Global Temperatures Set Another Record In 2016
The reality of global climate change made itself evident again in 2016.
For the third consecutive year, the planet experienced its highest average temperature in recorded history:
Marking another milestone for a changing planet, scientists reported on Wednesday that the Earth reached its highest temperature on record in 2016 — trouncing a record set only a year earlier, which beat one set in 2014. It is the first time in the modern era of global warming data that temperatures have blown past the previous record three years in a row.
The findings come two days before the inauguration of an American president who has called global warming a Chinese plot and vowed to roll back his predecessor’s efforts to cut emissions of heat-trapping gases.
The data show that politicians cannot wish the problem away. The Earth is heating up, a point long beyond serious scientific dispute, but one becoming more evident as the records keep falling. Temperatures are heading toward levels that many experts believe will pose a profound threat to both the natural world and to human civilization.
In 2015 and 2016, the planetary warming was intensified by the weather pattern known as El Niño, in which the Pacific Ocean released a huge burst of energy and water vapor into the atmosphere. But the bigger factor in setting the records was the long-term trend of rising temperature, which scientists say is being driven by increasing levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
“A single warm year is something of a curiosity,” said Deke Arndt, chief of global climate monitoring for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “It’s really the trend, and the fact that we’re punching at the ceiling every year now, that is the real indicator that we’re undergoing big changes.”
The heat extremes were especially pervasive in the Arctic, with temperatures in the fall running 20 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit above normal across large stretches of the Arctic Ocean. Sea ice in that region has been in precipitous decline for years, and Arctic communities are already wrestling with enormous problems, such as rapid coastal erosion, caused by the changing climate.
“What’s going on in the Arctic is really very impressive; this year was ridiculously off the chart,” said Gavin A. Schmidt, head of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies in Manhattan, a unit of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration that tracks global temperatures.
But Arctic people were hardly alone in feeling the heat. Drought and starvation afflicted Africa. On May 19, the people in the town of Phalodi lived through the hottest day in the recorded history of India, 123.8 degrees Fahrenheit.
El Niño has now ended, and climate scientists almost universally expect 2017 to be cooler than the year before. But the scale of the heat burst has been startling to many of the experts, and some of them fear an accelerated era of global warming could be at hand over the next few years.
Even at current temperatures, billions of tons of land ice are melting or sliding into the ocean. The sea is also absorbing most of the heat trapped by human emissions. Those factors are causing the ocean to rise at what appears to be an accelerating pace, and coastal communities in the United States are spending billions of dollars to fight increased tidal flooding. Their pleas for help from Congress have largely been ignored.
The finding that a record had been set for the third year in a row was released on Wednesday by three government agencies, two American and one British, that track measurements made by ships, buoys and land-based weather stations. They analyze the figures to correct for known problems, producing an annual average temperature for the surface of the Earth. The national meteorological agency of Japan also confirmed the findings in a preliminary analysis.
The findings about a record-warm year were also confirmed by the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, a nonprofit California group set up to provide a temperature analysis independent of governments. That group, however, did not find that three records had been set in a row; in its analysis, 2010 was slightly warmer than 2014.
In addition to the surface measurements, satellites are used to measure the temperature of the atmosphere a few miles above the surface. Two groups that analyze these figures showed a record-warm 2016 in data going back to 1978, though in one data set it was a record by only a small margin.
Since 1880, NOAA’s records show only one other instance when global temperature records were set three years in a row: in 1939, 1940 and 1941. The Earth has warmed so much in recent decades, however, that 1941 now ranks as only the 37th-warmest year on record.
The modern era of global warming began around 1970, after a long stretch of relatively flat temperatures, and the past three years mark the first time in that period that three records were set in a row. Of the 17 hottest years on record, 16 have now occurred since 2000.
