In this study, the ESA Climate Change Initiative (CCI) introduces a three-level definition of consistency between multiple satellite-based Climate Data Records (CDRs) of Essential Climate Variables (ECVs), discusses consistency status and requirements and develops a concept for assessing inter and across ECV consistency.
Climate Data Records (CDRs) of Essential Climate Variables (ECVs) as defined by the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) derived from satellite instruments help to characterize the main components of the Earth system, to identify the state and evolution of its processes, and to constrain the budgets of key cycles of water, carbon and energy. The Climate Change Initiative (CCI) of the European Space Agency (ESA) coordinates the derivation of CDRs for 21 GCOS ECVs. The combined use of multiple ECVs for Earth system science applications requires consistency between and across their respective CDRs. As a comprehensive definition for multi-ECV consistency is missing so far, this study proposes defining consistency on three levels: (1) consistency in format and metadata to facilitate their synergetic use (technical level); (2) consistency in assumptions and auxiliary datasets to minimize incompatibilities among datasets (retrieval level); and (3) consistency between combined or multiple CDRs within their estimated uncertainties or physical constraints (scientific level).
Analysing consistency between CDRs of multiple quantities is a challenging task and requires coordination between different observational communities, which is facilitated by the CCI program. The inter-dependencies of the satellite-based CDRs derived within the CCI program are analysed to identify where consistency considerations are most important. The study also summarizes measures taken in CCI to ensure consistency on the technical level, and develops a concept for assessing consistency on the retrieval and scientific levels in the light of underlying physical knowledge. Finally, this study presents the current status of consistency between the CCI CDRs and future efforts needed to further improve it.