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.”
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.”