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9 November 2015 17:12

Global temperature rise set to hit 1C of warming this year, Met Office says

Robert McSweeney

Robert McSweeney

High altitude view of the Earth in space over the desert in the western United States.
Robert McSweeney

Robert McSweeney

09.11.2015 | 5:12pm
Global temperatureGlobal temperature rise set to hit 1C of warming this year, Met Office says

Scientists expect 2015 to be the first year where global annual average temperature passes 1C above pre-industrial levels.

As of the end of September, global temperature is sitting at 1.02C above the 1850-1900 average, and is “expected to hold” for the rest of the year, a short Met Office report says.

This is another piece of evidence of “systematic warming” of the Earth’s climate, says Dr Peter Stott, head of the climate monitoring and attribution at the Met Office Hadley Centre.

The news generated some media interest, including headlines in the BBC and Guardian. It comes on the same day as the World Meteorological Organisation announced that the global average concentration of carbon dioxide surpassed 400 parts per million in spring 2015, notes the Independent.

‘Important marker’

Each year, major meteorological organisations around the world calculate the global average surface temperature. It’s just one measure of how the world is changing in response to human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.

These provisional figures for 2015 come from HadCRUT4, a dataset of observed global temperatures jointly put together by the UK Met Office and the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia.

The data suggests that 2015 will reach, and surpass, 1C above pre-industrial temperatures for the first time in human history. The cross in the top right-hand corner of the chart below shows where the 2015 temperature currently sits compared to the last 150 years.

Observed global annual average surface temperature, relative to 1850-1900 average (in degrees C), according to HadCRUT4. Source: Met Office

Observed global annual average surface temperature, relative to 1850-1900 average (in degrees C), according to HadCRUT4. The cross (top right-hand corner) shows where 2015 currently stands (using Jan-Sep data), the vertical line of the cross indicates the uncertainty in the measurement. Source: Met Office

Hitting 1C is a significant point, Prof Stephen Belcher, Director of the Met Office Hadley Centre, said in a press conference at the Science Media Centre today:

“Given the United Nations target to reduce warming below 2C, this is an important marker in that, for the first time, we’ve passed halfway.”

2C is the internationally agreed limit above which the impacts of climate change are deemed to become intolerably high.

An ‘extra push’

In any one year, natural fluctuations in the climate can dampen or enhance the ongoing rise in global temperatures caused by human activity.

An El Niño, like the event currently underway, tends to give a short-term boost to surface temperatures. This is likely to be contributing to 2015 being such as warm year, said Stott at today’s press conference:

“There’s been an extra push from El Niño; nevertheless the fact is we have human influence driving our climate into uncharted territory, because we are now above 1C.”

El Niño: Every five years or so, a change in the winds causes a shift to warmer than normal sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean - known as El Niño. Together with… Read More

The amount of warming that humans are contributing to global temperature rise is being tracked as part of the Oxford Martin School’s Safe Carbon project at the University of Oxford. Of the around 1C we’re seeing, the researchers have calculated that about 0.9C is attributable to humans (note a different baseline period to the Met Office analysis). Natural variability, including climate phenomena such as El Niño, make up the rest. As Prof Myles Allen, director of the Safe Carbon project, puts it:

“There’s two things going on here: there’s the natural variability and there’s the background trend, which is largely – overwhelmingly – driven by human influence on the climate.”

It’s worth noting that if 2015 does cross the 1C threshold, natural fluctuations in the climate system mean we shouldn’t automatically expect the next few years to cross it as well. However, it won’t be long before it becomes the norm, says Dr Ed Hawkins, Associate Professor at the University of Reading. He tells Carbon Brief:

“It is likely that global mean temperature in 2015 will be more than 1C above pre-industrial levels. This is obviously a significant symbolic milestone. Although temperatures in 2015 have been boosted by a strong El Niño event, it is only a matter of time until this temperature level is reached more permanently.”


While we may be halfway to 2C of surface warming, we’ve long passed the halfway point in terms of the total allowable emissions to stay within a 2C limit, Belcher explains:

“In order to a good chance of staying below 2C, the best estimate is that we need to emit less than 2,900 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The latest figures, which end last year, tell us that we’ve emitted 2,000 gigatonnes since pre-industrial, so we are two-thirds of the way to emitting the greenhouse gas emission budget to limit us to below 2C.”

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), keeping to a carbon budget of 2,900 gigatonnes (billion tonnes) of carbon dioxide would give us a 66% chance of limiting global temperature rise below 2C.

Individual countries have recently been been submitting their pledges to the UN, setting out how far they intend to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions ahead of the negotiations in Paris next month. Various assessments of these pledges suggest they are currently too low to stay below the 2C limit without heavy reliance on negative emissions technology.

Main image: High altitude view of the Earth in space over the desert in the western United States. © MarcelClemens/Shutterstock.
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  • Global temperature rise set to hit 1C of warming this year, Met Office says
  • GeoffBeacon

    I attended a joint presentation of the Committee on Climate Change and the Met Office yesterday. Julia Slingo, Chief Sientist at the Met Office’s Hadley Centre, gave an illuminating presentation. If I remember correctly, she mentioned the wildfires in Indonesia as additional feedback cutting the climate budget.

    I also picked up a Met Office handout which says “There is also a number of additional Earth system feedbacks that could affect the future budget, including the nitrogen cycle contraints on the carbon cycle, and emissions of greenhouse gasses from permafrost and methane hydrates. These are expected to place further limitations on the total global carbon budget.”

