NASA Finds 2011 is Ninth-Warmest Year on Record

Article written: 20 Jan , 2012
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
by

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From a NASA press release:

The global average surface temperature in 2011 was the ninth warmest since 1880, according to NASA scientists. The finding continues a trend in which nine of the 10 warmest years in the modern meteorological record have occurred since the year 2000.

NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York, which monitors global surface temperatures on an ongoing basis, released an updated analysis that shows temperatures around the globe in 2011 compared to the average global temperature from the mid-20th century. The comparison shows how Earth continues to experience warmer temperatures than several decades ago. The average temperature around the globe in 2011 was 0.92 degrees F (0.51 C) warmer than the mid-20th century baseline.

“We know the planet is absorbing more energy than it is emitting,” said GISS Director James E. Hansen. “So we are continuing to see a trend toward higher temperatures. Even with the cooling effects of a strong La Niña influence and low solar activity for the past several years, 2011 was one of the 10 warmest years on record.”

The difference between 2011 and the warmest year in the GISS record (2010) is 0.22 degrees F (0.12 C). This underscores the emphasis scientists put on the long-term trend of global temperature rise. Because of the large natural variability of climate, scientists do not expect temperatures to rise consistently year after year. However, they do expect a continuing temperature rise over decades.

The first 11 years of the 21st century experienced notably higher temperatures compared to the middle and late 20th century, Hansen said. The only year from the 20th century in the top 10 warmest years on record is 1998.

Global temperatures have warmed significantly since 1880, the beginning of what scientists call the “modern record.” At this time, the coverage provided by weather stations allowed for essentially global temperature data. As greenhouse gas emissions from energy production, industry and vehicles have increased, temperatures have climbed, most notably since the late 1970s. In this animation of temperature data from 1880-2011, reds indicate temperatures higher than the average during a baseline period of 1951-1980, while blues indicate lower temperatures than the baseline average. (Data source: NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Visualization credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio)

Higher temperatures today are largely sustained by increased atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide. These gases absorb infrared radiation emitted by Earth and release that energy into the atmosphere rather than allowing it to escape to space. As their atmospheric concentration has increased, the amount of energy “trapped” by these gases has led to higher temperatures.

The carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere was about 285 parts per million in 1880, when the GISS global temperature record begins. By 1960, the average concentration had risen to about 315 parts per million. Today it exceeds 390 parts per million and continues to rise at an accelerating pace.

The temperature analysis produced at GISS is compiled from weather data from more than 1,000 meteorological stations around the world, satellite observations of sea surface temperature and Antarctic research station measurements. A publicly available computer program is used to calculate the difference between surface temperature in a given month and the average temperature for the same place during 1951 to 1980. This three-decade period functions as a baseline for the analysis.

The resulting temperature record is very close to analyses by the Met Office Hadley Centre in the United Kingdom and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.

Hansen said he expects record-breaking global average temperature in the next two to three years because solar activity is on the upswing and the next El Niño will increase tropical Pacific temperatures. The warmest years on record were 2005 and 2010, in a virtual tie.

“It’s always dangerous to make predictions about El Niño, but it’s safe to say we’ll see one in the next three years,” Hansen said. “It won’t take a very strong El Niño to push temperatures above 2010.”

For more information:

More information on the GISS temperature analysis
2010: Despite Subtle Differences, Global Temperature Records in Close Agreement (01.13.11)



28 Responses

  1. Heber Rizzo says

    NASA temperatures? Dr Hansen’s opinions?
    Give me a break!
    See this:

    New GISS Data Set Heating Up The Arctic:
    http://www.real-science.com/new-giss-data-set-heating-arctic

    GISS Shaping Up To Claim 2010 as #1
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/08/20/giss-shaping-up-to-claim-2010-as-1/#comments

    Has 2009-2010 been the warmest period ever?
    http://icecap.us/index.php/go/joes-blog/has_2009_2010_been_the_warmest_period_ever1/

    Surface Temperature Records: Policy-Driven Deception?
    http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/images/stories/papers/originals/surface_temp.pdf

    More Gunsmoke, This Time In Nepal
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/08/11/more-gunsmoke-this-time-in-nepal/

    And, in his own words, see what Dr Hansen thinks about real data vs models:

    “The precision achieved by the most advanced generation of radiation budget satellites is indicated by the planetary energy imbalance measured by the ongoing CERES (Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System) instrument (Loeb et al., 2009), which finds a measured 5-year- mean imbalance of 6.5 W/m2 (Loeb et al., 2009). Because this result is implausible, instrumentation calibration factors were introduced to reduce the imbalance to the imbalance suggested by climate models, 0.85 W/m2 (Loeb et al., 2009).
    en Earth’s Energy Imbalance and Implications”
    http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/docs/notyet/submitted_Hansen_etal.pdf

    If data doesn´t agree with models, then modify data! Of course, this is post-normal science, where science has no place and politics rules.

