Earlier this month NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confirmed that Earth’s surface temperature broke all past records in 2016 since modern recordkeeping started in 1880.

The global average temperature in 2016, now officially the warmest year on record, was 0.99 degrees Celsius (1.78 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than the mid-20th century mean. Cementing the threat perception depicted by the vast majority of the scientific community regarding the far-reaching consequences of the human-induced climate change, it was the third year in a row to set a new record for rising global average surface temperature.

2016 warmest year on record
Credits: NASA/Scientific Visualization Studio

It was clear from the analysis by the researchers at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) that 2016 was just a continuation of a long-term warming trend. The conclusion drawn by NASA scientists was echoed by another independent research by NOAA scientists.

Worth noting, the weather station locations, as well as the measurement practices, keep changing over time. That essentially renders the specific year-on-year comparison of the global mean temperatures uncertain to some extent. However, even with that error margin factored in, the odds of 2016 being the warmest year on record is greater than 95%, say NASA scientists.

Not only that, eight of the 12 months — from January through September, with the exception of June — also broke all past records for the respective months. Meanwhile, October, November, and December also registered themselves as the second warmest of those months on record (trailing only behind the records set in 2015).

“2016 is remarkably the third record year in a row in this series,” said GISS Director Gavin Schmidt. “We don’t expect record years every year, but the ongoing long-term warming trend is clear.”

Even more alarming is the fact that Earth’s average surface temperature has risen by over 1.1 degrees Celsius (2.0 degrees Fahrenheit) since the late 19th century. This drastic transformation, according to most climate scientists, is a direct consequence of the rapidly growing volume of carbon dioxide and other human-caused emissions in the atmosphere.

Most of this warming seems to have taken place in the past three-and-a-half decades, with 16 of the 17 warmest years on record occurring since 2001.


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