Sea surface temperature (SST) is an important environmental characteristic in determining the suitability and sustainability of habitats for marine organisms. In particular, the fate of the Arctic Ocean, which provides critical habitat to commercially important fish, is in question. This poses an intriguing problem for future research of Arctic environments - one that will require examination of long-term SST records. This publication describes and provides access to an easy-to-use Arctic SST dataset for ecologists, biogeographers, oceanographers, and other scientists conducting research on habitats and/or processes in the Arctic Ocean. The data cover the Arctic ecoregions as defined by the "Marine Ecoregions of the World" (MEOW) biogeographic schema developed by The Nature Conservancy as well as the region to the north from approximately 46 °N to about 88 °N (constrained by the season and data coverage). The data span a 29-year period from September 1981 to December 2009. These SST data were derived from Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) instrument measurements that had been compiled into monthly means at 4-kilometer grid cell spatial resolution. The processed data files are available in ArcGIS geospatial datasets (raster and point shapefiles) and also are provided in text (.csv) format. All data except the raster files include attributes identifying latitude/longitude coordinates, and realm, province, and ecoregion as defined by the MEOW classification schema. A seasonal analysis of these Arctic ecoregions reveals a wide range of SSTs experienced throughout the Arctic, both over the course of an annual cycle and within each month of that cycle. Sea ice distribution plays a major role in SST regulation in all Arctic ecoregions.
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Moderate-resolution sea surface temperature data and seasonal pattern analysis for the Arctic Ocean ecoregions