Last year topped the chart as the warmest year in the modern record, according to data released Wednesday by the world’s top meteorological agencies.
Global temperature in 2015 was 0.75C above the 1961-1990 long-term average and a full 1C above preindustrial times, according to official figures from the UK’s Met Office.
There is unlikely to be any respite—scientists expect 2016 to be even warmer than 2015, says Scaife.
"Overall, we expect El Niño to contribute around 25 percent to what will most likely be a new record global temperature in 2016."
The two major U.S. meteorological agencies—National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)—also confirmed 2015 as the warmest year on record today. Dr Gavin Schmidt, director of the NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies, said:
"2015 was remarkable even in the context of the larger, long-term warming trend."
In a joint summary with former head of NASA GISS, Dr. James Hansen, Schmidt says 2015 global temperature “smashed the prior record” and “should practically terminate” discussion of any slowdown in the pace of global warming.
Updated: How 2015 became hottest year on record | With data from @metoffice @NASA @NOAA https://t.co/eMKs4UPGuE https://t.co/7y7JmDqVOX— Carbon Brief (@Carbon Brief)1453383124.0
Each year, the world’s major meteorological organizations calculate the global average surface temperature. It’s one measure of how the world is responding to greenhouse gas emissions.
Well before the end of 2015, it was looking likely that it would end up as the hottest year on record by quite some margin.
In an announcement timed to coincide with the UN climate talks in Paris in early December, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said it expected 2015 to be the first year to see global temperatures rise 1C above preindustrial levels.
The Met Office predicted at the end of 2014 that 2015 would be among the hottest years on record, with global temperature likely to fall within the range 0.52-0.76C above the 1961-1990 average. The actual observed temperature anomaly of 0.75C is at the upper end of that range.
From this point of view, yesterday’s news that 2015 was the hottest year on record comes as no great surprise. Perhaps what’s most remarkable is how much hotter it has been.
Levels of Confidence
Measuring global temperature is complicated. Scientists’ estimates come with a range of possible temperatures either side of a central figure, to reflect that uncertainty.
While yesterday’s announcement puts 2015’s global temperature at 0.75C above the 1961-1990 long-term average, the scientists say it could realistically be as low as 0.65C or as high as 0.84C.
(Note: The Met Office traditionally uses a 1961-1990 baseline, rather than the less well-defined “preindustrial” level. Where it uses term ‘preindustrial’, this refers to the 1850-1900 average.)
When it comes to temperature rankings, what matters is whether the difference between individual years is more or less than the range of uncertainty. If it’s more, scientists can be confident one year was warmer than the other. If it’s less, they can’t say for certain either way.
But the situation is very clear this year, says Prof. Tim Osborn from the University of East Anglia. He tells Carbon Brief:
"The HadCRUT4 global temperature record includes the most complete representation available of the various sources of error. Taking these into account, we can confidently say that 2015 was the warmest."
The graph below shows global temperatures and associated uncertainty ranges in HadCRUT4 since 2000. You can see the difference between the middle estimates for 2015 and the next warmest year in 2014 is a full 0.18C—over and above the typical uncertainty of 0.1C.
The only way that 2015 might not be the warmest year on record is if turned out the actual temperature was at the very bottom of the uncertainty range while the temperature for 2014 was at the very top. But the chances of that are extremely small, Osborn tells Carbon Brief:
"The slight overlap between the 2015 and 2014 ranges does not undermine our confidence that 2015 is the warmest year on record. For 2014 to be warmest, that would require the combination of two very unlikely events: 2014 to be at the very top of its confidence interval at the same time as 2015 being at the very bottom of its confidence interval."
Dr. Thomas Karl, director of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, echoed this point, telling a press conference earlier today that it is "virtually certain" that 2015 is the hottest year on record. But while interest in which years break records is inevitable, understanding climate change means taking a much wider view. Osborn explains:
"It is the long-term trend that tells us about climate change, rather than the relative warmth of individual years."
Q&A: A Boost From El Niño
As well as being a symptom of the long term warming trend, scientists are interested in 2015 global temperature because of what it tells us about how natural fluctuations in the climate can act to amplify or dampen the warming signal, Osborn explains.
A huge El Niño in the Pacific—among the biggest on record—contributed to the record warmth in 2015, say scientists. In total, 10 out of the 12 months in 2015 either tied with or broke previous records, according to NASA and NOAA’s joint analysis. Since the El Niño only recently reached peak strength, scientists expect its impact to be even larger in 2016.
Carbon Brief asked Prof. Adam Scaife, head of long-range forecasting at the Met Office, a few questions about the role of El Niño in the current spell of record-topping warmth.
How Do Scientists Work Out the Impact of El Niño on Global Temperature?
