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.

Changing Planet