Did 2010 seem hotter than previous years? Well, according to a new study released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, it was.

Using 41 climate indicators, over 300 scientists from 46 countries determined that 2010 was one of the hottest years since records started being kept in the late 19th century.

The report tracks a range of weather-related indicators, including greenhouse gas emissions, cloud cover, humidity, glaciers and ocean temperature and salinity. All of the indicators include measurements from various datasets, and allow scientists to identify global trends.

“We’re continuing to closely track these indicators because it is quite clear that the climate of the past cannot be assumed to represent the climate of the future,” said Thomas R. Karl, L.H.D, director of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.

Highlights of the report include:

  • Sea ice and glaciers: The Arctic Sea ice shrank to the third smallest area on record while average sea ice extent in Antarctica grew to a new all time high.
  • Ocean salinity: Oceans became saltier in 2010, particularly areas with higher levels of evaporation while oceans in areas with high amounts of precipitation were fresher. Scientists believe this suggests that the ocean cycle is intensifying.
  • Greenhouse gases: The emission of greenhouse gases continues to rise, with carbon dioxide increasing by 2.60 parts per million, which was more then the average annual increase from 1980 to 2006.
Aiding in the various climate and weather trends in 2010 was a chain of cyclical weather patterns that are responsible for some of 2010’s most intense weather events:
  • El Niño-Southern Oscillation: The warm El Niño phenomenon at the start of 2010 had transitioned to a cool La Niña by July. This resulted in a below-average occurrence of Pacific tropical cyclones while the Atlantic Ocean saw an uptick in hurricane activity.
  • Arctic Oscillation: The shifts of the weather phenomenon caused cold air to head south while warm air headed north. This gave Canada one its warmest years on record while Britain and the eastern United States both had frigid, snowy winters.
Gathering and studying these datasets helps scientists and researchers better understand trends, and predict what could happen in the future.

“These indicators are vital for understanding and making reliable projections of future climate,” said Karl.

The State of the Climate report is peer-reviewed and published annually as a special supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. The 2010 report is edited by J. Blunden, D.S. Arndt, and M.O. Baringer.

On the Web: The State of the Climate report, NOAA.