Warmest Decade So Far: 2000-2009

Since there is little to no weather to discuss the next few days…I figured this should generate some discussion instead.  Plus I’ve always been a bit of a trouble-causer.

NOAA put out a press release today announcing their State of the Climate 2009 report.  It says the past decade as the warmest on record.  Here’s a graph that goes with it:

You can click on the graph to get a better view, otherwise it looks a bit messy.  I don’t talk about human-caused global warming much on TV (actually only about once every few years) because I’m not totally sold on a “doomsday” scenario, and it’s not exactly a sexy TV topic.  I generally trust my scientific and academic colleagues though.   BUT, I’m definitely not a skeptic either…let the scientists do their jobs and leave politics, religion, and personal beliefs out of it. 

That aside now, it’s pretty obvious that we’ve had year after year of warm conditions the last decade, including this year.  Even the La Nina years and solar minimum haven’t put too much of a dent in the trend (so far! we’ll see after the next 12-24 months). 

You could read the last 15 years of that graph several ways I suppose:   The warming has levelled off and we’re headed for a cooler regime, or the warming has levelled off and we’ll soon resume the warming again.   Either way I’ve heard reference more than once by media-types (usually talk radio folks) saying that we’ve actually cooled the last 10 years?  I have no idea how that can be considered a valid statement.  How do you get that without involving some sort of conspiracy theory?  Not sure.  But as you can see, lots to discuss.

To keep things under control, I’ll delete any comments that reference:  Political parties or politics of any sort, personal attacks, Big Oil, Al Gore, crazed sex poodle, etc…  The discussion needs to be about data and science only.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

49 Responses to Warmest Decade So Far: 2000-2009

  1. Washington Observer says:

    How wonderful to actually have a climate discussion that might remain free of politics.
    I do however, have a question and a concern about NOAA.
    Do you think it could be influenced by politics when it presents data or do you feel we can trust their data?

    • Mark Nelsen says:

      I have a thought on that. I highly doubt there is a conspiracy in NOAA to manipulate data. I’ve met different climate researchers over the years and they have always seemed quite genuine. At one weather conference a tv person asked if they were promoting AGW as a way of getting more research money. He laughed and said if they didn’t study AGW they could find plenty other topics (monsoons, tornadoes, hurricanes etc…) to research. Now also note I said “climate researchers”, not politicians.

    • pgiorgio says:

      politicians make me sick. If I became a politician I’m sure I would be dishonest at times and corrupted by certain influences. It seems almost unavoidable for them…which is why I have never wanted to be one.

    • Oregon Owl says:

      So how is a nebulous data value like “global mean temperature” determined for a year? I presume the brackets indicate 1 standard deviation. The low point on that graph is about 1910, and it is 1°C lower than the current value. It seems to me that variations in measurement techniques, numbers of data points included, and all that sort of stuff could easily change considerably in 100 years. Was anybody even thinking about such an idea as “global mean temperature” in 1900?

  2. Michael Goss says:

    To “counter” Kyle’s … strange posts:

    Global temperatures based on satellite are still the warmest they’ve been since at least 1999. This is not hugely surprising since we had a decent +ENSO event last winter, but to imply that this year has been or is currently “cold”, from a global perspective, based on a few isolated pockets of temporary colder air is silly (nobody claims AGW means it will never be cold anywhere).

    AGW exists. It’s simple physics:
    – The radiative/absorptive properties of CO2 necessarily cause surface warming–higher CO2 means more ‘trapped’ heat. This is due to the simple fact that CO2 absorbs significant amounts of radiation at wavelengths most strongly emitted by the Earth, while it absorbs negligible amounts of radiation at wavelengths most strongly emitted by the sun.
    – Humans have, mostly via fossil-fuel burning, increased the total amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. This is constantly being measured, and via isotopic analysis of the CO2 can be traced directly back to fossil fuels (the carbon isotopes being added to the atmosphere are the ones with the longer half-lives, suggesting a very old source of carbon).
    – The Earth has warmed over at least the past 50 years, and likely more like 150 years. Given the above two facts, at least part of this warming can be attributed to CO2.

    I, like Mark, think some of the more extreme predictions are pretty unjustified (indeed, many have already been “shown” to be too extreme). But it’s a pretty big, and unsubstantiated, leap to go from “the predictions might be too extreme” to “there is no anthropogenic global warming”.

    • Gidrons says:

      Well written and articulate post.

      On your second point, my financial background hasn’t educated me enough in isotopes. I thought all carbon was originally “created” through fusion inside of a sun. How is the carbon I exhale any older than the carbon a mile underground?