For some time now, it’s been clear that worldwide temperatures have been on the upswing since at least 1970 and that those temperature spikes have become more common since the turn of the century, with each new year seeming to set new records either worldwide, for particular parts of the planet, or both. While it’s true that the records we’re talking about only reliably go back to the late 19th Century, additional evidence uncovered via the examination of soil samples and other methods seem to indicate that this trend is a real phenomenon rather than just a fluke that will pass us by in a few years. At this point, one would have to deliberately be sticking their heads in the sand to ignore the clear scientific data that shows these facts, and already there is evidence from around the globe of the impact that these rising temperatures are likely to have in years to come, from rising sea levels and daily temperatures in major cities to increasingly erratic weather in many parts of the world. The world is getting warmer, and there’s going to be a point at which we will be powerless to do anything about it, assuming, that is, that we haven’t already passed that point. Instead of recognizing that reality, though, many people in the United States continue to deny the basic facts that show that the global climate is undergoing radical change and have chosen instead to attack those who are attempting to make this information public.
In addition to the fact of global climate change, it also seems undeniable that human activity has played at least some role in bringing the current situation about. The lifestyle that much of the world has come to know rely upon depends on vast quantities of energy, and in large part that still means relying upon sources of energy that dump carbon into the atmosphere on a regular basis. In some nations, such as China, this has resulted in things such as days on which Beijing and other cities are so covered in smog that one can barely see buildings across the street. In others, it has led to already measurable increases in sea levels that, if they continue, will have an impact on everything from recreation and housing to fresh water supplies. Drought has been an issue in several parts of the world for many years now, leading many people in the third world to abandon agricultural areas for major cities that are already crowded and barely able to accommodate their current populations. This isn’t to say that human activity is the only cause of the current round of climate change, of course, or that we should all go back to some sort of pre-industrial way of living in order to ‘save the planet.’ The first idea ignores the reality that global climate is a complex phenomenon that is influenced by a wide-ranging series of factors, many of which we have no control over. The second is simply an unrealistic strawman typically used by those who deny the reality of climate change to shut down any discussion about what, if anything, can be done to at least stem the tide of change that appears to be headed for us in the coming years and decades.
As I’ve noted in the past, there is very little ground for denying the reality of global climate change. The data is all there, and the vast majority of scientists studying the climate are in agreement that it is in fact happening. Additionally, as I said, there seems to be little doubt that human activity has played some role in bringing this about. What’s unclear is what, if anything, can or should be done in response to these facts. Some responses, such as accelerating research into forms of energy production that minimize the amount of carbon that ends up in the atmosphere seem to be self-evident, for example. Additionally, there seems to be very little wisdom in continuing to subsidize forms of energy such as coal that are clearly bad for the environment. Beyond that, though, there is plenty of room for debate about the appropriate response to what seems to be an increasing reality. Unfortunately, the incoming Trump Administration appears ready to do practically nothing about this issue:
Two of the agencies that issued Wednesday’s figures, NOAA and NASA, will soon report to cabinet secretaries appointed by President-elect Donald J. Trump, who has expressed doubt about the findings of climate science. Mr. Trump famously issued a tweet in 2012 that said: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing noncompetitive.”
Fear has erupted within the agencies about whether their data will now be subject to political manipulation. However, Mr. Trump and his cabinet nominees have given no detailed indication of what their broad climate policies are likely to be, much less how they will manage the scientific enterprise of monitoring the climate.
Some Republicans in Congress have long been hostile to the findings of climate science, and have repeatedly investigated scientists. It is not clear what will happen with these efforts in the new political era.
Beginning in 2015, for instance, the chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, Texas Republican Lamar Smith, issued subpoenas to NOAA, seeking to prove that adjustments the agency made to its data set were a deliberate attempt to make global warming appear worse.
But a paper recently issued by the Berkeley group confirmed the scientific validity of the changes NOAA had made. “NOAA was not cooking the books,” said Zeke Hausfather, a researcher with the Berkeley Earth project and the lead author of the paper.
Democrats on the Science committee have been exasperated by what they regard as attempts by Republicans in Congress to intimidate scientists and undermine basic scientific findings.
Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Texan who is the ranking Democrat on the committee, said in a statement, “As the world breaks temperature records seemingly every single year, we desperately need this committee’s and our country’s leadership to reject this anti-science agenda, and get serious about addressing the reality of climate change.”
In a less political polarizing time, we’d probably have a more united front on this issue. For the foreseeable future, though, it’s likely that there will be few serious discussions about what can realistically be done and the can will be kicked down the road for another four years at least. At some point, it will likely be too late to do anything about whatever the future may hold.
