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NOAA: December 2009 Global Ocean Temperature Second Warmest On Record

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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The global ocean surface temperature was the second warmest on record for December, according to scientists at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. Based on records going back to 1880, the monthly NCDC analysis is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides. Scientists also reported the combined global land and ocean surface temperature was the eighth warmest on record for December.

For 2009, global temperatures tied with 2006 as the fifth-warmest on record. Also, the earth’s land surface for 2009 was seventh-warmest (tied with 2003) and the ocean surface was fourth-warmest (tied with 2002 and 2004.)

Highlights for December 2009

  • The global ocean temperature was the second warmest on record, behind 1997. The temperature anomaly was 0.97 degree F above the 20th century average of 60.4 degrees F.
  • The combined global land and ocean surface temperature was the eighth warmest on record, at 0.88 degree F above the 20th century average of 54.0 degrees F.
  • The global land surface temperature was 0.63 degree F above the 20th century average of 38.7 degrees F - the coolest December anomaly since 2002.
Global Temperature Highlights for 2009
  • For the calendar year 2009, the global combined land and ocean surface temperature of 58.0 degrees F tied with 2006 as the fifth-warmest on record. This value is 1.01 degree F above the 20th century average.
  • NCDC scientists also noted the average temperature for the decade (2000-09), 57.9 degrees F, was the warmest on record surpassing the 1990-99 average of 57.7 degrees F. value.
Other Highlights
  • Arctic sea ice covered an average of 4.8 million square miles during December. This is 6.6 percent below the 1979-2000 average extent and the fourth lowest December extent since records began in 1979.

  • Antarctic sea ice extent in December was 2.1 percent above the 1979-2000 average, resulting in the 14th largest December extent on record. December Arctic sea ice extent has decreased by 3.3 percent per decade since 1979, while December Antarctic sea ice extent has increased by 0.6 percent per decade over the same period.
  • Northern Hemisphere snow cover during December 2009 was the second largest extent, behind 1985, on record. North American snow cover for December 2009 was the largest extent since satellite records began in 1967.

NCDC’s preliminary reports, which assess the current state of the climate, are released soon after the end of each month. These analyses are based on preliminary data, which are subject to revision. Additional quality control is applied to the data when late reports are received several weeks after the end of the month and as increased scientific methods improve NCDC’s processing algorithms.

Scientists, researchers and leaders in government and industry use NCDC’s monthly reports to help track trends and other changes in the world’s climate. The data have a wide range of practical uses, from helping farmers know what to plant, to guiding resources managers with critical decisions about water, energy and other vital assets.

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.

Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of, its staff or its advertisers.

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