WASHINGTON — Last year was among the top 10 warmest in the modern global record, two US climate-watching agencies reported, less than a week after 2012 was declared the hottest ever in the contiguous United States.
The US space agency Nasa and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration jointly issued two reports on 2012 world temperatures. Nasa ranked last year the ninth-warmest since record-keeping began in 1880, while NOAA found last year was the tenth-warmest.
The difference in the two rankings may be due to Nasa's extrapolation of temperatures in areas with no weather stations, particularly near the poles, according to James Hansen, director of Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York.
The 2012 global surface temperature, including land and water, was 1 degree F (.56 degree C) warmer than the 1951-1980 average.
That was enough to increase extreme high temperatures last year, Hansen reported.
Last year was also the 36th consecutive year with a global temperature hotter than the 20th century average, scientists from the two agencies told a media briefing.
Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat who chairs the Senate environment committee, said the reports "make clear that the Earth is warming, and the trend is going in the wrong direction. We cannot afford to ignore these warnings and must make plans to address this serious threat. The health and well-being of our communities and families depends on it."
And while the moving five-year mean temperature for the globe has been flat for a decade, that doesn't mean global warming has stalled, according to Hansen, a longtime advocate for action to curb greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.
Hansen said it also might be due to fast-developing countries like China and India, where increased particulate air pollution from fossil-fuelled vehicles and industries can reflect sunlight and keep temperatures lower.