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Global Temperatures Continue to Rise

This map represents global temperature anomalies averaged from 2008 through 2012. Credit: NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies/NASA Goddard's Scientific Visualization Studio.

This map represents global temperature anomalies averaged from 2008 through 2012. Credit: NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies/NASA Goddard's Scientific Visualization Studio.

This week, scientists at NASA released their global climate analysis for 2012 which revealed that Earth continues to experience warmer temperatures than several decades ago. The past year was the ninth warmest year on record since 1880, continuing what appears to be a long-term global trend of rising temperatures. The ten warmest years in the 132-year record have all occurred since 1998, and the last year that was cooler than average was 1976. The hottest years on record were 2010 and 2005.

The analysis was done by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) which monitors global surface temperatures on an ongoing basis, comparing temperatures around the globe to the average global temperature from the mid-20th century.

In 2012, the average temperature was about 14.6 degrees Celsius (58.3 degrees Fahrenheit). This is .55 degrees C (1.0 degree F) warmer than the mid-20th century baseline, with the global average temperature having risen about 0.8 degrees C (1.4 degrees F) since 1880. The majority of that change has occurred in the past forty years.

Additionally, last week the US National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) released their latest climate report from 2012 and found that it was the warmest year ever recorded in the contiguous United States. The average temperature for the contiguous United States for 2012 was 13 degrees C (55.3 degrees F) which was 3.2°F above the 20th century average.

The map depicts temperature anomalies, or changes, by region in 2012; while the line plot above shows yearly temperature anomalies from 1880 to 2011 as recorded by NASA GISS, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Climatic Data Center, the Japanese Meteorological Agency, and the Met Office Hadley Centre in the United Kingdom. NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

The map depicts temperature anomalies, or changes, by region in 2012; while the line plot above shows yearly temperature anomalies from 1880 to 2011 as recorded by NASA GISS, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Climatic Data Center, the Japanese Meteorological Agency, and the Met Office Hadley Centre in the United Kingdom. NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

The data was gathered by NASA GISS, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Climatic Data Center, the Japanese Meteorological Agency, and the Met Office Hadley Centre in the United Kingdom. All four institutions tally temperature data from stations around the world and make independent judgments about whether the year was warm or cool compared to other years. Though there are minor variations from year to year, all four records show peaks and valleys in sync with each other. All show rapid warming in the past few decades, and all show the last decade as the warmest.

Scientists emphasize that weather patterns cause fluctuations in average temperatures from year to year, but the continued increase in greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere assures that there will be a long-term rise in global temperatures. Each individual year will not necessarily be warmer than the previous year, but scientists expect each decade to be warmer than the previous decade.

“One more year of numbers isn’t in itself significant,” GISS climatologist Gavin Schmidt said. “What matters is this decade is warmer than the last decade, and that decade was warmer than the decade before. The planet is warming. The reason it’s warming is because we are pumping increasing amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.”

See an interactive global temperature map from New Scientist.

Carbon dioxide traps heat and largely controls Earth’s climate. It occurs naturally but is also released by the burning of fossil fuels for energy. The level of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere has been rising consistently for decades, largely driven by increasing man-made emissions. The carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere was about 285 parts per million in 1880, the first year of the GISS temperature record. By 1960, the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration, measured at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Observatory, was about 315 parts per million. Today, that measurement exceeds 390 parts per million.

The continental U.S. endured its warmest year on record by far, according to NOAA, the official keeper of U.S. weather records. NOAA also announced that global temperatures were 10th warmest on record by their analysis methods.

“The U.S. temperatures in the summer of 2012 are an example of a new trend of outlying seasonal extremes that are warmer than the hottest seasonal temperatures of the mid-20th century,” NASA GISS director James E. Hansen said. “The climate dice are now loaded. Some seasons still will be cooler than the long-term average, but the perceptive person should notice that the frequency of unusually warm extremes is increasing. It is the extremes that have the most impact on people and other life on the planet.”

For more explanation of how the analysis works, read World of Change: Global Temperatures (pdf).

Sources: NASA, NASA’s Earth Observatory

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Dampe January 17, 2013, 2:10 AM

    i don’t know about you guys, but i like my Winters hot and my Summers scorching!

  • R2D2Censored January 17, 2013, 2:45 AM

    Since Sheik Obama was first “sworn in” in 2009; nothing coming out of NASA (Or, NOAA for that matter!) can be believed; since one of the first things he did was make NASA (And NOAA) Federal Propaganda Ministries for the Marxist Environmental Agenda!!!

