According to NOAA scientists, 2010 tied with 2005 as the warmest year of the global surface temperature record, beginning in 1880.
This was the 34th consecutive year with global temperatures above the 20th century average. For the contiguous United States alone, the 2010 average annual temperature was above normal, resulting in the 23rd warmest year on record.
This preliminary analysis is prepared by scientists at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., and is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides government, business and community leaders so they can make informed decisions.
2010 Global climate highlights
Combined global land and ocean annual surface temperatures for 2010 tied with 2005 as the warmest such period on record at 1.12 F. above the 20th century average.
The global land surface temperatures for 2010 were the warmest on record at 1.80 above the 20th century average. Global ocean surface temperatures for 2010 tied with 2005 as the third warmest on record, at 0.88 above the 20th century average.
In 2010, there was a dramatic shift in the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, which influences global temperature and precipitation patterns - when a moderate-to-strong El Niño transitioned to La Niña conditions by July. At the end of November, La Niña was moderate-to-strong.
According to the Global Historical Climatology Network, 2010 was the wettest year on record, in terms of global average precipitation. As with any year, precipitation patterns were highly variable from region to region.
The 2010 Pacific hurricane season had seven named storms and three hurricanes, the fewest on record since the mid-1960s when scientists started using satellite observations. By contrast, the Atlantic season was extremely active, with 19 named storms and 12 hurricanes. The year tied for third- and second-most storms and hurricanes on record, respectively.
The Arctic sea ice extent had a record long growing season, with the annual maximum occurring at the latest date, March 31, since records began in 1979. Despite the shorter-than-normal melting season, the Arctic still reached its third smallest annual sea ice minimum on record behind 2007 and 2008. The Antarctic sea ice extent reached its eighth smallest annual maximum extent in March, while in September, the Antarctic sea ice rapidly expanded to its third largest extent on record.
A negative Arctic Oscillation in January and February helped usher in very cold Arctic air to much of the Northern Hemisphere. Record cold and major snowstorms with heavy accumulations occurred across much of eastern North America, Europe and Asia. The February AO index reached -4.266, the largest negative anomaly since records began in 1950.
From mid-June to mid-August, an unusually strong jet stream shifted northward of western Russia while plunging southward into Pakistan. The jet stream remained locked in place for weeks, bringing an unprecedented two-month heat wave to Russia and contributing to devastating floods in Pakistan at the end of July.
U.S. Climate Highlights
In the contiguous United States, 2010 was the 14th consecutive year with an annual temperature above the long-term average. Since 1895, the temperature across the nation has increased at an average rate of approximately 0.12 per decade.
Precipitation across the contiguous United States in 2010 was 1.02 inches above the long-term average. Like temperature, precipitation patterns are influenced by climate processes such as ENSO. A persistent storm track brought prolific summer rain to the northern Plains and upper Midwest. Wisconsin had its wettest summer on record, and many surrounding states had much above-normal precipitation. Since the start of records in the U.S. in 1895, precipitation across the United States is increasing at an average rate of approximately 0.18 inches per decade.
The year began with extremely cold winter temperatures and snowfall amounts that broke monthly and seasonal records at many U.S. locations. Seasonal snowfall records fell in several cities, including Washington; Baltimore, Md., Philadelphia; Wilmington, Del.; and Atlantic City, N.J. Several NOAA studies established that this winter pattern was made more likely by the combined states of El Niño and the Arctic Oscillation.
Twelve states, mainly in the Southeast, but extending northward into New England, experienced a record warm June and August. Several cities broke summer temperature records including New York (Central Park); Philadelphia; Trenton, N.J.; and Wilmington, Del.
Preliminary totals indicate there were 1,302 U.S. tornadoes during 2010. The year will rank among the 10 busiest for tornadoes since records began in 1950. An active storm pattern across the Northern Plains during the summer contributed to a state-record 104 confirmed tornadoes in Minnesota in 2010, making Minnesota the national tornado leader for the first time.
During 2010, substantial precipitation fell in many drought-stricken regions. The U.S. footprint of drought reached its smallest extent during July when less than eight percent of the country was experiencing drought conditions. The increased precipitation and eradication of drought limited the acres burned and number of wildfires during 2010. Hawaii had near-record dryness occurring in some areas for most of the year.