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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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RE: 1 degree C in 30 years
By VahnTitrio on 1/14/2011 1:31:57 PM , Rating: 2
I've always wondered about this a bit too. Not that thermometers aren't accurate now, but who knows about 70 years ago. Also, a lot of the warming areas according to the map tend to be in areas not many people inhabit. How accurate were those measurements 70 years ago and who was taking them for that matter?

Also last year was an el nino year, which may have something to do with it. We are now in la nina, which will likely bring the 2011 numbers down a bit. Here in Minneapolis are warm spell was early in the year, late in the year winter set in quickly and with a fury. Looking at the long term forecast, we may set a new record for consecutive days below freezing. Also precipitation is up, after lakes were dropping to record low levels (some down as much as 17 feet, and these aren't reservoirs they are natural lakes). I'm sure dry conditions pushed the temperature northward (especially in the spring when snow reflects sunlight and keeps the air near freezing).

RE: 1 degree C in 30 years
By zozzlhandler on 1/14/2011 2:03:56 PM , Rating: 5
I left out the question of "How do we take the temperature of a planet?". What about oceanic measurements? How many? At what depths? How often? In what seasons? It is *not* a trivial problem. Also, do the great all-predictive climate models take into account warming due to heat transfer from the interior of the earth? As one who has had occasion to work with computer models, I trust their predictions on complicated matters like climate about as far as I can throw a brick chimney by its smoke.
We cannot even predict the economy, so how do we get to claim we can predict the climate?

RE: 1 degree C in 30 years
By tharik on 1/14/2011 3:41:36 PM , Rating: 3
I agree. Where are the ocean measurements?

It takes a while for water to heat and cool, with the amount of water the earth has it may take as many as 30 years to heat and 30 years to cool. That is probably as close to the cyclical temperature that we have been experiencing.

Remember when the earth is warmer the atmosphere can absorb more water vapor and carbon, hence that is why carbon levels increase. Also, cloud cover increases which blocks/reflects a lot of the suns energy back to space.

For the next 30 years we will be cooling and after that the earth will start warming again for 30 years. Charging people taxes for carbon usage is the biggest scam in the history of the world.

RE: 1 degree C in 30 years
By vol7ron on 1/15/2011 2:34:32 PM , Rating: 3
I don't want to dismiss any claim, which may have merit, but I would like more information.

I don't know how they determine it's the warmest year, what concerns me is the extreme colds and extreme hots and how long those heat and cold waves last. If all that's taken is an average, that means nothing to me. That means if the temperature rotated between 1000F and -860F, it would only average to 70F, which sounds perfect, but not livable.

Averages mean nothing, it's when the fronts come, how severe they are, and how long the severities last.

The Earth has always gone through global warming and ice ages long before "man" had influence on the environment. Whether we contribute to the shift in climate is purely subjective and speculative. The day the weatherman can accurately forecast the weather is when I'll start believing in the scientists that say we're having influence on it.

RE: 1 degree C in 30 years
By SPOOFE on 1/16/2011 11:10:54 PM , Rating: 2
what concerns me is the extreme colds and extreme hots and how long those heat and cold waves last.

That concerns everyone. What concerns me, in addition, is whether or not those effects are natural; if they are, nothing we do will significantly affect the trend, but trying to may leave us incapable of properly adapting. Are we sure we want to make that commitment? Devote ourselves to one course that is mutually exclusive to properly adjusting to another possible course? I don't like burning bridges like that, and the political impatience with this issue doesn't leave me with a lot of trust for proposed "remedies".

RE: 1 degree C in 30 years
By Belard on 1/15/2011 8:09:36 PM , Rating: 3
Uh... they've been reporting warmer oceans for quite a while.

The earth is not going through 30-year cycles.

USA is the *only* country that even questions the data.

Uh... taxes, money and what not matters if we are having enviromental problems on a global scale.... floods, fires, crop failures - those cost money too. But hey, you saved 2 cents per gallon of gas.

Look up the "Ocean conveyor belt" with Google.

RE: 1 degree C in 30 years
By zozzlhandler on 1/16/2011 1:01:55 PM , Rating: 1
How can we be sure the ocean is really warmer? Have we measured enough of it, at enough depths? I doubt it. But assume for a moment it is warmer, is this (for certain) a bad thing? Is it caused by human activity? Are we really all doomed as some want to insist? I think that that answer to all of these is not yes, possibly not to any of them.

We need competent investigation of climate, not chicken-little panics and knee-jerk reactions.

RE: 1 degree C in 30 years
By SPOOFE on 1/16/2011 11:07:55 PM , Rating: 1
USA is the *only* country that even questions the data.

That's why China is rushing to Go Green, right? Right?

RE: 1 degree C in 30 years
By YashBudini on 1/15/2011 7:10:48 PM , Rating: 3
"How do we take the temperature of a planet?".