    • Torbjörn Larsson January 17, 2013, 11:59 AM

      Supply your evidence for unreliability, or stop trolling science sites. These agencies says the same as the climate scientists all over the world.

  • zkank January 17, 2013, 2:53 AM

    Nothing more than a funding prospect.
    Only alarmist climate scientists are getting funding, these days.

    After last year’s record cold temps in Europe killed almost 1,000 people last year, I’d like to hear the opinions of survivors.

    We’ve been warming for ~ the past 10,000 years – the end of the last ice age.
    Only 100 million years ago, Antarctica was a tropical paradise.
    For the Gore cult, don’t worry – eventually it will be icy cold again!

    • esmifra January 17, 2013, 5:23 AM

      You should know what you are talking about before writing things like
      that. The winter was colder than usual yes. But if you make a year
      average it still was hotter than any year on the last century,

      And
      if temperatures keep on rising europe will get colder winters that is
      to be expected. Europe is warmer than other places on earth at same
      latitude because of the gulf stream that runs from the west side of the
      atlantic to the east, bringing hotter winds with it on the winter. With
      temperatures rising the gulf stream is in danger of getting disrupted
      and the balance of temperatures in europe goes with it, meaning colder
      winters.

      So yeah, you don’t know what you are talking about,
      global warming is as “alarmist” science as the ozone layer was. The
      difference is that with the ozone layer no one disputed the facts I
      don’t get why this is not happening with global warming.

    • Zoutsteen from Holland January 17, 2013, 10:24 AM

      Imagine a freezer with the door left open: The cold air escapes to parts where it is warm giving a chilly feeling.
      Now to translate it to reallife: The ice in the arctics work as a freezer door, it traps the cold localy, and releases this cold during summer. Once winter doesn’t translate in enough ice buildup, it means to much cold air gets blown to lower latitudes early winter and not enough cold air gets released during summer. Once the reserve ice is gone to chill the summers … that’s when you end up with something you won’t experience in your lifetime, but your children and grandchildren will.
      .
      /me looks at his ice tea and wonders about the meaning of condense in correlation with the melting ice cube. There is definitely some cooling effect here! right?

    • Torbjörn Larsson January 17, 2013, 12:00 PM

      Supply your evidence for “funding prospects”, or stop trolling science sites. These agencies says the same as the climate scientists all over the world.

      • zkank January 17, 2013, 6:08 PM

        It’s nice to see what form of science you and LC follow – any skepticism is considered trolling.
        (TL – you responded to four posters by calling them “trolls”. That’s some good trolling yourself, TL!)
        Because I and others aren’t lockstep with the green elite mantra of doom, it doesn’t mean we’re wrong and simply saying so doesn’t make it so.

        Not only do I think that my stack of alternate-to-yours perspective/evidence citation that climate has had these cycles since we gained an atmosphere and it’s out of our influence, and evidence of favourable funding will be at least as high as yours, I think it is actually higher ever since the admitted “any means to an end” deceit from alarmist scientists was exposed.

        Our posting and counter-posting of evidence would be unproductive, and bore everyone.

        Since LC brought Left/Right up; this is what the Left does – shut down the opposition opinion by attempts of embarrassment or accusation.
        I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ll see “comment removed” in place of this post, before long.

        For the record, I initially had great concern for the future of Earth and our impact on it, but the more I read, *from both perspectives*, the more I was convinced it was misleading science meant for financial gain if the panic button is repeatedly pushed. (Al Gore’s reaping- do I have to say more?)
        It was a revelation for me, like when I was in my early teens – “Chariots of the Gods”, UFO’s, supernatural, ESP… wow! …until the more I read, the more I quickly realised these were just scammers selling their products.

        We can agree to disagree, but I suspect that you’re just clinging to your first impression on the topic.

        Because you’re apparently unaware, this topic of climate has been political for at least a decade, and if you also haven’t noticed, UT has included numerous political/non-science topics at this site recently.
        Your “stop trolling science sites” can be debated.

        • Jason Major January 17, 2013, 6:56 PM

          That was an awful lot of hand-waving and name-calling with again, no cited support for your previous claims. The data supplied in the article above (and most others here) comes from nationally-funded exhaustive research by specialists in the field across the world, published after review by respected peers. To get that far the science and methodology needs to be sound, at the very least, while the claims you and some others who have materialized to comment on this article (but curiously not often, if ever, on other articles related to space and astronomy) only require tired anti-science hearsay and a keyboard to type it on.

