Contents of this Section:

2009 Global Significant Weather and Climate Events2009 Global Significant Weather and Climate Events

Global Highlights

  • Global land and ocean annual surface temperatures through October are the fifth warmest on record, at 0.56 °C (1.01 °F) above the long-term average.
  • NOAA scientists project 2009 will be one of the 10 warmest years of the global surface temperature record, and likely finish as the fourth, fifth or sixth warmest year on record.
  • The 2000-2009 decade will be the warmest on record, with its average global surface temperature about 0.54 °C (0.96 °F) above the 20th Century average. This will easily surpass the 1990s value of 0.36 °C (0.65 °F).
  • Ocean surface temperatures (through October) were the sixth warmest on record, at 0.47 °C (0.85 °F) above the 20th century average.
  • Land surface temperatures through October were the fifth warmest on record, at 0.80 °C (1.44 °F) above the 20th century average.

Please Note: The data presented in this report are preliminary. Ranks and anomalies may change as more complete data are received and processed. Effective with the July 2009 State of the Climate Report, NCDC transitioned to the new version (version 3b) of the extended reconstructed sea surface temperature (ERSST) dataset. ERSST.v3b is an improved extended SST reconstruction over version 2. This report uses the ERSST.v3b dataset to assess the entire year. Therefore, values for individual months of January-June presented in this report may differ slightly from those reported when ERSST.v2 was the operational dataset. For more information about the differences between ERSST.v3b and ERSST.v2 and to access the most current data, please visit NCDC's Global Surface Temperature Anomalies page.

Global Temperatures

The years 2001 through 2008 each rank among the ten warmest years of the 130-year (1880-2009) record and 2009 was no exception. The global combined land and ocean surface temperature was 0.56°C (1.01°F) above the 20th century average, tying with 2006 as the fifth warmest since records began in 1880. Globally averaged land temperature was 0.77°C (1.39°F) above average, resulting in a tie with 2003 as the seventh warmest on record. The ocean temperature was 0.48°C (0.86°F) above average—tying with 2002 and 2004 as the fourth warmest since records began in 1880. The 2000s decade (2000-2009) is the warmest on record for the globe, with a surface global temperature of 0.54°C (0.96°F) above the long-term (20th century) average. This shattered the 1990s value of 0.36°C (0.65°F). See the global time series.

Global Top 10
Warm Years (Jan-Dec)
Anomaly °C Anomaly °F
2005 0.62 1.11
1998 0.60 1.08
2003 0.58 1.04
2002 0.57 1.03
2009 0.56 1.01
2006 0.56 1.01
2007 0.55 0.99
2004 0.54 0.97
2001 0.52 0.94
2008 0.48 0.86
1997 0.48 0.86

The 1901-2000 average combined land and ocean annual temperature is 13.9°C (56.9°F), the annually averaged land temperature for the same period is 8.5°C (47.3°F), and the long-term annually averaged sea surface temperature is 16.1°C (60.9°F).

El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) began 2009 in a cold (La Niña) phase, but by April some anomalous warming took place in the sea surface temperature (SST) of all Niño regions across the equatorial Pacific Ocean. Such conditions are indicative of a transition from cold phase ENSO (La Niña) to ENSO-neutral conditions. By June 2009, warm phase (El Niño) conditions had entrenched across the equatorial Pacific basin, and persisted through the end of the year. In conjunction with the developing ENSO warm phase, the worldwide ocean temperatures increased relative to the long-term average during late spring. The presence of an El Niño in the tropical Pacific Ocean contributed to the warmest global ocean temperatures for the June-August season. Above average SST remained present in all Niño regions at the end of November and by December El Niño strengthened, and Oceanic Niño Index values exceeded the El Niño threshold for the year's last five months, ensuring that 2009 was recorded as an El Niño year. According to the end-of-year outlook from NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, El Niño was expected to continue through the Northern Hemisphere spring 2010. For more information on the state of ENSO during 2009, please visit NOAA's Climate Prediction Center (CPC).

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Regional Temperatures

Warmer-than-average temperatures occurred during the year (January-December) for most of the world's surface. The warmest above-average temperatures occurred throughout high latitude regions of the Northern Hemisphere including much of Europe and Asia, also across Mexico, Africa, and Australia. Cooler-than-average conditions occurred across the southern oceans, parts of the northeastern Pacific Ocean, central Russia, and a region spanning southern Canada and the north central contiguous United States.

The map, above left, is created using data from the Global Historical Climatology Network (GHCN), a network of more than 7,000 land surface observing stations. Temperature anomalies are with respect to the 1961-1990 average. The map, above right, is a product of a merged land surface and sea surface temperature anomaly analysis developed by Smith et. al (2008). For the merged land surface and SST analysis, temperature anomalies with respect to the 1971-2000 average for land and ocean are analyzed separately and then merged to form the global analysis. For more information, please visit NCDC's Global Surface Temperature Anomalies page.

Notable temperature extremes in 2009 include southern Australia's record-breaking heatwave during their summer months of January-February. January's heatwave brought numerous new temperature records across the region. Southern South Australia and most of Victoria experienced their highest maximum temperatures since 1939. However, unlike the southern states, Queensland and Northern Territory had their coolest January since 1984. A second heatwave impacted the area during early February. The second time around, extreme heat was accompanied by very dry conditions that contributed to the development of deadly wildfires. The wildfires claimed over 200 lives. Please see February 2009 U.S. Wildfire page for a Special Summary of Bushfire Activity in Southeastern Australia.

In Europe, bitter cold temperatures gripped the northern and eastern region at the beginning of January. Temperatures plummeted to -9.9 °C (14.2 °F) in Farnborough, Hampshire, U.K., the lowest temperature since January 1991. The United Kingdom experienced its coolest winter since the winter of 1996-1997. The United Kingdom's mean temperature during winter 2008-2009 was 3.2 °C (37.8 °F).

Temperatures across Ontario, Canada, were well below average during the month of July, with an overall anomaly of 2.2 °C (4.0 °F) below average. Several locations experienced their lowest temperatures since 1992. Several locations set new monthly low mean temperatures for the month of July. This was part of a larger pattern that brought much-cooler-than-normal temperatures to the U.S. Midwest.

Australia and New Zealand had their warmest August since national temperature records began 60 and 155 years ago, respectively. The August 2009 average temperature for Australia was 2.47 °C (4.45 °F) above the 1961-1990 average, shattering the previous record by 0.98 °C (1.76 °F). The national August 2009 average temperature for New Zealand of 10.2°C (50.4 °F) was 1.7 °C (3.1 °F) above the August average. However, in October 2009 New Zealand experienced its coolest October since 1945.

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Global Precipitation

Global precipitation in 2009 was near the 1961-1990 average. Precipitation throughout the year (January-December) was variable in many areas. Regionally, drier than average conditions were widespread across the Hawaiian Islands, Alaska's panhandle, Australia, southern South America, and parts of western Europe and southern Asia. Southeastern Brazil, parts of eastern and southeastern Asia, and most of Europe and the eastern half of the contiguous United States experienced wetter than average conditions.

Notable precipitation extremes in 2009 include the notably weak Indian Monsoon. The country as a whole reported just 77 percent of normal monsoon season rainfall, according to the India Meteorological Department, the lowest such total of the decade. The Philippine Islands had well-above-average precipitation, mainly due to the combined effects of typhoons that impacted the islands during 2009. During the month of June, central Europe had heavy rains that triggered floods and mudslides. The floods were reported to be central Europe's worst natural disaster since 2002.

Australia had its twelfth wettest January since records began in 1900; however, the southern states experienced very dry conditions during January 2009. Victoria had its driest January since 1956 and sixth driest January on record with 82 percent below-normal precipitation. South Australia and New South Wales had 80 percent and 67 percent below normal precipitation, respectively. In contrast, Queensland had its sixth wettest January (80 percent above normal) and January 2009 was the wettest since 1991.

Ottawa's International Airport set an all-time monthly record when 243.4 mm (9.6 in) of rain fell in July 2009, surpassing the previous all-time record of 224.8 mm (8.8 in) in June 2002. This value also shattered the previous July rainfall record of 186.4 mm (7.3 in) set in 1972. Earlton, Ontario, Canada experienced its wettest July since 1969.

Across the United Kingdom, precipitation was 133 percent of average in August 2009. Western Scotland received over twice its average August rainfall. It tied with 1985 as the wettest August since national records began in 1914. Dumfries and Galloway had their wettest August on record.

Typhoon Ketsana claimed nearly 500 lives across the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. The storm struck the Philippines on September 26th, lashing the islands with strong winds and torrential rains. Approximately 80 percent of Manila was submerged during its worst flooding in 40 years. The heaviest precipitation fell in a short time: 424 mm (16.7 inches) in a 12-hour period, with 340 mm (13.4 inches) in a six-hour period. Each value exceeded the existing 24-hour record (335 mm or 13.2 inches) set in 1967, as well as the average September monthly rainfall (391 mm or 15.4 inches).

Over 200 mm (8 inches) of rain fell in a three-hour period on October 2nd in Sicily, Italy. The heavy downpours triggered mudslides that claimed the lives of 20 people with 40 others missing. These were Italy's worst mudslides in over a decade. India's southern states—Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh—had their heaviest rainfall in over six decades in October 2009. The effects of the copious rainfall were responsible for the deaths of 286 people and for leaving 2.5 million people homeless.

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Peterson, T.C. and R.S. Vose, 1997: An Overview of the Global Historical Climatology Network Database. Bull. Amer. Meteorol. Soc., 78, 2837-2849.

Quayle, R.G., T.C. Peterson, A.N. Basist, and C. S. Godfrey, 1999: An operational near-real-time global temperature index. Geophys. Res. Lett., 26, 333-335.

Smith, T.M., and R.W. Reynolds (2005), A global merged land air and sea surface temperature reconstruction based on historical observations (1880-1997), J. Clim., 18, 2021-2036.

Smith, et al (2008), Improvements to NOAA's Historical Merged Land-Ocean Surface Temperature Analysis (1880-2006), J. Climate., 21, 2283-2293.

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Citing This Report

NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, Monthly Global Climate Report for Annual 2009, published online January 2010, retrieved on July 21, 2024 from