NOAA: Past decade warmest on record

Brett Michael Dykes

Score another one for the climate-change cassandras.

Earlier in the month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) declared June 2010 to be the hottest June on earth since temperatures have been recorded. And today the agency has released a similarly ominous report: the past decade was the hottest ever recorded, and the Earth's temperatures have been climbing steadily upward over the past 50 years.

In the 2009 "State of the Climate" report released today, NOAA researchers say that the relatively stable climate that's helped sustain human civilization for the past several thousand years is rapidly changing for the worse. As the Earth has grown warmer, the report says, weather conditions grow more extreme, spurring violent storms and prolonged droughts.

The report notes that the temperatures have spiked more sharply over the past three decades. The 1980s had been the first recent decade pegged as the hottest on record, but first the 1990s and then the 2000s eclipsed that mark.

The report--which collects data that NOAA researchers have compiled throughout the world-- highlights 10 key measures of global temperature. The resulting picture, the researchers write, "proves consistent with a warming world." Seven of the indicators -- "air temperature over land, sea-surface temperature, air temperature over oceans, sea level, ocean heat, humidity and tropospheric temperature in the 'active-weather' layer of the atmosphere closest to the Earth’s surface" -- are rising. Three of indicators -- "Arctic sea ice, glaciers and spring snow cover in the Northern hemisphere" are on the decline--but the report notes that they, too, are symptoms of a warming earth.

“The temperature increase of one degree Fahrenheit over the past 50 years may seem small, but it has already altered our planet,” Deke Arndt, co-editor of the report, said on the NOAA website. “Glaciers and sea ice are melting, heavy rainfall is intensifying and heat waves are more common. And, as the new report tells us, there is now evidence that over 90 percent of warming over the past 50 years has gone into our ocean."

(Pic via NOAA)