Record low sea-ice too. Now, to be fair, 2016 had a fairly significant El Nino so it might be a bit of an outlier like 1998 was. But to be really fair, we now have over a century of very reliable data showing a consistent and robust upward trend of about 0.1-0.15 C/decade. And global warming is the only theory that fits the data. As I seem to keep saying to the GOP, you can disagree on the solutions to global warming, but you really can’t deny it’s a reality.
Any conclusion you don’t wish to reach is indistinguishable from a conspiracy of liberals plotting to trick God-fearing exploiters of nature into going green.
Science denial: it’s not just for crazy uncles any more.
Sorry, had to FTFY. There is plenty of serious discussion in many forums and, as you note, the outlines of a plan are obvious.
Welcome to the Anthropocene Era.
For an easy to understand visual explanation of what’s happening…see here.
Given that climate change, accelerated by human beings, is happening and is a fact agreed to by 100% of the scientists qualified to speak on the subject, we have two paths; mitigation, adaptation, or both. Given the fact that Trump has extensive holdings in fossil fuels, and has nominated a Cabinet stocked with deep ties to the fossil fuel industry, we can acknowledge that mitigation, in any significant form, is off the table.
Adaptation is not a cost free alternative. Climate change is already costing you and me money. The costs will only increase in the future. President Trump is spending your money.
As a professional in the building industry I want to thank him for increasing my business.
It is a fact that if you feel the US should be taking action on climate change, the Democrats are the only party that are working towards a solution. This is true for virtually any reality based issue. This isn’t good for the country, but it is true.
I would suggest that Republican idiocy on climate change is a cause of polarization, not a result of it. How on earth could a Democrat try to reach a reasonable compromise on this issue with a party which at least at the federal level denies there is an issue, whether through greed, stupidity or both? When you are on a boat that is sinking, and you are bailing, you don’t compromise with the idiot who wants to do nothing or the other idiot who wants to sell the bucket. Maybe the Republicans will at least break down and buy Marco Rubio some water wings so he can visit his constituents in Miami where they seem to be getting their feet wet more than normal these days.
And how could you not let the clear evidence of this greed or stupidity not affect other discussions?
Or the third idiot who believes there can be no leak because the free market system wouldn’t allow it. If there was an actual leak, market forces would have repaired it long ago.
It’s telling that:
~The Military takes AGW very seriously and considers it a major Nat’l Security threat
~Insurance Companies takes AGW very seriously and have large numbers of staff devoted to it
~Industries, especially resource dependent industries, take AGW very seriously
~the Agricultural Industry takes AGW very seriously
Really, the only large group or organization on the planet…the single one…that does not take AGW seriously is the Republican party. Are the same people who brought you trickle-down economics and the Iraq War prescient? Or are they stupid?
Some of the GOP should visit Miami for their “Sunny Day Flooding”. I was there during a recent one and it’s weird as hell to be walking in Miami Beach on a perfectly normal day, then you go into a restaurant to eat, and then come out an hour later to three inches of water in the streets starting to overflow sidewalks – all with the sun out and zero rain.
It’s the rising tide that’s coming up due to higher water levels. Miami alone is spending $400 Million to raise streets and buildings, and install pumps – ala New Orleans.
That’s not going to end well.
@MarkedMan: Or the third idiot who believes there can be no leak because the free market system wouldn’t allow it. If there was an actual leak, market forces would have repaired it long ago.
Or the fourth idiot who only wants to make a buck off the leak. Oh wait, that idiot is our president-elect.
@C. Clavin: Also Exxon Mobil takes AGW very seriously. They could not be planning to extract Russian arctic oil without the shrinkage of the ice cap.
I actually believe that many of those opposed to AGW do not oppose the science, they oppose government action, i.e., taxation, bureaucracy and federal programs.
I think it comes down to taxes
@MarkedMan: no dr. evil tried too- just didn’t work…..
this is such a sham, trying to make earth’s temp. a constant and then trying to understand the variables…..then thinking you can somehow control them.
i won’t even delve into the cooked data, not worth it.
so for those of you who chronically believe in bad/misguided science- yes, the sky is falling and you can’t put it back.
bill thinks he is smarter than 100% of the qualified scientists in the world.
