Lake surface water temperatures of European Alpine lakes (1989–2013) based on the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) 1 km data set

Riffler, Michael; Lieberherr, Gian-Duri; Wunderle, Stefan (2015). Lake surface water temperatures of European Alpine lakes (1989–2013) based on the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) 1 km data set. Earth System Science Data, 7(1), pp. 1-17. Copernicus Publications 10.5194/essd-7-1-2015

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Lake water temperature (LWT) is an important driver of lake ecosystems and it has been identified as an indicator of climate change. Consequently, the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) lists LWT as an essential climate variable. Although for some European lakes long in situ time series of LWT do exist, many lakes are not observed or only on a non-regular basis making these observations insufficient for climate monitoring. Satellite data can provide the information needed. However, only few satellite sensors offer the possibility to analyse time series which cover 25 years or more. The Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) is among these and has been flown as a heritage instrument for almost 35 years. It will be carried on for at least ten more years, offering a unique opportunity for satellite-based climate studies. Herein we present a satellite-based lake surface water temperature (LSWT) data set for European water bodies in or near the Alps based on the extensive AVHRR 1 km data record (1989–2013) of the Remote Sensing Research Group at the University of Bern. It has been compiled out of AVHRR/2 (NOAA-07, -09, -11, -14) and AVHRR/3 (NOAA-16, -17, -18, -19 and MetOp-A) data. The high accuracy needed for climate related studies requires careful pre-processing and consideration of the atmospheric state. The LSWT retrieval is based on a simulation-based scheme making use of the Radiative Transfer for TOVS (RTTOV) Version 10 together with ERA-interim reanalysis data from the European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasts. The resulting LSWTs were extensively compared with in situ measurements from lakes with various sizes between 14 and 580 km2 and the resulting biases and RMSEs were found to be within the range of −0.5 to 0.6 K and 1.0 to 1.6 K, respectively. The upper limits of the reported errors could be rather attributed to uncertainties in the data comparison between in situ and satellite observations than inaccuracies of the satellite retrieval. An inter-comparison with the standard Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) Land Surface Temperature product exhibits RMSEs and biases in the range of 0.6 to 0.9 and −0.5 to 0.2 K, respectively. The cross-platform consistency of the retrieval was found to be within ~ 0.3 K. For one lake, the satellite-derived trend was compared with the trend of in situ measurements and both were found to be similar. Thus, orbital drift is not causing artificial temperature trends in the data set. A comparison with LSWT derived through global sea surface temperature (SST) algorithms shows lower RMSEs and biases for the simulation-based approach. A running project will apply the developed method to retrieve LSWT for all of Europe to derive the climate signal of the last 30 years. The data are available at doi:10.1594/PANGAEA.831007.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > Physical Geography > Unit Remote Sensing
10 Strategic Research Centers > Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography

Graduate School:

Graduate School of Climate Sciences

UniBE Contributor:

Riffler, Michael, Lieberherr, Gian-Duri, Wunderle, Stefan


900 History > 910 Geography & travel
500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology




Copernicus Publications




Monika Wälti-Stampfli

Date Deposited:

18 Feb 2015 08:57

Last Modified:

28 Feb 2024 02:51

Publisher DOI:





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