Climate Photo of the Week
How hot is it? 2014 was the hottest year ever recorded, without any help from El Nino.
How hot is it? Whatever humorous answer you prefer to the old Tonight Show routine, the answer for the Earth is it was so hot that 2014 was the warmest in 135 years of record keeping. "The annually-averaged temperature was 0.69°C (1.24°F) above the 20th century average,” reported NOAA, “... easily breaking the previous records of 2005 and 2010 by 0.04°C (0.07°F). This also marks the 38th consecutive year (since 1977) that the yearly global temperature was above average.”
Even though the Eastern part of the United States had a cooler year than usual, Alaska, California, Nevada and Arizona had their warmest year on record. Record warmth also hit Far East Russia, parts of interior South America, most of Europe stretching into northern Africa, and parts of both eastern and western coastal Australia.
"Including 2014,” said NOAA, "9 of the 10 warmest years in the 135-year period of record have occurred in the 21st century. 1998 currently ranks as the fourth warmest year on record.” That year a strong El Nino, part of the atmospheric circulation cycle which brings heat in the western Pacific Ocean across to affect the entire Pacific, pushed Earth temperatures unusually higher. Other even warmer years like 2010 were also affected by El Nino. But 2014 had no El Nino, putting the cause of the record warmth squarely on the rapidly increasing amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
The rate of Earth surface temperature increase since 1998 is a bit lower than the full 1880-2014 rate — which climate change deniers have seized on to claim that global warming has “stopped” and the science is uncertain. Climatologists point out that that the change in rate is well within the natural range of short term variation in year-to-year temperature readings and that the 16-year time period is too short to suggest a long-term change.
James Hansen, Gavin Schmidt and colleagues confirmed in their report on 2014 temperature that the El Nino-La Nina cycle has a significant effect on Earth temperatures when it is strong. They wrote that some researchers see an increasing chance for a strong El Nino soon and "with the help of even a mild El Niño 2015 may be significantly warmer than 2014." Schmidt, Director of NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies, said "the long-term trends are attributable to drivers of climate change that right now are dominated by human emissions of greenhouse gases."
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