WASHINGTON – The average global temperature in 2012 was among the 10 hottest since official record keeping began in 1880, with most of the world – from North America to far northeastern Asia – experiencing higher-than-usual temperatures, according to related reports issued Tuesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Last year’s average global temperature was about 58.3 degrees Fahrenheit, or about one degree warmer than the mid-20th century baseline, NASA said, making it the ninth-warmest year on record. NOAA’s evaluation showed that 2012 was the 10th warmest. The agencies’ reports are based on slightly different methodologies and data.
Still, the two agencies concurred that the data point to a planet that has grown warmer swiftly and looks to get even hotter in the near future. The reports noted that except for 1988, the nine warmest years in the 132-year record all have occurred since 2000. And 2012 was the 36th year in a row that the global average temperature was above the 20th century mean of 57 degrees F.
“One more year of numbers isn’t in itself significant,” NASA 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.”
Last week, NOAA reported that the average temperature in the contiguous 48 states in 2012 was 55.3 degrees F, the warmest year on record and a full degree higher than the previous record-high temperature. On Friday, a federal panel issued a report stating that the effects are spreading through the United States faster than had been predicted, increasingly threatening infrastructure, water supplies, crops and shorelines.
NASA said the warming was because of greater levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as a result of human activity.