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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: What is the CORRECT temperature for Earth?
By nonmose on 1/14/2011 2:12:21 PM , Rating: 1
There is not a correct temperature for the Earth.

But our present civilisation has grown up with the climate as it is - not as the climate was a million years ago.

If the climate changes from what it is now, then a lot of our unquestioned assumptions about how society works will be tested.


RE: What is the CORRECT temperature for Earth?
By Schrag4 on 1/14/2011 2:53:13 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
If the climate changes from what it is now, then a lot of our unquestioned assumptions about how society works will be tested.


First off, I have bad news for you. Nothing we can do will stop the climate from changing.

Second, what "assumptions about how society works" will be tested? Please spell it out for me, because beyond the obvious assumption that people in North Dakota have a lot of winter clothing, I'm not following what you're getting at.


RE: What is the CORRECT temperature for Earth?
By nonmose on 1/14/2011 3:28:03 PM , Rating: 2
I completely agree with you that the Global Climate has always changed and always will - that is absolutely not in question. But lets consider the impact of alteration (independently of Anthropgenic Forcing) to the Monsoons and Himalayan Glaciers.

I don't want to get into the actuality of whether or not these will change or over what time period - I'm well aware that this is hotly contested - instead this is a what if.

I am in no way an expert on either of these, this is a worst case scenario thought up to make my point

Let's assume for a minute that (over some unstated time period for now) the monsoons were disturbed by Global Warming leading to a different pattern of heat distribution in the Pacific and Indian oceans.

This could lead to very different patterns of rainfall - perhaps the rain could fall in different places, perhaps it could fall in different time periods.

The net result of these changes is that the rain would potentially not fall where and when it currently falls.

If the Himalayan Glaciers were to decrease in size due to a rise in local temperatures (again, caused by whatever reason and without human involvement) then they can no longer be relied on to feed the Ganges all year round as they currently do. Instead, there would be the risk of more frequent floods and the resultant impact in India and especially Bangladesh.

Indian society - from its agriculture to the placement of its cities - is based on the way water moves though time and space; this is true of all countries and it is a dependency that has grown up over centuries if not millennia. If these patterns were to change then the society after these changes would not be the same as the society before the changes.

You may be an optimist and say that the changes would occur painlessly. I cannot say I am that optimist.

Consider another option, that sea levels rose by a couple of meters without human intervention. This has happened many times in the existence of humans, but barely in recorded history and especially not when we have major population centres on the current coastlines.

What would happen to New York? London? Mumbai?

What about Water Wars in the Middle East?

You may not live in India or Bangladesh, you may not live anywhere near the coast. You may say that I have made all this up - and you would be correct!

But the point I'm trying to make is the dependency we have on the current climate. If it changes slowly over the course of centuries well, then maybe we'll cope peacefully - but even so I doubt it.

But if the climate were to change faster because of us?


By SPOOFE on 1/17/2011 12:30:53 AM , Rating: 1
Let me counter your long-winded fear-mongering with very brief and succinct fear-mongering of our own:

If we're wrong and the Earth's climate is changing independently of anything we do, crippling our society with "Stop Global Warming" legislation will kill our ability to adjust to new conditions and cause all the problems you brought up.

/succinct


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