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NASA Says 2010 Tied For Warmest Year On Record 554

Posted by timothy
from the try-the-sunscreen-it's-delicious dept.
An anonymous reader writes "It may not seem like it, but 2010 has tied 2005 as the warmest year since people have been keeping records, according to data from NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York. The two years differed by less than 0.018 degrees Fahrenheit. That difference is so small that it puts them in a statistical tie. In the new analysis, the next warmest years are 1998, 2002, 2003, 2006 and 2007, which are statistically tied for third warmest year. The GISS records begin in 1880." Adds jamie: "This was the 34th consecutive year with global temperatures above the 20th century average — 0.62 +/- 0.07 C above, to be precise. It was the wettest year on record too, according to the Global Historical Climatology Network."
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NASA Says 2010 Tied For Warmest Year On Record

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  • by Amorymeltzer (1213818) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @06:40PM (#34869406)

    NASA also put out a piece comparing different findings by different organizations, [] explaining the differences and why they aren't a big deal. The articles also states that year-to-year measures aren't particularly useful - not only are 2010 and 2005 very close, but the next six are also very similar to each other - but looking at it decade by decade (i.e. a larger sample size) gives far more meaning:

    On that time scale, the three records are unequivocal: the last decade has been the warmest on record. “It’s not particularly important whether 2010, 2005, or 1998 was the hottest year on record,” said Hansen. "It is the underlying trend that is important."

  • Yeah, but... (Score:4, Informative)

    by W0lfRaven (1879918) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @06:51PM (#34869598)
    Here's the temperature plotted over the last 32 years [] not as dramatic as you might think.
  • by goodmanj (234846) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @07:16PM (#34869954)

    The actual data this press release is based on is here [].

    Versions of this data released to the media generally don't include error bars, though they should. But the methodology is the same as Hansen's 2006 paper []:

    "Estimated 2-sigma error (95% confidence) in comparing nearby years of global temperature (Fig. 1A), such as 1998 and 2005, decreases from 0.1C at the beginning of the 20th century to 0.05C in recent decades (4)."

    Thus, the data errors are just a little smaller than the year-to-year variations, but are far, far smaller than the century-long trend. Which is why Hansen stresses that it doesn't really matter exactly which year is the hottest on record: what matters is how this decade stacks up to the rest of the 20th century.

  • by chromozone (847904) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @07:17PM (#34869974)

    NASA, GISS and James Hansen have been busted before (by amateurs) for being wrong several times :

    Deja Vu All Over Again: Blogger Again Finds Error in NASA Climate Data

    NASA'S Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) is one of the world's primary sources for climate data. GISS issues regular updates on world temperatures based on their analysis of temperature readings from thousands of monitoring stations over the globe.

    GISS’ most recent data release originally reported last October as being extraordinarily warm-- a full 0.78C above normal. This would have made it the warmest October on record; a huge increase over the previous month's data.

    Those results set off alarm bells with Steve McIntyre and his gang of Baker Street irregulars at They noted that NASA's data didn't agree at all with the satellite temperature record, which showed October to be very mild, continuing the same trend of slight cooling that has persisted since 1998. So they dug a little deeper.

    An alert reader on McIntyre's blog revealed that there was a very large problem. Looking at the actual readings from individual stations in Russia showed a curious anomaly. The locations had all been assigned the exact temperatures from a month earlier-- the much warmer month of September. Russia cools very rapidly in the fall months, so recycling the data from the earlier month had led to a massive temperature increase.

    A few locations in Ireland were also found to be using September data..

    Steve McIntyre informed GISS (run by Hansen) of the error by email. According to McIntyre, there was no response, but within "about an hour", GISS pulled down the erroneous data, citing a "mishap" and pointing the finger of blame upstream to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)." []

    NOAA has been singled out for calling 2010 the warmest year using faulty data

    NOAA’s Jan-Jun 2010 Warmest Ever: Missing Data, False Impressions []

  • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Thursday January 13, 2011 @07:18PM (#34869984) Homepage Journal

    The trend is flat since 1998.

    No it's not. 1998 was an outlier, as anyone with more than half a brain can tell by looking at the data. By definition, trends do not rely on outliers.

