Monday, March 21, 2016

February Heat Smashes Records Prompting Scientists to Declare a Climate Emergency

While new heat records are commonplace, February 2016 is in a class of its own for having the largest ever average monthly departure from global norms in the history of temperature measurements. The global average temperature in February was 1.35 degrees Celsius (2.43 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 1951-1980 average.

NASA, NOAA, the Japan Meteorological Agency and a satellite-based estimate of lower atmospheric temperature from the University of Alabama at Huntsville all confirm February's record setting heat.

As explained in an AP article, "Earth got so hot last month that federal scientists struggled to find words, describing temperatures as "astronomical," "staggering" and "strange." They warned that the climate may have moved into a new and hotter neighborhood."

Jeff Masters and Bob Henson at Weather Underground said:

"This result is a true shocker, and yet another reminder of the incessant long-term rise in global temperature resulting from human-produced greenhouse gases."

February is the fifth month in a row where global temperatures exceeded 1°C (about 2°F) above average. There have now been ten consecutive months of record setting temperatures.

Part of this can be attributed to El Niño, but the overall trend can be attributed to the build up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. El Niño’s influence on global temperatures as a whole is likely small—on the order of 0.1 degree Celsius or so.

Climate Central, quotes climate scientist Michael Mann who said:

"I think we all knew this would be a warm year due to the major El Niño event. But I don’t think any of us expected such remarkable and persistent record-breaking warmth."

As reported by the Weather Underground, Jeff Masters and Bob Henson described February's temperature readings as a "bombshell of a climate report." and they went on to say that this is an "ominous milestone in our march toward an ever-warmer planet."

A Slate article stated that "global warming is going into overdrive."

Writing on his blog, former NASA scientist Roy Spencer said that February 2016 featured “whopping” temperature anomalies

Peter Gleick, a climate scientist at the Pacific Institute in Oakland, California, said it’s difficult to compare the current temperature spike: "The old assumptions about what was normal are being tossed out the window … The old normal is gone."

The Guardian reports that this unprecedented leap led scientists, usually wary of highlighting a single month’s temperature, to label the new record a “shocker” and warn of a “climate emergency”.

"We are in a kind of climate emergency now,” said Prof Stefan Rahmstorf, from the Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research in Germany. He told Fairfax Media: “This is really quite stunning ... it’s completely unprecedented."

While February broke a record for temperature increases above the mean, as of the midway mark in March, the anomaly has been even larger.

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