Contents of this Section:

2010 Global Significant Weather and Climate Events2010 Global Significant Weather and Climate Events

Global Highlights

  • For 2010, the combined global land and ocean surface temperature tied with 2005 as the warmest such period on record, at 0.62°C (1.12°F) above the 20th century average of 13.9°C (57.0°F). 1998 is the third warmest year-to-date on record, at 0.60°C (1.08°F) above the 20th century average.
  • The 2010 Northern Hemisphere combined global land and ocean surface temperature was the warmest year on record, at 0.73°C (1.31°F) above the 20th century average. The 2010 Southern Hemisphere combined global land and ocean surface temperature was the sixth warmest year on record, at 0.51°C (0.92°F) above the 20th century average.
  • The global land surface temperature for 2010 tied with 2005 as the second warmest on record, at 0.96°C (1.73°F) above the 20th century average. The warmest such period on record occurred in 2007, at 0.99°C (1.78°F) above the 20th century average.
  • The global ocean surface temperature for 2010 tied with 2005 as the third warmest on record, at 0.49°C (0.88°F) above the 20th century average.
  • In 2010 there was a dramatic shift in the El Niño–Southern Oscillation, which influences temperature and precipitation patterns around the world. A moderate-to-strong El Niño at the beginning of the year transitioned to La Niña conditions by July. At the end of November, La Niña was moderate-to-strong.

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 year 2010 tied with 2005 as the warmest year since records began in 1880. The annual global combined land and ocean surface temperature was 0.62°C (1.12°F) above the 20th century average. The range associated with this value is plus or minus 0.07°C (0.13°F). The 2010 combined land and ocean surface temperature in the Northern Hemisphere was also the warmest on record, while the combined land and ocean surface temperature in the Southern Hemisphere was the sixth warmest such period on record. The annual globally averaged land temperature was 0.96°C (1.73°F) above average, which tied with 2005 as the second warmest year record. The range associated with this value is plus or minus 0.11°C (0.20°F). The warmest year was 2007, at 0.99°C (1.78°F) above the 20th century average. The decadal global land and ocean average temperature anomaly for 2001–2010 was the warmest decade on record for the globe, with a surface global temperature of 0.56°C (1.01°F) above the 20th century average. This surpassed the previous decadal record (1991–2000) value of 0.36°C (0.65°F).

The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a periodic fluctuation in sea surface temperature (El Niño) and the air pressure of the overlying atmosphere (Southern Oscillation) across the equatorial Pacific Ocean, affecting weather patterns in many parts of the world. The year began in a moderate-to-stong warm (El Niño) phase. The globally averaged January ocean surface temperature was the second warmest on record, behind 1998—a year that also began with a strong El Niño. Temperature anomalies across the equatorial Pacific declined through the year, although the ENSO warm phase offically remained through April. The global ocean surface temperatures for the period January–April were the second warmest on record, behind 1998. In May, sea surface temperature anomalies in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean cooled below the El Niño threshold (0.5°C), signifying a return to ENSO-neutral conditions. By July, ENSO officially shifted into a cold (La Niña) phase as the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean continued to cool to below-average temperatures. With La Niña firmly in place, and central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean temperatures continuing to cool, the globally averaged ocean temperature for the period September–November was tenth warmest on record. For the period January–December, the shift from a warm phase to a cold phase ENSO contributed to a globally averaged ocean surface temperature anomaly of 0.49°C (0.88°F) above the 20th century average, tying with 2005 as the third warmest such period on record. The range associated with this value is plus or minus 0.06°C (0.11°F). 2003 and 1998 tied for the warmest years on record, at 0.51°C (0.92°F) above average. According to NOAA's Climate Prediction Center (CPC), La Niña was expected to peak during the end of 2010 into early 2011 and last at into the Northern Hemisphere spring 2011 with a lesser intensity.

