NOAA: The State of the Climate
August 2, 2016
The American Meteorological Society just published a Climate Year-in-Review for 2015, featuring some great analysis, and illustrations by Glaciologist/artist Jill Pelto. About this time in 2012, I spent several days on a Northern Cascades glacier with Jill and her Dad Mauri.
Earth’s fever got worse last year, breaking dozens of climate records, scientists said in a massive report nicknamed the annual physical for the planet.
Soon after 2015 ended, it was proclaimed the hottest on record . The new report shows the broad extent of other records and near-records on the planet’s climatic health. Those include record heat energy absorbed by the oceans and lowest groundwater storage levels globally, according to Tuesday’s report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“I think the time to call the doctor was years ago,” NOAA climate monitoring chief Deke Arndt, co-editor of the report, said in an email. “We are awash in multiple symptoms.”
The 2015 State of the Climate report examined 50 different aspects of climate , including dramatic melting of Arctic sea ice and glaciers worldwide. A dozen different nations set hottest year records, including Russia and China. South Africa had the hottest temperature ever recorded in the month of October: 119.1 degrees Fahrenheit (48.4 degrees Celsius).
Even though it was a relatively quiet hurricane year in the Atlantic, there were 36 major tropical cyclones worldwide – 15 more than average, said NOAA climate scientist Jessica Blunden, co-editor of the report published Tuesday in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.
The report underlined the warnings featured from MIT’s Kerry Emanuel and others in my recent Hurricane update:
Report highlights include these indications of a warming planet:
- Greenhouse gases highest on record. Major greenhouse gas concentrations, including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide, rose to new record high values during 2015. The annual average atmospheric CO2 concentration at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, the location of the world’s longest direct measurements of CO2, was 400.8 parts per million (ppm), which surpassed 400 ppm for the first time. This was 3.1 ppm more than 2014, and was the largest annual increase observed in the 58-year record. The 2015 average global CO2 concentration was not far below, at 399.4 ppm, an increase of 2.2 ppm compared with 2014.
- Global surface temperature highest on record. Aided by the strong El Niño, the 2015 annual global surface temperature hit record warmth for the second consecutive year, easily surpassing the previous record set in 2014 by more than 0.1°C (0.2°F). This exceeded the average for the mid- to late 19th century — commonly considered representative of preindustrial conditions — by more than 1°C (1.8°F) for the first time. Across land surfaces, record to near-record warmth was reported across every inhabited continent.
- Sea surface temperatures highest on record. The globally averaged sea surface temperature was also the highest on record, breaking the previous mark set in 2014. The highest temperature departures from average occurred in part of the northeast Pacific, continuing anomalous warmth there since 2013, and in part of the eastern equatorial Pacific, reflective of the dominant El Niño. The North Atlantic southeast of Greenland remained colder than average and was colder than 2014.
- Global upper ocean heat content highest on record. Globally, upper ocean heat content exceeded the record set in 2014, reflecting the continuing accumulation of thermal energy in the upper layer of the oceans. Oceans absorb over 90 percent of Earth’s excess heat from global warming.
- Global sea level highest on record. Global average sea level rose to a new record high in 2015 and was about 70 mm (about 2¾ inches) higher than the 1993 average, the year that marks the beginning of the satellite altimeter record. Over the past two decades, sea level has increased at an average rate of 3.3 mm (about 0.15 inch) per year, with the highest rates of increase in the western Pacific and Indian Oceans.
- Extremes were observed in the water cycle and precipitation. A general increase in the water cycle, combined with the strong El Niño, enhanced precipitation variability around the world. An above-normal rainy season led to major floods in many parts of the world. But globally, areas in “severe” drought rose from 8 percent in 2014 to 14 percent in 2015.
The report touches on the impacts of warm sea surface temperatures in the Pacific, related to a huge El Nino, and the infamous “Blob” off North America.