That’s about all that needs to be said about that.
Well,, except for this:
bill; the poster child of “low-ability individuals”. Metacognitive incapacity, indeed.
It should appear that most of the world’s scientists are colluding with Mother Nature and assorted deities in a vast global conspiracy that is intended to make Republicans look foolish. So far, so good.
@C. Clavin: Our President Elect and his cabinet nominees are providing additional examples of the Dunning-Kruger effect.
In the last year or so there have been major breakthroughs in energy technology that have left people simply amazed and shaking their heads in stunned disbelief:
The announcement that a new rocket ion engine has been developed that can get to Mars in three months ! An engine that runs on nothing ! Imagine the many applications that this can have !
Lockheed has announced that they will have a working fusion reactor the size of a pickup truck in five years or less ! No radiation or fossil fuels to worry about !
Chevrolet Motor Division of GM has announced an electric car with a 200+ mile range ! Now we can have an ev that we can drive on vacation trips ! While the cost of the car is $30,000 (counting tax breaks), if sales are good, the price will come down. And it doesn’t look like an overgrown golf cart or a Hupmobile ! Ford is also coming out with a 200+ mile range car.
Imagine your car using only 5 – 6 tanks of gas – in one year ! The incredible gas vapor engine. (see below)
Boeing jet flies across country on sawdust !
These are the types of breakthroughs that we have been waiting for ! This will all but eliminate the use of fossil fuels within ten years ! No more gas cans or jet fumes!
And just imagine what could be done if there was a major energy research center – the size of the Pentagon, with the top scientists and engineers working together. Nothing would be impossible !
It has to be exciting when I hear teenagers talking about it. Now they are once again interested in science !
The future is here, now !
Car gets 100 mpg: http://fuel-efficient-vehicles.org/energy-news/?p=1310
Jet fuel from wood chips: http://www.popsci.com/alaska-airlines-just-completed-forest-powered-flight
Sorry mate. Al Gore beat everyone else to it.
But it’s cold outside…such weak global warming. Sad!
“bill thinks he is smarter than 100% of the qualified scientists in the ” What is a qualified scientist?
I cannot say this is unbelievable. The indoctrination appears to have worked.
If you have to ask, you wouldn’t understand the answer.
Yes, it was 1/100th of a degree warmer last year. Which is only 10 times smaller than the one tenth of a degree resolution of the NWS/FAA/DOD Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS). Apparently, the consensus of scientists need a refresher on error in observations and calculations.
I’m fairly confident you are Trump level unqualified to correct climate scientists.
.04 degrees C. .24 since 2010. Per WIKI.
If you disagree with everyone who is qualified to have a professional opinion on the subject, it could be that they’re all incompetent or biased. But there’s an obvious simpler explanation.
I know. It really sucks that we only have one year of global climate data to work with. It makes it so much harder to draw firm conclusions…
That’s because for those industries, it’s important for profits to be cognizant of reality. The Republican Party on the other hand profits when it sells, teaches, and denies reality.
If the market reflects absolute unbiased truth, these corporate titans are clearly voting with their feet, and their wallets.
Glen Reynolds comments upon the NYT journalism:
I have included his final comment first as the margin of error seems to be missing from what I have read here.:
“Increase is one-hundredth of a degree. Margin of error is a tenth of a degree. So it’s all bullshit.”
“JOURNALISM: When you read a science report claiming that 2016 was the hottest year on record, you might expect that you will get numbers. And you would be wrong. “Note to the New York Times: ‘trouncing’ and ‘blown past’ are phrases appropriate to sports reporting, not science reporting. Except that no sports reporter would dare write an article in which he never bothers to give you the score of the big game. . . . It’s almost like they’re hiding something. And that is indeed what we find.”
TLDR: Increase is one-hundredth of a degree. Margin of error is a tenth of a degree. So it’s all bullshit.”
Kinda summarizes your whole position, doesn’t it? And Glen Reynolds’s life, for that matter.
