Extreme Temperature

The image shows the heat emanating from Death Valley on 30 June 2013. The measurement is surface temperature as measured by the Thermal Infrared Sensor on the Landsat 8 satellite. The accompanying natural color view from the Operational Land Imager on Landsat 8 shows that the cooler areas are either higher in elevation or covered with plants. Image: NASA.


A general term for temperature variations above (extreme heat) or below (extreme cold) normal conditions (IRDR Glossary).

Since climate varies regionally, the definition of an extreme temperature and its threshold will differ from location to location. In other words, an extreme value in one location may be within the normal range in a different location (WMO).

A simple method is to establish a specific threshold for temperature and extreme precipitation events and evaluate the extremes that occur over (or under) that given threshold. Another common mean of ascertaining thresholds is based on selecting the tail of distributions for temperature and precipitation.Statistical partitions such as by quartiles or percentiles of the distribution have provided a means for evaluating extremes (WMO).

Facts and figures

Heat waves

A period of marked unusual hot weather (maximum, minimum and daily average temperature) over a region persisting at least three consecutive days during the warm period of the year based on local (station-based) climatological conditions, with thermal conditions recorded above given thresholds. Heat waves differ from warm spells. Similar to heat waves, warm spells are defined as a persistent period of abnormal warm weather. A warm spell occurs at any time of the year, whereas heat waves can only occur in the warm season (WMO).

Cold waves

A period of marked and unusual cold weather characterized by a sharp and significant drop of air temperatures near the surface (maximum, minimum and daily average) over a large area and persisting below certain thresholds for at least two consecutive days during the cold season. “Cool spell” refers to persistently below-average temperature conditions occurring during the warm season (WMO).

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SAM Satellite

Terra explores the connections between Earth's atmosphere, land, snow and ice, ocean, and energy balance to understand Earth's climate and climate change and to map the impact of human activity and natural disasters on communities and ecosystems. It was launched on 18 December 1999 and has far exceeded its design life, having a strong chance of operating successfullty into the early 2020s.
Terra is in a circular sun-synchronous polar orbit that takes it from north to south (on the daylight side of the Earth) every 99 minutes.

On October 6, 2018 Terra completed 100,000 orbits around Earth.

Approximately the size of a small school bus, the Terra satellite carries five instruments that take coincident measurements of the Earth system.

Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER): Creates high resolution images of water, ice, clouds and the land surface using Shortwave Infrared (SWIR... read more

Launch date:

The government-owned Landsat 7 was successfully launched on April 15, 1999, from the Western Test Range of Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, on a Delta-II expendable launch vehicle. The Earth observing instrument on Landsat 7, the Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+), replicates the capabilities of the highly successful Thematic Mapper instruments on Landsats 4 and 5.
Landsat 7 is the most accurately calibrated Earth-observing satellite, i.e., its measurements are extremely accurate when compared to the same measurements made on the ground.  Landsat 7’s sensor has been called “the most stable, best characterized Earth observation instrument ever placed in orbit.”  Landsat 7’s rigorous calibration standards have made it the validation choice for many coarse-resolution sensors.
Considered a calibration-triumph, the Landsat 7 mission went flawlessly until May 2003 when a hardware component failure left wedge-shaped spaces of missing data on either side of... read more

Launch date:

NOAA-15 (designated NOAA-K before launch) is one of the NASA-provided TIROS series of weather forecasting satellite run by NOAA. It was launched on May 13, 1998, and is currently operational, in a sun-synchronous orbit, 807 km above the Earth, orbiting every 101 minutes. It hosts the AMSU-A and AMSU-B instruments, the AVHRR and High Resolution Infrared Radiation Sounder (HIRS/3) instruments, as well as a Space Environment Monitor (SEM/2).

AMSU-A (Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit - A)
AMSU-B (Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit - B)
AVHRR/3 (Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer/3)
HIRS/3 (High Resolution Infra Red Sounder/3)
S&RSAT (Search & Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking System)
DCS/s (Data Collection System/2)
SEM/MEPED (SEM/Medium energy proton detector)
SEM/TED (SEM/Total Energy Detector)

Launch date:

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