NASA scientists say 2012 was the ninth warmest of any year since 1880 with an average temperature of 14.6 degree Celsius.

With the exception of 1998, the nine warmest years in the 132-year record all have occurred since 2000, with 2010 and 2005 ranking as the hottest years on record.

NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York, which monitors global surface temperatures on an ongoing basis, released an updated analysis on Tuesday that compares temperatures around the globe in 2012 to the average global temperature from the mid-20th century.

The comparison shows how Earth continues to experience warmer temperatures than several decades ago.

The average temperature in 2012 was about 14.6 degree Celsius, which is 0.6 C warmer than the mid-20th century baseline. The average global temperature has risen about 0.8 C since 1880, according to the new analysis.

Scientists emphasise that weather patterns always will cause fluctuations in average temperature from year to year, but the continued increase in greenhouse gas levels in Earth’s atmosphere assures a long-term rise in global temperatures.

Each successive year will not necessarily be warmer than the year before, but on the current course of greenhouse gas increases, scientists expect each successive decade to be warmer than the previous decade.

“One more year of numbers isn’t in itself significant,” GISS climatologist Gavin Schmidt said.

“What matters is this decade is warmer than the last decade, and that decade was warmer than the decade before. The planet is warming. The reason its warming is because we are pumping increasing amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere,” Schmidt said in a statement.

The carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere was about 285 parts per million in 1880, the first year in the GISS temperature record. By 1960, the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration was about 315 parts per million.

Today, it exceeds 390 parts per million. While the globe experienced relatively warm temperatures in 2012, the continental US endured its warmest year on record by far, according to NOAA – the official keeper of US weather records.

“The US temperatures in the summer of 2012 are an example of a new trend of outlying seasonal extremes that are warmer than the hottest seasonal temperatures of the mid-20th century,” GISS director James E Hansen said.

(This article was published on January 16, 2013)
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