    • Torbjörn Larsson says

      UT is a science site, reporting on accepted climate science. Stop the trolling.

      • Heber Rizzo says

        And your reply to my links? Science is not accepted, nor consensed. Science is facts and theories not contradicted by them.

        Oh, excuse me. Religion forbades to watch through the telescope and see reality out there.

      • Heber Rizzo says

        No, sir. I´m not talking about conspiracy. I´m talking about common interests and political-philosophical agendas intermingled with economical items, united by mere chance.

        If a scientist (Hansen) states that he modifies data to adjust them to models, or if NASA modifies past temperature records (read my links, as I read yours), it is not my fault.

        If an unproven hypothesis fails to pass scientific method (that is, it is falsified by real data), then blame the hypothesis, not data.

        And pay attention to the change in names: first, it was anthropogenic global warming, then it was global warming, and now it is “climate change”. Why the shifts? I didn´t promote that changes, it is responsability of the proponents of the hypothesis, and they did it because the hypothesis was no working in the real world.

        And they even had to create the “post-normal science”, where models are everything (and you know the drill about models: “garbage in, garbage out”). And they mixed it with a new religion, where there opponents are “deniers”, meaning that the one and only truth is that of the believers.

      • Anonymous says

        Maybe you should stop looking at Youtube clips and crazy sites and dig into the science yourself.

        The only thing you have been doing is cherry picking and quote mining. Probably without even checking if the cherry picked links are actually based on real science or might be completely untrue and just sucked out of the thumb.

        Yes politicians and economics misuse global warming for own gain, but that does not change the fact that global warming is happening.

  2. Anonymous says

    Well, watching that clip looks rather like doomsday doesn’t it……..until you realise that it’s just handling statistics and using a very, very small variance in temperature. Although man clearly has a small influence, global warming (and cooling) is a natural phenomenon. I don’t think we’re all doomed yet!

    • Torbjörn Larsson says

      Like selection, global warming (and cooling) is a natural phenomenon. And like artificial selection, the current warming is man made.

      No one mentioned doom, until you did. Rising oceans is a social problem, and if man made a moral. This has a human side, as all catastrophic changes.

      • Member
        Anonymous says

        Thing is, even if climate change does have entirely natural causes, it’s in our best interests (and those of most other species) to stop it.

  3. Anonymous says

    Stop the global warming preaching Universe Today.

    • Member
      Anonymous says

      It’s a NASA press release. UT reports on NASA press releases, regardless of what they’re about.

      But I suspect you already know this and are just trolling.

    • Prof. Michael O. Zimmermann Ph says

      WHO ARE YOU? Another ignorant, who will only believe, when you have to swim to work… 😉

    • Torbjörn Larsson says

      It is a science site, reporting on accepted climate science. Stop the trolling.

      • Anonymous says

        Of course Earth observing satellites are a part of space science. This makes it then a reasonable part of a blog like this. So far there is not a cavalcade of people showing up, but when the subject of climate appears on UT a lot of people come out of the woodwork to post anti-AGW stuff. A lot of new ID-names show up, which may be sock-puppets or might reflect the monitoring activities by people motivated by corresponding politics that opposes AGW. A couple of years ago a UT entry very similar to this logged around 200 posts in a few days.

        It will not be long before every few years is a new record for heating will occur. I suspect within 25 years we will get the “oh shits” message on this and related matters. Whether we muster the will to address this problem will be one big question, and the other will be whether we have enough time to affect any change.

        It is interesting with the video to stop it at certain years when cold weather dominated. The year 1942 shows cold over Russia and Europe, this is of course what caught the Germans in Russia at the time.

        LC

      • Anonymous says

        I’ve noticed over the last couple years that the Climate debates has settled a bit. Perhaps this is being optimistic, it seems climate science denial has practically become a religion among it’s adherents (dogmatic references to foul scientists et. al).

      • Anonymous says

        Compared to a couple of years ago the debate as reflected here is tepid. Back in 2009 and 2010 when the 08 and 09 NASA report was posted here there was an absolute chorus of AGW deniers who showed up here. A climate blog post on UT a few months ago got far less attention. This report has so far not gotten the same anti-AGW attention as in the past. Maybe they are retreating or giving up the debate. That might also mean they think they figure they will win politically and see no point in arguing the science. After all, anti-AGW stuff is a political stance in opposition to science, and many figure they can just politically get their way.

        LC

  4. Leland Scott says

    Take the big picture … Using the 5-year mean .. It took only 50 years (1890 to 1940) for the temp to go up 0.4 deg …. And since that time it has taken over 70 years for the temp to go up another 0.4 deg (1940 to 2011) .. Thus, in the big picture view …Looks like things are ‘leveling off’ … !! And this latter period was during the highest industrialized period in history … !!

