While the U.S. was smashing heat records last year, the world as a whole barely slipped into the top 10 hottest years ever recorded, two American science agencies said Tuesday.
The global average temperature for last year would have been a record 15 years ago, an indication that what used to be unusual heat is more commonplace.
Now it merely ranks 10th, something climate scientists shows man-made climate change in action.
Last year’s average was 58 degrees Fahrenheit (14.5 degrees Celsius), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said. That’s a full degree above the 20th century average of 57 F (13.9 C).
The hottest was 2010 when the average temperature was 58.2 degrees (14.6 degrees Celsius). NOAA records go back to 1880.
“We’re playing in a new neighbourhood as far as global temperatures go, compared to even the late 20th century and especially the mid-20th century,” said Deke Arndt, head of monitoring for NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center.
A weather pattern called La Nina the flip side of El Nino and mildness in Alaska, Canada, the United Kingdom and parts of Asia moderated the globe’s average temperature. The Lower 48 states in the U.S. recorded its hottest year last year with an average of 55.3 F. (12.9 C)
NASA, which measures temperatures differently, ranks 2012 as ninth warmest. It put the temperature at 58.3 F (14.6 C). Both agencies announced the data Tuesday.
Some global warming sceptics have claimed the world hasn’t warmed in the last 16 years, but each decade is warmer than the last. Even the first three years of this decade were warmer than the last, the two agencies said. Since 1963, NOAA said the global temperature has increased at a rate of 0.27 degrees Fahrenheit a decade (0.15 degrees Celsius).
The last time the world had a cooler than average year was 1976, according to NOAA.