What a difference a year makes: As June makes a broiling segue into July and the daily “chance of isolated thundershowers” forecast becomes a monotonous litany, it is a marked contrast to the torrential rains that plagued agriculture the latter half of 2009.

Behind the El Niño phenomenon that kept the rain gods working overtime last year were, according to a recently released National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) report, the warmest global ocean temperatures since records began in 1880.

Combining ocean surface temperatures with land temperatures, June 2009 was the second hottest on record for the planet as a whole, and last year was a mere fraction of a degree cooler than the hottest year, 2005.

Further, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) says the period from January 2000 through December 2009 was the hottest decade since recordkeeping began.

And what of 2010?

The combined global land and ocean surface temperature anomaly for January was 1.08 degrees F above the 20th century average, NOAA notes — the fourth warmest January on record. The worldwide monthly averaged land surface temperature was the 12th warmest January on record, 1.49 degrees F above the 20th century average.

NOAA data show that May, the period March to May, and January to May all had the hottest combined global land and ocean surface temperatures since records began.

For the three months March-May in the U.S., the National Climatic Data Center says new record highs outpaced record lows by at least two-to-one. For May, heat records outnumbered cold records by more than 40 percent. On May 25, there were 164 new daily high temperature records and 88 more May 26.

Over time, the center notes, the expected ratio for new record highs and record lows is about 1-to-1, but over the past decade, it has been about 2-to-1.

South Asia has been in the hottest heat since records began. India’s summer season is the hottest ever recorded, with hundreds of heat-related deaths as temperatures neared 122 degrees F. Pakistan reported a high temperature of 128 degrees.

Arctic sea ice covered an average of 5.06 million square miles during May, 3.7 percent below the 1979-2000 average, and the ninth smallest May footprint since those records began in 1979. During May, Arctic sea ice melted 50 percent faster than the average May melting rate, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Antarctic sea ice, conversely, was 7.3 percent above the 1979-2000 average for May, the fourth largest on record.

Northern Hemisphere snow cover during May was record low and for March-May was the fourth smallest on record. North American snow cover March-May was the smallest on record.

May’s combined global land and ocean surface temperature warmer than the 20th century average and land temperatures were above the average for the past century.

Iced tea, anyone?

e-mail: hbrandon@farmpress.com