      On your third point, the earth has warmed over the last 10,000 years but not at a constant rate. 50 years out of 10,000 is the equivalent of 7 minutes out of a day.

      And in my opinion, global warming beats an ice age any day.

    • Michael Goss says:

      Hi, Gidrons!

      Carbon-14 is produced high up in the atmosphere due to the production of neutrons by cosmic rays, and the transformation of Nitrogen/Neutron pairs into Carbon-14 and Hydrogen.

      Due to its production in the atmosphere, with no “unnatural” input of carbon to the atmosphere, the mixture in the atmosphere is an equilibrium between Carbon-12 and Carbon-14. With the additional input of underground (“old”) deposits of Carbon-14-lacking fossil fuels, the atmospheric mixture is skewed more and more towards Carbon-12.

      As to your second concern, the Earth has generally (but slowly and inconsistently) warmed since the last ice age, yes… and we know, by and large, why it should have (changes in various orbital characteristics of the Earth inducing more summertime warmth in the Northern Hemisphere). The recent warming is at a much more accelerated rate (even if we might consider it “slow” in our short lifespans), and again, a large part is explainable, this time as being due to “greenhouse” warming from increased CO2, H2O, CH4, etc.

    • O.C.Paul says:

      In the 8th century the Vikings settled Greenland. They raised sheep and grew crops. Their was no human caused surplus of CO2.

      Climate evolves and changes. This era will end too. And this will happen even if we do nothing.

    • Michael Goss says:

      In the Jurassic Period, there were even more forest fires than there are today. And there were no humans to start fires. By your logic, Paul, that means that humans can’t possibly start forest fires today, since they were always started by “natural” means in the past.

      I don’t know about you… but I think that’s faulty logic.

    • O.C.Paul says:


      55 million years ago, during the Palaeocene-Eocene maximum, the average temperature increased by 13 degrees over 10,000 years. at the same time, the amount of carbon in the earth’s atmoshphere rose rapidly-but not rapidly enough, given the models, to account for more than a small amount of the warming.
      So, some other processes-not carbon-were resposible for much of the warming.

      Ultimately, the conversation points you make are spurious. The ‘Climate Machine’ is out of the control of mere mortals. Bjorn Lomborg estimated that if all of the edicts of the Kyoto Protocol were followed, the earth would cool by .001 degrees by 2050. And that estimate is a ‘perhaps’. Climate cycles, always has, always will. Additionally, Lomborg points out the cost/benefit ratio of a list of world issues. Every dollar spent on Aids research showed a $40 dollar return. Every dollar spent on Global Warming showed a return of 25 cents.

      Meanwhile, the solar magnetic is declining. Some predict a new ‘Little Ice Age’. The PDO is also on a decline. The tit for tat can go on and on. It really doesn’t matter. Weather will have it’s way with us.

    • Michael Goss says:

      Hi, Psul!

      Nobody claims CO2 was the main driver of climate change 55 million years ago. It was likely a positive feedback mechanism itself (like H20v is believed to be today). The fact that it wasn’t the main driver then doesn’t mean it can never be the main driver, which was the point of my previous reply. Indeed, volcanic CO2 and SO2 output during the Deccan Traps eruptions at the end of the Cretaceous period is believed to have driven a significant warming period at that time.

      The point is, an input of CO2 must necessarily lead to warming of the surface, and humans have added to the atmospheric concentration of CO2 over the past century or so. At least some part of the warming must therefore be explained (“driven”) by our additional input of CO2.

      The low solar activity and PDO cycle could very well lead to a leveling off of temperatures over the next 20 years or so (not dissimilar to the mid-century temperature plateau)… and this will probably lead to more claims of “AGW is false”, but the background warming induced by CO2 will continue, and the next warm phase of the PDO will bring with it another period of more “rapid” warming to “catch up” to that which was held off during the first three decades of the 21st century. Those predicting a new little ice age have little to go on but hope that the sun will continue to get quieter and quieter, and though it is anomalously quiet now, there are no indicators that say we will see such an extremely and anomalously weak solar cycle as to induce such a significant cooling.

  3. Kyle says:

    Where is summer? Record cold at LAX – 10 Jul 10
    Still skiing in California – 9 Jul 10
    See Record low temperatures in the United States

    I forget to include the link to the site: http://www.smileyhut.com/naughty/axe.gif http://www.iceagenow.com/Record_Lows_2010.htm

    Ten inches of rain in 12 hours in Iowa
    25 Jul 10 – Causes catastrophic failure of a dam 45 miles north of Cedar Rapids. See video:
    Thanks to Joseph Portzer for this link

    Most of Canada’s crops are wiped out clean due to record rain and Alberta had early summer snow storms due to freak cold fronts that brought more skiing condtions late into the year. 😮

    • Mark Nelsen says:

      Summer is right where it should be Kyle…in the northern hemisphere. You can’t take any short-term weather stats and apply them to long-term climate debate. That includes heat waves AND cold spells.

