The latest State of the Climate report published this week has confirmed that 2015 was not only the warmest year on record, but also saw several other records broken — records that we didn’t really want to see broken, despite it being an Olympic year.
Published this week by the American Meteorological Society (AMS), the State of the Climate in 2015 report was led by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information, and is based on contributions from more than 450 scientists from 62 countries around the world, and is representative of tens-of-thousands of measurements from multiple independent datasets.
In short, the State of the Climate report is an invaluable and extremely reliable report of the current state of Earth’s climate.
Hottest Year On Record
The State of the Climate in 2015 report confirmed that 2015 was the hottest year on record, with warmer than average conditions across most of the planet’s surface.
Further, long-term warming and a strong El Niño contributed to the highest annual combined temperature for ocean and land since reliable record-keeping began back in the mid-to-late 1800s.
As can be seen, the overall average increase over 1981 levels was significantly spread across the surface of the planet — particularly in Russia and western North America. Only Greenland and a smidgen of Canada could lay claim to land masses that were cooler than the average.
The trend toward hotter years is also clearly visible in the graph above, which measures Earth’s temperature history from 1880 to 2015. Specifically, the 2015 global surface temperature was 0.42oC-0.46oC (0.76°–0.83°F) above the 1980-2010 average.
“This ‘annual physical’ of Earth’s climate system showed us that 2015’s climate was shaped both by long-term change and an El Niño event,” said Thomas R. Karl, L.H.D., Director, NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information. “When we think about being climate resilient, both of these time scales are important to consider. Last year’s El Niño was a clear reminder of how short-term events can amplify the relative influence and impacts stemming from longer-term global warming trends.”
An Unfortunate Collection of Records
According to the report, the global temperature record wasn’t the only record broken in 2015. In addition, greenhouse gases were highest on record, global surface temperature was highest on record, sea surface temperatures were highest on record, the global upper ocean heat content was highest on record, and the global sea level had risen to its highest level on record.
In addition, extremes were observed in the water cycle and precipitation levels; the Arctic continued to warm, and the sea ice extend remained low; global ice and snow cover declined; and tropical cyclones were well above the average overall.
This is the 26th edition of the State of the Climate report, published annually as a special supplement to the journal Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.
“The State of the Climate report continues to be critically important as it documents our changing climate. AMS is proud to work with so many from the science community to make this publication happen,” said Keith Seitter, Executive Director of AMS.
The journal makes the full report openly available online.