    • Prof. Michael O. Zimmermann Ph says

      where do you derive the data from?

    • Member
      Anonymous says

      That’s a terrible abuse of statistics. Anyone could take two arbitrary segments from the graph and make a “levelling off” or “speeding up” claim. I could come to the exact opposite conclusion if I used the periods 1890-1970 and 1970 to 2011.

    • Torbjörn Larsson says

      I don’t know if you are trolling, or genuinely unfamiliar with the accepted climate science. Since you don’t ask a question, but make a claim that goes against the article, it is likely the former.

      However, in case you want to know about climate, google “IPCC”. They are an internationally agreed science and politics clearing house for keeping the politic pressure away from climate science and making the climate science publicly known.

    • Ken Lord says

      The same type of abuse of data led to AGW deniers to claim warming was over and reversed when one recent year showed a drop in temperature.

      Way to cherry pick the data Leland.

  5. Chris Dieguez says

    The fact is that mankind is polluting the atmosphere which are causing these temperature increases. NASA is merely sending a message that it is happening slowly, but surely. What will happen in the years to come? It will continue to rise. They may seem like small variances to us and we can think it is no big deal, but it is. We live in a huge ecosystem called Earth, and when one domino (species) goes (dies out), the other dominos go. We are essentially destroying ourselves in the long run.

    • Prof. Michael O. Zimmermann Ph says

      The problem with your comment is, that within a decade the HOT years will increase in number to the point, where every year is a record year… We know what is already happening will only be accelerated, agreed?

    • Anonymous says

      When one species dies off another, better adapted/adaptable species fills the gap. Then, of course, there is the fact that a warmer planet will make things easier for plants, as will a higher ppm for CO2. More CO2, more plants. More plants, more food. I don’t see a problem here.

      • Ken Lord says

        CO2 only helps plants if the plants are able to take in an increased supply of it. If other nutrients are limited, extra CO2 does not help. You’ve been sucked in by studies that tested the effects of CO2 where other nutrients were not limited in a realistic way. How much can you eat when your stomach is already full?

        Warmer is better for plants? Really? Is that always the case? The Sahara would seem to contradict such an idea, as would the increased rates of fires in hot years.

        And the obvious point you’ve missed. This change is happening much faster than species can adapt to. It’s already being seen to impact many species of plants and animals where their local ecosystem is changing faster than they can move or propagate away from.

      • Anonymous says

        The problem is that entire eco-zones and biomes have to “migrate” north by several hundred kilometers in a matter of a century or decades. Plants, and in particular trees, have a hard time doing that, and this will select for plants which are able to “migrate,” which means they have fast seed transport. Such plants are most often those we call weeds. Where I live the warm winters, where this year is unusually warm, have promoted a bark beetle which has annihilated the mid-altitude pinon forests and is damaging ponderosa forests. So global warming is also good for insects, including disease bearing tropical insects which will doubtless make there homes in the southern part of the US before long. And these are the nasty diseases like malaria, yellow fever, dengue and so forth.

        Estimates put it that for every 1C of warming, which we may see 4C this century, there will be a 10% decrease in agricultural output. The human population is now 7 billion and will crest at around 9-10 billion. The DOD is already concerned about climate refugees and climate induced conflicts. In conjunction with that more nations are acquiring nuclear explosive technology. Starving populations in nations with nuclear weapons is a potent combination.

        LC

  6. Member
    Anonymous says

    Q: How many phenomenal weather years do we need to convince the doubters of global warming? Right up until New York is submerged by the sea? The ‘itchy’ part of this ticket is that NOW the Chinese are building and driving zillions of cars and vastly increasing the burning of coal. Next up, the Keystone project comes on line, where billions more tons of CO2 and methane will be released. Did I mention that the tundra is continuing to melt, releasing TRILLIONS of tons of both?

    An interesting time to be alive anyway… for now.

  7. Heber Rizzo says

    Olaf2:

    You have not proven me wrong. I don´t need patronizing, but facts, and no, I don´t look for data on Youtube.

    I have posted links to articles that say that NASA and Hansen are dishonest and liars. If you can prove that those articles are wrong, OK, show it.

    If you go to satellite data since 1979, you can observe that temperatures climaxed in 1998 and that since then they have platoed or have even go down a little. That is something that was not predicted by the hypothesis of AGW, just because they do not take into account nothing more than their beloved CO2 forcing.

    But the Team (that is what they call themselves) cannot accept that, so they try to change past data (remember: “He who owns the present, owns the past; he who owns the past, owns the future”?)

    And those are facts, you like it or not.

    But, never mind. Religion has no place for facts, we all know that.

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