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What is the average temperature on earth?

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We were up at Yale the other week guest lecturing for Shane Frederick, who always hits us up with trivia questions. Here’s one question he asked us:

What’s the average temperature on the earth?

That is, what’s the average surface temperature over all places on the earth (inhabited or not), over all times of day, over all days of the year. Roughly speaking, what’s the average value on a graph like this? [Y axis values are temperatures that we’ve hidden]

Spoiler alert: If you want to see the Y-axis values for the graph, click on it.

As the average temperature is changing and fuzzy statistic, so we’ll accept a rough guess via a multiple choice item.

Which of A – J represents the average surface temperature on the earth (in Fahrenheit)?
A) 36
B) 43
C) 50
D) 57
E) 64
F) 72
G) 79
H) 86
I) 93
J) 100

Or if you are more comfortable with Celsius:
A) 2
B) 6
C) 10
D) 14
E) 18
F) 22
G) 26
H) 30
I) 34
J) 38

Want the answer? Go to this page and scroll down to the 2nd to last line, where it says “For the global mean, the most trusted models produce a value of roughly …”

As insurance against that page moving, we’ll leave an Internet Archive link here.


  1. Eric says:

    In question, where is A – J labeled on the graph?

    April 28, 2018 @ 9:53 am

  2. dan says:

    If you click the graph, you will see the Y axis labels. The correct answer is roughly the average of all points on the graph.

    April 28, 2018 @ 10:06 am

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