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Jan. 17, 2008

2007 Was Earth's Second Warmest Year in a Century

Climatologists at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) at Columbia University have found that 2007 tied with 1998 for Earth's second warmest year in a century.

Temperature changes in 2007 from the previous year
Temperature changes in 2007 from the previous year

Goddard Institute researchers used temperature data from weather stations on land, satellite measurements of sea ice temperature since 1982 and data from ships for earlier years.

The greatest warming in 2007 occurred in the Arctic and neighboring high-latitude regions. Global warming has a larger effect in polar areas, as the loss of snow and ice leads to more open water, which absorbs more sunlight and warmth. Snow and ice reflect sunlight; when they disappear, so too does their ability to deflect warming rays. The large Arctic warming anomaly of 2007 is consistent with observations of record-low levels of Arctic sea ice in September 2007.

"As we predicted last year, 2007 was warmer than 2006, continuing the strong warming trend of the past 30 years that has been confidently attributed to the effect of increasing human-made greenhouse gases," said James Hansen, director of NASA GISS.

Related Links

2007 Temperature Analysis

2006 Was Earth's Fifth Warmest Year

"It is unlikely that 2008 will be a year with truly exceptional global mean temperature," said Hansen. "Barring a large volcanic eruption, a record global temperature clearly exceeding that of 2005 can be expected within the next few years, at the time of the next El Nino, because of the background warming trend attributable to continuing increases of greenhouse gases."

The eight warmest years in the GISS record have all occurred since 1998, and the 14 warmest years in the record have all occurred since 1990.

A minor data processing error found in the GISS temperature analysis in early 2007 does not affect the present analysis. The data processing flaw was the result of a failure to apply NOAA adjustments to U. S. Historical Climatology Network stations in 2000-2006, as the records for those years were taken from a different database (Global Historical Climatology Network). This flaw affected only 1.6% of the Earth's surface (the contiguous 48 states) and only the last several years in the 21st century. The data processing flaw did not alter the ordering of the warmest years on record and the global ranks were unaffected. In the contiguous 48 states, the statistical tie among 1934, 1998 and 2005 as the warmest year(s) was unchanged. In the current analysis, in the flawed analysis, and in the published GISS analysis, 1934 is the warmest year in the contiguous states (but not globally) by an amount (magnitude on the order of 0.01°C) that is an order of magnitude smaller than the certainty.

The NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, at Columbia University in New York City, is a laboratory of the Earth Sciences Division of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and a unit of the Columbia University Earth Institute.

- Image courtesy of NASA