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Carbon Brief Staff

Carbon Brief Staff

16.01.2015 | 5:13pm
Global temperatureScientists react: 2014 confirmed as hottest year on record
GLOBAL TEMPERATURE | January 16. 2015. 17:13
Scientists react: 2014 confirmed as hottest year on record

NASA and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)  have confirmed 2014 was the warmest year since records began in 1880.

The 10 warmest years in the instrumental record, with the exception of 1998, have now occurred since 2000.

Carbon Brief rounds up the reaction from scientists:

Prof Jonathan Overpeck, co-director of the University of Arizona’s Institute of the Environment, said in  USA Today:

“Humans are literally cooking their planet…It just shows that human emissions of greenhouse gases, mainly from the burning of fossil fuels, are taking over the Earth’s climate system. The data are clear. The Earth is warming and humans are causing the bulk of this warming.”

Overpeck said in the  Huffington post:

“Perhaps more important than the global temperature story are the impacts of record regional heat. In places like California, the Southwest U.S. more generally, Australia and parts of Brazil, record heat is exacerbating drought and leading to more stress on our water supplies and forests.

“With continued global warming, we’re going to see more and more of these unprecedented regional conditions, and with them will come more and more costs to humans and the things they value. 2014 shows that humans are indeed cooking their planet as they continue to combust fossil fuels.”

Dr Radley Horton, a scientist from Columbia University, said in  USA Today:

“What we have known for decades is that increasing greenhouse gas concentrations – due to human activities – have stacked the deck dramatically towards more record warm years, and fewer record cold years.”

Prof Stefan Rahmstorf, head of earth system analysis at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, said in the New York Times:

“Obviously, a single year, even if it is a record, cannot tell us much about climate trends. However, the fact that the warmest years on record are 2014, 2010 and 2005 clearly indicates that global warming has not ‘stopped in 1998’, as some like to falsely claim.”

Dr Gavin Schmidt, director of Nasa’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies, said in the  New York Times:

“Why do we keep getting so many record-warm years? It’s because the planet is warming. The basic issue is the long-term trend, and it is not going away.”

Schmidt said in the  Washington Post:

“This is the first year since 1997 that the record warmest year was not an El Niño year at the beginning of the year, because the last three have been.”

Schmidt said in the  Guardian:

“Any one year being a record warm one is not in itself particularly significant, but this is one in a series of record warm years that are driven by the continuing underlying long-term global warming.

“We expect that heat records will continue to get broken – not everywhere and not every year – but increasingly and that does not bode well for a civilisation that is continuing to add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere at an increasing rate.”

Schmidt said in the  National Journal:

“This is the latest in a series of warm years, in a series of warm decades. While the ranking of individual years can be affected by chaotic weather patterns, the long-term trends are attributable to drivers of climate change that right now are dominated by human emissions of greenhouse gases.”

Prof Jennifer Francis, a climate scientist at Rutgers University, told the Associated Press:

“The globe is warmer now than it has been in the last 100 years and more likely in at least 5,000 years. Any wisps of doubt that human activities are at fault are now gone with the wind. We are witnessing, before our eyes, the effect of human-caused climate change. It is exceptionally unlikely that we would be seeing a record year, during a record warming decade, during a multi-decadal period of warmth that appears to be unrivaled over at least the past millennium if it were not for the rising of planet-warming gases produced by fossil fuel burning.”

Prof Michael Mann, director of Penn State University’s Earth System Science Center, posted on his Facebook page:

“Based on the collective reports [of JMA, NASA, and NOAA], it is fair to declare 2014 the warmest year on record. This is significant for a number of reasons. Unlike past record years, 2014 broke the record without the ‘assist’ of a large El Niño event. There was only the weakest semblance of an El Niño and tropical Pacific warmth contributed only moderately to the record 2014 global temperatures. Viewed in context, the record temperatures underscore the undeniable fact that we are witnessing, before our eyes, the effects of human-caused climate change. It is exceptionally unlikely that we would be seeing a record year, during a record warm decade, during a multidecadal period of warmth that appears to be unrivaled over at least the past millennium, were it not for the rising levels of planet-warming gases produced by fossil fuel burning.

“The record temperatures *should* put to rest the absurd notion of a “pause” (what I refer to as the “Faux Pause” in Scientific American) in global warming. There is a solid body of research now showing that any apparent slow-down of warming during the past decade was likely due to natural short-term factors (like small changes in solar output and volcanic activity) and internal fluctuations related to e.g. the El Niño phenomenon. The record 2014 temperatures underscore the fact that global warming and associated climate changes continue unabated as we continue to raise the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”

Prof Eric Steig, from the Earth and Space Sciences Faculty at University of Washington, said in Mashable:

“In light of the frequent claims of their being a ‘pause’ or slowdown in global temperature, the 2014 data provides a lesson in statistics. It will hopefully remind people what we’ve always known – what the textbooks have always said – that ones must use more than a decade or even 15 years of data to say anything about climate trends.

“As many of us have said, choosing 1998 as a start point – as those advocating for a ‘pause’ have done – is scientifically unjustified. With a couple years more data, it is easy to demonstrate once again that we were right. It is not a surprise that the last 15 years – from 2000-2014 inclusive – show a faster rate of rise than the 1998-2012 trend, though it’s equally unscientific to focus on this 15 year period as any other short period. In any case, global warming continues apace. Did anyone really think it would be otherwise?

“We live on the surface, and the surface temperature records are the most global and longest term record we have. The satellite records measure something different – not the surface, where we live but averages over a substantial vertical part of the atmosphere. The records are short, and subject to greater uncertainties than the surface temperature data.”

Dr Marshall Shepherd, a meteorologist at the University of Georgia, said in Vox:

“If you are younger than 29 years old, you haven’t lived in a month that was cooler than the 20th-century average. You will hear some skeptics say that the satellite-based temperature records don’t support these findings, but we also used ground-based instruments like thermometers and rain gauges to validate these measurements.”

Prof Richard Alley, a geoscientist at Penn State University, said in Mashable:

“As to satellites, the data are quite difficult to interpret in a qualitatively accurate manner (there is a long history of corrections of past shortcomings to improve the data products), and the data are not the temperature that most of us live in and grow our food in down here at the surface, but instead some moderately complicated average of conditions above us somewhere in the atmosphere (much better definitions can be given, but the satellites measure some weighted average up there rather than the surface down here). The satellite data are certainly interesting, and can be used scientifically in many ways, but in my experience most people are more interested in the temperatures down here.”

Prof John R. Christy, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Alabama, said in the New York Times:

“Since the end of the 20th century, the temperature hasn’t done much. It’s on this kind of warmish plateau.”

Prof Michael Oppenheimer, a geosciences professor at Princeton University, said in the Huffington post:

“A record or near-record warm year, especially absent a strong El Niño, is mostly a reminder that the long-term trend for Earth’s temperature is up, up, up.”

Prof Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University told Mashable:

“For scientists, this year is simply one more to add to our long record of a warming planet. For each of us as individuals, though, this year is a reminder that our planet IS warming – that climate change is no longer a concern for future generations, it is happening here and now.”

Prof Andrew Dessler, a climate scientist at Texas A&M University, said in National Geographic:

“If you tell someone that if you stick your hand in the socket you’re going to get shocked, and then they do it and it happens, they shouldn’t be surprised. But years like this do influence the public debate. These observations make it harder for people to believe the argument that the globe is not getting warmer.”

And if you want more, the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang is also collecting responses from scientists.

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