Release of the Global Land Surface Databank

Map of location and period of record of the approximately 32,000 stations in version one of the Global Land Surface Databank

Location and period of record of the approximately 32,000 stations in version one of the Global Land Surface Databank

As part of a continuing focus on improving the observed climate record, NCDC worked with climate scientists, statisticians, measurement scientists, economists, and software engineers from across the globe to launch the International Surface Temperature Initiative (ISTI) in 2010. The ISTI aims to advance our understanding of the Earth’s climate from the global to local scale. In continuing this mission, ISTI’s Databank Working Group through NCDC recently released version one of a new monthly databank that brings together new and existing sources of surface air temperature observations.

The Global Land Surface Databank combines NCDC’s Global Historical Climatology Network–Daily dataset, which includes over 27,000 stations as its foundation, with other data sources from NCDC and those collected by ISTI to produce an integrated databank with approximately 32,000 station records. Additionally, the Global Land Surface Databank provides users with a way to completely track the origin of surface air temperature data from their earliest available source through their integration into the databank.

The data incorporated into the Global Land Surface Databank are available in various “stages” of processing. The initial stage comprises observations in their original form when available, including those recorded on paper and housed in various archives and those converted to photographic or scanned images. The next stage provides digital data in the original format used by the data provider, such as spreadsheets or other electronic documents. All of these data are then converted to a common format in the next stage of the process and an inventory is kept for each station that typically includes the station identifier, name, latitude, longitude, elevation, and beginning and ending year of data.

Overall, the Global Land Surface Databank provides a foundation from which future advances in global dataset development can be made. The Databank will serve as the foundation of NCDC’s effort to develop the next version of the Global Historical Climatology Network–Monthly dataset, which will include more than four times as many stations than the current version.

The Databank Working Group encourages contributions of previously unreleased historical temperature observations from national meteorological services and other organizations with weather and climate archives. There remain large parts of the world with sparse coverage of land air surface temperature observations, notably in Africa and South America and in other parts of the world in the 1800s and early 1900s. Those interested in submitting data to the global surface databank can send an e-mail to for more information.

NCDC’s Global Land Surface Databank online directory provides further details on data sources, the merging process, and other aspects associated with the full development of the databank as well as all of the data and processing code. More information about the Databank is also available online from the ISTI.

For more information on the Global Land Surface Databank, see: