msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 1/12/2011 12:03:24 PM ET 2011-01-12T17:03:24

Last year tied for the warmest globally since records began, the U.S. agency that tracks temperatures said on Wednesday, capping a decade of record high temperatures and raising concerns about more storms and floods related to climate change.

Combined global land and ocean temperatures in 2010 were 1.12 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average, tying the record set in 2005, the National Climatic Data Center, an office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said in a release.

"These results show that the climate is continuing to show the influence of greenhouse gases, it's showing evidence of warming," David Easterling, the chief of the scientific services division at the NCDC, told reporters.

Other facets pointed out by NOAA:

  • 2010 was the 34th consecutive year with global temperatures above the 20th century average.
  • 2010 was also the wettest year on record in terms of global average precipitation.
  • Each year since 2000 has ranked as one of the 15 warmest years on record since 1880 when the records began.
  • For the U.S. mainland, the 2010 average annual temperature was the 14th consecutive year above average and the 23rd warmest year on record.
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Despite last year's frigid temperatures and snow storms in the United States and Europe, many places such as Russia and Pakistan, suffered from heat waves and floods that wrecked crops and helping lead to record global food prices.

It's not possible to link one weather event directly to global warming, but the trend of rising temperatures since 2000 increases the possibility that such events will happen, Easterling said.

From mid-June to mid-August an unusually strong jet stream shifted northward of western Russia and plunged southward into Pakistan. The pattern was locked in place for weeks, bringing an unprecedented two-month heat wave to Russia, wrecking wheat crops. It also contributed to devastating floods in Pakistan at the end of July, NOAA said.

The El Nino weather pattern also helped raise temperatures early in the year.

NOAA's report, which relied on data going back to 1880, was the first of several on global 2010 temperatures.

NASA will issue its report as soon as this week and the UK Met Office's Hadley Centre will report later this month.

The U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization will have the final say when it releases its report around the end of the month.

Frigid winters in parts of Europe and the United States in 2010 may be a paradoxical side effect of climate change, some scientists said. Rising temperatures mean a shrinking of sea ice in the Arctic, heating the region and pushing cold air southwards during the winter, according to a study last month in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

Warming of the air over the Barents and Kara Seas, for instance, seems to bring cold winter winds to Europe.

"This is not what one would expect," Vladimir Petoukhov, lead author of the study and climate scientist at Germany's Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said in a statement. "Whoever thinks that the shrinking of some far away sea-ice won't bother him could be wrong."

"These anomalies could triple the probability of cold winter extremes in Europe and northern Asia," he said. "Recent severe winters like last year's or the one of 2005-06 do not conflict with the global warming picture, but rather supplement it."

Reuters contributed to this report.

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