(out of 131 years)
(Next) Warmest on Record
Land+0.96 ± 0.11+1.73 ± 0.202nd warmest*2007 +0.99+1.78
Ocean+0.49 ± 0.06+0.88 ± 0.113rd warmest*2003*+0.51+0.92
Land and Ocean+0.62 ± 0.07+1.12 ± 0.13Warmest*(1998) +0.60+1.08
Northern Hemisphere
Land+1.08 ± 0.14+1.94 ± 0.252nd warmest2007 +1.15+2.07
Ocean+0.51 ± 0.07+0.92 ± 0.133rd warmest*2005 +0.53+0.95
Land and Ocean+0.73 ± 0.10+1.31 ± 0.18Warmest(2005) +0.72+1.30
Southern Hemisphere
Land+0.65 ± 0.06+1.17 ± 0.115th warmest*2005 +0.81+1.46
Ocean+0.49 ± 0.06+0.88 ± 0.115th warmest1998 +0.54+0.97
Land and Ocean+0.51 ± 0.06+0.92 ± 0.116th warmest1998 +0.57+1.03

*Signifies a tie

* Global Land tied with 2005 as the 2nd warmest year on record.
* Global Ocean tied with 2005 as the 3rd warmest year on record.
* Global Land and Ocean tied with 2005 as the warmest year on record.
* Northern Hemisphere Ocean tied with 2003 as the 3rd warmest year on record.
* Southern Hemisphere Land tied with 2003 as the 5th warmest year on record.

Global Top 10
Warmest Years (Jan-Dec)
Anomaly °C Anomaly °F
2010 0.62 1.12
2005 0.62 1.12
1998 0.60 1.08
2003 0.58 1.04
2002 0.58 1.04
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

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).

Top Ten Global Weather/Climate Events for 2010

The following table list the top ten global weather/climate events of 2010. These events are listed according to their overall rank, as voted on by a panel of weather/climate experts. For additional information on these and other significant 2010 climate events, please visit NCDC's Top Ten Global Events webpage.

Rank Event When Occurred
1 Russo- European- Asian Heat Waves Summer
2 2010 as [near] warmest on record Calendar Year
3 Pakistani Flooding Late July into August
4 El Niño to La Niña Transition Mid-to-Late Boreal Spring
5 Negative Arctic Oscillation December–February
6 Brazillian Drought Ongoing
7-tie Historically Inactive NE Pacific Hurricane Season May 15th–November 30th
7-tie Historic N. Hemispheric Snow Retreat January through June
9 Minimum Sea Ice Extent Mid-September
10 China Drought First half of 2010

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Regional Temperatures

Warmer-than-average temperatures occurred during 2010 for most of the world's surface. The warmest annual above-average temperatures occurred throughout the high latitude regions of the Northern Hemisphere, Canada, Alaska, the lower North Atlantic Ocean, the Middle East, eastern Europe, and northern Africa. Temperatures were notably cooler across the Southern oceans, most of the eastern Pacific Ocean, western Scandinavia, part of central Russia, and parts of Australia.

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.

The year 2010 was marked by several notable extreme temperature events. During the beginning of the year, a strong negative Arctic Oscillation—a climate pattern which allows chilly Arctic air to slide south while warmer air moves north—brought snow storms and record cold temperatures to much of the Northern Hemisphere, including eastern North America, Europe, and Asia. Polar air reached far into the deep southern U.S. during January and February. The record cold weather caused ocean temperatures in the Florida Keys to drop below 15°C (59°F), bleaching and killing coral reefs, which cannot survive the sustained cool water temperature. Area coral experts reported that they had not seen a bleaching of this magnitude due to cold temperatures since the winter of 1977/78. According to the United Kingdom (UK) Meteorological Office, the UK experienced its coldest winter (December 2009–February 2010) since 1978/79. In contrast, warm air moving northward into Canada brought the country its warmest winter since records began in 1948. Among Canada's climate regions, the Arctic Tundra, Arctic Mountain and Fjords, and the Northwestern Forest all had their warmest winter on record. In the Southern Hemisphere, according to Australia's Bureau of Meteorology (BoM), the country experienced its warmest summer (Northern Hemisphere winter) on record, with average temperatures 0.2°C (0.4°F) higher than the previous record set during the summer of 1997/98.