    • Karl Bonner says:

      You said it Mark! It’s tempting for us to go wild every time we get a bout of unseasonable temperatures. Generally I think of “unseasonable” as meaning the hottest 5% and coldest 5% of weather events for a given date or month, which means that ten percent of the time the temps are SUPPOSED to be unseasonable!

  4. Derek Hodges says:

    I wanted to add on other thing. The way I view our current warming is its like looking at a temperature graph of 6am to 3pm or something rather than a full 24 hours. Of course if you cherry pick that out its going to look like its warming like crazy but night will come, so to speak, and the temperatures will fall again.

    • Boydo3 500' North Albany says:

      Right on. If you had no prior knowledge of the cycle of day and night and you were asked to take notes of the temperature at 9:00 am and keep track of it for the day, you might draw a graph that showed the temperature rapidly rising. At noon you would extrapolate that the temperature would continue to rise indefinitely with no moderation in sight. And as a further complication you noticed that more people were walking their dogs at noon than at 9:00 and therefore it is very likely that the walking of dogs was causing the rise in temperature. OK, this sounds like a one of those crazy conspiracy theories Mark warned about and he’ll probably zap me! The Truth is out there…

    • Boydo3 500' North Albany says:

      But seriously, we do have an impact on our environment. We need to be aware of and reduce the crap that we put into it.
      I’m done.

  5. Karl Bonner says:

    I was saying all along that no matter what happens in the long run (e.g. 50-100 years), there will be short-term cyclical variations. Trouble is, people are too willing to latch onto these fluctuations to defend their points of view.

    It’s really difficult to talk about this topic without flirting with “politics” in some manner, just as it is hard for economists like myself to discuss things like market failure, or the static or dynamic distribution of income, without raising emotions.

    You also cannot deny that some parties, who shall remain nameless, will lose out economically if carbon reduction is aggressively pursued. Therefore they have an fiduciary self-interest in stopping this kind of change from happening.

    I hope my comment here is taken purely scientific and not too “normative” as economists would call it.

  6. Derek Hodges says:

    I’m not the type to get caught up in conspiracy theorys or anything, to me if it makes sense I go with it. The science presented behind global warming based on CO2 does not make sense to me. Not just because I want it to be a certain way. To me when I look at things like the solar cycle and PDO and see their direct effect that to me says that those control a lot of the warmth and cooling. Or the fact that the earth has been warmer and has been cooler and has mechanisms to combat a runaway effect. I think its just a lot of hype over nothing. Sure lets improve our pollution control, but lets not confuse the two.

    • O.C.Paul says:

      I agree completely. Scientists following the solar magnetic say we are headed into a cooling trend. August, 2008 was the first month in 100 years in which there were no solar flares.

      I’m afraid a lot of people “cherry pick” data to ‘promote’ their opinion. I am as guilty as the rest in this regard.

      The data on Mark’s graph covers 120 years. Thats not a substantial period. We went from a period a very warm earth climate (around the year 900) to the ‘Little Ice Age’ in the 1400’s.

      Weather, or ‘Climate’ is the most variable of scientific studies. I wish more people would realize the only thing we know for certain, is what happened yesterday.

  7. Brian in Bellingham says:

    There are so many reasons why you can’t trust the GISS. Not the least is that there are so many areas where they do not have thermometers, so instead they use data from 1000 miles away, and then “extrapolate” the data to estimate the uncovered areas. And then they never give an explanation as to their methodology (and, of course, it ALWAYS ends up being MUCH WARMER THEN AVERAGE. Not a coincidence).

    But there is an area where another agency DOES use REAL THERMOMETERS. And, lo and behold, it is NOT experiencing record breaking heat. And that area is the Arctic. See the following video and some other interesting facts from WUWT.


    And here is how they continually adjust the past temperatures, always making them cooler while always adjusting current temperatures up.


    And it happens in Australia too.

    Does one area matter? Considering there are large areas of the world where they do this, the answer is yes. And considering the Arctic is pretty big.

