[Skip to Content]

Terrestrial Essential Climate Variables (ECVs)

[Skip to Content]

What are Climate Data Records and Terrestrial Essential Climate Variables?

The Earth's climate is a dynamic system influenced by interactions between land, water, and atmosphere. To better measure and understand specific climate changes, international agencies, through the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS), have agreed to provide satellite-based multi-decadal climate information products covering terrestrial, oceanic, and atmospheric domains at regional and global scales. Some of these products, known as Climate Data Records (CDRs), are time-series observational data of sufficient length, consistency, and continuity to record effects of climate change. Examples of CDRs include calibrated radiances, surface reflectance, and surface temperature.

Essential Climate Variables (ECVs) are derived in part from CDRs, and address the following terrestrial categories: River Discharge; Water Use; Groundwater; Lake and Reservoir Levels and Volumes; Snow Cover; Glaciers and Ice Caps; Permafrost; Land Surface Albedo; Land Cover; Absorbed Photosynthetically Active Radiation; Leaf Area Index, Biomass; and Fire Disturbance. CDRs and Terrestrial ECVs are parameters derived from systematic long-term measurements collected by satellite and aircraft platforms as well as in situ observation networks.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is the steward of the most comprehensive satellite data record of the global land masses, and a participating member of CEOS. The USGS Landsat archive goes back to 1972, providing a valuable time series of observations that can be used to document changes to the Earth's terrestrial environment resulting from natural processes and human activities. The initial focus will be on developing CDR and ECV products from Landsat thematic mapper (TM) and enhanced thematic mapper plus (ETM+) data due to the spectral coverage and calibration history of these instrument records.

The USGS is developing new climate information products to meet national and international requirements in accordance with the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) Implementation Plan. Together, USGS CDRs and ECVs are a major contribution to international efforts to document and characterize regional-to continental-scale historical changes, monitoring of current conditions, and predicting future scenarios.

*To view and print a PDF you must obtain and install the Acrobat ® Reader, available at no charge from Adobe Systems.

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

USA.gov logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
URL: https://remotesensing.usgs.gov/ecv/index.php
Page Contact Information: Ask ECV
Page Last Modified: June 6, 2017