Planet’s heat record shattered — and 2016 likely to be even warmer


Last year was far and away the hottest the planet has seen since at least 1880 when record-keeping began — and 2016 is likely to be even warmer, federal scientists said Wednesday.

The historic heat, confirmed by both NASA and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, continues an alarming trend that climatologists say is driving shifts in worldwide weather with places like California saddled with less snow, rising seas and potentially more wildfires.

 The NOAA data show average global temperature shattered the previous high set in 2014 by 0.29 degrees, a seemingly small bump but significant considering that increases have continued over several decades and show little sign of ceasing.

The planet’s average surface temperature — 58.62 degrees last year — is up about 1.8 degrees since the late 19th century, with most of that warming occurring in the past 35 years. Fifteen of the 16 hottest years have been observed since 2001.

Scientists cite greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels and deforestation as the primary cause of the heat. Last year also got a bump from El Niño, a cyclical warming of the Pacific Ocean that can lead to balmier temperatures elsewhere.

The same drivers are in play this year.

“Because it’s starting with a very strong El Niño and will kind of build during the year, 2016 is expected to be an exceptionally warm year and perhaps a record,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

NASA and NOAA independently track temperatures at thousands of weather stations on land and water, from buoys in tropical seas to field equipment at the Earth’s poles, and each analyzes the differences over time.

Both of the agency’s data point to a roughly 0.25 degree rise in temperature in each of the past five decades.

In December, world leaders meeting in Paris reached a first-ever agreement to limit the planet’s warming temperatures — to 2.7 degrees, or 1.5 degrees Celsius, above pre-industrial levels. The new data show just how difficult that goal is.

“We don’t have very far to go to reach 1.5,” said Thomas Karl, director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.

Author: Harlem Valley News