NASA: 2009 Second-Hottest Year on Record

Dennis Faas's picture

With the recession dominating headlines across the U.S. and around the world for the past year and a half, some of the media buzz about global warming has, sadly, been disregarded by the wider public. However, a new report from NASA may change that.

The research is courtesy of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, or GISS. According to the U.S. government space agency, 2009 was the second warmest year on record -- second only to 2005.

However, 2009 does share a statistical tie with the years 1998, 2002, 2003, 2006 and 2007. Some may take this to mean 2009 wasn't all that hot after all, but more than anything the tie highlights the fact that the earth has been a very warm place for the last decade or so. (Source:

Hottest Year on Record in Southern Hemisphere

In fact, some experts worry that people are getting used to all this heat -- after all, there have been at least six recent years as hot as the last one. Also worth considering: the U.S. was not the hottest place in the world last year -- instead, it was in the Southern Hemisphere where most records were broken. NASA says temperatures there were warmer than any other year on record.

"The contiguous 48 states cover only 1.5 percent of the world area, so the United States' temperature does not affect the global temperature much," GISS director James Hansen said.

Warming Continuing "Unabated"

According to Hansen and the GISS, temperatures continue to fluctuate and there will be cooler days, seasons and even years in the near and distant future. However, scientists must consider various factors for these fluctuations, none of which indicate that the global warming issue is going away.

"There's substantial year-to-year variability of global temperature caused by the tropical El Nino-La Nina cycle," Hansen noted. "When we average temperature over five or ten years to minimize that variability, we find global warming is continuing unabated." (Source:

Temperatures Rise Each Decade Since 19th Century

According to the GISS, since 1880 temperatures worldwide have risen about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit, or 0.8 degrees Celsius. That means an increase of 0.36 degrees Fahrenheit (0.2 degrees Celsius) in the global temperature each decade.

And there's no indication the trend is about to change. "There's a contradiction between the results shown here and popular perceptions about climate trends," Hansen noted. "In the last decade, global warming has not stopped."

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