@C. Clavin: it’s not 100% of anything, aside from those who need gubmint funding to perpetuate their endangered careers. But by all means, worry yourself to death about something you can’t control.
Yes, and it’s important to keep in mind the ultimate source of climate science denial: the influence of oil companies in lining the pockets of GOP politicians. It’s more or less the same factor that a couple of decades ago led Republicans from Bob Dole to Mike Pence to pooh-pooh the harmful effects of tobacco.
This I believe is one of the worst consequences of money in politics. The evidence that pouring money into campaigns gets people elected is mixed, but the evidence that it gets politicians to adopt immoral, unempirical positions is overwhelming.
Here’s the full time series. Feel free to propose a stationary stochastic process that (a) fits the data and (b) doesn’t imply that civilization is toast. Hint: Brownian motion would fit the data, but would also imply ridiculous swings in global temps that have not happened in the past, and would be even more devastating in the long run than AGW as modeled by the climate scientists.
Better hope it’s a trend, dude. The alternative is worse.
@bill: It’s getting warmer. The satellites confirm it. We’re doing it. Deal with it.
Closing our eyes and pretending the gorilla isn’t leaning over us won’t stop it from smashing our skulls.
As you can see in the comments section of this post, the Republican party has become a social club for stupid people who aren’t smart enough to know that they’re stupid. It should be renamed the Dunning-Kruger Party.
Oh I don’t know, how about a scientist who does not believe: (1) that the Earth is 7,000 years old, (2) that today’s weather is long-term evidence of climate change, (3) that a scientific “theory” means untested and invalid unless it predicts 100% of all occurrences.
I have no idea why conservatives reflexively reject science. Oh wait … I do know … it is because scientists are educated at so-called “liberal” colleges and universities.”
It’s part of the conspiracy mindset. The conspiracy mongers see a world in which the “elites” are lying to them.
They aren’t willing to admit that the “elites” are simply people who are brighter and more learned than they are. It allows the uneducated to feel better about themselves.
@Rick Zhang: I gave just some of the examples of recent technology breakthroughs and more are announced almost daily.* These are not pipe dreams, or science fiction. If a corporation makes a profit on energy efficient technology, fine. We all gain. The technology is there to have virtually fossil free energy in ten years. A 225 mile range ev today. In two years it can be 500 miles.
* New tv announced: screen is 1 mm thick (wall paper !), lighter than a gallon of milk. Last week a Samsung HD4 55 inch curved tv was on sale for $650 ! Technology is improving fast and getting cheaper. Compare cell phones to ten years ago !
Get ready for virtual reality televisions: no screen at all.
So let’s stop this back and forth fussing about the climate and weather. It is about the technological developments that our leaders need to encourage. We have the engineers, scientists, and inventors. That is the part we control. We can’t control the weather or climate. Climate does not care about people.
1) We can control how much emissions go into our atmosphere from man-made causes.
2) Who’s going to invent all the technology you think will save the world when our schools and universities are attacked for educating students to think critically? We already aren’t training enough people in STEM; we’re importing them to fill the gap. Once the H1-B system gets shut down, universities, schools, and industry will lose qualified personnel in R&D.
Have fun stormin’ the castle.
@Tyrell: Saying “technology will save us” assumes that we’ll be able to address all of the myriad problems at a pace fast enough to overcome them. I’m not sure this is a safe assumption. Dry areas have been working on desalination for a long time, and while advances have been made, the tech is very expensive and not broadly accessible for large-scale use (like farming), and certainly not without causing the price of food to skyrocket.
The spread of disease, increases in diseases (Zika appearing where it hasn’t been an issue before), shifting agricultural centers, battles over resources and water, climate refugees–these could all happen far quicker than technology’s ability to address each and every issue. Particularly when R&D funding gets cut. We’ve been working on cancer for a very long time. Just because there’s a will doesn’t mean there’s a quick way.
@al-Alameda: @Pch101: I would divide the GOP anti-science tendencies into two distinct groups. First, the party’s corporate wing opposes climate science because they fear (correctly) that recognizing it will lead to increased government regulation of business. George Will and Charles Krauthammer dismiss the evidence of AGW (using argumentation techniques that are not, in my view, altogether different from those of Duane Gish or Ken Ham when attacking evolution), but they’ve got nothing but contempt for actual creationists.
