Link to the UNESCO-IOC website
Link to the Bilko website
Earth from space
Annual sea surface temperature

4. Global sea surface temperature patterns

Aims and objectives     Section content     Data used in this tutorial    



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List of journal references


Images and tools

(HTML pages)

Useful information:

Surface currents

Surface wind

Global currents


East Greenland Current

North Atlantic Drift

Canary Current

South Equatorial Current

Aims and objectives

This lesson teaches you to identify and characterise major global sea surface temperature patterns using data from a time series of Along Track Scanning Radiometer (ATSR-2) satellite sea surface temperature observations. By the end of the lesson you should be able to:

  • Understand the main features and measurement principles of the ERS Along Track Scanning Radiometer.
  • Read data and metadata from a netCDF file and understand the concept of a hierarchical data format.
  • Manipulate SST image time-series data sets using the Bilko software.
  • Construct and interpret Hovmöller plots of SST.
  • Identify and characterise spatial and temporal characteristics of major global sea surface temperature patterns.

Try to refer back to these objectives as you work through this lesson. The lesson should take you about 1 -2 hours to complete.

Lesson content

  1. Working with a time series of image data sets using Bilko.
    opening and examining netCDF structure, and loading individual images.
  2. Inter-annual variability of Sea Surface Temperature Patterns.
    investigating the maginitude of seasonal and inter-annual variability in SST.
  3. Refining the data view
    using a Hovmöller diagram to ease interpretation.
  4. Western boundary current variability
    using the gulf stream as a case study.
  5. Summary and conclusions

Images used in this lesson

  • is a network common data format (netCDF) file format that contains a time series of ATSR global sea surface temperature data (SST-skin data) from July 1995 to May 2000.
  • Modjet2.pal and Rainbow.pal- two colour palettes provided for you to examine the data cube in colour.
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Next: ATSR Level 1 data structure

  Link to ESA's Envisat website Link to the UK Met Office Ocean Research Link to NOC's website