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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Annual Global Temperature Report

The World Meteorological Organisation has made its annual announcement regarding global mean temperature trends:

Geneva, 16 December 2008 (WMO) – The year 2008 is likely to rank as the 10th warmest year on record since the beginning of the instrumental climate records in 1850, according to data sources compiled by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The global combined sea-surface and land-surface air temperature for 2008 is currently estimated at 0.31°C/0.56°F above the 1961-1990 annual average of 14.00°C/57.2°F. The global average temperature in 2008 was slightly lower than that for the previous years of the 21st century due in particular, to the moderate to strong La NiƱa that developed in the latter half of 2007.

Real Climate has posted its amusing take on the avalanche of media coverage, spin and misinformation that is likely to ensue.
The great thing about complex data is that one can basically come up with any number of headlines describing it - all of which can be literally true - but that give very different impressions. Thus we are sure that you will soon read that 2008 was warmer than any year in the 20th Century (with the exception of 1998), that is was the coolest year this century (starting from 2001), and that 7 or 8 of the 9 warmest years have occurred since 2000. There will undoubtedly also be a number of claims made that aren't true; 2008 is not the coolest year this decade (that was 2000), global warming hasn't 'stopped', CO2 continues to be a greenhouse gas, and such variability is indeed predicted by climate models.

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