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Mar
12
2013

Hotter and hotter: This daily temperature map from space shows hotter areas in red, cooler areas in blue. The past century has seen a growing amount of red across the globe.
Hotter and hotter: This daily temperature map from space shows hotter areas in red, cooler areas in blue. The past century has seen a growing amount of red across the globe.Courtesy NASA/JPL
Here's another log to throw on the figurative global climate change fire: a new study shows that recent temperatures are significantly higher than most years since the last ice age some 11,000 years ago. And the trends show that by the end of this century, we'll likely set an all-time high.

Like me, you're probably wondering how researchers can know how cold or warm things were in that time span. Thermometer-measured temperature records only date back to the late 1800s. But temperature information can be gleaned from other datable sources, such as tree rings and isotope ratios in cave formations. Long-chain organic molecules in shells of sea-based microorganisms that settled at the bottom of oceans have also provided temperature clues.

Hockey stick graph: If you were to graph the global temperature data from the last 11,000 year, it would look much like a prone hockey stick, with temperatures of the last 100 years spiking up sharply.
Hockey stick graph: If you were to graph the global temperature data from the last 11,000 year, it would look much like a prone hockey stick, with temperatures of the last 100 years spiking up sharply.Courtesy Ohkami
The new study aggregated data taken from 73 different studies from across the globe to try to get a better handle on overall temperature trends. And that trend shows that in the past century, which started with some of the lowest global temperatures since the last ice age, we've spiked up in recent years to see some of the highest temperatures recorded in that 11,000-year span. Charting that data on a graph over all those years shows a long horizontal line of slight variations ending with a sharp incline over the last century, hence the hockey stick analogy.