In Brief
  • The NOAA reports that 2016 was the hottest year the Earth has ever had since scientists began tracking temperature records in 1880.
  • On record, the Earth's average surface temperatures have gone up by about 2.0 degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 degrees Celsius) since the late 19th century.

The Numbers Are In

Usually, setting a world record is a positive achievement. Not this time, though – we have set another world record for the warmest temperatures ever on the planet. According to separate reports by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA, 2016 is the hottest year ever recorded.

Humans have been consistently setting record-breaking temperature levels since 2005, but last year’s is now the worst of them all. In fact, the NOAA report notes that 2016 was the hottest year the Earth has ever had since since scientists began tracking temperatures in 1880.

The NOAA’s annual State of the Climate Report was prepared by scientists from its National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). The report also notes that 2016 had the eight consecutive warmest months on record, from January to August.

During 2016, the average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.69°F (0.94°C) above the 20th century average. This was the highest among all 137 years in the 1880–2016 record, surpassing the previous record set last year by 0.07°F (0.04°C). [The] globally-averaged land surface temperature was 2.57°F (1.43°C) above the 20th century average, [while] the globally-averaged sea surface temperature was 1.35°F (0.75°C) above the 20th century average. 

NASA’s separate analysis, made by its Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York, supports these figures: “Globally-averaged temperatures in 2016 were 1.78 degrees Fahrenheit (0.99 degrees Celsius) warmer than the mid-20th century mean. This makes 2016 the third year in a row to set a new record for global average surface temperatures.”

The trend is very straightforward; it’s all going up and not letting up.“2016 is remarkably the third record year in a row in this series,” GISS Director Gavin Schmidt said. “We don’t expect record years every year, but the ongoing long-term warming trend is clear.” On record, the Earth’s average surface temperatures have gone up by about 2.0 degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 degrees Celsius) since the late 19th century.

Credits: NOAA
Credits: NOAA

 

It Keeps Getting Hotter

Despite criticism from presumably well-meaning folk, man-made climate change isn’t (man) made up. Studies on climate change have also been very clear — the Earth’s carbon dioxide levels have been rising considerably since the Industrial Revolution, much more than what’s supposedly naturally occurring.

Fortunately, there have been efforts to reduce the impact of man-made climate change on the environment from both the public and private sectors. The historic Paris Climate Agreement is an important global first step. There are also technological innovations which improve access to renewable energy, such as solar and nuclear, which are making fossil fuels less and less of an option. Other efforts include the rising popularity of electric vehicles, and ideas to geoengineer the planet itself.

So, since we are on the subject of record-breaking temperatures, it’s good to set the record straight on climate change. It has been happening and will continue to happen, unless we adjust and change our ways. The options to do so are much more varied now than ever before. We just have to be as unrelenting as the warm temperatures of years past.