The Warmest Year on Record

Global Warming and Yearly Temperature Rises in the United States

2006 US Temperature Records
2006 ranks as one of the warmest years on record in the US. You can see the states with the most extreme variations. Notice - In NO state were temperatures at or below normal for 2006 indicating a possible global warming or strong El Nino Effect. National Climatic Data Center, NOAA

The Race for the Title of Warmest Year on Record

In the footrace for the climate change champion of the world and the title Warmest Year EVER (in current records), 2006 was trailing behind 1998 and 1934 by a mere 0.07°F (0.04°C). But in a sudden last minute victory effort 2006, fueled by a very warm December, was declared the victor.

Marked as the warmest year on record, 2006 had an annual average temperature of 55°F which is 2.2°F (1.2°C) above the 20th Century mean.

Also participating in this race were the last nine years consecutively. Each of the last nine years has earned a spot in the rankings of the 25 warmest years on record.

We Have a Winner!!

And the winner is...2006! However, according to a year end review released by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), although 2006 is the warmest year so far, the win was a close call. Data even suggests that 1998 may still be the warmest year on record. Although 2006 was ranked as the warmest year for now, it is likely that a photo finish will have to be analyzed.

Due to some of the data uncertainties for the 1200+ stations in the US climate data network, new data sets are being analyzed which MAY overturn 2006 as the victor and give the record back to 1998 as warmest year on record. These reports, however, are not expected to be released until some time in 2007.

Previous Warm Year Record Setters

For your convenience, I have gathered a table of the 25 warmest years (on the next page of this article). The data is ranked in order from 1 to 25. The temperature are separated into two different versions.

  • The second set of data (beta version 2) is currently being re-worked and is scheduled to be officially released in 2007.
  • All temperatures are reported in degrees Fahrenheit.

Why Use Two Different Weather Data Sets?

According to the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), the new data set uses “recent scientific advances that better address uncertainties in the instrumental record. Because different algorithms were used in making adjustments to the station data which comprise both data sets, there are small differences in annual average temperatures between the two data sets. These small differences in average temperatures result in minor changes in annual rankings for some years”.

Several Critical Questions Remain

  • What will the coming years bring?
  • Will next year be even warmer?
  • What can we do about these increased temperature changes?
  • What are the global effects of increased yearly temperatures?
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

While these data sets are for the United States only, the data indicates that the global mean temperature has risen approximately 1 degree F since the start of the 20th century. And, among the three hottest years (1934, 1998, and 2006), the only year without a true concentration of warmth was 2006.

What this means is that the entire United States was warm all over. No state was near or below average for 2006.

Looking at the temperature conditions and departures from normal in images from 1934, 1998, and 2006, you can see the differences between the images.

For Education and Research:The above links will take you to raw and processed data sets from the US Historical Climatology Network and can be accessed for free. Students may want to use the monthly and daily temperature and precipitation data sets for analysis in a mathematics or science classroom. Teachers could also use this information to compile hands-on data analysis lessons. If you use any of the information, please contact me by leaving a message in the forum. I will publish teacher lesson plans that utilize this data.

The data below comes from the 2006 annual climate summary from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). If you are arriving on this page without seeing the rest of the article, you can go back to the previous page for a full explanation of the climate data detailed here.

Is it Global Warming?

While you may want to jump to the conclusion that all of the hottest years listed below are due to global warming, bear in mind that there are a lot of factors and variables that can affect climate over the long term.

In fact, that is one of the reasons there are two different data sets below.

Climate data analysis is very difficult. Climate models have to use supercomputers just to predict future climate trends. In fact, that is one of the main reasons global warming is given the status of a debate. But as with all facts, variables and interpretations can wreck havoc on the true science.

The Truth about Temperature Changes

Earth is warming. There is little doubt of this fact. But what exactly is the cause of the accelerated warmth we are experiencing? The question becomes then...Is the earth warming due to human activity?

Finally, do not underestimate our good friend El Nino. Currently, El Nino is the most likely cause for the unusually warm 2006. In fact, the ocean was also the culprit in the incredible heat waves of the 1930s that caused the Dust Bowl. Many are even asking...Can we have another dust bowl?

The answer is (unfortunately)...Yes.

The 25 Warmest Years on Record

Data in Years and Degrees Fahrenheit
RankUSHCN Version 1USHCN Version 2 Beta
1200655.01199855.09
2199854.94200654.95
3193454.91199954.61
4199954.53193454.54
5192154.49192154.37
6193154.34199054.37
7199054.24200154.35
8200154.23200554.28
9195354.18193154.20
10195454.13195354.10
11200554.08198654.08
12198754.08198754.07
13198654.08199153.98
14193954.07200253.95
15193854.01200353.94
16198153.88200053.92
17199153.87193953.89
18200353.86195453.88
19200053.84193853.86
20194653.81198153.79
21193353.81200453.78
22200253.76199453.66
23200453.62193353.64
24199453.61194653.63
25194153.57199553.51