NOAA: 'Earth's Fever Rises' as Climate Records Shattered Worldwide
By Robert McSweeney
The 300-page report, released Tuesday and now in its 26th year, is an annual assessment of the world's climate, scrutinizing the Earth's land, oceans, ice and atmosphere. It is compiled by more than 450 scientists from 62 countries.
Carbon Brief takes a look at how rising greenhouse gas emissions, with the help of a strong El Niño event, made 2015 into a record-breaker.
Last year was record-breaking for concentrations of all three of the main long-lived greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O).
At the Mauna Loa Observatory, where scientists have been monitoring CO2 since the 1950s, the average concentration for the year as a whole surpassed 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time. At 400.8 ppm, CO2 levels in the atmosphere were 3.1 ppm greater than 2014—the largest annual increase of the 58-year record.
In addition, March 2015 was the first time average CO2 concentration across the globe has been more than 400 ppm for an entire month. Global annual average CO2 levels for 2015 finished just shy of the 400 ppm milestone, at 399.4 ppm. You can see this in the chart below, one of several graphics produced alongside the report.
Meanwhile, levels of both methane and nitrous oxides reached new record highs in 2015, at 1834.0 parts per billion (ppb) and 328.2 ppb, respectively.
Global average carbon dioxide concentrations since 1958, with Arizona's coal-fired Cholla power plant in the background.NOAA / Photo by John Fowler
Global Surface Temperature
As was widely reported in January, observations show that 2015 was the hottest year on record.
The 2015 globally averaged surface temperature was 0.42-0.46 C above the 1981–2010 average, topping the previous record set in 2014 by 0.13-0.18 C. The range in values reflect the different datasets used by various meteorological agencies to calculate global temperature.
2015 was also the first year to see average global temperatures surpass 1 C above pre-industrial levels. Fourteen of the 15 warmest years on record have now occurred since the beginning of the 21st century, the report notes, with 1998 the only exception.
The strong El Niño event in the Pacific Ocean contributed to the record global temperatures, the report says, though it does not quantify by how much. Prof. Adam Scaife, head of long-range forecasting at the Met Office, told Carbon Brief earlier this year that El Niño made a contribution of only a few hundredths of a degree to the 2015 record.
El Niño is expected to have more of an impact on 2016's average temperature, Scaife noted, contributing "around 25% to what will most likely be a new record global temperature in 2016."
Across the global land surface, record or near-record warmth was reported across every inhabited continent, the report says. Twelve countries—such as Russia and China—reported record high annual average temperatures.
Top: Average surface temperatures for 2015, against a baseline of 1981-2010. Shading indicates where temperatures are above (red) or below (blue) average. Bottom: Global temperature since 1880 for the surface (dark red line) and the troposphere (pale red line), against a baseline of 1981-2010.NOAA
Land temperatures in 2015 saw a record number of warm days—which are days where the maximum temperature reaches the top 10 percent for the average for that season during 1961-90. Globally, 2015 saw almost twice the number of warm days than the annual average for 1961-90.
There were also a record low number of cool days in 2015. These are days when the maximum temperature doesn't rise above the chilliest 10 percent of days for that season during 1961-90. There were almost half the number of cool days in 2015 than the average for 1961-90.
As well as above the surface, 2015 was a record year for the world's oceans.
Global sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in 2015 were 0.33-0.39 C above the 1981-2010 average, surpassing the previous record set in 2014 by 0.10-0.12 C. The strong El Niño during 2015 contributed to record high SSTs across much of the tropical Pacific Ocean, the report notes, which boosted global SSTs. You can spot the El Niño event in the map below by the warm SSTs in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.
The whole of the top 700 m of the world's oceans saw record warming in 2015, exceeding the record set in 2014. As oceans absorb more than 90 percent of the heat trapped by the Earth's atmosphere, the level of warming reflects the continuing accumulation of heat in the upper layer of the oceans, the researchers say.
Top: Global map of upper ocean heat content in 2015. Shading indicates where ocean heat content is below (blue) or above (orange/red) average. Bottom: Graph of heat content for the upper ocean (red line) and deep ocean (blue line) since 1993.NOAA
Warming ocean temperatures also contributed to global sea levels hitting new heights last year. Water expanding as it warms is one of several different components of sea level rise, along with melting glaciers and ice sheets and changes to how much water is stored on land.
In 2015, global sea level was approximately 70 mm higher than when the satellite record began in 1993. This is, in part, down to the long term rising trend of 3.3 mm per year plus the effect of the strong El Niño, which boosted sea level in 2015 by an extra 10 mm.
