By Glynn Wilson –
MOBILE, Ala. — As if we needed another study to tell us that global warming is speeding up and making climate change worse, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released another 300-page report Tuesday documenting the warming and changes in the climate due to the burning of fossil fuels for energy.
The report is already available online and will be published by the Bulletin of the America Meteorological Society. Not that it will help sway Donald Trump and the Republican Party in the United States, but more than 450 scientists from 62 countries participated in the study.
Of course it shows that 2015 was without a doubt the warmest year on record, fueled not only by by record-setting concentrations of heat-trapping gases from human activity, but also a record El Niño event, with warmer-than-normal tropical Pacific Ocean waters infusing even more heat into the atmosphere.
Here are the key findings of the report.
Global average temperature in 2015 surpassed the record set in 2014 by more than 0.1 of a degree Celsius. For the first time, the temperature surpassed preindustrial levels by more than 1 degree Celsius.
The average temperature over the ocean was 0.33 to 0.39 Celsius above average, topping the previous average by 0.10 to 0.12 Celsius. These warm waters fueled much higher than normal global tropical cyclone activity.
Five different data sets showed record high amounts of heat stored in the upper layer of the ocean averaged around the globe.
Global sea level was highest on record. Oceans expand as they warm, causing the sea level to rise. In addition, melting ice sheets and glaciers add to sea level. The sea level in 2015 was about 2.75 inches higher than 1993 average. Over the past two decades, sea level has risen at a rate of 0.15 inches per year.
The El Niño event was among the strongest on record.
“By most measures, the 2015/16 El Niño was one of the strongest on record, on par with those of 1982/83 and 1997/98,” the report says.
In addition to elevating global temperatures, the El Niño raised sea levels, intensified Pacific tropical cyclone activity, and led to drought in the parts of the tropics increasing wildfires and the release of carbon dioxide. Globally, drought area was the highest since the 1980s.
Greenhouse gas levels were highest on record. The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide surpassed 400 parts per million for the first time. Methane and nitrous oxide, additional heat-trapping gases released into the atmosphere through human activity, also set records.
Thirty-one major tropical cyclones developed in the Northern Hemisphere in 2015, topping the previous record of 23 set in 2004, and 26 tropical cyclones reached Category 4 or 5 intensity, surpassing the previous record of 18.
The maximum sea ice extent in the Arctic was 7 percent below the 1981-2010 average, and the smallest on record in February 2015. Temperatures in the Arctic land surface averaged over the year tied for warmest on record with 2007 and 2011, 2.8 degrees Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit) above the average temperature in the 20th century.
Glaciers continued shrinking in 2015, the 36th straight year of Alpine glacier retreat around the globe.
Also, extreme temperatures were the most extreme on record.
“Regionally, the frequencies of warm days and warm nights were the highest on record in western North America, parts of Central Europe, and Central Asia,” the report says.
Plus, 2015 saw the fewest number of unusually cool days on record.
What is even more extraordinary is that there are still politicians in the U.S. who deny these facts and continue to make political hay from denying them. Of all the other political problems we face, those that dominate the media coverage of the presidential campaign ongoing in 2016, climate change due to global warming is the biggest problem we face. And almost no one is talking about it in the political campaign. It is barely a blip way down in the language of the Democratic Party platform, and the Republicans are still running for election and winning votes by denying its existence or dismissing it as a myth.
© 2016, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.