    If you don’t believe it, here is what James Hanson said: “the 12-month running mean global temperature in the GISS analysis has reached a new record in 2010…. GISS analysis yields 2005 as the warmest calendar year, while the HadCRUT analysis has 1998 as the warmest year. The main factor is our inclusion of estimated temperature change for the Arctic region”

    • O.C.Paul says:


      All of your points are reliable. In addition, NOAA states a disclaimer about their temperature stations.
      Many of these stations have had to be be relocated in the last 30 years due to development. So, they have devised a formula to extrapolate the new data for the new locations. Sounds like comparing apples to oranges if you ask me.

  8. …Ive talked about this before….
    I remember a 5th grade science book (waaaaay to many years ago to remember the name) that had a circular chart that showed a progression:
    from ice covered arctic ocean with essentially zero moisture coming off of it (at the end of an ice age), no new snow means no more glacier support, the ice mass thins and starts to recede, the planet heats as a result of bare ground, the ice melts faster from the new warmth, the newly open ocean allows moisture to gather and create snow, the snow covered land begins to reflect sunlight, things cool down, ocean gets ice covered, repeat as necessary…..

    simplistic, i know….but it still makes a lot of sense to me…

    …I’m pretty sure that with as many monkey wrenches us idiot humans have tried to work on the planet with
    that there’s some repercussions that may accelerate some parts of that cycle, but in the end, and as always, things will be controlled by forces that we are just getting the barest hint of now…
    …It’d be nice to time travel to 24th century Earth to see if we ever “got it”……

  9. W7ENK says:

    Ahhh… It’s so hard to refrain from commenting, because I can feel my Political Tourette’s wanting to kick in!!! 😳

  10. Daren Strong says:

    Mark, Thanks so much for your “level headed” discussion of this topic. It’s refreshing to see the information without any bias one way or the other. I appreciate your work!

  11. umpire says:

    People want to focus on the urban heat island effect, but I think you have to look at two other factors, at least. One is the growth of the human population on this planet, which lends to more and bigger cities, as well as more consumption, more and bigger heat islands, etc.

    But a primary potential source of warming is the industrialization of the planet. Before 1900, there were few trains and cars, few factories, and most of the population lived on plots of land where, through very hard work, they eked out enough food to get them through the year.

    Compare that to today’s food production alone, especially in first and second world countries – factory farming, with many gas/diesel powered machines to not only tend and harvest the fields, but also to water them. Plus, the factory production of the massive amounts of chemicals put onto those fields. Then the transporation cost of shipping food to production facilities for processing, then on to stores. Plus the fact that much of the food we eat today is heavily processed. All of this takes massive amounts of energy, which ultimately produces carbon and other chemicals that end up in the atmosphere.

    This is a new experience for the planet, and it appears these activities lead to warming of the atmosphere. And, we haven’t even gotten to all of the productions costs of all of the other “stuff” we buy, consume, and most likely toss out instead of recycling.

  12. Gidrons says:

    OK, I’ll bite.

    1. Personally, I don’t see the problem with global warming if it breaks the ice age cycle. Like Mark, I don’t see the Doomsday, Venus-like conditions developing. I don’t remember the exact numbers, but it was something like London has been under 1000 ft of ice 900,000 out of the last 1,000,000 years. I’d add something about dependence on OPEC if this weren’t a science only discussion.

    2. Like others have said, one decade or century is not enough statistically to say a million year trend has been broken.

    3. Like others have said, the Great Lakes were created only 10,000 years ago when the glaciers retreated. Clearly the warming predates the rise in CO2 levels.

    4. Does the warming release CO2 or does CO2 cause the warming or both? If so, why does the cycle reverse into an ice age?

    5. Is manmade CO2 more than what would have been created if man wasn’t around? Picture the plains filled with bison and unchecked forest fires.

    6. Politics has corrupted the data but to what extent. It would be nice to be able to trust the data. I don’t.

    7. Like others have said, there are numerous factors affecting climate. I expect the sun is the biggest factor of all, and would love to see the solar miminum last at least 22 years to see the impact.

    And believe it or not, I’m still open minded on the topic.

  13. Ryan (Walnut Grove) says:

    I think it would be ignorant to not state that humans haven’t impacted the planet resulting in some sort of global warming. I think the bigger debate is about how much humans have contributed to this phenomena.

    Regardless of the answer to that debate humans should take care of the planet and do everything possible to reduce waste and pollution.

    The other question is how much of this is the cyclical climatic cycles the planet experiences every so many decades or centuries. How much do outside influences such as solar output or other space phenomena influence our planetary climate?

    Taking the chart Mark posted at face value without much evaluation one would assume that we are about to enter a new cooling phase.