Several exceptional heat waves occurred during 2010, bringing record high temperatures and affecting tens of millions of people. Warm conditions were present across India during April. On the 18th, Delhi recorded its warmest April temperature since 1958 when temperatures soared to 43.7°C (110.7°F). Another heat wave baked northern India and Pakistan at the end of May. According to the Pakistan Meteorological Service, a maximum temperature of 53.5°C (128.3°F) was recorded in Mohenjo-Daro on May 26th. This was the warmest temperature ever recorded in Pakistan and the warmest temperaure recorded in Asia since 1942. In mid-June, a strong blocking pattern settled over western Russia, bringing an unprecendented two-month long heat wave to the area. On July 29th, the Moscow Observatory recorded its highest-ever temperature—38.2°C (100.8°F), breaking the previous record of 37.2°C (98.9°F) set just four days earlier. Prior to 2010, the hottest temperature in Moscow was 36.8°C (98.2°F), recorded 90 years ago. That same day, Finland recorded its highest ever temperature as the mercury reached 37.2°C (99.0°F) in Joensuu, breaking the old record set in Turku in July 1914 by 1.3°C (2.3°F). The massive heat wave brought Russia its warmest summer (June–August) on record. At least 15,000 deaths in Russia were attributed to the heat.

Extreme summer warmth was felt in other areas around the world as well. According to the the Beijing Climate Center, China experienced its warmest summer on record since 1961. And the Japan Meteorological Agency reported that the country had its warmest summer since records began in 1898. On average, temperatures across Japan were 1.64°C (2.96°F) greater than the 1971–2000 average. According to Environment Canada, Canada had its third warmest summer since national records began in 1948, behind 1998 (warmest) and 2006 (second warmest). In fact, the January–August period was Canada's warmest such period on record. In contrast, Australia experienced its coolest winter (Northern Hemisphere summer) in 13 years.

In September, following on the heels of its second coolest summer on record, a scorching heat wave in part of the western U.S. brought downtown Los Angeles, California its highest ever recorded temperature on the 27th. A temperature of 45°C (113°F) was recorded, breaking the old record of 44.4°C (112°F) set on June 26th, 1990.

Similar to the beginning of the year, December was marked by a strong negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation. According to the UK Met Office, during the month of December, the UK was, on average, about 9°F (5°C) below the 1971–2000 average, making it the coldest December in more than 100 years. It was also the coldest month recorded since February 1986. The United States as a whole experienced its seventh snowiest December on record, while the Southeast had its 3rd coldest December on record. The negative Arctic Oscillation also contributed to the lowest December Arctic sea ice extent on record, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. The low sea ice conditions occurred in regions where the ice coverage would typically expand this time of year; however, above-normal temperatures were recorded in these areas. ENSO also impacted temperature patterns toward the end of 2010. According to the Bureau of Meteorology, La Niña influenced the precipitation patterns over Australia during the latter part of the year. Heavy rainfall across the country brought cooler temperatures, leading to the country's fourth coolest spring (September–November; Northern Hemisphere fall) on record. Nationally averaged maximum temperatures were 1.23°C (2.21°F) below normal, the lowest since 1999. December brought even cooler anomalies to the country. The average temperature for the month was 1.35°C (2.43°F) below normal, the second coolest December on record, behind 1999. Overall, it was the coolest year for Australia since 2001, but was still 0.19°C above the 1961–1990 average. On a decadal scale, the years 2001–2010 were the warmest decade on record for the country.

The Finnish Meteorological Institute reported that 2010 was Finland's coolest year on record since 1987, at 0.6°C below average. The Institute also reported that the decade 2001–2010 was warmer than the preceding decades for the country, with records dating back to the 1840s. The average temperature for this decade was 0.30°C above the 1930s average, Finland's next warmest decade. In addition, the temperatures for each season (three-month period) averaged over the decade was among the two warmest such seasons within the past 160 years, with the winter warming the most.

According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), India's 2010 mean annual temperature was 0.93°C (1.67°F) above the 1961–1990 average—resulting in the warmest year since national records began in 1901. It was also reported that the decade 2001–2010 was India's warmest decade on record, with an anomaly of 0.4°C (0.7°F)—surpassing the previous decadal record set in 1991–2000 by 0.2°C (0.4°F).

