NASA released some data a few days ago confirming what many objective observers were saying about 2009: it would be one of the hottest years for planet Earth in modern recorded history. The NASA data mesh well with what NOAA and UKMet had already announced. Importantly, the NASA data include temperatures over very northern latitudes, while UKMet chooses instead to interpolate surface station temperatures on coastlines over the Arctic Ocean, where direct measurements are scarce. Unsurprisingly, the NASA data have been shown to be more representative of conditions where observations are made away from land. As a result of slightly different methodologies of constructing the temperature data, the three datasets have, at times, slightly different messages to deliver. 2009 was such a case in which all three largely agree with one another: global temperatures continue to increase in the long-term (day-to-day weather conditions aren’t representative of climate).
According to NASA, 2009′s globally average surface temperatures ranked 2nd behind 2005′s (and tied with 2007′s): 0.57°C above average, compared to 0.63°C above average:
NOAA’s 2009 temperature anomaly was reported to be 0.56°C, placing it in 5th place (tied with 2006) behind 2005, which they report to be 0.62°C above average.
The UK Met Office issued a report on 10 December indicating that they were expecting 2009 to be the 5th warmest in their dataset also, ~0.6°C above average. They went beyond just reporting on 2009, however, and included a forecast saying it was more likely than not that 2010 would be the warmest year in the instrumental record. With a moderately strong El Nino currently continuing, and given the delay between El Nino conditions in the Pacific and temperatures across the globe, I agree with them.
As you can see, the differences between the temperature values across datasets is pretty small. Indeed, they are almost exactly as varied as the difference between the respective values and the datasets’ records. So whether 2009 was the 2nd or 5th warmest on record doesn’t really matter in the big picture. Warming continued through the 1st decade of the 21st century.
The long-term trend of warming has not stopped or been reversed, contrary to what climate change deniers are desperately trying to convince the public, which was proven to be unfortunately gullible. In the NASA dataset, 2007 and 2009 were warmer than 1998. The deniers spent much of 2009 screaming that since 2008 was cooler than 1998, global cooling had occurred in the intervening decade. I don’t expect to hear similar screaming about how that cooling has reversed itself from the science-hating crowd. No, I instead expect to hear them switch to similarly void arguments, as they have done for the past 30 years. They’ll desperately seek to find some way to manipulate their analyses of the data to fit their rigid, ideologically-driven message.
DarkSyde at DailyKos had a post on this topic on Sunday. Deniers, in the face of updated 2009 data, changed the amount of months they were smoothing the temperature data over in order to be able to continue to deliver their message without looking like fools. No reason for the switch was given or announced, of course. Little details like that tend to get in the way of propagandists.
The 2010′s will very likely be warmer than the 2000′s. The 2020′s will likely be warmer than the 2010′s. Until we reverse our climate forcing (establish larger carbon sinks than carbon sources), that trend will probably continue through the end of the 21st century.
I think it will unfortunately take year after year of continued record-setting temperatures before we act on climate change earnestly. Given some of the journal papers I read in 2009, I think it becomes likelier with each passing day that by the time that commitment occurs, a number of tipping points will have been passed already. Temperature and precipitation anomalies will become a staple of the 21st century if that happens, putting constant pressure on governments worldwide to maintain lifestyles we took for granted in the 20th century. Don’t forget: the expense of shifting to a carbon-negative civilization becomes more and more expensive as we lock in warming. We will do something about climate change. Whether it’s pro-active or re-active is solely up to us.
Cross-posted at SquareState.