    • Boydo3 500' North Albany says:

      And what would the graph look like if it kept going back in time? We know that when John Muir heard about the great glaciers flowing to the sea in what we now call Glacier Bay Alaska, he was quite impressed at how far the glaciers had receded by the time he got there to see them in 1879.

    • pgiorgio says:

      That’s the kind of gibberish I’m talking about. One would assume after two years of possibly some cooling that were going to be headed for a cooling phase. Assumptions like that are where mistakes are born in every facet of life. People are so afraid of having ideas that are against the majority that its often called ignorant to do so by a person of that majority. If you’re believing the opinions of someone elses research and data how can you possibly call it a truth when we know almost all research and data has flaws, and not to mention many researchers intentionally give false information.

  14. pgiorgio says:

    How about those crazed chupacabra’s invading Europe?

    I really dont think anyone can say with certainty that man/woman has caused global warming. Why? Too many variables out there to measure accurately their actual contribution to global warming/cooling trends. Lets talk about the hidden variables that we have yet to discover. The variables that we know exist yet we’re far from understanding. Who is bold and ignorant enough to claim this subject as a certainty? Humans do cause some forms of warming such as urban heat islands and other surface type warming influences but is this a trend that will cause far less than 1 degree F of land warming and natural earth fluctuations will take over during the next few centuries causing our global temps to rise or drop several degrees? Who’s to say man will be the reason for continued warming right now when we have so much to study and learn. At this stage in history it should be far from one-sided and far from a truth or guarantee of what will happen the next 100 years.

  15. Boydo3 500' North Albany says:

    The fact is that yes, the climate in most geographic locations has gotten warmer, it has been doing so since the end of the last Ice Age. But before that, it was also cooling. It is cyclical.
    Sidereal year. Seems to be a constant theme in nature. And humans may very well be affecting the equation. But so are termites.
    High tide, low tide.
    Night, day.
    Winter, summer.
    Breathe in, breathe out.
    Sleep, wake.
    Birth, death.

  16. Robert in Hazel Dell says:

    Let’s not also forget the quantity and quality of thermometers and other measuring devices that are measuring the data over the past 130 years, not to mention the location of the measuring devices. Many weather observation stations used to be in cooler, open fields that have since been relocated to metropolitan areas or airports that are known to be warmer from the “concrete jungle” effect – certainly within the 1 degree Celsius range shown on the chart.

    Not enough consistent data to draw any conclusions yet.

    • Mark Nelsen says:

      They account for that, but isn’t urbanization all over the planet too?

      You are correct about conclusions…a well known former co-worker (and tv weatherperson) said…”I guess we’ll know in a hundred years for sure!”.

  17. yetanotherguy says:

    I have always struggled with the science behind man made global warming. Much of science tells us the earth is about 4 billion years old. The chart above slices out 130 years of that or about 0.00003% of that time and declare warmest on record, which is taken by most to mean warmest ever. Please. It is the warmest of 13 measured decades. We have been warmer, we have been cooler and man will have little impact on the process. If the best we have for historic data is ice core samples, these are basically worthless. So many short term trends in weather can influence these coresin terms of frequency and thickness that they are a VERY inaccurate measurement.

    • Mark Nelsen says:

      Very good point, the chart should probably say “measured” temperature record. Although science has done well correlating growth rings, ice cores, etc. with climate trends beyond those 130 years.

  18. …so Mark, you write on the warm, here’s a guy writing on the cold for this winter, in a fascinating way:


    and after that page, i highly recommend clicking on the home button and reading the whole site, some very interesting stuff in there about planetary alignments affecting solar minimums…..

  19. chris s says:

    i for one am very skeptical of just how much humans have an effect on overall climate. I guess my problems arise from the fact since records dont go back very far how are we exactly sure if this hs the warmest decade we just completed. I think there has been too much hysteria on the topic instead of gradual discussions about it. After all mother nature has a tendency to do what she wants and i dont think we will ever know for sure if anything we do or dont do as humans will change anything.

  20. Yevpolo1990 says:

    Mark, I wonder if the email i sent about the link to the other article really is correct about a sudden drop off. Obviously you can tell 1980-2009 anomaly temp has gone way up, but will there be a sudden drop off perhaps this winter maybe?

  21. Mark Nelsen says:

    Let’s keep this post for discussing the warming issues only. Hope for those thunderstorms on the next posting.

  22. As long as it is good and unbiased science.

    High 84
    Low 56

  23. Derek Hodges says:


    As for me I still have my eye on Fri eve-sat morn with that shortwave coming in. I am hoping

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