Global temperatures to hit another record this year
2016 has brought the world into the third year of record heat. At this rate, we are on course for another high-temperature benchmark.
According to NASA scientists, global temperatures currently are much higher than the first half of 2015. The director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies Gavin Schmidt said that 2016 temperatures have far exceeded that of 2015, where the first six months yielded the highest half-year temperature.
Their calculations projected a 99% probability that the full year of 2016 will be hotter than 2015.
Last year’s Paris climate treaty for nations to limit climate change comes with a set of temperature targets, and the world is playing with these targets.
Part of the rise in temperatures this year is associated with El Niño, as warming waters in the Pacific Ocean pump lots of heat into the atmosphere.
As El Niño is now ending, water temperatures in the Pacific are expected to drop leading into 2017, but temperatures will remain historically high.
The first six months of 2016 showed an average temperature of 1.3 degree Celsius, or 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit above the 1880 average. That was when records were kept globally, and showed temperatures around 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.
Excluding Antartica, all parts of the planet experienced warming during the first half of 2016.
In the Arctic, warming was exceptionally high, which affected sea ice coverage.
According to scientist Walt Meier from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the geographical extent of Arctic ice this year was the lowest since 1979, as warmer temperatures caused ice to start melting two months earlier than usual.
He said: “It’s been an extreme beginning to the year for sea ice”. It is unclear whether this year will exceed records for the lowest sea-ice extent, beating records in 2012.
The increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius is special because of the Paris climate treaty in December, where nations pledged to limit the increase in global temperatures to that amount above preindustrial levels.
While we are already at that target, Dr Schmidt said that the Paris target refers to continuous temperatures over an extended period.
“I certainly would not say that we have now gotten to that initial Paris number and are going to stay there,” he said. “But I think it’s fair to say that we are dancing with that lower target.”