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Dr Gavin Schmidt
Dr Gavin Schmidt. Credit: Ted Talks.
INTERVIEWS
16 January 2017 16:47

Video: NASA’s Dr Gavin Schmidt on 2016 as the hottest year on record

Roz Pidcock

Roz Pidcock

01.16.17
Roz Pidcock

Roz Pidcock

16.01.2017 | 4:47pm
InterviewsVideo: NASA’s Dr Gavin Schmidt on 2016 as the hottest year on record

On Wednesday, the world’s three major meteorological organisations will reveal how global temperature in 2016 stacked up against previous years. Given exceptional warmth in most months, it is all but guaranteed that scientists will confirm 2016 as the hottest year on record.

During his brief lecture tour of the UK last week, Carbon Brief caught up with Dr Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Science. NASA is one of the three agencies due to release their findings this week. The others are the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the UK Met Office/University of East Anglia.

What’s behind the record warmth in 2016? Starting the year with a strong El Niño is worth about an extra 0.1 or 0.2C on top of the long-term trend from greenhouse gases, says Schmidt.

He tells Carbon Brief:

“Why did we have a record year? It’s 80-90% because of the long-term trend and 10% because of El Niño…We’re on a rising trend and when we have anomalously warm trends on top of a rising trend, those are going to be record years.”

Looking forward, we shouldn’t expect each year in succession to be warmer than the last, Schmidt notes:

“We don’t anticipate that 2017 will be a record year because we’re starting off with less of an El Niño signal and more of a neutral/La Niña signal.”

While pinpointing whether one year is hotter than another is interesting from a scientific standpoint, it doesn’t alter the bottom line that the climate is warming, Schmidt says:

“The difference between whether 2016 was the first or second warmest doesn’t make any difference to the impacts that we anticipate over time, and it doesn’t really make any difference to the predictions we’re making for the future. The bottom line is the planet is warming, we’re in a period of exceptional warmth historically.”

Sharelines from this story
  • Video: NASA's Dr Gavin Schmidt on 2016 as the hottest year on record
  • .@ClimateOfGavin "The bottom line is the planet is warming, we’re in a period of exceptional warmth historically.”
  • Ronal Larson

    Thanks to Carbon Brief for making the effort to tape a fine interview of one of the best climate analysts.

  • Dale

    Prior to NOAA’s temperature adjustments, the 20th century irradiance trend for the northern hemisphere, (a) rapid rise in TSI from 1900 to 1950, (b) a dramatic drop in the TSI from the 1950s to the 1970s, and (c) abrupt 1980s to 2000s increase TSI, all tend to align with the unadjusted Northern Hemisphere temperature trend. Coincidence?

  • John Bruce

    All of this – as with UNIPCC – is predicated on the global anomaly being the right base upon which to tell the World our temperature variation. The global anomaly itself is on an arbitrary period long after global warming began to bite. In fact the norm would seem to be most logically based on the 1925 – 1960 period (discounting WW11 hike). The anomaly should surely cease to be based for political expediency on a much later period after initial warming was well established with the atmospheric carbon well above the 280ppm which historically is the sum of what nature can recycle each year.

    The other point is why do we base the temperature on an anomaly which is irrelevant to the 88% of the global population that live in the northern Hemisphere. The global Anomaly does not reflect the temperature in the Northern hemisphere much driven by the much warmer Arctic but whose temperature is not much affected by the much colder Antarctic.

    Surely – since what will be killing us are local conditions – we the public deserve clarity and honesty so we can begin to try and get aboard and play a part in trying to avoid the reality of the risk that faces us – our species extinction. On the dTs gistemp tables – the ground station data – the Northern Hemisphere anomaly for 2016 made a nonsense of ‘a mean 1.6C by 2081’ – we are above 2C for much of 2016. And 2C is dangerous – in rising humidity (23,000 dies in Paris in 2003 et al).

    Should we look facts in the face we would see clearly that we can not avoid warming by cutting carbon, we are likely to be above 2C early in the 2020’s, no current technology is other than part of the problem 9 save solar) due to carbon footprint in a world in which, if we are to inhabit it for much longer, requires carbon recover. If correct we are in much deeper trouble than anyone is caring to admit – such trouble that in the absence of intervention we have no future.

    COP21 had us warming at 0.01C pa. In 2016 the dTs NH tables had us warming at 0.5C. We live in the Northern Hemisphere. We have a choice – we can continue to blind ourselves to reality or we can bite the bullet and deploy technology to make clean energy at a price to put polluters out of business. Given the price of business as usual maybe we should embrace change.


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