Our motivation is the need for better understanding of in situ measurements and satellite observations to quantify surface temperature as it changes from day to day, month to month. Knowing about surface temperature variations matters because these affect ecosystems and human life, and the interactions of the surface and the atmosphere. Surface temperature (ST) is also the main indicator of "global warming". Knowledge of ST for >150 years has been derived from in situ meteorological and oceanographic measurements. These have been fundamental to weather forecasting, to environmental sciences, and to detection and attribution of climate change. Thermal remote sensing of ST from space has a ~30 year history, including operational exploitation. Observations of high accuracy and stability come from the 20-year record of Along Track Scanning Radiometers (ATSRs) . ATSR-class capability will shortly become operational in the space segment of Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES), and will continue until at least 2030. The best insight into ST variability and change through the 21st century will come from jointly using in situ and multi-platform satellite observations.

There is a clear need and appetite to improve the interaction of scientists across the in-situ/satellite 'divide' and across all domains of Earth's surface. This will accelerate progress in improving the quality of individual observations and the mutual exploitation of different observing systems over a range of applications. Now is a critical time to initiate this research network:

  • First, the network will link closely to a major new initiative to improve quantification of ST from surface meteorological stations (surfacetemperatures.org).
  • Second, there are areas of acute need to improve understanding of ST: e.g., across regions of Africa, where in situ measurements are very sparse; and across the Arctic, where the evolving seasonal sea ice extent challenges the current practices for quantifying ST variability and change.
  • Third, it is timely to share experience between remote sensing communities.

All these motivations are present against a backdrop where ST is, in relation to climate change, of current public interest & relevance to policy. This network will increase the international impact of UK science. UK investigators are involved across the full scope of the proposed ST network, and have leading international roles in several areas. The network will ensure UK participation at the highest level across all domains of ST research. In this proposal, key world-class organisations overseas have roles in steering and/or hosting network activities. The network will welcome participation of others not contacted in preparation of this proposal. Permission will be sought from the originators of all data used for case studies to make the data set freely available.

The network will be organised around annual themes:

The first theme is an inclusive question, designed to bring together research communities and develop a full picture of common research needs and aspirations. The second theme is a pressing research question to which the network will co-ordinate a useful and unique contribution. The third theme is one of long-term interest and importance in the strengthening of the observational foundations for climate change monitoring and diagnosis.