2010 on track to become warmest year ever
• Nasa scientist James Hansen condemns 'politicised' media
by John Vidal, environment editor, The Guardian, June 2, 2010
Scientists at the US National Snow and Ice Centre Data Centre (NSIDC) report today that Arctic sea ice – frozen seawater that floats on the ocean surface – is now at its lowest physical extent ever recorded for the time of year, suggesting that it is on course to break the previous record low set in 2007.
Satellite monitoring by the NSIDC in Boulder, Colorado, shows that the melting of sea ice has been unusually fast this year, with as much as 40,000 sq km now disappearing daily.
The melt season started almost a month later than normal at the end of March and is not expected to end until September.
Meanwhile, research from the polar science centre at the University of Washington suggests that the volume of sea ice in March 2010 was 20,300 cubic km, 38% below the 1979 level when records began.
Global surface temperatures may also be at a record high, according to leading climate scientist James Hansen and colleagues at the National Aeronautic Space Administration (NASA).
In a paper which is yet to be peer-reviewed but has been submitted to the journal Reviews of Geophysics, they suggest that the Earth has been 0.65 °C warmer over the past 12 months than during the 1951 to 1980 mean, and that the global temperature for 2010 will exceed the 2005 record.
Hansen, credited with being one of the first scientists to study climate change, dismisses sceptics' claims that global warming "stopped" in 1998.
"Record high global temperature during the period with instrumental data was reached in 2010," he writes.
"It is likely that the 2010 global surface temperature ... will be a record.
"Global warming on decadal timescales is continuing without let-up ... we conclude that there has been no reduction in the global warming trend of 0.15-0.2 °C/decade that began in the late 1970s."
The NASA research backs up findings by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), the US national climate monitoring service that measures global temperatures by satellite. This has recorded the hottest ever first four months of a year.
As a result of high sea surface temperatures, the Atlantic hurricane season – which officially started this week – is expected to be one of the most intense in years.
Last week NOAA predicted 14 to 23 named storms, including eight to 14 hurricanes – three to seven of which were likely to be "major," with winds of at least 111 mph.
This is compared to an average six-month season of 11 named storms, six of which become hurricanes, two of them major.