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Vital Climate Graphics

Trend in global average surface temperature

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15. The figure shows the combined land-surface air and sea surface temperatures (degrees Centigrade) 1861 to 1998, relative to the average temperature between 1961 and 1990

.The mean global surface temperature has increased by about 0.3 to 0.6°C since the late 19th century and by about 0.2 to 0.3°C over the last 40 years, which is the period with most reliable data. Recent years have been among the warmest since 1860 - the period for which instrumental records are available.

Warming is evident in both sea surface and land-based surface air temperatures. Urbanization in general and desertification could have contributed only a small fraction of the overall global warming, although urbanization may have been an important influence in some regions. Indirect indicators such as borehole temperatures and glacier shrinkage provide independent support for the observed warming. It should also be noted that the warming has not been globally uniform. The recent warming has been greatest between 40°N and 70°N latitude, though some areas such as the North Atlantic Ocean have cooled in the recent decades.