  • by dave420 (699308) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @07:27PM (#34870176)
    No, they're talking about the thousands of years of proxy data that's available, that shows a significant increase in global temperatures in the last 100-200 years, with last year being tied with 2005 as the hottest. BS indeed.
  • by geekoid (135745) <> on Thursday January 13, 2011 @07:32PM (#34870314) Homepage Journal

    Stop spreading that FUD.

    It's called GLobal climate change becasuse even thougn it's gett hotter, the world still has cycles.

    Stupid people assume if the climate gets warmer, then there won't be and snow anywhere.
    Or the 'It's false because it's snowed more this year.' In fact they fall prey to the same type of illogical thinking deniers do.

    The world is getting hotter, and because of the increase in energy, weather is getting more radical. And not the good radical like King Radical, either.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 13, 2011 @07:55PM (#34870714)

    but history is flooded with examples of rising temps, lower temps, higher CO2, lower CO2, and I don't quite see how what we are doing rises above being background noise, in the larger picture.

    Except, of course, that it's not []. In case you're too busy to click and read, it's an article that explains that CO2 levels are substantially higher now than any point in the last 800,000 years. Typically the largest increases were around 30 ppm/1000 years. In the 17 years prior to that article in 2006, CO2 had risen 30 ppm.

    But by all means, let's continue to ignore these things and wait until we're absolutely certain before we go off and improve our planet and (if you're in the US) reduce our dependency on foreign oil and other such drastic, uncomfortable measures.

  • by GreyFlcn (963950) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @08:49PM (#34871622)

    Both Climate Change and Global Warming are unique terms that have specific meanings.

    To put it simply:
    Cause: Global Warming
    Effect: Climate Change []

    If anything, we should be talking about Global Warming more.
    Because it's amazingly simple when you boil it down to it's bare constuients.

    **"Is it the sun?"** Sometimes but definently not for the past half century. []

    **"Are we certain that less and less infrared radiation is exiting out into space, almost entirely in the wavelength we'd expect CO2 and CH4 to block?"**
    Yes []

    **Is the rate of warming significant?**
    Yeah, I'd say 100x faster than you'd expect from changes in earth's orbit alone is significant. [] [] []
    (^^ I need a better source for this comment)

    **"Do we know that the CO2 is from fossil fuels. i.e. "Manmade CO2"**
    Yes [] [] []

    DONE. That's all you need to know.

    With absolute certainty "manmade CO2" is the main cause global warming.

  • by pspahn (1175617) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @08:59PM (#34871760)

    Sure, that's totally fair in an ideal world; however, the forests have developed a mono-culture because of all the fire suppression that has been going on for decades.

    The forests were already over-crowded and unhealthy. The current pine beetle outbreak (which mostly affects lodgepole pines, but can also hit pinon, and a few others) is so devastating because of this.

    In the past, outbreaks would be limited by a hard freeze in the winter which killed all the beetles and limited their range. Also, naturally healthy and diverse forests limited the scope of devastation. Today we have forests that are composed almost entirely of a single species in many places and the trees are all roughly the same age and present a similar amount of susceptibility.

    Once the beetles have taken every last tree, the ability for the forest to replenish itself will be hindered by the fact that there is very little other plant life around to protect the soil. Unprotected soil leads to more violent snow melt runoff, erosion, water contamination, etc. The forest will have a much more difficult time replenishing itself.

  • Oy vey! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Arker (91948) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @09:48PM (#34872404) Homepage

    I can only assume you are referring to the "hide the decline" comments in the stolen emails, regarding the substitution of more reliable thermometer data for less reliable tree ring temperature proxy data. It seems that an unfortunately phrased text snippet can outweigh a strong body of rigorous observation and logical argument.

    That's an extremely dishonest way to describe it. You make it sound like they threw out the less reliable data set and kept the good one, wow! what a great idea huh?!?!

    In fact they used that tree ring data without caveat for most of the chart, then silently omitted it near the end of the sequence, substituting data from the other set only for those years where the data from the first set didnt fit their hypothesis. Then they labeled the chart so it looked like a single, reliable data set produced the whole sequence, and presented it to the world as such.

