February 23, 2009

2008: Earth’s coolest year since 2000

U.S. space agency climatologists say 2008 was the coolest year since 2000 but the ninth warmest since continuous records were started in 1880.

Scientists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York said the Earth's 10 warmest years on record have occurred between 1997 and 2008.

GISS climatologists said the planet's average surface air temperature was 0.79 degrees Fahrenheit above the global mean for 1951 to 1980, the baseline period for the study. Most of the world was either near normal or warmer during 2008 than the norm.

The scientists said Eurasia, the Arctic and the Antarctic Peninsula were exceptionally warm, while much of the Pacific Ocean was cooler than the long-term average due to a strong La Nina that existed during the first half of the year.

The research team said U.S. temperatures last year weren't much different than during the 1951-80 period mean, which makes it cooler than all the previous years this decade.

Given our expectation that the next El Nino will begin this year or in 2010, it still seems likely that a new global surface air temperature record will be set within the next one to two years, despite the moderate cooling effect of reduced solar irradiance, said James Hansen, director of GISS.