During El Niño events, rainfall over the oceans tends to increase, while decreasing over land. This reduces the amount of water stored on land, temporarily adding to sea levels. You can see from the map below that sea levels in the central Pacific Ocean were as much as 20 cm higher than usual during 2015.
Top: Global sea levels in 2015, compared to a baseline of 1993-2014. Shading indicates areas where sea levels are higher (blue) or lower (brown) than average. Bottom: Global sea levels since the satellite record began in 1993, compared to a baseline of 1993-99. NOAA / Photo by Roberto Mangual
At 1.2 C warmer than the 1981–2010 average, land surface temperatures in the Arctic in 2015 equalled the existing record, held jointly by 2007 and 2011. The Arctic land surface has warmed by 2.8 C since 1900, the report notes.
2015 also saw sea ice cover hit its lowest winter peak since the satellite record began, the report says:
"Under the influence of persistent warming temperatures, the Arctic sea ice cover is diminishing in extent and thickness. The lowest maximum sea ice extent in the 37-year satellite record occurred on 25 February 2015, at 7% below the average for 1981–2010."
The winter maximum, when Arctic sea ice typically reaches its maximum extent, is one of two points each year of particular interest, the report notes. The other is at the end of summer, when the ice reaches its annual minimum extent.
The minimum sea ice extent in September 2015 was 29 percent less than the 1981–2010 average—the fourth smallest in the satellite record, the report says.
"Looking at a range of climate measurements … not only was 2015 the warmest year on record by a large margin, it was also another year when the levels of dominant greenhouse gases reached new peaks … and sea levels and ocean heat content were all at their highest levels."
As the report runs to almost 300 pages, there are plenty more facts and figures than the selection we've picked here. You can find the full-length version on the American Meteorological Society's website to peruse at your leisure.
This article was reposted with permission from our media associate Carbon Brief.
By Maria Caffrey
As we approach the holidays I, like most people, have been reflecting on everything 2020 has given us (or taken away) while starting to look ahead to 2021.
We Need More Than Listening<p>By now we have all become sadly accustomed to the current administration sidelining scientists, most prominently Dr. Anthony Fauci, because the facts they provide do not fit with the political rhetoric of the moment.</p><p>I have <a href="https://www.csldf.org/2019/08/22/csldf-helps-climate-scientist-maria-caffrey-fight-for-scientific-integrity/" target="_blank">my own history</a> of filing a scientific integrity complaint with the National Park Service (which falls under the Department of the Interior) after senior ranking employees attempted to censor one of my scientific reports. I know all too well the damage and pain that these actions cause, not just for the individual scientist, but also because these <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/attacks-on-science" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">attacks on science</a> over the last few years have undermined sound, evidence-based decision making.</p><p>President-elect Biden has repeatedly said that he will <a href="https://thehill.com/homenews/521638-trump-biden-will-listen-to-the-scientists-if-elected" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">listen to the scientists</a>. While this is certainly a welcome change, listening can only take us so far. This past week Lauren Kurtz from the <a href="https://www.csldf.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Climate Science Legal Defense Fund</a> and my colleague <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/about/people/gretchen-goldman" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Gretchen Goldman</a> published <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/ten-steps-that-can-restore-scientific-integrity-in-government/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an article</a> listing 10 actions the new administration should implement to show their commitment to strengthening government science:</p><ol><li>Clearly prohibit political interference and censorship.</li><li>Protect scientists' communication rights.</li><li>Acknowledge that attempts to violate scientific integrity, even if ultimately not fruitful, are still violations.</li><li>Protect federal scientists' right to provide information to Congress and other lawmakers.</li><li>Commit to incorporating the best science as part of agency decisions.</li><li>Elevate agency scientific integrity policies to have the full force of law.</li><li>Publicly release anonymized information about scientific integrity complaints and their resolutions at every agency.</li><li>Institute an intra-agency workforce, potentially under the White House <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/2020-09/strengthening-science-and-si-at-ostp.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Office of Science and Technology Policy</a>, to coordinate scientific integrity efforts across agencies, foster discussion of policy improvements, and standardize criteria for policies across agencies.</li><li>Strengthen whistleblower protections.</li><li>Ensure that policies cover all actors who will be dealing with science.</li></ol>
Time for Action<p>I have spoken to many scientists, particularly federal scientists, who are eager to turn the page so they can hurry back to the work they had been doing before this administration, but I urge caution in assuming that things can be "normal" again.</p><p>Before Trump, I naively thought the scientific integrity policies established during the <a href="https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2016/12/19/scientific-integrity-policies-update" target="_blank">Obama administration</a> would be sufficient. I never imagined that any administration could so willfully ignore and attack expert advice and evidence that is intended to protect us and our public lands.</p><p>I have personally witnessed how hard our federal scientists work. They put in long hours with minimal pay (far less that what they could get if they worked in private industry) to pursue one simple goal: to make things better for the nation.</p><p>We need stronger scientific integrity policies to protect these people and their work. But more than that, we need stronger scientific integrity laws because they also benefit society.</p>
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Andrea Germanos
Environmental campaigners stressed the need for the incoming Biden White House to put in place permanent protections for Alaska's Bristol Bay after the Trump administration on Wednesday denied a permit for the proposed Pebble Mine that threatened "lasting harm to this phenomenally productive ecosystem" and death to the area's Indigenous culture.
