Last year was wettest on record

New York Times / January 13, 2011

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NEW YORK — New government figures show that 2010 was the wettest year in the historical record, and it tied 2005 as the hottest year since record-keeping began in 1880.

The new figures confirm that 2010 will go down as one of the more remarkable years in the annals of climatology.

It featured prodigious snowstorms that broke seasonal records in the United States and Europe; a record-shattering summer heat wave that scorched Russia; floods that drove people from their homes Pakistan, Australia, California, Tennessee, and elsewhere; a severe die-off of coral reefs; and a continuation in the trend to global climate warming.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported yesterday that the global average surface temperature for 2010 had tied the record set in 2005. In the NOAA version, the 2010 temperature was 1.12 degrees Fahrenheit above the average for the 20th century, which was 57 degrees.

It was the 34th year running that global temperatures have been above the 20th century average; the last below-average year was 1976. The new figures show that nine of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since the beginning of 2001.

The earth has been warming in fits and starts for decades, and a large majority of climatologists say that is because humans are releasing heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The carbon dioxide level has increased about 40 percent since the Industrial Revolution.

“The climate is continuing to show the influence of greenhouse gases,’’ said David Easterling, a scientist at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.

Aside from NASA and NOAA, a research center in Britain compiles a global temperature record. That unit has yet to report its figures for 2010.

The data sets are compiled by slightly different methods, and in the British figures, the previous warmest year on record was 1998.