The objective of this research was to develop a robust statistical model to estimate climatologies (2002–2017) of monthly average near-surface air temperature (Ta) over Mongolia using Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) land surface temperature (LST) time series products and terrain parameters. Two regression models were analyzed in this study linking automatic weather station data (Ta) with Earth observation (EO) images: Partial least squares (PLS) and random forest (RF). Both models were trained to predict Ta climatologies for each of the twelve months, using up to 17 variables as predictors. The models were applied to the entire land surface of Mongolia, the eighteenth largest but most sparsely populated country in the world. Twelve of the predictor variables were derived from the LST time series products of the Terra MODIS satellite. The LST MOD11A2 (collection 6) products provided thermal information at a spatial resolution of 1 km and with 8-day temporal resolution from 2002 to 2017. Three terrain variables, namely, elevation, slope, and aspect, were extracted using a Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) digital elevation model (DEM), and two variables describing the geographical location of weather stations were extracted from vector data. For training, a total of 8544 meteorological data points from 63 automatic weather stations were used covering the same period as MODIS LST products. The PLS regression resulted in a coefficient of determination (R2
) between 0.74 and 0.87 and a root-mean-square error (RMSE) from 1.20 °C to 2.19 °C between measured and estimated monthly Ta. The non-linear RF regression yielded even more accurate results with R2
in the range from 0.82 to 0.95 and RMSE from 0.84 °C to 1.93 °C. Using RF, the two best modeled months were July and August and the two worst months were January and February. The four most predictive variables were day/nighttime LST, elevation, and latitude. Using the developed RF models, spatial maps of the monthly average Ta at a spatial resolution of 1 km were generated for Mongolia (~1566 × 106
). This spatial dataset might be useful for various environmental applications. The method is transparent and relatively easy to implement.
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