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NASA has issued a climate change update for the year just ended, and 2008 will go in the record books as the coolest year since 2000, but still much, much warmer than any year prior to 1990. As a result, the 10 warmest years on record have all occurred in the last 12 years, and 2008 can be slotted somewhere between the seventh and tenth position.

Climate scientists were not surprised when 2008 failed to break any records, as a strong La Nina — the cool sibling of the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) — has been depressing temperatures throughout North and South America for 18 months. But as La Nina lifts, NASA scientists are confidently predicting that the mantle for warmest year on record will be laid on the shoulders of 2009 or 2010 — even though solar irradiance is at its lowest level in more than 35 years. Of course, a serious volcanic eruption could delay the coronation for a year or two.

NASA released the 2008 results on the same day that climate scientist Dr. James Hansen was chosen by his peers to receive the 2009 Carl-Gustaf Rossby Research Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the American Meteorological Society (AMS).

And that’s as it should be.

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