          Just because climate science has become political doesn’t mean it’s no longer science, or can be affected by opinion like politics can. The data is still science, which means it’s there whether it’s popular or not.

    • lcrowell January 17, 2013, 3:42 PM

      The cold occurs because the polar gyrus that bottles arctic air above the north pole is weak. This permits cold air to reach further south. The thing that happens is that while the temperate zone might become cold, the arctic regions become abnormally warm.

      On the rest you are simply wrong. Sorry, but you appear to be blinded by right winged ideology that claims to trump science. The average American knucklehead is unfortunately susceptible to this sort of rubbish.

      LC

  • CallanTFC January 17, 2013, 3:56 AM

    Carbon Dioxide is not the problem. The problem is METHANE. Where’s all the methane coming from? Well here’s something that correlates much more effectively to climate change models than the burning of fossil fuels: population growth. With an increased population, one thing above all else is needed, and that is FOOD. Areas of forest are cleared to make room for farms which produce millions of tonnes of livestock. All those cows, sheep, pigs, and other food-stock produce one hell of a lot of methane, and the cutting down of millions of acres of forest to make room for farms allows CO2 to linger where it should be absorbed. Solution? Less cows, pigs, and most importantly, PEOPLE. But that’s neither economically viable, nor practical with a continuously growing population. Plus, a warming climate makes exploiting polar resources easier for oil, gas, and shipping companies… Never going to fix it by “buying green”.

    • Torbjörn Larsson January 17, 2013, 12:01 PM

      Supply your evidence for “METHANE”, or stop trolling science sites. These agencies says the same as the climate scientists all over the world.

    • lcrowell January 17, 2013, 3:44 PM

      The methane problem is coming from permafrost and methane clathrate melting. The melting is occurring because of CO_2 induced climate warming. This could well generate a serious warming splike. However, methane only lasts about 15 years in the atmosphere, while the average CO_2 molecule has about a thousand year half life. The long term problem is CO_2.

      LC

  • uptotrix January 17, 2013, 4:04 AM

    It is not because of anthropogenic activities. Variance in solar wave radiation creates temperature imbalance every few hundred years. Cretaceous period was the hottest.

    • Torbjörn Larsson January 17, 2013, 12:03 PM

      Supply your evidence for “not because of anthropogenic activities”, or stop trolling science sites. These agencies says the same as the climate scientists all over the world.

      • uptotrix January 17, 2013, 12:30 PM

        wow…me trolling?? There is enough research done on what I stated earlier, I’m sure if you look around you’ll find plenty of data.

        • NancyAtkinson January 17, 2013, 3:07 PM

          So it should be no problem for you to show us the research and data for what you propose — which would be fitting since the above article supplies a link to all the data and the methods used.

          • maurizio52 January 17, 2013, 11:13 AM

            Data are not lacking. The problem is to interpret and display them for what they are. If we say that a given year is hot above the average of the last 150 years, and then insist that it is also above the average of the last 50 and that, in the end, it is also in the top ten of the hottest years, surely we are giving the impression that this year has been terribly hot.
            If we think of the fact that average global temperatures of the last 15 years, shows no upward trend, maybe even Hansen admits now, the meaning is quite different.
            The sense is that, after a period of positive trend, the global temperature is stable. That is, it does not grow, on average, although some years are warmer, other years are cooler. This implies that the mathematical models predicting an increase in temperature that is not happening, have some flaw.
            Some call this an inconvenient truth, especially for institutions that, on these “models”, are basing their public funding and their political agenda, rather than scientific research.

            Oh, if I had a penny for every Torb’s troll complaint… :-)

            Kind regards.

    • lcrowell January 17, 2013, 3:48 PM

      This has been looked at and ruled out. There is no long term solar forcing outside of the 11 year solar cycle. The last decade was during a period of solar minimum, which kept climate heating somewhat ameliorated. We are now entering a solar max. However you look at it the period from 1998 to 2012 has seen the 12 warmest years on record.

      LC

  • TheVeganarchist January 17, 2013, 6:58 AM

    from Tar Sands Showdown by Tony Clarke:

    “new research is raising disturbing concerns that the warming of the north through greenhouse gas emissions may be triggering a self-perpetuating climate time bomb trapped in the permafrost.”

    “according to results of a 2008 study published by nature, the thawing of the permafrost releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at a rate that is five times faster than anticipated.”