<div id="da98c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="478a197b7c59c92787c92bec92f1ac39"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1331662923710693376" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Bristol Bay forever, Pebble mine never. #NoPebbleMine #SaveBristolBay https://t.co/CBQ9zuy8A5</div> — Save Bristol Bay (@Save Bristol Bay)<a href="https://twitter.com/SaveBristolBay/statuses/1331662923710693376">1606328156.0</a></blockquote></div>
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OlgaMiltsova / iStock / Getty Images Plus
By Gwen Ranniger
In the midst of a pandemic, sales of cleaning products have skyrocketed, and many feel a need to clean more often. Knowing what to look for when purchasing cleaning supplies can help prevent unwanted and dangerous toxics from entering your home.
1. Fragrance – Avoid It<p>One of the fastest ways to narrow down your product options is immediately eliminating any product that promotes a fragrance, or parfum. That scent of "fresh breeze" or lemon might initially smell good, but the fragrance does not last. What does last? The concoction of various undisclosed and unregulated chemicals that created that fragrance.</p><p>Many fragrances contain phthalates, which are linked to many health risks including reproductive problems and cancer.</p>
2. With Bleach? Do Without<p>Going scent-free should have narrowed down your options substantially – now, check the front of the remaining packaging. Any that include ammonia or chlorine bleach ought to go, as these substances are irritating and corrosive to your body. While bleach is commonly known as a powerful disinfectant, there are safer alternatives that you can use in your home, such as sodium borate or hydrogen peroxide.</p><p>While you're at it, check if there are any warnings on the label – "flammable," "use in ventilated area," etc. – if the product is hazardous, that's a red flag and should be avoided.</p>
3. Check the Back Label<p>Flip to the back of the remaining contenders and check out that ingredient list. Less is more, here. Opt for a shorter ingredient list with words you recognize and/or can pronounce.</p><p>You may notice many products do not have ingredient lists – while this doesn't necessarily mean they contain toxic ingredients, transparency is key. Feel free to look up a list online, or stick to products that are open about their ingredients.</p>
4. Ingredients to Avoid<p>We already mentioned that cleaners containing fragrance or parfum, and bleach or ammonia should be avoided, but there are other ingredients to look out for as well.</p><ul><li>Quaternary ammonium "quats" – lung irritants that contribute to asthma and other breathing problems. Also linger on surfaces long after they've been cleaned.</li><li>Parabens – Known hormone disruptor; can contribute to ailments such as cancer</li><li>Triclosan – triclosan and other antibacterial chemicals are registered with the EPA as pesticides. Triclosan is a known hormone disruptor and can also impact your immune system.</li><li>Formaldehyde – Causes irritation of eyes, nose, and throat; studies suggest formaldehyde exposure is linked with certain varieties of cancer. Can be found in products or become a byproduct of chemical reactions in the air.</li></ul>
Cleaning Products and Toxics: The Bottom Line<p>Do your research. There are many cleaning products available, but taking these steps will drastically reduce your options and help keep your home toxic-free. Protecting your home from bacteria and viruses is important, but make sure you do so in a way that doesn't introduce other health risks into the home.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.ehn.org/how-to-shop-for-cleaning-products-while-avoiding-toxics-2648130273.html" target="_blank">Environmental Health News</a>. </em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649054624#/" target="_self"></a></p>
JasonOndreicka / iStock / Getty Images
Twenty-five years ago, a food called Tofurky made its debut on grocery store shelves. Since then, the tofu-based roast has become a beloved part of many vegetarians' holiday feasts.
By Jessica Corbett
A leading environmental advocacy group marked Native American Heritage Month on Wednesday by urging President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Kamala Harris, and the entire incoming administration "to honor Indigenous sovereignty and immediately halt the Keystone XL, Dakota Access, and Line 3 pipelines."
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