While it might seem cold in much of the nation this winter, and quite frankly it is, that wasn't the case for the world last year. 2010 matched 2005 as the hottest year on record (quite likely as the hottest year in human history given recent climate change).
Derek Arndt, who heads the climate monitoring branch at NOAA's National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., said the new data should be viewed in the context of the record retreat of snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere at the end of the melt season and a near-record retreat of Arctic sea ice.
"Together across the board, it was an unusual year, and a year that in many ways was a culmination of what we've been seeing for the past several years," Arndt said.
But of course, climate change isn't just about global warming. It's also about global wettening. Think of common images of the dinosaurs and their habitate in warm, wet climates for a look at the future.
Last year was also the wettest on record in terms of global average precipitation, according to the Global Historical Climatology Network, which collects data from meterological organizations around the world.
But the rate of precipitation, like the temperature, varied widely depending on the region: The 2010 Pacific hurricane season had only seven named storms and three hurricanes, the fewest since researchers started using satellite tracking in the 1960s.
Meanwhile, an unusual jet stream brought a two-month heat wave to Russia last summer and helped spur severe flooding in Pakistan at the end of July.
But it's not like we are going to do anything about it:
"Hopefully, this new data will finally convince congressional climate-science deniers that global warming is real and that action is urgent," said Daniel J. Weiss, who directs climate strategy for the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. "To reject this latest evidence is like ignoring strange spots on a chest X-ray and continuing to smoke."
The cancer analogy is entirely appropriate. But we are as addicted to fossil fuels as any smoker is to nicotine. Good luck breaking that habit.