Saturday, January 23, 2016

It's Official: 2015 Was Hottest Year On Record

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Most may already have been aware but now they know 2015 was the hottest year on record, at least since reliable records began in 1880.  If the forecasts, as well as those of the UK Hadley Center prove accurate, then 2016 will exceed even the record 2015.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as well as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration announced their findings at a joint news conference Wednesday.  It is to be noted that the NOAA and NASA each track temperatures globally using slightly different analytical methods.  This in itself makes their joint statement and agreement even more significant.

By the reckoning of NOAA and NASA  our planet is inexorably warming in response to rising concentrations of CO2. Previous EOS Transactions papers have put the rise at a rate of 2 ppm/ year and we are already at nearly 390 ppm. Autos and coal factories contribute to this higher concentration but also deforestation. See e.g.

How bad, how wretched, can it get? How about a heat index of 170F by the year 2100?

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And this may well be conservative if specific thresholds are crossed (e.g. the 6C increase mark) by that year.

As a recent TIME report noted (Dec. 28, p. 18):

"A 3.5 C temperature rise would occur even if all (200) nations meet initial pledges to reduce carbon emissions.  This would still submerge coastal cities and drive over half of species to extinction."

It would also make life so horrific for humans, many will wish for extinction. Think of 6-8 month heat waves lasting even through supposed 'cold' months and temperatures hitting 95F- 100 F regularly - even in December. Think of it happening not just in the U.S. but globally.  And think of power grids mostly being down because they are unable to meet the vastly enhanced power demands, say for air conditioning.

All the indicators for 2015 show we are well on our way. For that year the average temperature was the highest in 136 years over the 1880-2015 interval, surpassing the previous record set in 2014 by 0..29F and marking the fourth time a global temperature record has been set.  Meanwhile, the average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.62F (0.90 C) above the 20th century average. This is mind boggling given that the total increase up to mid-20th century had been estimated at 0.8C.

NASA scientists also emphasized that 15 of the past 16 warmest years on record occurred since 2001. So much for the "global warming pause" the deniers have been using like a bogus cudgel since 1998.

Climate scientists at the UK Hadley Center For Climate Prediction and Research (which independently tracks global temperatures) also confirm the NOAA, NASA conclusions. Indeed, they note that global temperatures in 2015 reached 1C above pre-industrial levels for the first time. Admittedly, as I pointed out earlier, e.g.

El Niño has contributed to this record with the increased warming of the Pacific Ocean.

However, the El Niño effect doesn't explain everything.  Climate expert Dr. Michael Mann explained to the New York Times, that even if the global climate weren't warming, the odds of setting two back-to-back record years would be about one chance in every 1,500 pairs of years.

He added that because the planet is warming, the odds of setting back-to-back record years are really closer to one in 10.  Most terrifying, is that there's good evidence that this is nothing compared to what's to come.  For reference, This graph shows how global temperatures have historically, for more than 400,000 years, tracked with carbon dioxide and methane levels in the atmosphere.

The graph at the top shows how the temperatures have soared since the start of official record keeping (source: The Wall Street Journal, Jan. 18, p. A7)

See also:

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