    Feedbacks also mentioned in Parliamentary POSTnote 454 (January 2014) “Risks from Climate Feedbacks”,

    I have always believed Myles Allen’s Trillion Tonne Hypothesis was too optimistic about the amount of CO2 humanity could emit because of missing feedbacks. (See “Myles Allen and the Trillion Tonne hypothesis” in

    Does this mean the Met Office agrees when they say “These are expected to place further limitations on the total global carbon budget.”?

  • Tomas Arguello

    hello, as an ordinary person trying to understand what’s at stake at COP 21 i found that there is no consensus inside the scientific community about the IPCC 5th report
    Sensitivity and carbon Budget by David Wansdell :
    1. Equilibrium increase in average surface temperature correlated with a 440 ppm concentration of atmospheric CO2 now stands at 5°C not 2°C. The so-called “safe guideline” of 440 ppm and 2°C can no longer be taken as the basis for policy-making.
    1. The implications of moving beyond the stable state of the Holocene to the conditions of rapid change that characterise the Anthropocene. 2. The non-linear relationship between sensitivity and the feedback system which sets the boundary conditions of self-amplification (“runaway” behaviour) for the global climate. 3. The inadequate treatment of climate sensitivity in the Summary for Policymakers of Workgroup 1 (the scientific basis) of the 5th Assessment Report of the IPCC, with its fundamental consequences for the subsequent presentation in Workgroups 2 and 3.
    AMEG’s research has concentrated on the Arctic and its effect on climate change, our study of IPCC’s own evidence suggests just how serious are the long term prospects of climate change due to both CO2 and methane – far more serious than claimed by IPCC itself. The carbon budget for CO2 – the allowable amount of CO2 to avoid dangerous climate change – has already been used up, if one takes into account the effect of methane and other greenhouse gases. If one also takes into account the climate forcing through albedo loss in the Arctic, then it is clear that the world is heading for extremely dangerous global warming by mid century, even without Arctic methane. The only way to head off such a disaster is by reducing the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere well below their current levels, using a combination of aggressive reduction in both CO2 and methane emissions but also by removal of CO2 from the atmosphere.
    J Hansen:I have pointed out that the growth rate of climate forcings in the real world is notably less than in typical IPCC scenarios, and I have argued that practical actions with multiple benefits could slow and eventually stop the global warming process (Hansen, 2004). However, I do not imply that such a slowdown can occur without strategic planning and strong concerted actions. If our assessment of the level of “dangerous anthropogenic interference” is anywhere near the mark, urgent actions are needed for both CO2 and non-CO2 climate forcings. Philosophy. Richard Feynmann liked to remind us how science works. We must continually question our conclusions, presenting all sides of an argument equally, and changing our conclusions when the evidence warrants it. I have been told that my discussion (Hansen, 2004) is too critical of IPCC. This, I believe, is a misreading of the spirit of my discussion. I aim to be no more or less critical of IPCC than of my own papers. However, I disagree with the implication of Allen et al. (2001) that conclusions about climate change should wait until IPCC goes through a ponderous process, and that verdicts reached by IPCC are near gospel. IPCC conclusions, even after their extensive review and publication, must be subjected to the same scientific process as all others. In the case at hand, I realize that I am no glaciologist and could be wrong about the ice sheets. Perhaps, as IPCC (2001) and more recent global models suggest, the ice sheets are quite stable and may even grow with doubling of CO2. I hope those authors are right. But I doubt it.
    Ottmar Edenhofer:” some material was deleted because some governments don´t agree with the material” “if we talk about cumulative emissions of the past some one can conclude who is the responsable , who as use the limiting disposable space of the atmosphere most in the past.”
    “we urgently need to get started with carbon pricing. Only a price for CO2 will simultaneously make low carbon technologies profitable and the use of fossil fuels unviable. Low carbon technologies include renewable energy sources, but also capturing carbon from coal, gas or biomass power stations and storing it underground to render it harmless. An ambitious climate protection agreement would also make CCS [Carbon Capture and Storage] necessary for industrial emissions from the steel and iron industry. Unfortunately to date we have seen negative CO2 prices, because in many countries governments massively subsidise carbon. It is no wonder that we are not making progress to protect the climate.”
    In this video of Christiana Figueres she said that we cannot expect a binding agreement in Paris, no reference to historical / per capita emitters what means the principle of common but differentiated responsibility is out of negotiation table, the 2° target to stabilize the temperature is not reached ( as J. Hansen indicate must be less than 2°), not carbon price, each country with his own target of emissions reduction, 5 years period report!! has the IPCC now how much methane its going to be release in that period of time? far away from what science indicates should be done.
    She talks about morality and understanding between governments to reach an agreement in Paris, could be this possible forgetting the recent past?
    Morality: it would be good to now from the new chair of the IPCC Hoesung Lee and C. Figueres there personal perception of today situation in Middle East and the flows of petrol in the last 15 years.
    Why in the short /long term the financing of the Green Found should be en US$ dollars?
    Finally international Cooperation its needed; what is expected from United States the larger historical/per capita emitters and the country with the largest presence and military intervetions (increasing) in the World?
    Thanks Tomas

  • J4zonian

    More and more scientists are coming to the conclusion that 2°C is too high to be safe, that instead, 1.5° or even 1° is necessary to avoid horrific effects and further temperature rise caused by tipping points. Of course both of those are impossible goals after such long delay, but immediate elimination of fossil fuel use, reforestation of the world and a transformation of chemical industrial agriculture to low-meat organic permaculture can result in a brief stay over 2°C followed by a quick return to safe CO2e levels. Only a massive global mobilization can meet goals that will avoid unbearable cataclysm, with the rich countries funding the conversion of the world to an ecological life.

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