Where did 2011 stand in comparison to global temperatures from past years?
NASA recently released a visualization that depicts global temperature changes since 1880. Although nine of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 2000, 2011 was only the ninth warmest year on record, according to NASA.
The world's average temperature in 2011 was 0.92 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the mid-20th century baseline period of 1951 to 1980, NASA's press release explained.
James E. Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, said, "We know the planet is absorbing more energy than it is emitting. So we are continuing to see a trend toward higher temperatures. Even with the cooling effects of a strong La Niña influence and low solar activity for the past several years, 2011 was one of the 10 warmest years on record."
There is some disagreement over 2011's ranking, however. NOAA scientists arrived at the same temperature data, but have ranked 2011 as the 11th warmest year on record.
According to the Associated Press, 2011, which was slightly cooler because of La Niña, was still "hotter than every year last century except 1998."
Tom Karl, director of NOAA's National Climatic Data Center, explained that a cooler year did not mean overall trends of rising temperatures would necessarily change. "It would be premature to make any conclusion that we would see any hiatus of the longer-term warming trend," he said. "Global temperatures are continuing to increase."
Earlier this month, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved the symbolic "Doomsday Clock" one minute closer to midnight. The decision to move the clock to five minutes to midnight reflects, among other things, growing global disruptions due to climate change.
Below, see NASA's visualizations of global temperature differences since 1880. Scroll down for video. Image and video courtesy of NASA.