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Dataset Collection

European Space Agency Sea Surface Temperature Climate Change Initiative (ESA CCI SST) Logo

Collection of Sea Surface Temperature (SST) Data of the Global Oceans as part of the ESA Climate Change Initiative (CCI)

Status: Not defined
Publication State: published


The ESA Sea Surface Temperature Climate Change Initiative (ESA SST CCI) dataset accurately maps the surface temperature of the global oceans over the period 1991 to 2010, using observations from many satellites. The data provides an independently quantified SST to a quality suitable for climate research. The datasets consist of stable, low-bias sea surface temperature (SST) data covering the period 08/1991 - 12/2010 (referred to as the Long Term Product), two 3-month periods of data incorporating data from more sensors than used for the long term product (the Demonstration Product), and comparison data sourced from outside the ESA SST CCI project.

The datasets are cited in: Merchant, C. J., Embury, O., Roberts-Jones, J., Fiedler, E., Bulgin, C. E., Corlett, G. K., Good, S., McLaren, A., Rayner, N., Morak-Bozzo, S. and Donlon, C. (2014), Sea surface temperature datasets for climate applications from Phase 1 of the European Space Agency Climate Change Initiative (SST CCI). Geoscience Data Journal. doi: 10.1002/gdj3.20

Citable as:Merchant, C.J. (2013): Collection of Sea Surface Temperature (SST) Data of the Global Oceans as part of the ESA Climate Change Initiative (CCI). NERC Earth Observation Data Centre, date of citation.
Abbreviation: esa-sst-cci
Keywords: Not defined


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SST CCI is a collaboration of 9 partner institutions. The team brings together European expertise in creating climate quality records of ocean temperatures from satellite data, with expertise in climate applications and computer engineering. Through the ESA funded Climate Change Initiative, the team have created a new, 20-yr climate record of global sea surface temperature (SST). Based on satellite data, this record is independent of thermometer based measurements from ships and buoys. The new climate SST record complements and challenges existing knowledge of how ocean temperatures have evolved.

Access Restrictions

To download this data, you are invited to register as a NEODC user. This online registration only takes a few minutes. The datasets can then be downloaded from the individual dataset links above.

Access to ESA CCI SST data are available under a Creative Commons Licence by attribution. The authors request an acknowledgement of the data source (cite both the relevant dataset DOIs and the Geoscience Data Journal article indicated in the abstract above) if they are used in any publication.

Data availability and file format

The main dataset consists of stable, low-bias sea surface temperature (SST) data covering the period 08/1991 - 12/2010 (referred to as the Long Term Product):

  • Data from the series of Along Track Scanning Radiometer (ATSR) sensors (a single orbit per file on a 0.05° regular latitude-longitude grid) and from the series of Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) sensors (a single orbit per file on an irregular grid with grid cell spacing about 4 km). These start in August 1991. Each file contains two sets of SSTs. The first set provides a measure of the temperature of the skin of the water at the time it was observed; the second set are estimates of the temperature at 20 cm depth and at either 1030 h or 2230 h local time. Each SST has associated with it a total uncertainty estimate, and uncertainty estimates for various contributions to that total uncertainty.
  • Daily, spatially complete fields of SST, obtained by combining the orbit data described above, using optimal interpolation to provide SSTs where there were no measurements (a single file per day; 0.05° regular latitude- longitude grid). These data start in September 1991. The SSTs correspond approximately to the daily average of the temperature of the water at 20 cm depth. Uncertainty estimates are provided for each value.

Two 3-month periods of data are available that include data from more sensors than used for the long term product (referred to as the Demonstration Product). As with the long term product, data files for each sensor and daily, spatially compete fields are provided. The format of the data files is the same as that used for the long term product files. Additionally, data sourced from outside the ESA SST CCI are made available. These are described in the 'Climate Research Data Package' document available here. If using these data, please ensure that you acknowledge the data originators as described in that document and in the readme files that accompany the data.

The data are stored in NetCDF-4 format files. Data arrays in NetCDF files are known as ‘variables’ and each variable has metadata stored with it. Please read the ESA CCI SST Product User Guide, available here before using the data. There is also a Quick Start Guide here.

The data are organised into directories according to Product Level (L2P, L3U, L4). Beneath this, data are grouped by Product String (e.g. AVHRR*, ATSR*, OSTIA), then processing version (v01.0), and indicative date for the file, expressed as yyyy/mm/dd.


Who to contact

If you have queries about these pages or about obtaining the ESA CCI SST data from NEODC/CEMS/CEDA then you should contact CEDA Support. Your query should be answered within one working day. When follow-up work is required, the CEMS/CEDA support will carry out the work as quickly and efficiently as possible, and in any case, the user will be kept informed of progress. If you have any questions concerning scientific issues such as details of the retrieval algorithm, or characteristics of the data then you should contact the ESA SST CCI science leader.

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