    “as thawed permafrost releases greenhouse gases, which, in turn, trap more heat in the atmosphere, more permafrost thaws, creating a continuous self-perpetuating cycle.

    “the higher the temperature gets, the more permafrost we melt, the more tendency it is to become a more vicious cycle,” said chris field, director of global ecology at the carnegie institution in washington, dc.”

    “in the summer of 2008, the journal science published a study showing that one kind of carbon trapped in the permafrost, called yedoma, is much more prevalent than originally thought and may amount to 100 times the volume of carbon released into the air each year by the burning of fossil fuels”

    and the following is a quote from Conquest of the Planet of the Apes which seems apropo, “Lousy human bastards!”

    • Jason Major January 18, 2013, 12:08 AM

      Permafrost may very well become a major contributor to CO2 buildup in the atmosphere. Climate scientists have been eyeing that for quite some time now. I don’t know when and if it might surpass the level from human activity, but it’s not a good sleeping beast to wake up.

  • Sed January 17, 2013, 1:41 PM

    Why is no one questioning the persistent contrails crisscrossing our sky’s for years … does this not contribute to the warming trends? Weather management, Solar radiation management, climate control, force muliplier ……

  • Simon Donaldson January 17, 2013, 4:14 PM

    I don’t think I’ll join in on the arguments, but what I will say…

    I’m curious… there’s a lot of people moaning loudly about the climate out there and very little being done about it. People can do as much research as the want – they can get as many figures as they deem fit, they can point fingers and put blame onto anything they please, but at the end of the day, unless something is done, the ice caps ARE going to melt (At least, i presume they will) the cause is important, but I think it’s a little late to fix at this stage in the game, considering how quickly it seems to be progressing.

    Personally, I haven’t a clue how to fix our climate (Or, if it’s natural warming, does it need “fixing”? :P) – so I won’t pretend like I do. Here’s hoping someone figures it out before we’re all drowning and the Scottish mountains turn into Amazonian rain Forests.

    • TheDirtBoy January 18, 2013, 1:32 AM

      Why is so little being done? That can be answered in a single word, POLITICS. It’s all about the politics… and money. There is alot of money to be made in “green” industry, but largely at the expense of the fossil fuel industry. The fossil fuel industry, of course, isn’t going to give up easily and so we are forced to wade through the political quagmire that is the global warming debate.

  • lcrowell January 17, 2013, 4:29 PM

    The climate denialist have come out in force. The right winged propaganda machine called Faux News has done its job well. The process of turning this nation into a cesspool of morons is working very well.

    LC

    • Dampe January 17, 2013, 11:01 PM

      I’m undecided when it comes to the science. i think there needs to be more long term research. But it’s not fair to call them ‘denialists’ – just as its not fair to call the other side ‘left wing loonies’ or ‘greenies’ (im guilty of that myself). I think a fair, rational argument is good, but the arguments on internet forums just gets too stressful.

      • Jason Major January 18, 2013, 12:04 AM

        When the “opposing” side (I use quotes because in science there isn’t always another side to every coin, and besides, it’s scientists’ jobs to look at both sides equally when conducting experiments) bases their arguments on anecdotal evidence and ad hoc “yeah but what ifs” then I say it’s ok to call them denialists. Their standpoint is built solely on a predetermined worldview and faith in whatever claim, however unscientifically supported, strengthens it. And yes, the arguments do get tedious… not unlike a “but why?” argument with a child.

        The only difference is that the child eventually grows up. Denialists keep on “but why?” -ing year after year.

        • Uncle_Fred January 18, 2013, 1:18 AM

          Could be worse. Ever tried arguing with a Theist?

          They make the climate denial cohort (as distinct from honest, rational sceptics) look like kittens.

          • lcrowell January 18, 2013, 4:27 PM

            In the end this is a sort of theological issue. Milton Friedman made a lot of noise over Adam Snith’s allegory of the invisible hand. This might be alright as a sort of idea of an emergent process. However, once conservatives paint this invisible hand as benevolent, or all knowing or that the ends justify the means (a uniquely pernicious argument), then this invisible hand becomes a sort of god. This is a secular god of sorts, but conservatives in effect worship at its feet.

            LC

    • Dave Hicks January 28, 2013, 10:18 PM

      Just a few questions? How do we explain the confirmed macro climate changes of the past that obviously have no human cause. (We didn’t produce C02 until very recently) How can we trust global warming computer models that don’t include clouds as a variable? (None of them do, due to unpredictability) Knowing that H2O is the largest contributing factor to our climate and that C02 causes as little as 9% of the green house effect…please explain how a 2% increase in a variable that causes 9% of an effect should be seen as a major concern? Thanks.

