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NASA's temperature data shows 2010 to tie the record for the warmest year in recent (recorded)history.  (Source: NASA/GISS)

GISS's James Hansen   (Source: NASA)

  (Source: Northern Arizona University)
Record heat ties 2005 -- the previous hottest year on record

According to climatologists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York, 2010 was a very hot year.  While anyone who witnessed the Vikings Metrodome collapse [video] might not have seen this coming, NASA says that data from 1,000 climate stations shows 2010, as a whole, to be statistically tied for being the hottest year in recorded history [press release].

The man leading the report was infamous climatologist James Hansen, well-known as being Al Gore's climate advisor; for his claims that oil companies were committing "crimes against humanity" by doing business; and for receiving a $250,000 grant from a nonprofit run by the wife of Democratic Senator John Kerry. 

Hansen states in the report, "If the warming trend continues, as is expected, if greenhouse gases continue to increase, the 2010 record will not stand for long."

Much uncertainty remains, however.  NASA's data comes from 1000 meteorological stations around the world, satellite observations of sea surface temperature, and Antarctic research station measurements.  But NASA must choose how to process that data when measurements conflict.  In the past, ground based stations have reportedly shown anomalous heating in select regions (such as Russia), but NASA chose to throw out or reduce the statistical significance of satellite measurements, which showed far cooler temperatures.

It is unknown if there are similar discrepancies in this year's temperatures, but one would hope that the data is carefully scrutinized by independent interests given Dr. Hansen's vested financial interest in showing the Earth is warming and mankind is causing it.

If the NASA data holds up, the average surface temperature in 2010 was 1.34 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the average temperature from 1951 to 1980.  Since the 1970s, NASA says statistics show the Earth to be warming 0.36 degrees Fahrenheit a decade.

2010 was within 0.018 degrees Fahrenheit of 2005, the previous record holder, earning it a tie.  In a tie for third place are 1998, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007 and 2009.  NASA says its analysis closely matches separate analysis from the Met Office Hadley Centre in the United Kingdom and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climatic Data Center.

Dr. Hansen reports that the record warmth was especially exceptional given that 2010 was the start of a strong La Niña pattern, which brings cool sea surface temperatures to the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean and should have offered a cooler global temperature.  He states, "Global temperature is rising as fast in the past decade as in the prior two decades, despite year-to-year fluctuations associated with the El Niño-La Niña cycle of tropical ocean temperature."

While this data might worry some, it could actually be happy news for mankind.  The slow, gradual warming shown in the report would likely over time open new shipping routes and improve agricultural viability in many regions.  While some areas might be gradually rendered uninhabitable (e.g. small low-lying islands), humans would naturally migrate to new homes, and the climate change would likely make some previously minimally habitable regions more hospitable.

Loss of species from climate change has certainly been suggested as a possible concern as well, but biodiversity in the Earth's warming periods has increased, not decreased historically.  Current temperatures are still far below these epochs of lush biodiversity that lie in the Earth's distant past.  The destruction of the rainforest and pollution of the sea have been put on the back burner during the climate debate, but represent far more serious immediate threats to our planet's biodiversity.

Other pressing questions include how fast warming will proceed and what other factors may be at play, besides greenhouse gases.  A recent study suggests that atmospheric dust levels may have significantly different effects on global temperature than previously thought.  Historical levels of atmospheric dust are poorly understood.  Further, it is unknown how much the Earth will dampen temperature increases.  Past history suggests that the Earth's biosphere resists the kind of run-away warming some experts' models have predicted, at least to a point.

Despite these distinctions, the NASA report is certainly intriguing and will likely be keenly observed and analyzed by those in the fields of agriculture and urban planning.

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And -
By Dr of crap on 1/14/2011 12:31:08 PM , Rating: -1
And yet again this does not by itself prove that we are the cause of this warming.

And we have no data from the past 10,000 plus years to compare it to, to say that is is not just some cyclical trend.

RE: And -
By ltgrunt on 1/14/2011 1:27:43 PM , Rating: 2
There is temperature and atmospheric oxygen and carbon content evidence for much the Earth's history, actually.

Sure, there weren't thermometers and satellite readings, but conditions in prehistoric times have been extrapolated from alongside other geologic findings.

RE: And -
By SPOOFE on 1/17/2011 12:04:35 AM , Rating: 2
There is temperature and atmospheric oxygen and carbon content evidence for much the Earth's history, actually.

Data that is open to some interpretation and has a much larger margin of error compared to thermometer temps, actually.

RE: And -
By kattanna on 1/14/2011 1:35:26 PM , Rating: 2
And we have no data from the past 10,000 plus years to compare it to, to say that is is not just some cyclical trend.

but we do

So where do the 1934/1998/2010 warm years rank in the long-term list of warm years? Of the past 10,500 years, 9,100 were warmer than 1934/1998/2010. Thus, regardless of which year ( 1934, 1998, or 2010) turns out to be the warmest of the past century, that year will rank number 9,099 in the long-term list.

The climate has been warming slowly since the Little Ice Age (Fig. 5), but it has quite a ways to go yet before reaching the temperature levels that persisted for nearly all of the past 10,500 years.

RE: And -
By Kurz on 1/14/2011 1:40:55 PM , Rating: 2
Temperature by Proxy... Eh Don't like it.

RE: And -
By theapparition on 1/14/2011 2:53:09 PM , Rating: 2
I'd also like to add that many of the warming trends we see now are a direct result of slashing 75% of the world wide weather monitoring stations, where this data is collected.

I find it quite interesting that only the stations that recorded the highest temperatures were kept, and the others shut down.

RE: And -
By FITCamaro on 1/14/2011 6:06:16 PM , Rating: 2
Do not look at the man behind the curtain.

RE: And -
By BurnItDwn on 1/14/2011 2:34:12 PM , Rating: 1
The fact that the temperature is rising does not prove that we are the cause, true. Nor does the fact that CO2 and other greenhouse gas levels have been rising at a corresponding rate (correlation does not imply causation), however, the "greenhouse effect" has been proven on a smaller scale to be real, rather than imagined.

As others have said, we have data from 10,000+ years ago.
Just because you do not understand it, or because you personally don't have that data in front of you, does not mean that it doesn't exist.

So, While we can disagree about the extent about how much humanity is impacting the global temperature, to suggest that we are not at all impacting the temperature is a rather uninformed opinion that goes against all known evidence.

RE: And -
By Nutzo on 1/14/2011 4:13:07 PM , Rating: 2
OK, I'll agree, but I don't see how people raising the temperature .01 degrees is a crisis.

You easily arguable that tree or even insects have as much or more of an impact than people.

RE: And -
By SPOOFE on 1/17/2011 12:13:45 AM , Rating: 2
however, the "greenhouse effect" has been proven on a smaller scale to be real, rather than imagined.

Yup, they're called greenhouses.

What makes a greenhouse a greenhouse?

Water vapor.

How many studies have actually closely examined the behavior of water vapor in our atmosphere?

One, that I know of. All others since at least 1990 have simply assumed that water would cause a positive feedback effect and left it at that.

So, this one study, that actually studied the subject of the study... what did it find?

Water causes a negative feedback effect.

Seems water vapor is only an excellent greenhouse gas when it doesn't have the volume to experience large pressure differences... like in a greenhouse.

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