Wednesday, January 18, 2017

World's Hottest Year On Record Was 2016. What's Next?

A mashup of several data bases show the dramatic
increase in global temperatures, especially in the last
few years.  
To pretty much nobody's surprise, a slew of data out today confirmed that 2016 was the hottest year for the Earth as a whole in modern record.

NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information, NASA and satellite data from the Universityof Alabama at Huntsville  all agreed the past year was the hottest.

Although El Nino boosted the 2016 warmth a bit, the vast majority of climate scientists say the warmth in the data is being driven mostly by human-induced climate change.

I'm still stunned by this even though I knew months ago it would happen, but 2016 was the third year in a row that the globe had a record high temperature.  That's quite a streak!

Another tidbit I found was also pretty wild. Environmental scientist and climate blogger Dana Nuccitelli pointed out on Twitter this morning that between 1945 and 1979, no years had global record high temperatures.

But between 1980 and 2016, twelve years - or one out of three of them - had record warm temperatures.

All of the 12 hottest years in the NOAA data have occured since 1998. Their records go back to the 1880s.

The first eight months of 2016 all had record high temperatures, and the remaining months of the year all scored in the Top 5 hottest.

Due to factors that have little if anything to do with global warming, many scientists expect 2017 to fall short of a new world's record for warmth, but it will still be much toastier than in years and decades past.

The different organizations came up with different actual temperatures for the year, because each one measures things a bit differently.  Varying calculations that differ from one another by a few hundreds of a degree are common when measuring the Earth's temperature.

NASA's calculations had Earth's warmth galloping forward a little faster than NOAA's data showed.

Another sign that global warming is behind the spike in the Earth's temperatures is that while we had the hottest year on record, the higher level stratosphere had its coldest year on record.

That's a sign that greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide are trapping heat in the lower atmosphere instead of letting it escape up to the stratosphere.

There's quite a split between the alarm bells being sounded by climate scientists and the dismissiveness toward global warming repeatedly displayed by the incoming Trump administration.

Scientists are often terrible at quotes, talking about their work in quiet, sober, unremarkable language.

But many now are displaying a much more Yikes! attitude toward climate change. Take Jonathan Overpeck, a climate scientist at the University of Arizona, quoted in the Washington Post today:

"2016 is a wake-up all in many ways.....Climate change is real, it is caused by humans, and it is serious."

Trump, meanwhile, has famously called climate change a hoax. As proof, he has cited an unusually chilly winter day in New York a couple years back as "proof" the world is not warming.

Trump's pick for Director of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, just happened to be having his Senate confirmation hearing on the same day the new climate data became available.

Pruitt admitted to Senators that climate change is not a hoax and that "the climate is changing and human activity contributes to that in some manner."

Still, people don't trust Pruitt that much. Many of those cite Pruitt's op-ed in the National Review last May, in which he said global warming scientific "debate is far from settled. Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind."

See the kind of spin he's got there? True, there are lots of quibbles about how fast global temperatures will rise in the future and what effect that would have on mankind. But scientists almost uniformly agree it's pretty dire.

Looks to me that Pruitt wants absolute agreement among scientists on every last detail, something that will never happen. Classic delaying tactic, in my opinion.

As Mother Jones points out, another Republican climate change talking point is already returning.

In Senate confirmation hearings for would-be Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, the nominee did say climate change is happening and man has an influence on it.

However, Zinke said "there's a debate" on what precisely is the human influence on climate change and among scientists, "There's a lot of debate on both sides of the aisle."

That prompted Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont to counter there really isn't any debate in the science community that humans are causing climate change.

And Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota, dismissed the "I am not a scientist" excuse. After Zinke said he is not an expert in the field of climate science, Franken retorted,  "That to me is a cop-out... I'm not a doctor, but I have to make health care decisions."

Expect a lot more of this in the coming few years, even as the planet almost certainly will continue to warm.

It'll be interesting to see if the government under Trump tries to suppress research on climate change, as many have feared in recent months. 

We might have to rely on scientists from elsewhere in the world, or at least those that already get no U.S. government funding, to keep us apprised as to how the world's climate is changing.

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