A kangaroo jumps in a field amidst smoke from a bushfire in Snowy Valley on the outskirts of Cooma on Jan. 4. SAEED KHAN / AFP / Getty Images
The last decade was the hottest since record-keeping began 150 years ago, according to the latest data from U.S. agencies the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The studies, released Wednesday, also confirmed that 2019 was the second hottest year on record, The New York Times reported. Their findings echo the conclusions of the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, which also found 2019 to be the second-hottest year of the hottest decade.
“What is important is the totality of evidence from multiple independent data sets that the Earth is warming, that human activity is driving it and the impacts are clearly being felt,” Gavin Schmidt from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies told The Guardian. “These announcements might sound like a broken record, but what is being heard is the drumbeat of the Anthropocene.”
— NASA Goddard (@NASAGoddard) January 15, 2020
NOAA concluded that 2019’s average temperatures were almost one degree Celsius above the average for the 20th century. They were also 1.1 degree Celsius above the average from 1850 to 1900, before the burning of fossil fuels began in earnest, according to The Guardian.
2019 was only a fraction of a degree cooler than the warmest year on record, 2016, The New York Times reported. That year, temperatures were boosted by a strong El Niño. But temperatures have been steadily rising since the 1960s, with every decade since then being warmer than the one before it. The heating has been especially pronounced in the last five years, which were also the hottest years on record.
“We’ve entered a new neighborhood in the last five years,” Deke Arndt, who leads the monitoring branch of the National Centers for Environmental Information responsible for the NOAA research, told The New York Times.
The consistency of the temperature rise has convinced researchers that the climate crisis is the result of human activity.
“This shows that what’s happening is persistent, not a fluke due to some weather phenomenon: we know that the long-term trends are being driven by the increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere,” Schmidt said in the NASA press release.
Schmidt also told The New York Times that the researchers look for natural phenomenon that might influence climate, such as volcanic eruptions, and that no natural change can explain the amount of warming scientists have observed since the 19th century.
All of these broken records have devastating consequences. The New York Times pointed to the case of Australia, which was 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer than its mid-twentieth century average during the summer of 2019. The heat has contributed to an ongoing drought, and to a historic wildfire season that has killed more than a billion animals.
A warmer atmosphere also fuels wetter, more dangerous storms, HuffPost pointed out. In the last decade, the U.S. endured two times the number of billion-dollar extreme weather events as it did the decade before.
“Continued inaction on climate change only further harms us,” Harvard Medical School professor of emergency medicine Renee Salas told HuffPost during a press call. “These temperatures are not just statistics, but they have names and stories.”
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