2015 featured record warm temperatures on every inhabited continent as ice melted and the seas rose at alarming rates. By Bob Berwyn Aug 2, 2016
India, like much of the world, experienced record heat and drought in 2015. Credit: Getty Images
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s 2015 State of the Climate report unleashed a flood of statistics that should overwhelm whatever doubts remain of global warming’s already startling impacts, scientists said Tuesday.
For the first time since record-keeping started, the average annual global temperature exceeded pre-industrial levels by more than 1 degree Celsius. Record to near-record warmth was common on every inhabited continent. Sea surface temperatures and heat content in the upper levels of the ocean also set records, as did sea level, which crept up to 2.75 inches above the 1993 level, when the satellite altimeter record started. Glaciers around the world retreated for the 36th year in a row, the report said.
“As I often point out now, the impacts of climate change are no longer subtle,” said climate scientist Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University. “They are playing out before us, in real time. The 2015 numbers drive that home.”
The strong El Niño weather system in the Pacific played a role in many of the record statistics last year, but they are also signs that an overheated planet is reacting in alarming ways, according to Anders Levermann, a sea level rise expert with the Potsdam Climate Institute in Germany.
“Increasing the temperature of the planet will increase the risk of tipping of climatic systems like the West Antarctic ice sheet,” he said. “Sea level is rising with every degree of warming that we induce by carbon emissions.”
Levermann said even if those emissions were capped today, the sea would keep rising. “Each degree Celsius of warming adds about 8 feet to the eventual sea level rise that we are committed to in the long term,” he said.
The report, released Tuesday, compiles work by more than 450 scientists from 62 countries who evaluated tens of thousands of measurements taken by land, ocean, ice and space-based instruments. It shows how the planet is being affected both by the temporary El Niño temperature surge and the long-term warming trend, said Thomas R. Karl, director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. Citing changes in the distribution of fish species in Arctic waters, Karl said the impacts of global warming are clearly having significant impact on life on this planet now.
Global Climate Change