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Comparison of satellite, thermochron and air temperatures at Summit, Greenland, during the winter of 2008/09

  • Lora S. Koenig (a1) and Dorothy K. Hall (a1)

Abstract

Current trends show a rise in Arctic surface and air temperatures, including over the Greenland ice sheet where rising temperatures will contribute to increased sea-level rise through increased melt. We aim to establish the uncertainties in using satellite-derived surface temperature for measuring Arctic surface temperature, as satellite data are increasingly being used to assess temperature trends. To accomplish this, satellite-derived surface temperature, or land-surface temperature (LST), must be validated and limitations of the satellite data must be assessed quantitatively. During the 2008/09 boreal winter at Summit, Greenland, we employed data from standard US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) air-temperature instruments, button-sized temperature sensors called thermochrons and the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) satellite instrument to (1) assess the accuracy and utility of thermochrons in an ice-sheet environment and (2) compare MODIS-derived LSTs with thermochron-derived surface and air temperatures. The thermochron-derived air temperatures were very accurate, within 0.1 ± 0.3°C of the NOAA-derived air temperature, but thermochron-derived surface temperatures were ∼3°C higher than MODIS-derived LSTs. Though surface temperature is largely determined by air temperature, these variables can differ significantly. Furthermore, we show that the winter-time mean air temperature, adjusted to surface temperature, was ∼11°C higher than the winter-time mean MODIS-derived LST. This marked difference occurs largely because satellite-derived LSTs cannot be measured through cloud cover, so caution must be exercised in using time series of satellite LST data to study seasonal temperature trends.

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