Some Highlights: NOAA State of the Climate Report, 2009

Posted on July 29, 2010


The year 2009 began with a declining La Niña and ended with a strengthening El Niño, which first developed in June. By December, sea surface temperatures were more than 2.0°C above average over large parts of the central and eastern equatorial Pacific.  The transition from La Niña to El Niño strongly influenced many climate conditions, from reduced Atlantic basin hurricane activity to large scale surface and lower atmospheric warmth.

Global average surface and lower-atmosphere temperatures during the last three decades have been progressively warmer than all earlier decades, and the 2000s (2000–09) was the warmest decade in the instrumental record.  This warming has been particularly apparent in the mid- and high-latitude regions of the Northern Hemisphere and includes decadal records in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Europe, and the Arctic.

Atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations continued to rise, with CO2 increasing at a rate above the 1978 to 2008 average.

Global upper-ocean heat content for the last several years have reached values consistently higher than for all prior times in the record, demonstrating the dominant role of the oceans in the planet’s energy budget.

Hot spells:

  • Extreme warmth was experienced across large areas of South America, southern Asia, Australia, and New Zealand
  • Australia had its second warmest year on record
  • India experienced its warmest year on record
  • Alaska had its second warmest July on record, behind 2004
  • New Zealand had its warmest August since records began 155 years ago

Cold spells:

  • Severe cold snaps were reported in the UK, China, and the Russian Federation.

Drought affected large parts of southern North America, the Caribbean, South America, and Asia.  China suffered its worst drought in five decades.  India had a record dry June associated with the reduced monsoon.

Heavy rainfall and floods impacted Canada, the United States, Amazonia and southern South America, many countries along the east and west coasts of Africa, and the UK.  The U.S. experienced its wettest October in 115 years and Turkey received its heaviest rainfall over a 48-hr period in 80 years.

Global tropical cyclone (TC) activity was the lowest since 2005, with six of the seven main hurricane basins (the exception is the Eastern North Pacific) experiencing near-normal or somewhat below-normal tropical cyclone activity.

Despite the relatively mild year for overall hurricane activity, several storms were particularly noteworthy:

  • Typhoon Morakot was the deadliest typhoon on record to hit Taiwan;
  • Cyclone Hamish was the most intense cyclone off Queensland since 1918;
  • the state of Hawaii experienced its first TC since 1992.

The summer minimum ice extent in the Arctic was the third-lowest recorded since 1979.

The 2008/09 boreal snow cover season marked a continuation of relatively shorter snow seasons, due primarily to an early disappearance of snow cover in spring.

Preliminary data indicate a high probability that 2009 will be the 19th consecutive year that glaciers have lost mass.

Below normal precipitation led the 34 widest marine terminating glaciers in Greenland to lose 101 square kilometres ice area in 2009.  The loss rate has been 106 square kilometres per year over the past decade.

Observations show a general increase in permafrost temperatures during the last several decades in Alaska, northwest Canada, Siberia, and Northern Europe.

The High Arctic has been greening-up earlier in the spring and the Low Arctic has been staying green longer in the fall.

The Antarctic Peninsula continues to warm at a rate five times greater than the global average.  There has been significant ice loss along the Antarctic Peninsula in the last decade.  Antarctic sea ice extent was near normal to modestly above normal for the majority of 2009, with marked regional contrasts within the record.  The 2008/09 Antarctic-wide austral summer snowmelt was the lowest in the 30-year history.


Report cited as:

Arndt, D. S., M. O. Baringer, and M. R. Johnson, Eds., 2010: State of the Climate in 2009. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 91 (6), S1–S224.

May be found at:

Posted in: climate change