Global Summary, 2010

Globally, the mean annual temperature was about 0.6°C (1.1°F) above the 1901-2000 mean value in 2010. This virtually tied 2010 (within the analysis error) with 2005 for warmest year in the National Climatic Data Center’s records from 1880 to the present day. The graphic showing the trend over that period is below.

NCDC global mean annual temperature 1880-2010

Global mean annual ocean temperatures were 0.49°C (0.88°F) above normal (3rd warmest since 1880), while global mean land temperatures were 0.96°C (1.73°F) above normal (2nd warmest since 1880). The global mean annual ocean temperature was affected by a shift from El Niño to La Niña conditions at mid-year, making the warm anomaly even more impressive.  For the land temperature, the coldest winter in Europe since 1978-79 and a cold fall in Australia prevented the anomaly from breaking the record for the full period.  Canada had its warmest winter and year on record.  Russia suffered from an extensive heat wave and drought, plus peat and forest wild fires, that resulted in the death of thousands of people and a subsequent spike in the price of grains, especially wheat.  The same atmospheric anomalies that resulted in the Russian heat wave caused flooding in Pakistan that displaced about 20,000,000 people, about 7% of their population. Flooding in Australia in the latter half of 2010 was of record proportions; this after an historic drought of a decade or more in duration.  The Amazon experienced its second extreme drought in five years, resulting in extensive stress to the Amazon rain forest. There were a very large number of extremes for individual days, seasons, and annual means, more details of which can be found here.

Top Ten Global Weather/Climate Events

NOAA came out with its top ten significant global weather/climate events for 2010 as well.  I’ve duplicated the table therein here:


Rank Event When Occurred Event Description More Information
1 Russian – European – Asian Heat Waves Summer A severe summer spawned drought, wildfires and crop failures across western Russia, where more than 15,000 people died. All-time high temperatures occurred in many cities and nations in the region. China faced locust swarms during July. NCDC Global Hazards
2 2010 as [near] warmest year on record calendar year According to NOAA, the globally-averaged temperature for 2010 will finish among the two warmest, and likely the warmest, on record. Three months in 2010 were the warmest on record for that month. NCDC Global Report
3 Pakistani Flooding Late July – August Rainfall related to the Asian Monsoon was displaced unusually westward, and more than a foot of rain fell across a large area of the Upper Indus Valley. Subsequent flooding down the Indus River killed 1,600 people and displaced millions. NCDC Global Hazards,NASA Imagery
4 El Niño to La Niña Transition Mid-to-Late Boreal Spring ENSO, the most prominent and far-reaching patterns of climate variability, saw a huge swing in mid-2010. Only 1973, 1983 and 1998 have seen larger within-year swings. CPC,NCDC ENSO
5 Negative Arctic Oscillation Early 2010 The AO Index, which is strongly correlated with wintertime cold air outbreaks, reached -4.27 for February, the largest negative anomaly since records began in 1950. Major cold air outbreaks occurred throughout the Northern Hemisphere. NCDC Cold Season Report
6 Brazilian Drought Ongoing A severe drought parching northern Brazil shrunk the Rio Negro, one of the Amazon River’s most important tributaries, to its lowest level since records began in 1902 at its confluence with the Amazon. The Amazon’s depth there fell more than 12 feet below its average. NCDC Global Hazards
7-tie Historically Inactive NE Pacific Hurricane Season May 15 – Nov 30 The Northeast Pacific Hurricane Season was one of the least active on record, produced the fewest named storms and hurricanes of the modern era, and had the earliest cessation of tropical activity (Sep 23) on record. NCDC Hurricane Summary
7-tie Historic N. Hemispheric Snow Retreat January – June Despite December 2009 having the second-largest snow cover extent of the satellite record (mid-1960s), the melt season was ferocious, contributing to spring floods in the Northern U.S. and Canada. Following the early and pronounced snow melt, the North American, Eurasian and Hemispheric snow cover was the smallest on record for May and June 2010. NCDC 2010 Global Snow Report
9 Minimum Sea Ice Extent mid-September The 2010 sea ice minimum of 4.9 million sq km was the third smallest on record. The last four years (2007-2010) are the four smallest on record. The Northwest Passage and the Northern Sea Route were simultaneously ice-free in September, a first in modern history. NCDC Sea Ice
10 China Drought First Half of 2010 A persistent drought centered in the Yunan Province was touted as perhaps the worst in this region in more than 100 years. Major crop losses and lack of drinking water created severe problems for local residents. NCDC Global Hazards

Receiving honorable mention were the following events:

Event When Occurred Event Description More Information
China Floods Early Aug Two separate heavy rainfall events in early August killed 1,500+ people across northeastern and northwestern China. Heavy rainfall continued in northeastern China (and North Korea), leading to China’s worst flooding in more than a decade. NCDC Global Hazards