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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 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.

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