Last year, the Earth sweltered under the hottest temperatures in modern times for the third year in a row, US scientists said Wednesday, raising new concerns about the quickening pace of climate change.
Temperatures spiked to new national highs in parts of India, Kuwait and Iran, while sea ice melted faster than ever in the fragile Arctic, said the report by United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Taking a global average of the land and sea surface temperatures for the entire year, NOAA found the data for “2016 was the highest since record keeping began in 1880,” said the announcement.
The global average temperature last year was 1.69 Fahrenheit (0.94 Celsius) above the 20th century average, and 0.07 degrees F (0.04 C) warmer than in 2015, the last record-setting year, according to NOAA.
This was “not a huge margin to set a new record but it is larger than the typical margin,” Deke Arndt, chief of NOAA global climate monitoring, said on a conference call with reporters.
A separate analysis by the US space agency NASA also found that 2016 was the hottest on record.
The World Meteorological Organization in Geneva confirmed the US findings, and noted that atmospheric concentrations of both carbon dioxide and methane reached new highs.
The main reason for the rise is the burning of fossil fuels like oil and gas, which send carbon dioxide, methane and other pollutants known as greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere and warm the planet.
The mounting toll of industrialization on the Earth’s natural balance is increasingly apparent in the record books of recent decades.
“Since the start of the 21st century, the annual global temperature record has been broken five times (2005, 2010, 2014, 2015 and 2016),” said NOAA.
Another factor has been the Pacific Ocean warming trend of El Nino, which experts say exacerbates the planet’s already rising warmth.
El Nino comes and goes. The latest episode became particularly strong in 2015, and subsided about halfway through 2016.
But El Nino was responsible for just a small fraction of last year’s warmth, according to Peter Stott, acting director of Britain’s Met Office Hadley Center.
“The main contributor to warming over the last 150 years is human influence on climate from increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere,” he said.
This year is likely be cooler, but probably not by much, said Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York.
“Because the long-term trends are so clear, it is still going to be a top-five year in our analysis. I’m pretty confident about that.” he told reporters.