Using the historical observational record, which now extends back more than a century and theoretical computer models, which have been used to simulate even longer periods, we are able to calculate what happens to global temperature in the run up to an El Niño (or La Niña) and in its aftermath. The effects are very clear: there is a little warming in the period preceding the winter El Niño peak, but the big effect on global temperature comes in the following calendar year as it takes a few months for heat to increase in other ocean basins around the world. The bottom line is that for each 1 degree of El Niño the global temperature in the following year rises by about 0.1 degrees.
How Much of the Record Temperature in 2015 Was Down to El Niño?
El Niño was growing in 2015 and only reached its peak this winter. So, we think El Niño made only a small contribution (a few hundredths of a degree) to the record global temperatures in 2015.
Does that mean human activity was the biggest driver of 2015’s record temperature?
Yes. The nominal record global average temperature of 2015 was well predicted in advance and well explained as being primarily due to global warming, itself mainly due to greenhouse gas emissions of human origin. El Niño made only a small contribution.
What Can We Expect in 2016?
Given the strength of the current El Niño, we expect 2016 to be even warmer globally than 2015. The lagged effects of El Niño are already starting to appear in the monthly temperature observations which are registering more than 0.8 degrees above norm in recent months. This is consistent with our forecast for unprecedented warmth in the coming year. Overall, we expect El Niño to contribute around 25 percent to what will most likely be a new record global temperature in 2016. Much of the rest is down to climate change.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
Fifteen states are in for an unusually noisy spring.
- Millions of Cicadas Set to Emerge After 17 Years Underground ... ›
- Cicadas Show Up 4 Years Early - EcoWatch ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Deep in the woods, a hairy, ape-like man is said to be living a quiet and secluded life. While some deny the creature's existence, others spend their lives trying to prove it.
- Why Hunting Isn't Conservation, and Why It Matters - Rewilding ›
- Decline In Hunters Threatens How U.S. Pays For Conservation : NPR ›
- Is Hunting Conservation? Let's examine it closely ›
- Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation | Oklahoma ... ›
- Oklahoma Bill Calls for Bigfoot Hunting Season | Is Bigfoot Real? ›
By Jon Queally
Noted author and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben was among the first to celebrate word that the president of the European Investment Bank on Wednesday openly declared, "To put it mildly, gas is over" — an admission that squares with what climate experts and economists have been saying for years if not decades.
- Fossil Fuel Industry Is Now 'in the Death Knell Phase': CNBC's Jim ... ›
- Mayors of 12 Major Global Cities Pledge Fossil Fuel Divestment ... ›
- World's Largest Public Bank Ditches Oil and Coal in Victory for the ... ›
Nine feet tall is gigantic by human standards, but when researcher and conservationist Michael Brown spotted a giraffe in Uganda's Murchison Falls National Park that measured nine feet, four inches, he was shocked.
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="54af350ee3a2950e0e5e69d926a55d83"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/yf4NRKzzTFk?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
- Giraffe Parts Sold Across U.S. Despite Plummeting Wild Populations ... ›
- Green Groups Sue to Get Giraffes on Endangered Species List ... ›
- Conservationists Sound Alarm on Plummeting Giraffe Numbers ... ›
By Daisy Simmons
1. Stay Informed<p>A first order of business in pet evacuation planning is to understand and be ready for the possible threats in your area. Visit <a href="https://www.ready.gov/be-informed" target="_blank">Ready.gov</a> to learn more about preparing for potential disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. Then pay attention to related updates by tuning <a href="http://www.weather.gov/nwr/" target="_blank">NOAA Weather Radio</a> to your local emergency station or using the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/mobile-app" target="_blank">FEMA app</a> to get National Weather Service alerts.</p>
2. Ensure Your Pet is Easily Identifiable<p><span>Household pets, including indoor cats, should wear collars with ID tags that have your mobile phone number. </span><a href="https://www.avma.org/microchipping-animals-faq" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Microchipping</a><span> your pets will also improve your chances of reunion should you become separated. Be sure to add an emergency contact for friends or relatives outside your immediate area.</span></p><p>Additionally, use <a href="https://secure.aspca.org/take-action/order-your-pet-safety-pack" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">'animals inside' door/window stickers</a> to show rescue workers how many pets live there. (If you evacuate with your pets, quickly write "Evacuated" on the sticker so first responders don't waste time searching for them.)</p>
