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.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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