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NASA: 2011 Among Top-Nine Warmest Years Since 1880

Children look for water on the bed of a dried up lake in Lucknow, India (file photo)

The U.S. space agency, NASA, says average global surface temperatures continued an alarming upward trend in 2011, which has been ranked among the top-nine warmest years since 1880.

Scientists worldwide overwhelmingly agree that billions of tons of man-made carbon dioxide emissions pumped into the Earth’s atmosphere over the last 100 years are largely to blame for increasing global warming.

NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York says new data analysis indicates that surface temperatures in 2011 climbed 0.52 degrees Celsius above the average mark from the mid-20th century.

The year 2010 is ranked as the hottest since 1880.

However, the Goddard analysts say year-to-year temperature fluctuations are not as important as a trend spanning a decade or more. A look at NASA’s list finds that 11 of the 12 warmest years on record are occurred in the 21st century - from 2001 to 2011. The other year is 1998.

The NASA scientists also note that, so far, the 21st century has been warmer than any decade in the last 100 years.

Last year, NASA researchers who conducted a separate study warned that the 21st century could see rapid and catastrophic climate changes if global warming continues rising at its current rate. Scientists predict that people likely would face more frequent and intense storms; severe flooding and drought; and major shifts in rainfall patterns.

The Goddard researchers drew their conclusions from analyzing data collected from a vast global network of weather and research stations, as well as from satellite observations. The average global surface temperature the Goddard analysts used in their calculations is from 1951 to 1980.

Carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases are produced naturally as well as through human activity, such as the burning of fossils fuels for energy.