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State of the Climate Report Confirms Planet Has Entered 'New Neighborhood' of Global Temperatures

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released the results of what it calls the "annual checkup for the planet" Wednesday, and the patient is not doing well.


The 28th annual State of the Climate report, published by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society and based on the work of more than 500 scientists in 65 countries, confirmed 2017 as the second or third warmest year on record, depending on the data set, and the warmest without a temperature-boosting El Niño event.

Since 2015 and 2016 are the other two warmest years in recorded history, NOAA climatologist and lead report author Deke Arndt said the report showed we have entered "a new neighborhood in terms of global temperature," The Huffington Post reported.

Surface temperatures in 2017 were 0.38­–0.48° Celsius above the 1981 to 2010 average.NOAA

The report also had bad news for carbon dioxide levels, which reached 405 parts per million, the highest in at least 800,000 years.

The oceans were especially hard hit, both in terms of sea level rise and temperature. The report found that sea level rise broke a new record of around 3 inches above the 1993 average. Sea surface temperatures had an average slightly below 2016's, but continued their upward trend, and the heat contributed to continued coral bleaching. Between 2014 and 2017, more than 95 percent of the corals in some reefs died.

Sea levels in 2017 were, on average, the highest in the satellite record. NOAA

NOAA oceanographer Greg Johnson told The Huffington Post that the feedback loops set in motion by climate change would continue to impact the oceans for years, even if emissions stopped tomorrow.

"We've started to push them with greenhouse gases, and that freight train is now moving and actually it will continue to move," he said. "If we were to freeze greenhouse gases at the level they are today, the oceans would continue to warm and seas continue to rise for centuries to come."

2017 was also a perilous year for Arctic and Antarctic sea ice. In the Arctic, maximum sea ice extent was the lowest since record-keeping began 38 years ago. In Antarctica, sea ice coverage fell on March 1 to 811,000 square miles, the lowest it has been since the satellite record began in 1978.

When it came to extreme weather, the number of tropical cyclones was slightly above average. Areas affected by drought dropped during the beginning of the year, but climbed back up to above average levels by the end.

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A volcano erupts on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade / Twitter

A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.

Michael Schade / Twitter

At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.