Most of Canada experienced above-average temperatures throughout the year. According to Environment Canada, Canada experienced its warmest winter (December–February) and spring (March–May) on record during 2010. The national average temperature during summer (June–August) 2010 and autumn (September–November) 2010 was the third and second warmest, respectively, since national records began in 1948. Overall, the national average temperature for Canada during 2010 was 3°C (5°F) above the 1961–1990 average, ranking 2010 as the warmest year on record since national records began in 1948.

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Global Precipitation

Global precipitation in 2010 was well above the 1961–1990 average, ranking as the wettest on record since 1900. Precipitation throughout the year was variable in many areas. Regionally, drier than average conditions were widespread across much of French Polynesia, the Solomon Islands, Hawaiian Islands, northwestern Canada, extreme northwest and northeast Brazil, and southern Peru. The wettest regions induded most of Central America, much of India, southwestern China, east Asia, Borneo, and parts of Australia.

El Niño and La Niña, monsoonal rains, and tropical storms played large roles in some of the extreme precipitation patterns observed during the 2010 year-to-date. During the year, numerous tropical cyclones brought copious amounts of rain to various regions around the world, including northern Australia, southern and eastern Asia, Mexico, and most of Central America. Please visit NCDC's Global Hazards and Hurricanes & Tropical Storms web pages for more detailed information about specific storms.

Canada experienced its driest winter (December 2009–February 2010) since national records began in 1948, with 22 percent below-average precipitation. According to Environment Canada, many locations across Ontario, Canada received no snow or traces of snow during March 2010, setting new low snowfall records. Toronto City, which typically receives 22 cm (8.7 inches) of snow during March recorded no snow this year. This broke the low snowfall record which dates as far back as 1898. To the west, Alaska had its third driest January on record since 1918.

Following its driest February and March on record, drought was declared for Auckland, New Zealand and surrounding areas. Dry conditions continued in New Zealand as the country as a whole experienced autumn (March–May; Northern Hemisphere spring) precipitation that was 50–80 percent below average.

The first half of 2010 was dry in parts of Europe as well. According to the UK Meteorological Office, the United Kingdom experienced its driest January–June period since 1953 and the second driest since 1929, receiving only 361 mm (14.2 inches) of precipitation. This is almost 30 percent below the long-term average of 512 mm (20.1 inches).

Near the end of July, the same blocking pattern that brought Russia its record-breaking heatwave contributed to a heavy deluge of rainfall in Pakistan. Over 300 mm (12 inches) of rain fell from July 28th–30th in Peshawar province, leading to extreme flooding that eventually submerged approximately 20 percent of the country. An official of the Pakistani government reported the flooding was the worst since 1929. At least 1,500 people were killed due to flooding and landslides. Heavier-than-normal monsoon rains continued into September, affecting both Pakistan and India. Conversely, Bangladesh had its driest monsoon season since 1994.

A series of strong storms brought heavy rainfall to northeastern China and North Korea during August. Subsequent flooding was said to be the worst in that region in more than a decade. Heavy monsoon rains affected Vietnam, Thailand, and southeastern China in October. Thailand reportedly suffered its worst floods in decades.

By October, Brazil's north and west Amazonia was in the midst of one of its worst droughts in 40 years. The Rio Negro—one of the most important tributaries of the Rio Amazonia—fell to its lowest level since record keeping began in 1902.

La Niña brought record rainfall to most of Australia toward the end of the year. The country had its wettest spring (September–November; Northern Hemisphere fall) on record. Nationally averaged rainfall was 163.0 mm, which was 125 percent above normal for the period. However, it is noted that in contrast to the rest of the country, southwestern Western Australia had its driest spring on record. With continued extreme wetness in December—particularly in the northeastern state of Queensland, which had its wettest December on record and experienced major flooding—the average precipitation for December was 99 percent above normal, ranking as Australia's second wettest on record, behind December 1975. For the year, 2010 was the country's third wettest since records began in 1900 and the wettest sonce 2000. Southwest Western Australia reported its driest year on record.

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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 2010, published online January 2011, retrieved on July 17, 2024 from