On the other hand, it seems that most creationist activists these days (at least the most prominent ones) are also climate science deniers. There’s no particular reason why Bible fundamentalists would be expected to reject belief in AGW (a topic that isn’t addressed in the Bible, last I looked), but it dovetails neatly with their overall skepticism of mainstream science and their adherence to libertarian economic ideology, which seems increasingly to have displaced traditional religious beliefs on the Christian Right.
I’d say it’s more a matter of people they trust being paid, one way or another, to lie to them.
What a fool…the guy you voted for to be President is working on a budget that eliminates research on alternative energy…the opposite of what you typed…but you happily voted for him.
At what p[point will you admit that you royally fwcked up when you voted for the Cheeto-Jebus?
Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night and realize you are a dupe who is being used by the Republican establishment…or no?
There are the business interests that don’t want be regulated.
There are the Christians who think that climate change is a slap in the face of the almighty, as there is no way that mankind could possibly destroy His creation.
There are the conspiracy mongers who love to shoot the messenger because that’s what dumb people do.
There are the optimists who think that free enterprise and/or technology can fix anything, including this. (This group doesn’t deny climate change per se, it just thinks that we can deal with it without sacrificing anything.)
There are the self-centered consumers who simply want an excuse to maintain their lifestyles as is.
It’s a coalition of the self-interested, the naive, the hopeless romantics and the willfully stupid.
Is Chuckles Krauthammer still pushing denailism? I haven’t seen him address it for some (however, I don’t often read him). I thought he gave it up when the ‘no hotter year since nineteen ninety whatever’ argument went south. Looked like he realized it might bite him in the *** sooner rather than later.
You can argue that others, George Will for example, may be dumb enough to believe their nonsense. Not Krauthammer. Chuckles’ lies are so carefully crafted that there’s obviously malice aforethought.
Odd you mentioned Gish. I’ve been reminded of him lately. Trump’s tweets are a Gish Gallop and the press haven’t figured out how to not gallop around with him.
If you dig into it, you find a lot of the AGW denial warriors learned the trade defending tobacco.
Lining politician pockets is why I made a comment in Doug’s trademark thread about his obsession with free speech. Is it really necessary that we destroy the Republic in support of a Randian interpretation of the 1st Amendment that money = speech? Isn’t there somewhere a basic legal principle that the Constitution is not a suicide pact?
@Tyrell: You’re quoting from The Express?
Might as well quote from the Weekly World News.
You don’t need high highfalutin’ satellite imagery or sophisticated computer models – here in California farmers have kept meticulous temperature records going back 150 years since agriculture WAS California’s biggest industry for years and it was incredibly important to have accurate weather records.
Just by using old fashioned thermometers and observations, California is 1.5 degrees F hotter than 150 years ago.
I first heard of the Gish Gallop about a year or so ago and have found it to be an immensely useful term. It has sometimes been called the “Trump Tirade.” There are some differences, however. Gish is an ultimate pseudo-intellectual who always tries to maintain the pretense of being engaged in an academic debate. Like a lot of crackpots he’s constructed a fairly sophisticated edifice of arguments with its own jargon (e.g. “created kinds”) and glib one-liners. Trump has definitely adopted a form of the Gish Gallop, but he isn’t anywhere near as well-prepared or articulate as Gish, who, for the most part, doesn’t sound like a fifth grader and doesn’t sound like he’s always shooting from the hip. The difference between Gish’s method of critiquing Darwinism and George Will’s method of critiquing climate science is not as stark as Will would care to admit.
@bill: Yes, let’s all take science lessons from a person who doesn’t understand how capital letters work.
@grumpy realist: That’s not really fair; The Weekly World News knows that it publishes nonsense whereas The Express thinks it’s actually a newspaper.
Your point is valid, though.
@Ben Wolf: i’m just living my life with a minimal carbon footprint- can you and you’re ilk say the same? worrying about nonsense you or anyone you know can actually change is just retarded. but then…..never mind.
always remember these words;
“hide the decline”!