al, 2013).

To find Climate Data Records or learn more, see the Climate Data Records collection on the Climate Data Guide, browse the links under Data Access, or visit the NOAA or NASA pages linked at right under Product Websites.

Key Strengths:

  • Many satellite records are being reprocessed to correct for continuity problems arising from orbital drift, instrument degradation, replacing old satellites with new ones, changing algorithms, etc.
  • Both the NASA and NOAA programs include efforts to characterize uncertainty in the records
  • The NOAA data sets are created under a consistent definition and standards for data quality, documentation and automation

Key Limitations:

  • The CDR designation as used here is somewhat narrow and excludes many data sets that may be considered "climate quality" or otherwise suitable for climate research but are not part of the NASA or NOAA programs
  • CDR data sets are mainly satellite data sets and as such mostly do not cover periods longer than about 30 years
temporal metadataID:

Input Data

primarily satellite data

Data Access: Please Cite data sources, following the data providers' instructions.

Key Figures

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Definition: Climate Data Record (CDR) and Earth Science Data Records (ESDR).

Cite this page

National Center for Atmospheric Research Staff (Eds). Last modified 02 Jan 2014. "The Climate Data Guide: Climate Data Records: Overview." Retrieved from

Acknowledgement of any material taken from this page is appreciated. On behalf of experts who have contributed data, advice, and/or figures, please cite their work as well.