    Posts like yours show a disturbingly casual disregard for any semblance of truth.

    I find this line deliciously ironic. Perhaps you are not acquainted with the phenomenon of psychological projection []?

  • Re:Oy vey! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 13, 2011 @11:37PM (#34873312)

    You make it sound like they threw out the less reliable data set and kept the good one

    Well yes that's in fact what they did. The problem is deciding how much of the less reliable data to throw out. Upon discovering that a (small) number of trees displayed anomalous results in the 1960s, they could have i) decided there was something wrong (eg. chemical treatment) with these particular trees and excluded these trees only. ii) decide that a small number of anomalous trees invalidated dendrochronology and throw out all tree-ring data or iii) excluded that data from the years which included the anomalous tree ring data given that the instrumental record rendered it unnecessary anyway. The first would have been cherry picking and the second deliberately blinding oneself. Sensibly they chose the last option.

    In fact they used that tree ring data without caveat for most of the chart, then silently omitted it near the end of the sequence

    That is an outright LIE. There is nothing silent or secret about this. The problem encountered and the method used to deal with it was discussed in the original 1998 Mann et al. paper in Nature.

    Now I don't think that you are suffering from projection. You are simply easily duped.

  • by LongearedBat (1665481) on Friday January 14, 2011 @12:00AM (#34873500)
    Agree with all your points, except your conclusion. From [] :

    The focus solely on CO2 is fueled in part by misconceptions. It’s true that human activity produces vastly more CO2 than all other greenhouse gases put together. However, this does not mean it is responsible for most of the earth’s warming. Many other greenhouse gases trap heat far more powerfully than CO2, some of them tens of thousands of times more powerfully. When taking into account various gases’ global warming potential—defined as the amount of actual warming a gas will produce over the next one hundred years—it turns out that gases other than CO2 make up most of the global warming problem.

    Even this overstates the effect of CO2, because the primary sources of these emissions—cars and power plants—also produce aerosols. Aerosols actually have a cooling effect on global temperatures, and the magnitude of this cooling approximately cancels out the warming effect of CO2. The surprising result is that sources of CO2 emissions are having roughly zero effect on global temperatures in the near-term!

    This result is not widely known in the environmental community, due to a fear that polluting industries will use it to excuse their greenhouse gas emissions. For example, the Union of Concerned Scientists had the data reviewed by other climate experts, who affirmed Hansen’s conclusions. However, the organization also cited climate contrarians’ misuse of the data to argue against curbs in CO2. This contrarian spin cannot be justified.


    By far the most important non-CO2 greenhouse gas is methane, and the number one source of methane worldwide is animal agriculture. [] []

    We need to eat less meat and switch to less polluting meats (such as kangaroo).

  • by blueg3 (192743) on Friday January 14, 2011 @12:50AM (#34873850)

    Aside from your incorrect comments about statistical significance and the insinuation that scientists aren't fully aware that they're studying a system with a very long history...

    Yes, nobody thinks we'll push the world into a state that is entirely anathema to it. It's simply that we're pushing the world into a state different from that we find particularly convenient and have come to depend on. Considering that it is humans that like the climatological state and also humans changing it, I don't think you can call it particularly egotistical.

  • by caerwyn (38056) on Friday January 14, 2011 @01:08AM (#34873952)

    The issue with this, and the reason why CO2 continues to legitimately get the majority of attention, is that methane's half-life in the atmosphere is much, much, much shorter than CO2. As a result, adjusting methane emissions is less urgent, because the effects of the methane in the atmosphere vanish on much shorter timescales- the CO2 just keeps compounding.

    So, while methane is a much more powerful greenhouse gas on, say, a 1-year timescale, the comparison is much more complicated averaged over the duration of the substance's lifetime in the atmosphere.

  • by Arlet (29997) on Friday January 14, 2011 @10:18AM (#34876944)

    That means that comparing the numbers from one year with those from another is exactly like comparing apples and oranges

    No, stations within 1000 km distance are actually very closely correlated in their temperature. []

If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants. -- Isaac Newton