      • lcrowell January 29, 2013, 12:33 AM

        I am not a climatologist, I do particle and gravity physics, so I can’t answer these things great depth.

        As for previous warm periods, such as the Miocene there was a lot of CO_2. However, the transition period to warming was in thousands of centuries, not just one or two centuries.

        As for CO_2 contributing 9%, you have to consider that CO_2 is .04% of the atmosphere. That is far less than the amount of water. CO_2 has increased from 280ppm to now over 400ppm. So the influence is going to be fairly dramatic.

        The CO_2 molecule is has vibration modes resonant with IR radiation. This means it scatters IR around readily and effectively keeps more of it in the atmosphere.

        You will have to research further on this. I really do not have the facts and figures on my fingertips.

        LC

  • Philip Wilson January 17, 2013, 6:19 PM

    The five-year mean global temperature has been flat for the last decade, which we interpret as a combination of natural variability and a slow down in the growth rate of net climate forcing. –James Hansen et al., 15 January 2013

    • Jason Major January 17, 2013, 7:04 PM

      “The current stand-still of the 5-year running mean global temperature may be largely a consequence of the fact that the first half of the past 10 years had predominately El Nino conditions, while the second half had predominately La Nina conditions…

      “If solar irradiance were the dominant drive of climate change that most global warming contrarians believe, then a global cooling trend might be expected. On the contrary, however, the continuing planetary energy imbalance and the rapid increase of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use assure that global warming will continue on decadal time scales. Moreover, our interpretation of the larger role of unforced variability in temperature change of the past decade, suggests that global temperature will rise significantly in the next few years as the tropics moves inevitably into the next El Nino phase.”

      – James Hansen et al., 15 January 2013
      (Source: http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2013/20130115_Temperature2012.pdf)

      • lcrowell January 18, 2013, 4:09 PM

        With any new scientific proposition or hypothesis there is at first a debate. In time the evidence weighs in either against it or for it. In the case of global warming the scientific debate really took place in the 1980s. In the 1990s evidence began to support the Anthropic Global Warming (AGW) hypothesis, which puts it more in the rank of a theory. A theory is a body of statements about the world which makes predictions that are born out by measurement and observation. The evidence for AGW is now quite clear and incontrovertible.

        As Uncle Fred mentions the issue of theists, in that case they really do not agree with evolution not because they have clear evidence and arguments against it, but they simply do not like it. In the case of AGW the conservatives are marinated in ideology about the inherent virtue of the market place and AGW is bad for business. Again they do not like it. To be honest I do not like it either, but I can’t go around denying it because of that.

        The deniers who paint themselves as scientists, Watt, Singer and so forth, have been reduced to trying to make a huge case out of a few data points they can cherry pick. The whole body of evidence is clearly against them however. Yet these guys persist and they are heavily funded by the fossil fuel industry. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but nobody is entitled to their own facts. In the case of AGW denialism the ideology, which as with politics in general comes to about 80 to 90% opinion, is seen as some infallible truth that permits the upholders to make up their own facts.

        LC

  • Uncle_Fred January 18, 2013, 1:08 AM

    Its only stable if you look at the last five years. the 1980-2007 period shows a significant increase in mean global temperatures and the 1880-present analysis also demonstrates a significant jump in mean global temperatures.

    It should be curious to see how much of a warming effect the increased solar activity will have over the next few years.

  • Tim Amato January 18, 2013, 1:27 AM

    After we deplete our world oil reserves the human factor in global warming will not be as significant.

  • Duce January 18, 2013, 5:28 AM

    It’s time to find another habitable planet to exploit

  • John Manley January 18, 2013, 11:54 AM

    The ‘truth’ is that we just don’t know; any of us! We have records that go back not even a century and a half whereas global warming and cooling trends seem to be in thousands or tens of thousands of years. We use ice-core samples as evidence but we are still only guessing and a guess is always a guess. I have no doubt that we need to live differently to sustain human life on this planet but I believe that the solution will not come from frightened thinking or worse, using fear as a motivation to get funding (the same thing that has caused all the material problems on this planet in the first place).

    We need to evolve our thinking rather than our doing and then the things we do will be in harmony with all living things and we will create solutions from a place of love and growth rather than fear, greed and lack.

  • northern_sentinel January 19, 2013, 10:59 PM

    NASA has no crediblity on this issue. Get rid of Hansen.

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