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FEATURE

If It’s That Warm, How Come It’s So Damned Cold?





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by James Hansen, Reto Ruedy, Makiko Sato, Ken Lo

The past year, 2009, tied as the second warmest year in the 130 years of global instrumental temperature records, in the surface temperature analysis of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS). The Southern Hemisphere set a record as the warmest year for that half of the world.

Global mean temperature, as shown in Figure 1a, was 0.57°C (1.0°F) warmer than climatology (the 1951‐1980 base period). Southern Hemisphere mean temperature, as shown in Figure 1b, was 0.49°C (0.88°F) warmer than in the period of climatology.




Figure 1. (a) GISS analysis of global surface temperature change. Green vertical bar is estimated 95 percent confidence range (two standard deviations) for annual temperature change. (b) Hemispheric temperature change in GISS analysis. (Base period is 1951‐1980. This base period is fixed consistently in GISS temperature analysis papers – see References. Base period 1961‐1990 is used for comparison with published HadCRUT analyses in Figures 3 and 4.)

The global record warm year, in the period of near‐global instrumental measurements (since the late 1800s), was 2005. Sometimes it is asserted that 1998 was the warmest year. The origin of this confusion is discussed below. There is a high degree of interannual (year‐to‐year) and decadal variability in both global and hemispheric temperatures. Underlying this variability, however, is a long‐term warming trend that has become strong and persistent over the past three decades.  Continued...

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