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Comparing Historical and Modern Methods of Sea Surface Temperature Measurement – Part 1: Review of Methods, Field Comparisons and Dataset Adjustments : Volume 9, Issue 5 (20/09/2012)

By Matthews, J. B. R.

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Book Id: WPLBN0003980572
Format Type: PDF Article :
File Size: Pages 24
Reproduction Date: 2015

Title: Comparing Historical and Modern Methods of Sea Surface Temperature Measurement – Part 1: Review of Methods, Field Comparisons and Dataset Adjustments : Volume 9, Issue 5 (20/09/2012)  
Author: Matthews, J. B. R.
Volume: Vol. 9, Issue 5
Language: English
Subject: Science, Ocean, Science
Collections: Periodicals: Journal and Magazine Collection, Copernicus GmbH
Publication Date:
Publisher: Copernicus Gmbh, Göttingen, Germany
Member Page: Copernicus Publications


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R. Matthew, J. B. (2012). Comparing Historical and Modern Methods of Sea Surface Temperature Measurement – Part 1: Review of Methods, Field Comparisons and Dataset Adjustments : Volume 9, Issue 5 (20/09/2012). Retrieved from

Description: School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada. Sea Surface Temperature (SST) measurements have been obtained from a variety of different platforms, instruments and depths over the post-industrial period. Today most measurements come from ships, moored and drifting buoys and satellites. Shipboard methods include temperature measurement of seawater sampled by bucket and in engine cooling water intakes. Engine intake temperatures are generally thought to average a few tenths of a °C warmer than simultaneous bucket temperatures.

Here I review SST measurement methods, studies comparing shipboard methods by field experiment and adjustments applied to SST datasets to account for variable methods. In opposition to contemporary thinking, I find average bucket-intake temperature differences reported from field studies inconclusive. Non-zero average differences often have associated standard deviations that are several times larger than the averages themselves. Further, average differences have been found to vary widely between ships and between cruises on the same ship. The cause of non-zero average differences is typically unclear given the general absence of additional temperature observations to those from buckets and engine intakes.

Shipboard measurements appear of variable quality, highly dependent upon the accuracy and precision of the thermometer used and the care of the observer where manually read. Methods are generally poorly documented, with written instructions not necessarily reflecting actual practices of merchant mariners. Measurements cannot be expected to be of high quality where obtained by untrained sailors using thermometers of low accuracy and precision.

Comparing historical and modern methods of Sea Surface Temperature measurement – Part 1: Review of methods, field comparisons and dataset adjustments

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