NOAA – State of the Climate: The importance of data

Recently NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) released the 2010 State of the Climate. The State of the Climate is an annual report that summarizes the climate conditions around the world over the time period of a calendar year. All the reports are available online through the National Climatic Data Center website. []

The annual State of the Climate is a record of the conditions around the globe and provides an excellent reference for beginning studies of climate. If you are participating in the GLOBE Student Climate Research Campaign [SCRC], you might consider using the most recent report – or bits of information from it relevant to your location or region – as a resource in the classroom or as baseline knowledge.

The full report is rather long and provides detailed summaries of: Global climate, Global Oceans, Tropics, The Arctic, Antarctica, Seasonal Summaries and Regional Climates. The Regional climates map very closely to the six GLOBE Regions. [] If you were to read the full report, the main thing that you would note is that all of the statements and summaries are based on data. As you are aware, scientists base their claims and hypotheses on data – if you have ever conducted a research investigation as part of GLOBE, you collected data through protocols or acquired data through the GLOBE dataset or another dataset.

Datasets that are comprehensive, meaning they have a high density of observations both spatially (distance) and temporally (time), are critical for the ability to fully analyze the state of the Earth. The scientific community has identified several variables that are very important to the study of climate. These Essential Climate Variables – or ECVs – are defined by the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS). They have identified certain variables as being the most critical pieces of information to building a complete picture of Earth’s climate.

A sub-set of the Essential Climate Variables included in the 2011 State of the Climate report are considered “fully monitored”. This means that across much of the world they are monitored and analyzed and are documented in a long-term dataset. The atmospheric surface variables are many of the same variables GLOBE students have been collecting for 1.5 decades! They include: air temperature, precipitation, air pressure, and water vapor.

Much more data is required to fully monitor climate. If you visit the GCOS Essential Climate Variables website you will see the full listing. The NOAA State of the Climate report identifies several other climate variables that are very important and considered in their report – again, many linking directly to GLOBE protocols: soils moisture, permafrost, biomass, surface ground temperature, and land cover.

By participating in GLOBE and in the Student Climate Research Campaign, you can assist this global effort of monitoring Earth’s climate by collecting and entering data using GLOBE protocols. The starting point for data collection using GLOBE protocols for the SCRC includes air temperature, precipitation, soil temperature and land cover. Which Essential Climate Variables do you currently collect and report? Which ones would you consider adding to help monitor Mother Earth? Share with us on Facebook (GLOBE Science Network) or Twitter (@GLOBE_Program) or post a comment here!

BAMS State of the Climate Report (2010 – 2005)

NOAA/NCDC State of the Climate Global Analysis – July 2011


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