It's Official: 2016 Was the Hottest Year Ever Recorded
2016 was the hottest year ever recorded, smashing records set in 2014 and 2015. This marks the third consecutive year of record-breaking heat, a first in the modern era. 2016 is the hottest year on record by a wide margin, 1.69 F (0.94 C) warmer than the 20th century average.
Deke Arndt, chief of global climate monitoring at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said of the announcement, "The fact that we're punching at the ceiling every year now, that is the real indicator that we're undergoing big changes."
Including last year, 15 of the hottest 16 years on record have occurred since 2001, according to NOAA. The only year from the 20th century to break into the top 16 is 1998 and that year ranks 7th.
NOAA & @NASA confirm 2016 is Earth’s warmest year on record @NOAANCEIclimate https://t.co/5sDkZyODpI #StateOfClimate https://t.co/4PF1xs969s— NOAA (@NOAA)1484754372.0
"For the first time in recorded history, we have now had three consecutive record-warm years for both the globe and the Northern Hemisphere," Dr. Michael Mann, director of the Earth Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, said.
"The likelihood of this having happened in the absence of human-caused global warming is minimal. As we have shown in previously published work the spate of record-warm years that we have seen in the 21st century can only be explained by human-caused climate change. The effect of human activity on our climate is no longer subtle. It's plain as day, as are the impacts—in the form of record floods, droughts, superstorms and wildfires—that it is having on us and our planet."
This announcement coincides with Scott Pruitt's U.S. Environmental Protection Agency confirmation hearing and comes just two days before Donald Trump takes office. Trump has called climate change a "hoax" and pledged to dismantle U.S. climate regulations.
Pruitt’s EPA Lawsuits Are Worse Than You Think https://t.co/q045XS2zr1 @HuffPostGreen @greenpeaceusa— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1484691906.0
"No part of the world can now avoid the fact that climate change is striking harder and faster than many scientists predicted, and that its impacts are taking a higher toll on the most vulnerable communities," 350.org climate impacts program coordinator Aaron Packard said. "As important as marking that the record is yet again broken, we need to loudly mark what needs to be done to hold back such destruction: we need to keep fossil fuels in the ground.
"Decades of progress from scientists and engineers has made renewable energy the cheapest and cleanest source of energy in the world, creating the technological momentum that is matched by the millions of people in all parts of the world demanding climate action."
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By Charli Shield
When an elephant dies in the wild, it's not uncommon to later find its bones scattered throughout the surrounding landscape.
Elephant Burial Grounds<p>Highly social creatures that form deep familial bonds, elephants have long been observed gathering at the site where a peer or family member has died — often spending hours, even days, quietly investigating the bodies or the bones of other dead elephants.</p><p>Although the popular idea that dying elephants are instinctively drawn to special communal graves — so-called "elephant graveyards" — is a myth, their tendency to go out of their way to visit the bones and tusks of the deceased isn't unlike human rituals at graveyards, says animal psychologist Karen McComb.</p><p>"They spend a lot of time touching and smelling skulls and ivory, placing the soles of their feet gently on top of them, and also lifting them up with their trunks," McComb, who's been studying African elephants for 25 years in Kenya's Amboseli National Park, told DW.</p><p>The most striking part of watching an elephant experience loss, Poole recalls, is the quietude. She still remembers one of the first elephant deaths she witnessed; a mother who birthed a stillborn calf. That elephant stayed with its baby for two days, trying to lift it and defending it from vultures and hyenas.</p><p>"I was so struck by the expression on her face and her body. She looked so dejected. It was really like, 'Oh God, these animals grieve…'. It was just so different," Poole told DW. </p>
Witnessing Emotions in Animals<p>Not all scientists are comfortable concluding that elephants grieve. Among the more than 30 reports of elephant reactions to death that Wittemyer co-reviewed in <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10329-019-00766-5" target="_blank">a study published in November 2019</a> were accounts of "enormous variation and nuance" he says. "It can be incredibly involved and intricate for extended periods or can be relatively cursory checks."</p><p>In Wittemyer's own experience, it can be difficult not to attribute some kind of emotional experience to the more involved interactions between elephants and their dead.</p><p>He shares the story of an "extraordinary event" involving the death of a 55 year-old matriarch in Kenya in a protected area that happened to be near his place of work. She was visited by multiple unrelated families while she was dying, including another matriarch that exerted such enormous effort attempting to lift her to her feet that she broke her tusk, which Wittemyer says, is "like breaking a tooth." </p><p><span></span>"It was a remarkable example of this heightened emotional state, it was very clearly a very stressful interaction," he says.</p>
A Different Sensory World<p>One factor that limits our ability to fully grasp the way elephants process and respond to loss is our markedly different sensory experiences of the world.</p><p>An elephant's world is fundamentally olfactory — based on smell. Ours is visual. Previous <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25053675/" target="_blank">research</a> has shown elephants possess the most scent receptors of any mammal, and can <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17949977/" target="_blank">use smell</a> to discern the difference between different human tribes from the same local area.</p><p>That could explain why elephants exhibit such interest in sniffing the bones and tusks of others, as a <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1617198/" target="_blank">2005 study</a> from McCombs highlighted. When presented with the skulls and ivory of long-dead elephants and those from other large herbivores, including rhino and buffalo, McCombs and her team found elephants approached and were specifically attracted to the remains of their own species. </p><p>Without access to the smells an elephant picks up on, Wittemyer says "an enormous amount of stuff" could be missed by humans when studying these behaviors.</p>
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