Through­out 2008 and 2009, many con­ser­v­a­tive pun­dits spent some effort in try­ing to con­vince us that the world was in a “cool­ing trend.” 2008 and 2009, while still among the warmest years on record, were a bit cooler than a few of the other years in the first decade of the 21st Century.

Arc­tic Ice Cap (cour­tesy NOAA)

Any nat­ural process is going to have random-​​walk anom­alies. So cli­mate sci­en­tists remained con­vinced that the trend in global tem­per­a­tures remained upward. What does 2010 do to the picture?

Although the Decem­ber data has yet to be released the National Oceanic and Atmos­pheric Admin­is­tra­tion stated that for Jan­u­ary through Novem­ber, “the com­bined global land and ocean sur­face tem­per­a­ture was…the warmest such period since records began in 1880.”

How about “Cli­mate­gate?” Didn’t those leaked emails prove the his­tor­i­cal data had been fudged? No, they didn’t. This is a per­sis­tent meme, but it’s not true. The memos showed, if any­thing, some intra– and inter-​​agency polit­i­cal rival­ries and in-​​fighting. But there is no evi­dence what­ever of dis­hon­est data manipulation.

But even if we did want to believe the tem­per­a­ture record in the pre-​​2010 data had been arti­fi­cially inflated, that would merely mean 2010 was even warmer (in rela­tion to the past) than the accepted data shows. It would mean the Earth is warm­ing even faster than cli­mate sci­en­tists had thought.

Even back in July, it was real­ized we were on track for a record:

Global tem­per­a­tures in the first half of the year were the hottest since records began more than a cen­tury ago, accord­ing to two of the world’s lead­ing cli­mate research cen­tres.

Sci­en­tists have also released what they described as the “best evi­dence yet” of ris­ing long-​​term tem­per­a­tures. The report is the first to col­late 11 dif­fer­ent indicators—from air and sea tem­per­a­tures to melt­ing ice—each one based on between three and seven data sets, dat­ing back to between 1850 and the 1970s.

And, for your amuse­ment, here is a really cool inter­ac­tive map from NASA, show­ing global tem­per­a­ture changes by decade, 1880–2009. It’s hard to argue with sci­en­tific data in visual form.