I just posted on NOAA’s 2011 weather and climate announcements, and spent a bit of time at the beginning of the post pointing out how, despite minor differences due to methodology and technology, NOAA, NASA, and several other agencies housing and analyzing comprehensive climate and weather data all show the same clear warming trend. For more on that, or more on NOAA’s 2011 findings, see my previous post.
Now, let’s take a look at NASA’s 2011 findings, also released yesterday.
From NASA’s research news 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.”
Again, it was also the hottest La Niña year on record.
In combination with its 2011 findings, NASA also released an updated version of its iconic visualization showing, in 30 seconds, annual temperature anomalies since it started keeping records in 1884. Here’s that:
Here are notes on the visualization from NASA:
“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)”
NASA’s 2011 Climate & Weather Findings
Moving on from this broader, contextual information, let’s get back to NASA’s 2011 findings—basically, it found that 2011 was slightly cooler (or, less hot) than some recent years due to a couple of key cooling factors. However, even with those, it was one of the ten hottest years on record.
“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,” NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) director James E. Hansen, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, said.
“The difference between 2011 and the warmest year in the GISS record (2010) is 0.22°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.”
And that’s what NASA’s found. “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.”
NASA was also clear to point out that this warming is clearly caused by human greenhouse gas emissions, something I have written on many, many times here.
NASA’s Data & Methodology
If you’d like to know a little more about NASA’s data and methodology, I shared this great video from NASA a little over a year ago, when writing about global temperature data sets, and will drop it in here again:
You can also read a bit more from NASA here:
“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.”
And, as pointed out in my previous post, and that post linked above, NASA made sure to note how similar the temperatures of its data set matches up with others around the world.
Record-Breaking Global Average Temperature within 2-3 Years, Hansen Predicts
The climate is quite a bit more predictable than the weather. And climate scientists (or climatologists) have come to understand, very well, what causes global warming. As such, with a bit of knowledge about what to expect from various factors, they can easily make long-term or even medium-term predictions.
With human greenhouse gas emissions continuing to rise globally, being in a low solar activity period for a few years now, and with an El Niño expected within two or three years, it’s pretty clear to Hansen that we can expect a new global average temperature fairly soon.
“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,” NASA reports.
“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.”