Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Persistant Ongoing Heat is Rewriting the Record Books

Every month we are breaking new heat records. It is not just the consistent regularity of new temperature records it is also the speed at which the planet is warming as evidenced by the growing deviations from the norm. Historically, climate changes usually take place over centuries and these changes are measured by variations in fractions of a degree. In a relatively short span of time we are seeing consistent temperature increases exceeding 1 degree Celsius above the mean.

Meteorologist Eric Holthaus points to NASA data which indicates that April was a record hot month. This follows the hottest March on record according to global satellite data. The hottest February on record prompted climate scientists to declare a state of emergency. Temperature records were also broken in January, December, November, October, September, August, July, June and May. That makes 12 consecutive months of above average global heat records. To make matters worse there is a trend of increased departures from the mean suggesting accelerating warming.

This year we have recorded the warmest start (January - March) of any year ever recorded. Overall the winter of 2015 was the warmest winter ever recorded and this follows the warmest summer ever recorded.

The Arctic is experiencing consecutive winters that are way above average. In March temperatures soared to record highs, this includes a temperature recording of more than 70 degrees Fahrenheit in Southeast Alaska. At the end of last 2015 temperatures at the North Pole were 50 degrees higher than the normal. This year's Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race was marred by an absence of snow drawing attention to Arctic (and global) warming.

It is hot and it appears to be getting hotter faster than anyone had predicted. In the period from October to March the recorded temperature anomaly was at least 1 degree Celsius above the 20th century average. This is unprecedented since record taking began well over a hundred years ago. According to NASA data March was 1.28 degrees Celsius, or 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit, above the 20th century average.

The heat in February prompted some climatologists to declare a global emergency but March was even warmer and April appears to have been warmer still. According to data released by the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) the global temperature in March has shattered a century-long record and by the greatest margin yet seen for any month. However the record monthly departure from the mean recorded in March appears to have been broken in the Month of April.

As reported by the Guardian, Prof Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Penn State University in the US, responded to the March data by saying: "Wow. I continue to be shocked by what we are seeing." He said the world had now been hovering close to the threshold of "dangerous" warming for two months, something not seen before. "The [new data] is a reminder of how perilously close we now are to permanently crossing into dangerous territory," Mann said. “"It underscores the urgency of reducing global carbon emissions."

As reported by the CBC, an October 2013 study published in Nature, said that by 2023 we will pass a threshold when we can securely predict that every year will be warmer than the year before.

"One can think of this year as a kind of threshold into a hot new world from which one never goes back," said Carnegie Institution climate scientist Chris Field. "This is really dramatic."

The 2013 study was led by Camilo Mora, a biological geographer at the University of Hawaii who completed his Ph.D. at the University of Windsor. He and his colleagues said they hope this new way of looking at climate change will spur governments to do something before it is too late. "Now is the time to act," said another study co-author, Ryan Longman.

Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann said the research "may actually be presenting an overly rosy scenario when it comes to how close we are to passing the threshold for dangerous climate impacts." He added, "by some measures, we are already there."

The spate of recent temperature records suggest that Mann was right. We have already passed the threshold predicted by the 2013 study well ahead of schedule. The trend is troubling and destined to get worse as the oceans cannot absorb as much heat or as much carbon as they used to. 

The Paris Climate Agreement hopes to keep temperatures from climbing more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels, and to try to limit the increase to about 1.5 degrees Celsius.

However as explained by Dr. Kevin Trenberth in the New York Times, with global temperatures already nearing the 1.5-degree threshold, the goal set in Paris may be almost impossible to achieve. "I don’t see at all how we’re going to not go through the 1.5 degree-number in the next decade or so," Dr. Trenberth said.

The heat records tell the story of climate change and each month adds to the pool of data and supports the science of planetary warming. Last year was the hottest year on record breaking the record set in 2014. Almost half way into 2016 we are forced to concede that while last year was hot, this year will be even hotter. This will be the third consecutive year of record breaking temperatures.

While individual temperature measurements do not constitute sound evidence for climate change, more than 30 consecutive years of warming leave us with little room for doubt.

Related
The Warmest Winter Ever and the Coming Climate Catastrophe
March Heat and the Trend of Earlier Springs & Later Winters
February Heat Smashes Records Prompting Scientists to Declare a Climate Emergency
2015 was the Hottest Year on Record and 2016 will be Hotter
Rising CO2 Emissions and Ongoing Heat Records Especially in the Arctic
Record Heat Dominates Christmas Weather
October 2015 Breaks More Heat Records and Corroborates Accelerated Warming
GHGs are Warming the Planet and Contributing to Disasters
2015 - The Hottest Summer in the Hottest Year on Record
Global Temperature Data Underscores the Urgency of Climate Action
El Niño and Global Warming are Locked in a Feedback Loop
India's Heat Wave Offers a Glimpse into the Future
2014 is the Hottest Year in Recorded History
How Much Heat is Required to Spur Global Action?
Record Breaking Heat Suggests Accelerated Warming
James Hansen's 2012 Research Linking Global Warming and Extreme Weather

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