2010 So Far is Joint Warmest on Record



This year is set to be one of the warmest globally on record as a report from the United States states it is currently tied with 1998 as the warmest on record for the first eight months of the year.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have published their latest monthly ‘State of the Climate’ analysis from the National Climatic Data Center for the month of August. The main finding of this report is that globally the first eight months of 2010 have tied with the same period in 1998 for the warmest combined land and ocean surface temperature on record. What’s more this summer (June–August)  was the second warmest on record globally after 1998, and last month was the third warmest August on record.

The report collects land based climate data from meteorological organisations around the world and blends them with sea surface temperatures (SST) to produce the monthly average temperature anomalies on a 5° x 5° grid across land and ocean surfaces (right). Anomaly data  is used as it more accurately describes climate variability over larger areas than absolute temperatures do, whilst also allowing more meaningful comparisons between locations and more precise calculations of temperature trends

The story of the year so far shows that the average global combined land and ocean surface temperature to be 14.7°C  tying with 1998 for the same period as the warmest on record. This value is  0.67°C above the 20th century average.The La Niña currently occuring in the Pacific Ocean is causing cooler SSTs, which will cause a cooling of the global temperature anomaly suggesting it may well have been warmer if El Niño was occuring. This La Niña is predicted to continue throughout winter.

A review of the summer (Jun-Aug) reveals that it was the second warmest on record with the most prominent warmth in Eastern Europe, eastern Canada and parts of eastern Asia. The average surface temperature was 16.2°C, which is 0.64°C, above the 20th century average of 15.6°C. Areas that were cooler-than-average included Australia, central Russia and southern South America. This may come as a surprise to some as the UK experienced its coolest August for 17 years and Germany had its wettest since 1901. Unsurprisingly the warm global summer caused the arctic sea ice to be 22% below average covering only 2.3 million square miles. This is the was the second lowest extent since records began in 1979 and is also the 14th consecutive August with below average arctic sea ice

To put these temperatures into context the output of the latest UNFCCC conference, the Copenhagen Accord, recognises scientific opinion that global warming needs to be limited to 2°C above the pre-industrial average. The NOAA report shows that we could already be well on our way to this threshold this year with a temperature of +0.67°C.

Time series showing combined global land and marine surface temperature anomaly record from 1850 to 2009 (Source: Climate Research Unit)

These warmer than average conditions concur with scientific findings from organisations such as the IPCC that global temperature will increase and suggest it is doing so already. This year seems set to continue the trend of being one of the warmest on record as already fourteen of the fifteen warmest years on record have now occurred in the past fourteen years (1995-2009).

This may be a timely reminder to those involved in setting climate policy on a global scale that the Copenhagen Accord is not enough and they really need to work towards legally binding emission reduction commitments when the UNFCCC next convenes in Cancun, Mexico for COP16.

Summary of report highlights

Year so far Summer (Jun-Aug) August
2010 tied with 1998 as the warmest January–August period on record. 0.67°C above the 20th century average. The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for June–August 2010 was the second warmest on record, behind 1998, at 61.3 F (16.2 C), which is 1.15 F (0.64 C) above the 20th century average of 60.1 F (15.6 C). The global temperature for 2010 was the third warmest on record at 0.6°C above the 20th century average of 15.6°C.Warmer than average conditions dominated land areas of the globe. 

The most prominent warmth was in eastern Europe, eastern Canada and parts of eastern Asia.

Cooler-than-average regions included Australia, central Russia and southern South America.

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