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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Heat Record: 2015 was Hottest Year by Huge Margin, Sort of

El Nino partly to blame, but human activity was the main driver, NASA and NOAA scientists say
The Associated Press 

Caution: there is a lot more hot air in this article than just the global temperature!

2015's global average temperature was the hottest ever by the widest margin on record, NASA and NOAA reported Wednesday.

Last year wasn't just the Earth's hottest year on record — it left a century of high temperature marks in the dust.

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration and NASA announced Wednesday that 2015 was by far the hottest year in 136 years of record keeping.

NOAA said 2015's average temperature was 
14.79 degrees Celsius (58.62 degrees Fahrenheit), passing 
2014 by a record margin of 0.16 C (0.29 F). 
That's 0.90 C (1.62 F) above the 20th-century average. NASA, which measures differently, said 2015 was 0.13 C (0.23 F) warmer than the record set in 2014.

A graphic shows what parts of the Earth were warmer and cooler than average in 2015. It was the warmest year since modern record-keeping began in 1880, according to a new analysis by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. (Scientific Visualization Studio/Goddard Space Flight Center)

Because of the wide margin over 2014, NASA calculated that 2015 was a record with 94 per cent certainty, about double the certainty it had last year when announcing 2014 as a record.

Just want to point out that measuring the temperature of the earth's surface is an extremely complex process. That NASA and NOAA use different methods of calculating the global temperature and still come up with similar results should inspire a little confidence. 

The 94% certainty announced by NASA ought to also inspire some confidence although one wonders why the process requires a certainty rating in the first place. It would imply a certain amount of 'estimation' or perhaps, 'guesstimation' involved in the calculations. Such estimations could be influenced by the hope of a desired outcome.

4th record in 11 years

Although 2015 is now the hottest on record, it was the fourth time in 11 years that Earth broke annual marks for high temperature.

"It's getting to the point where breaking record is the norm," Texas Tech climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe said. "It's almost unusual when we're not breaking a record."

A boy cools off in a public fountain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, October 16, 2015, when temperatures reached a record-breaking 42.8 degrees Celsius. The sharp temperature increase in 2015 was driven in part by El Nino, scientists say. (Pilar Olivares/Reuters)

Scientists blame a combination of El Nino and increasing man-made global warming.

Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University said a strong El Nino, like this year's, can add about a third of a degree of warming to Earth's temperature.

This year's El Nino is currently the 2nd strongest on record (since 1950) and is very close to the strongest El Nino on record in 1997/98. That event caused a temperature rise of about 2/3rds of a degree above the norm, and above the 1997 temperature, not 1/3rd.

This year's increase of 0.16 or 0.13 degrees above the 2014 temperature is 1/6th to 1/8th of a degree. For such a strong El Nino, one might have expected more. 

Certainly, El Nino is not done yet and there is a bit of a lag in temperatures, so 2016 may well make up some of that short-fall; it will be interesting to watch. But as with all El Nino events, the temperature will drop the following year to normal levels leaving 2017 to be a cool year.

"Records will happen during El Nino years due to the extra warming boost they provide," Mann said in an email. "That boost of warmth however sits upon the ramp of global warming."

He's correct here, certainly, although the statement, "increasing man-made global warming", has yet to be proven. That ANY global  warming is anthropogenic has yet to be proven. Since only 3-4% of all CO2 that enters the atmosphere is caused by man's activities, any influence on the global temperature could only be very slight, if at all.

Prof Murry Salby has clearly shown that increased CO2 in the atmosphere is a consequence of increased temperature, not the other way about. That is, increased CO2 follows increased temperature because most CO2 comes out of the ground and its production increases with the temperature of the ground, and to a lesser degree, the moisture content.

And it's likely to happen this year, too. NASA scientists and others said there's a good chance that this year will pass 2015 as the hottest year on record, thanks to El Nino.

Road markings appear distorted during a heat wave, in New Delhi, India, 27 May 2015. At that time, more than 1,150 people were reported dead from the heat wave. (Harish Tyagi/EPA)

"2015 will be difficult to beat, but you say that almost every year and you get surprised," said Victor Gensini, a meteorology professor at the College of DuPage outside of Chicago.

Measurements from Japan and the University of California at Berkeley also show 2015 is the warmest on record. Satellite measurements, which scientists say don't measure where we live and have a larger margin of error, calculate that last year was only the third hottest since 1979.

Satellite measurements are used to calculate the temperature of the lower atmosphere and not just the surface of the earth. There are many issues affecting the accuracy of these calculations which is why it has a larger margin of error. Nevertheless, it is curious that satellite measurements found 2015 to be only the 3rd warmest year on record.

A heat wave took a heavy toll in Pakistan.

A man attempts to cool off in the worst heat wave to hit Karachi, Pakistan, in 35 years. There were more than 1,000 deaths as of June 25, with temperatures as high as 45 C since June 20. (Akhtar Soomro/Reuters)

Record-breaking heat hit Europe, too.

People cool off at Virgen de Regla beach in Chipiona, Spain, on Aug. 1, 2015 as locals and vacationers alike flock to the coast to beat a heat wave that has been bringing consistently high temperatures to parts of Europe this summer. (Marcelo del Pozo/Reuters)