3. Make a Pet Evacuation Plan<p> "No family disaster plan is complete without including your pets and all of your animals," says veterinarian Heather Case in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9NRJkFKAm4" target="_blank">a video</a> produced by the American Veterinary Medical Association.</p><p>It's important to determine where to take your pet in the event of an emergency.</p><p>Red Cross shelters and many other emergency shelters allow only service animals. Ask your vet, local animal shelters, and emergency management officials for information on local and regional animal sheltering options.</p><p>For those with access to the rare shelter that allows pets, CDC offers <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/emergencies/pets-in-evacuation-centers.html" target="_blank">tips on what to expect</a> there, including potential health risks and hygiene best practices.</p><p>Beyond that, talk with family or friends outside the evacuation area about potentially hosting you and/or your pet if you're comfortable doing so. Search for pet-friendly hotel or boarding options along key evacuation routes.</p><p>If you have exotic pets or a mix of large and small animals, you may need to identify multiple locations to shelter them.</p><p>For other household pets like hamsters, snakes, and fish, the SPCA recommends that if they normally live in a cage, they should be transported in that cage. If the enclosure is too big to transport, however, transfer them to a smaller container temporarily. (More on that <a href="https://www.spcai.org/take-action/emergency-preparedness/evacuation-how-to-be-pet-prepared" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.)</p><p>For any pet, a key step is to establish who in your household will be the point person for gathering up pets and bringing their supplies. Keep in mind that you may not be home when disaster strikes, so come up with a Plan B. For example, you might form a buddy system with neighbors with pets, or coordinate with a trusted pet sitter.</p>
4. Prepare a Pet Evacuation Kit<p>Like the emergency preparedness kit you'd prepare for humans, assemble basic survival items for your pets in a sturdy, easy-to-grab container. Items should include:</p><ul><li>Water, food, and medicine to last a week or two;</li><li>Water, food bowls, and a can opener if packing wet food;</li><li>Litter supplies for cats (a shoebox lined with a plastic bag and litter may work);</li><li>Leashes, harnesses, or vehicle restraints if applicable;</li><li>A <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/pet-first-aid-supplies-checklist" target="_blank">pet first aid kit</a>;</li><li>A sturdy carrier or crate for each cat or dog. In addition to easing transport, these may serve as your pet's most familiar or safe space in an unfamiliar environment;</li><li>A favorite toy and/or blanket;</li><li>If your pet is prone to anxiety or stress, the American Kennel Club suggests adding <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stress-relieving items</a> like an anxiety vest or calming sprays.</li></ul><p>In the not-unlikely event that you and your pet have to shelter in different places, your kit should also include:</p><ul><li>Detailed information including contact information for you, your vet, and other emergency contacts;</li><li>A list with phone numbers and addresses of potential destinations, including pet-friendly hotels and emergency boarding facilities near your planned evacuation routes, plus friends or relatives in other areas who might be willing to host you or your pet;</li><li>Medical information including vaccine records and a current rabies vaccination tag;</li><li>Feeding notes including portions and sizes in case you need to leave your pet in someone else's care;</li><li>A photo of you and your pet for identification purposes.</li></ul>
5. Be Ready to Evacuate at Any Time<p>It's always wise to be prepared, but stay especially vigilant in high-risk periods during fire or hurricane season. Practice evacuating at different times of day. Make sure your grab-and-go kit is up to date and in a convenient location, and keep leashes and carriers by the exit door. You might even stow a thick pillowcase under your bed for middle-of-the-night, dash-out emergencies when you don't have time to coax an anxious pet into a carrier. If forecasters warn of potential wildfire, a hurricane, or other dangerous conditions, bring outdoor pets inside so you can keep a close eye on them.</p><p>As with any emergency, the key is to be prepared. As the American Kennel Club points out, "If you panic, it will agitate your dog. Therefore, <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pet disaster preparedness</a> will not only reduce your anxiety but will help reduce your pet's anxiety too."</p>
Evacuating Horses and Other Farm Animals<p>The same basic principles apply for evacuating horses and most other livestock. Provide each with some form of identification. Ensure that adequate food, water, and medicine are available. And develop a clear plan on where to go and how to get there.</p><p>Sheltering and transporting farm animals requires careful coordination, from identifying potential shelter space at fairgrounds, racetracks, or pastures, to ensuring enough space is available in vehicles and trailers – not to mention handlers and drivers on hand to support the effort.</p><p>For most farm animals, the Red Cross advises that you consider precautionary evacuation when a threat seems imminent but evacuation orders haven't yet been announced. The American Veterinary Medical Association has <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/large-animals-and-livestock-disasters" target="_blank">more information</a>.</p>
Bottom Line: If You Need to Evacuate, So Do Your Pets<p>As the Humane Society warns, pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, or killed. Plan ahead to make sure you can safely evacuate your entire household – furry members included.</p>
- 5 Ways to Be an Eco-Friendly Pet Owner - EcoWatch ›
- Can Your Pets Get and Transmit Coronavirus? - EcoWatch ›