One rectal thermometer inserted into Washington DC.

RE: 1 degree C in 30 years
By TheBaker on 1/17/2011 12:28:30 AM , Rating: 2
Also, do the great all-predictive climate models take into account warming due to heat transfer from the interior of the earth?

Better question: Do they take into account the variability of the sun, also known as the source of 9.9999999% of all heat energy on the planet?

I seem to remember that they in fact do not, but that may be my faulty memory and I will gladly be corrected. In fact, I hope that I am corrected (with citation), otherwise these climate models mean exactly nothing.

RE: 1 degree C in 30 years
By Sylar on 1/14/2011 2:45:16 PM , Rating: 2
Accuracy in itself to a degree is irrelevant. 70 years ago may have been the hottest year for all we know but that's not what was recorded for whatever reason[limitations]. So by having a hotter year this year, you can make the claim that it is the hottest on *record* which in itself does not literally means this was absolutely the hottest year.

RE: 1 degree C in 30 years
By Shadowmaster625 on 1/14/2011 2:46:41 PM , Rating: 2
Right. It is easily scientifically provable that if you take 3 identical thermometers and place each of them in a different color area, they will all read quite differently. For example, take green grass, white vinyl, and black asphalt. The thermometer placest amongst the black asphalt will read as much as 20 degrees C higher than the same thermometer placed amongst the white vinyl. This of course is highly dependent on the amount of sunlight and wind received.

So the question is, of all these thermometers we have taking readings around the world, how many have not had their surroundings change significantly over the decades?

RE: 1 degree C in 30 years
By fic2 on 1/14/2011 3:24:02 PM , Rating: 4
The article doesn't even mention how badly the ground climate stations are placed - at least in the U.S. If you look at they have been doing an audit of the climate stations sites - 61% have an error >= 2C, 8% have an error >= 5C. Only 10% are sited acceptably. Call me skeptical, but when you crunch bad data you are going to get bad science.

RE: 1 degree C in 30 years
By Nutzo on 1/14/2011 4:09:54 PM , Rating: 2
There are also 2 other issues that result in bad data.

1. The number of monitoring stations has fallen. It's not just that there are less stations, it's the location of the station that are no longer in use. Most of the stations that have been abandoned are in the more remote locations, like high mountains. Because of this the numbers have been skewed due to a large percentage of data from warmer costal areas.

2. Many of the remaining stations are now in urban areas, and report higher tempratures due to the "heat island" effect of being surounded by concrete and blacktop. People that have looked at the raw data point out that the higher averages are mainly due to a ligher nighttime tempratures, which is what happens when you suround something with concrete and blacktop.

They say that they "adjust" for these differences, but then refuse to release (or just say it was deleted) the original data so noone can prove/disprove thier assumptions.

RE: 1 degree C in 30 years
By wookie1 on 1/15/2011 11:25:24 AM , Rating: 2
Don't forget that with the GISS data, historical temperatures are always changing. Each month, the entire historical record changes as part of its urban heat island adjustment algorithms or something similar. Some data is shifted warmer, other data cooler, but the majority of the time the historical data becomes cooler. So the temperature for August 2, 1938 depends on if you look at data from last year, 5 years ago, or today. Check out , a while ago they compared some of this. There may be more info on . Also, the same person that set up the Surface Stations project (Anthony Watts) has a site which I've enjoyed reading.

RE: 1 degree C in 30 years
By 0ldman on 1/15/2011 11:36:41 AM , Rating: 2
History is written by the victors.

Or in this case, the people in control are presumed to be actual scientists.

Reminds me of a guy I worked construction with when I was a teenager. If the stuff didn't line up with the mark, he just said to move the mark...

RE: 1 degree C in 30 years
By FITCamaro on 1/14/2011 6:04:34 PM , Rating: 2
Thanks I had forgotten the link to the site that referenced what my comment said below.

RE: 1 degree C in 30 years
By Da W on 1/14/2011 4:39:11 PM , Rating: 2
We've got one inch of snow up here in Quebec city! I can't even skate outside the ice is too ugly because of the rain. This is freaking Quebec city! No mather how accurate thermometer used to be, historical records shows years when we used to get well over 9 feet of snow! We won 2 sieges against the english colonies in the XVIII century because the St-Laurence river froze by september back then and the ships got stuck in the ice! Today in mid january there's barely ice to be found.

And you tell me you doubt the thermometers are accurate????

All of the snow is going south to New-York and Boston. Something freakinly wicked is going on, some people are stealing our snow...

RE: 1 degree C in 30 years
By Camikazi on 1/14/2011 5:23:42 PM , Rating: 3
Climates on the planet are not static, deserts can and do turn into forests and forests can and do turn into deserts. We only see them as static since no one person lives long enough to see these changes.

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