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Hot temperatures in 2012 part of a growing trend

New data released by the US government agency NASA show that 2012 was the ninth-hottest year on record worldwide. The numbers reinforce a worrying trend of a long-term climate shift.

In 2012, the average temperature was 14.6 degrees Celsius (58.28 degrees Fahrenheit), says NASA. That number means global temperatures were above average for the 36th straight year.

Furthermore, the planet's average temperature was 0.57 degrees Celsius higher than in the 20th century, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said.

"One more year of numbers isn't in itself significant," said Schmidt. "What matters is this decade is warmer than the last decade, and that decade was warmer than the decade before."

Nine of the 10 hottest years during a record that has been kept since 1880 have occurred since 2000, the NASA data show. 2010 and 2005 rank as the warmest years, respectively.

The numbers are indicative of a trend NASA climatologist Gavin Schmidt says has been happening for decades.

"The planet is warming," Schmidt added. "The reason it's warming is because we are pumping increasing amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere."

Warmest year on record for US

The NOAA said last week that the continental US experienced its warmest year on record in 2012. Furthermore, only one year in the 20th century - 1998 - was warmer than last year.

However, several areas including Alaska, western Canada, central Asia and the Antarctic were cooler in 2012.

"The US temperatures in the summer of 2012 are an example of a new trend of outlying seasonal extremes that are warmer than the hottest seasonal temperatures of the mid-20th century," said NASA scientist James Hansen. "The climate dice are now loaded."

"Some seasons still will be cooler than the long-term average, but the perceptive person should notice that the frequency of unusually warm extremes is increasing," Hansen added. "It is the extremes that have the most impact on people and other life on the planet."

dr/kms (dpa, AFP, AP)
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