Global Temperature Data Sets: Overview & Comparison Table

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Global surface temperature data sets are an essential resource for monitoring and understanding climate variability and climate change. The most commonly used data sets combine historical observations of near surface air temperatures at land stations with global data sets of sea surface temperatures (SST) obtained from a changing mix of ship-based and buoy measurements. While the concept of these data sets is fairly simple, their construction is challenging due to difficulties in obtaining data, documenting and accounting for changes in instrumentation and observing practices, addressing changes in station location and local land use, understanding random measurement errors, and deciding where and how to infill missing data in space and time.

The three most highly cited combined land temperature and SST data sets are NOAA's MLOST, NASA's GISTEMP, and  the UK's HadCRUT. A new merged land-ocean temperature data set is available from the Berkeley Earth group. The University of Delaware and produce global land-only surface temperature data sets. HadCRUT also has a land-only version, CRUTEM. Each group has approached the above challenges somewhat differently. The final data sets differ in their spatial coverage, spatial resolution, starting year, and degree of interpolation (only HadCRUT is uninterpolated). Most of these data sets are presented as anomalies (departures from baseline, long-term mean temperatures); only the Delaware data provide absolute temperatures for each timestep, while the other projects provide a baseline climatology to which the anomalies may be compared. Numerous comparisons of global and hemispheric mean temperature anomaly timeseries calculated from these data sets have been made, showing highly consistent variations and trends. Nonetheless, users doing more analysis than the global mean temperature will find important distinctions among the data sets.

Besides the in-situ based data sets summarized here, other estimates of global temperatures (since the 1970s) are based on satellite measurements such as from the MSU and AIRS instruments, or on atmospheric reanalyses

Please cite data sources, following the data providers' instructions
Dataset DOIs
Hosted Climate Index Files
Usage Restrictions

Key Figures

Change of surface temperatures in 5 gridded data sets. Credit: Climate Data Guide.

Change of mean annual surface temperatures in 5 global, gridded data sets. Calculated as the difference of means of the 1991:2010 period and the 1901:1920 period. Credit: NCAR Climate Data Guide (D. Schneider).

Other Information

Type of data product
Dataset collections

Years of record
Data time period extended
Climatology, Monthly
Input Data
Vertical Levels:
Missing Data Flag
Missing data present
Ocean or Land
Spatial Resolution
Model Resolution (reanalysis)
Data Assimilation Method
Model Vintage (reanalysis)

Key Publications
Not available...

Summary of global surface temperature datasets

Name Temperature Change Climatology Source Years of record Timestep Spatial Resolution Input Data
Global (land) precipitation and temperature: Willmott & Matsuura, University of Delaware U. Delaware / Cort J. Willmott, Kenji Matsuura to Climatology, Monthly 0.5x0.5 degree

land stations from GHCNv2 and a few other sources

Global land-ocean surface temperature data: HadCRUT5 Global Surface temperture anomaly timeseries from HadCRUT4 and HadCRUT5 (from Zeke Hausfather/ Carbon Brief) Global Surface temperature timeseries comparison (from Zeke Hausfather/ Carbon Brief) UK Met Office Hadley Centre and Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia to Monthly 5° x 5°


Global surface temperature data: GISTEMP: NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) Surface Temperature Analysis GISTEMP trend; ClimataDataGuide figure. (Source: GISTEMP webpage) NASA GISS / R. Reudy, M. Sato, K. Lo, formerly J. Hansen to Monthly 2x2 degree

GHCN v4 (~6300 land stations); ERSSTv5 (SSTs); SCAR READER (for Antarctic stations)

Global surface temperature data: HadCRUT4 and CRUTEM4 Change of temperature between 1901:1920 and 1991:2010 based on the HadCRUT4 dataset. Credit: ClimateDataGuide, NCAR HadCRU absolute temperature U East Anglia CRU / Phil Jones and others , UK Met Office Hadley Centre to Climatology, Monthly 5x5 degrees

~5500 land station records from GHCN and other sources combined with HadSST3

Global surface temperature data: MLOST: NOAA Merged Land-Ocean Surface Temperature Analysis Change of temperature in the MLOST data set. credit: Climate Data Guide NOAA NCDC / RS Vose and others to Monthly 5x5 degrees

GHCN v3.3 (~7000 land stations); ERSSTv3b (SSTs)

Global surface temperatures: BEST: Berkeley Earth Surface Temperatures Change of temperature between 1901:1920 and 1991:2010 based on the Berkeley Earth dataset. Credit: ClimateDataGuide, NCAR Climatology of Berkeley Earth temperatures. R. Muller, R. Rhode to Climatology, Daily, Monthly 1x1 degree or equal-area grid , .25 degree available for USA and Europe

combination of 14 databases of station data; ~37,000 individual records used;; merged land-ocean version uses HadSST3

TerraClimate: Global, high-resolution gridded temperature, precipitation, and other water balance variables 1981-2010 average Dec-February climatic water deficit for Tasmania as represented in TerraClim (contributed by J. Abatzoglou) average annual temperatures in 2017 according to TerraClimate John Abatzoglou, University of California - Merced to Climatology, Monthly ~4 km (1/24th degree)

WorldClim, CRUTS4.0