MapMaker: Surface Air Temperature

MapMaker: Surface Air Temperature

Explore Earth’s mean surface air temperature averaged from 1981-2010 as calculated by the Copernicus Climate Change Service.


9 - 12+


Biology, Ecology, Conservation, Earth Science, Climatology, Meteorology, Geography, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Human Geography, Physical Geography

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The weather at Earth’s surface impacts our lives every day. The day’s temperature determines what we might wear (parka or t-shirt) or do (swimming or sledding) on a particular day. Weather changes hourly, daily, and seasonally, but if we want to understand broader patterns we can look at climate. For temperature, we can see patterns by averaging the temperature over longer periods, typically about 30 years, of time.

Temperature varies primarily due to changes in latitude or elevation or proximity to water. Locations closer to the equator are warmer than those near the poles and places at a higher elevation are cooler than those nearer to sea level. Additionally, locations near large bodies of water experience slower temperature changes as it takes more energy to heat or cool water compared to land.

Can you see these patterns on the map? Name a city that is warm because it is nearer the equator? Name a city that is cool because it is located in a high elevation.

This map layer shows Earth’s mean surface air temperature averaged from 1981-2010 as calculated by the Copernicus Climate Change Service. The data was collected from the Copernicus satellite and validated with temperature readings from weather stations. Scientists averaged all of the temperatures occurring in one year together to determine the average annual temperature, then averaged all of those numbers together to develop this map.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

André Gabrielli, National Geographic Society
Expert Reviewer
Anita Palmer
Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Last Updated

May 6, 2024

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