National Geographic

VOICES Voices Icon Ideas and Insight From Explorers

Menu

Globe Continues Hottest Decade Ever

New data from scientists at NASA and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) now indicate that 2012 capped the hottest decade on record for global temperatures.

Although average worldwide temperatures in 2012 did not break records, the average global temperature last year was 58.3°F (14.6°C), more than a degree warmer than the historic baseline set in the 1950s. Since 1880, the average global temperature has increased 1.4°F (0.8°C), the new data showed. Taken all together, 2012 was the ninth warmest year in modern history.

“Every year has been above average since 1996,” Thomas Karl, director of NOAA’s Climatic Data Center, told reporters Tuesday afternoon on a conference call to announce the new findings.

U.S. temperatures were no exception. The former record surface temperature in America was 54.3°F (12.3°C), recorded in 1998. Last year beat the record by an entire degree Fahrenheit, an unprecedented year-over-year increase in temperature monitoring.

“Not only did [the U.S.] break the record for the warmest year, we literally smashed the record,” said James Hansen, who heads NASA’s Goddard Space Institute.

Despite ongoing debate about the precise impact humans have on a changing climate, the U.S. government’s top climatologists have specifically indicted fossil fuels that release greenhouses gasses into the atmosphere. Even though scientists expect ongoing fluctuations that vary by season—rather than a linear continuation of warming—they expect the longer-term trend will be more warming at a more dramatic rate.

To prepare for such a projection, the U.S. Global Change Research Program released a draft report last Friday assessing the full-scale impact across all U.S. sectors from agriculture to transportation to resource management. According to the report, higher temperatures are expected to pose problems to existing farming methods and present new risks to infrastructure and shipping routes.

Comments

  1. Danny Heim
    New Mexico
    May 12, 2013, 11:10 pm

    “According to the report, higher temperatures are expected to pose problems to existing farming methods and present new risks to infrastructure and shipping routes.”

    Where is the surprise here? Ain’t it like, dah? Why would we have to wait years for a reprot like this, a fith graer could figure this out, it’s logical decduction if you have learned just a little about GW, I’ve know what’s in that statemetn above for at least 15 years now, and I’m sure many ofthe readers here have also, what are we waiting for> We don’t need more reports, we need action.

  2. JimB
    January 31, 2013, 3:59 pm

    I have no doubt that humans are having some effect on global temperature. But when you see that the warming actually starting around the year 1800, it makes you wonder if we’re really the main cause. Same sort of warming happened in the Medieval Warming Period between approx 900 AD – 1280 or so.

  3. Jim Ensley
    Canon City, Colorado
    January 18, 2013, 5:01 pm

    Who or what is to blame for our warming planet isn’t nearly as important as how we, as a planet, deal with it. Not sure how to fix it, but it won’t be by pointing fingers. A good place to start might be to remember how much we’ve still got. This earth is still a pretty nice place to live.

  4. Dan Stone
    January 18, 2013, 4:07 pm

    Some interesting comments here, thanks everyone. To respond specifically to Chuck, you’re right, there isn’t a debate about it’s cause. We’re it. And specifically the way we burn energy. But the human race and the globe’s climate are both incredibly complex things and precision will always be a tough game. Hence our caveat.

    Dan

  5. hannahwarker
    uk
    January 17, 2013, 9:15 am

    heyyyy i think the wether is sooooooooooooooo bad

  6. Jamie
    Cardiff
    January 17, 2013, 6:44 am

    Hottest Decade EVER!!!

    Hmmm, how does 133 years (when the records began) out of 4.5billion constitute as EVER?

  7. chuck
    United States
    January 16, 2013, 11:01 pm

    “Despite ongoing debate about the precise impact humans have on a changing climate”

    this is misleading. There is no debate that humans are substantially responsible for the warming. This makes it sound like there is debate that humans are the main cause.

  8. Scott
    Savannah
    January 16, 2013, 12:42 pm

    The highly educated man from NASA says we “literally” smashed the temperature record.

  9. tharanivel
    villupuram
    January 16, 2013, 8:46 am

    all because of sin lust anger greed attachment ego now human being act as sadist animal cool world will come shortly see wwwbkwsuorg