2010: Hottest. Year. Ever.

NASA released new data yesterday showing that 2010 was the hottest year on record.

Global surface temperatures in 2010 tied 2005 as the warmest on record, according to an analysis released Wednesday by researchers at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York.

The two years differed by less than 0.018 degrees Fahrenheit. The difference is smaller than the uncertainty in comparing the temperatures of recent years, putting them into a statistical tie. In the new analysis, the next warmest years are 1998, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007 and 2009, which are statistically tied for third warmest year. The GISS records begin in 1880.

The analysis found 2010 approximately 1.34°F warmer than the average global surface temperature from 1951 to 1980. To measure climate change, scientists look at long-term trends. The temperature trend, including data from 2010, shows the climate has warmed by approximately 0.36°F per decade since the late 1970s.

“If the warming trend continues, as is expected, if greenhouse gases continue to increase, the 2010 record will not stand for long,” said James Hansen, the director of GISS.

From NASA:

Now, it would appear that legislation to combat climate change in the world’s second largest emitter –and by historic levels, by far its biggest emitter– is hopeless stalled.  You can read this excellent Ryan Lizza story on how a series of blunders killed climate change legislation in the U.S. Senate.

But–all hope is not lost. It would appear that the executive branch is trying to take things into its own hands and use its regulatory powers to combat carbon emissions and other harmful activities.  For example, just today the Environmental Protection Agency vetoed what would have been the largest coal strip mining operation in the country.

These efforts on the margins are certainly helpful. But what we really need is comprehensive climate change legislation here in the United States.