Friday, May 1, 2015
Heat Records Tell the Story of Climate Change
The planet has been warmer than average for 358 straight months, or almost 30 years. Last year (2014) was the Earth's hottest year on record and global average sea surface temperatures were also at an all-time high in 2014. What make 2014 remarkable is that is come without the El Niño effect which are known to boost global temperatures. The ten warmest years ever recorded have all occurred since 1998. Nine of the ten warmest years have occurred since the year 2000, with 13 of the 15 hottest years on record globally all occurring during the past 15 years.
These temperature spikes are attributable to human activity with almost 100 percent certainty. While climate deniers like to dismiss these observations as a function of natural variability, the research reveals that there is less than a 1 in 27 million possibility that this is the case. The odds that nine out of the 10 warmest years would occur in the past decade by chance alone are about 650 million to 1.
These results are corroborated by research organizations like the NOAA and NASA using differing methodologies. According to NOAA, the average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.24 degrees Fahrenheit, or 0.69 degrees Celsius, above the 20th century average.
September 2014 had the highest global average ocean temperatures on record and in September average global sea surface temperature saw the highest departure from average for any month ever recorded.
The warming trend is undeniable and unless we radically reduce greenhouse gas emissions we are on track to exceed 10 degrees Fahrenheit of warming above pre-industrial times by the end of the century. That is almost triple the 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) upper threshold limit.
The concomitant sea level rise, extreme weather, will result in a wide range of species extinctions and make life for humans very difficult.
"Viewed in context, it underscores the undeniability that we are witnessing, before our eyes, the effects of human-caused climate change," said Michael Mann, the director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University.
One year of observations may be a statistical anomaly but as we compile decades of research we see a clear and unmistakable warming trend.
As we project this out into the future the situation gets even more calamitous. By the time we reach temperature increases of 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times heat extremes will be around five times more likely than they are today.
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At Least 30 Years of Above Average Temperatures
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2014 is the Hottest Year in Recorded History
How Much Heat is Required to Spur Global Action?
Record Breaking Heat Suggests Accelerated Warming