Maps, Graphs, and Data

Surface Temperature Global Anomaly Map

Surface Temperature Global Anomaly Map

NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) provides monthly maps and graphs showcasing nearly global surface temperature changes monthly for the period since 1880 when meteorological stations were established around the world. These maps provide monthly anomalies of surface temperatures (land surface air temperatures) as compared to 1880, using 1951-1980 as the base period.  GISTEMP is one of the main datasets scientists use to monitor monthly global and regional temperature variability and trends.

What does surface temperature anomaly mean?

Temperature anomalies indicate how much warmer or colder it is than normal for a particular place and time. For the GISS analysis, normal always means the average over the 30-year period 1951-1980 for that place and time of year.

  • Anomalies: Mean temperature (°C) averaged over a specified mean period and time interval relative to a given base period.

  • Mean period: Any monthly, seasonal (3 months or 6 months) or annual mean.

  • Time interval: Years over which temperatures are averaged or trends are found.

  • Base period: Time interval to which anomalies are relative.

The number at the top right-hand corner of the map plot is an estimate for the global mean of the calculated field. 'Means' are not reported unless >50% of the needed records are available, 


  • Get the map here. NOTE:  You can also download PDF or PNG (image file) here.

Mini Lesson

Explore a Single Map

Goals:  Students will observe images individually, looking for changes in surface temperatures (using data displayed, unit of measure, range of values, etc.) and patterns noticeable within the map.


Surface Temperature Anomaly
Surface Temperature Anomaly for July 2018
  1. Provide students with a global image corresponding to the surface temperature anomalies.

  2. Ask students to study and interpret their images for available information.

  3. Use the following guiding questions:

    • What is the range of values shown on the scale bars?  What does this mean?

    • Where in the world do you find the highest and lowest values (the extremes) of the data in your images? Why do these locations experience the extremes and not other locations?

    • Are any patterns in the data noticeable? Are patterns different on different continents? Different over water than over land? Explain these patterns.

    • Ask students to study and interpret their images for available information.

Document Resources


Related Links

Download this page