Comparison of Near-Surface Air Temperatures and MODIS Ice-Surface Temperatures at Summit, Greenland (2008–13)





Citation of Original Publication

Shuman, Christopher A., Dorothy K. Hall, Nicolo E. DiGirolamo, Thomas K. Mefford, and Michael J. Schnaubelt. " Comparison of Near-Surface Air Temperatures and MODIS Ice-Surface Temperatures at Summit, Greenland (2008–13)", Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology 53, 9 (2014): 2171-2180, accessed Dec 28, 2021,


This work was written as part of one of the author's official duties as an Employee of the United States Government and is therefore a work of the United States Government. In accordance with 17 U.S.C. 105, no copyright protection is available for such works under U.S. Law.
Public Domain Mark 1.0



The stability of the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) ice-surface temperature (IST) product from Terra was investigated for use as a climate-quality data record. The availability of climate-quality air temperature data Tᴀ from a NOAA observatory at Greenland’s Summit Station has enabled this high-temporal-resolution study of MODIS ISTs. During a >5-yr period (July 2008–August 2013), more than 2500 IST values were compared with ±3-min-average Tᴀ values from NOAA’s primary 2-m temperature sensor. This enabled an expected small offset between air and ice-sheet surface temperatures (Tᴀ > IST) to be investigated over multiple annual cycles. The principal findings of this study show 1) that IST values are slightly colder than the Tᴀ values near freezing but that this offset increases as temperature decreases and 2) that there is a pattern in IST–Tᴀ differences as the solar zenith angle (SoZA) varies annually. This latter result largely explains the progressive offset from the in situ data at colder temperatures but also indicates that the MODIS cloud mask is less accurate approaching and during the polar night. The consistency of the results over each year in this study indicates that MODIS provides a platform for remotely deriving surface temperature data, with the resulting IST data being most compatible with in situ Tᴀ data when the sky is clear and the SoZA is less than ~85°. The ongoing development of the IST dataset should benefit from improved cloud filtering as well as algorithm modifications to account for the progressive offset from Tᴀ at colder temperatures.