Air temperature (Ta) is a required input in a wide range of applications, e.g., agriculture. Land Surface Temperature (LST) products from Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) are widely used to estimate Ta. Previous studies of these products in Ta estimation, however, were generally applied in small areas and with a small number of meteorological stations. This study designed both temporal and spatial experiments to estimate 8-day and daily maximum and minimum Ta (Tmax and Tmin) on three spatial scales: climate zone, continental and global scales from 2009 to 2018, using the Random Forest (RF) method based on MODIS LST products and other auxiliary data. Factors contributing to the relation between LST and Ta were determined based on physical models and equations. Temporal and spatial experiments were defined by the rules of dividing the training and validation datasets for the RF method, in which the stations selected in the training dataset were all included or not in the validation dataset. The RF model was first trained and validated on each spatial scale, respectively. On a global scale, model accuracy with a determination coefficient (R2
) > 0.96 and root mean square error (RMSE) < 1.96 °C and R2
> 0.95 and RMSE < 2.55 °C was achieved for 8-day and daily Ta estimations, respectively, in both temporal and spatial experiments. Then the model was trained and cross-validated on each spatial scale. The results showed that the data size and station distribution of the study area were the main factors influencing the model performance at different spatial scales. Finally, the spatial patterns of the model performance and variable importance were analyzed. Both daytime and nighttime LST had a significant contribution in the 8-day Tmax estimation on all the three spatial scales; while their contribution in daily Tmax estimation varied over different continents or climate zones. This study was expected to improve our understanding of Ta estimation in terms of accuracy variations and influencing variables on different spatial and temporal scales. The future work mainly includes identifying underlying mechanisms of estimation errors and the uncertainty sources of Ta estimation from a local to a global scale.
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