It’s official: 2014 was the earth’s hottest year in recorded history, US government scientists said on Friday, January 16th. After shattering temperature records that had stood for hundreds of years across the globe, last year’s global temperatures reached 1.24F (0.69C) higher than the 20th century average.
Based off data – led by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – stretching back to 1880, 2014 now surpasses 2010 as the planet’s warmest year, setting a global temperature record. And if that’s not enough to startle, the 10 warmest years on record have all taken place since 1997, reflecting scientific research on climate change and planetary warming.
The scientists added that 2014 was 0.07F (0.04C) higher than the previous records set in 2005 and 2010. It was also the 38th consecutive year of above average temperatures.
“Any one year being a record warm one is not in itself particularly significant, but this is one in a series of record warm years that are driven by the continuing underlying long-term global warming,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies in Manhattan, The New York Times reports. “We expect that heat records will continue to get broken – not everywhere and not every year – but increasingly and that does not bode well for a civilization that is continuing to add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere at an increasing rate.”
According to the Climate Central research group, there is less than a one in 27 million chance that 2014’s temperature shift happened because of “natural climate variability” – undermining claims by climate change opponents that global warming does not exist or has stopped.
“Obviously, a single year, even if it is a record, cannot tell us much about climate trends,” said Stefan Rahmstorf, head of earth system analysis at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. “However, the fact that the warmest years on record are 2014, 2010 and 2005 clearly indicates that global warming has not ‘stopped in 1998,’ as some like to falsely claim.”
Six months of 2014 were also record breakers, with a record-warm December finishing off a year which also saw May, June, August, September, and October experience new highs around the world, from most of Europe stretching into northern Africa, and the western United States.
Only the eastern half of the United States saw below-average temperatures in 2014 – some experts say this in itself is a result of the release of greenhouse gases, The New York Times reports. On the other hand, several scientists revealed that the most significant weather pattern change in 2014 was the absence of El Niño, a large-scale weather pattern in which the ocean releases a massive amount of heat into the atmosphere.
According to Schmidt, the next time a strong El Niño occurs, it is likely to set temperature records.
Barbara Boxer, the California Democrat and climate advocate, said, “The data from NASA and NOAA is the latest scientific evidence that climate change is real, and we must act now to protect our families and future generations.”
“Deniers must stop ignoring these alarms if we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change,” she warned.