Summer 2010? Man, it was a hot one. Unparalleled heat waves in eastern Europe, drought and fires in Moscow, forests aflame in the western U.S. and failing power grids in the East. And just last week, with one foot firmly planted in Autumn, triple digits were defiantly tipping the mercury in California. I’d love to know exactly how many west coast Facebookers mentioned the temperature in their status updates last week.
But was this summer really any hotter than others? I’ve long suspected that we have a strange relationship with how we perceive and remember weather. In the thick of it, it always feels like this is the coldest, wettest, snowiest, driest, hottest, etc season ever. But it seems to me that that is more a function of it just being the weather we are living through, it’s the present; the memory of weather can be so subjective.
So from a global perspective, exactly how hot was this summer? Aside from our personal perspective, what do the statistics look like on paper? And when everyone starts grumbling about the heat and global warming–is there any merit to it? These are the questions that scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York City, led by GISS’s director, James Hansen, addressed as they analyzed summer temperatures for the recent update on the GISS website that tackles these types of issues.
According to the GISS analysis, June through August of 2010 was the fourth-warmest summer, globally, in GISS’s 131-year-temperature record. Last summer (2009) was the second warmest on record. The slightly cooler 2010 summer temperatures were primarily the result of a moderate La Niña (cooler than normal temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean) replacing a moderate El Niño (warmer than normal temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean). But then I wonder, how does that jive with the cold winter we had?