Climatologists are now more than ever talking about changes in temperatures and influence of various factors on the global climate. But it has always been a bit disappointing to be reading about various measurements and estimates without being able to get our hands on the data and see how the conclusions have been made.
This exact need of clarity and transparency was what pushed a team of scientists from University of East Anglia to find a way to give free access to past and current climate data. Of course, needless to say, there is no better way to do that than via Google Earth.
Across the globe there are roughly around 6,000 weather stations that provide weather data on hourly basis. These data are currently being collected and compiled in the so-called Climatic Research Unit Temperature Version 4 (CRUTEM4) dataset, which contains records of land-surface and atmospheric temperatures for the past 150 years. As a leading global institution, conducting some of the highest quality research on climate and climate change since the early 1970s, the University of Anglia’s Climate Research Unit (CRU) is the one responsible for handling and maintaining the dataset that currently serves the needs of millions of scientists.
Now, the latest innovation coming from CRU, a new interactive layer in Google Earth, gives free access to CRUTEM4 not only to researchers, but to everyone with a computer, internet, and slight interest in how much global warming contributes to increase in temperatures at any given geographical location. Given that the dataset is probably the most complete and extensive one around, containing climate records from as early as the mid 1800s, everyone can now get the full picture.
Although these data have always been freely available from the Met Office website, general users have been reluctant to download it due to the fact that it has never been user-friendly. Making the dataset accessible through Google Earth, however, allows the users to easily pinpoint specific weather stations, and observe the changes in temperatures over months, seasons or years, thanks to thousands of graphs that aid visual interpretation of the records.
To display and visualize if data are available at a specific location, the guys at CRU decided to implement a grid format, similar to a chessboard, where availability is represented by a green or a red square. The regions where there are no records available are represented with a gap in the grid.
If you are willing to have a look, you will have to download Google Earth here and to open the KML files that you can download here. The makers admit that because the dataset is really huge, there might be some discrepancies or small errors at some places. If you happen to spot one of these, do not hesitate to contact the CRU team. They will definitely check it out and correct for it.
Image (c) Google earth