2016 is likely to be the world’s hottest year: here’s why


Andrew King, University of Melbourne and Ed Hawkins, University of Reading

We’re not even halfway through the year but already you may have heard talk of 2016 being the hottest on record. But how can scientists be so sure we’re going to beat the previous record, set just last year?

Even before the end of 2015, the UK Met Office was forecasting with 95% confidence that 2016 would beat the record. Since then, that confidence has grown still further, as record after record has tumbled. April 2016 broke the record for the hottest April after we had experienced the hottest February and March on record already this year.

NASA climatologist Gavin Schmidt recently estimated at least a 99% likelihood of 2016 being hotter than 2015.

The role of El Niño

The main reason why scientists are so sure that 2016 will be the hottest year is El Niño, which is associated with warmer sea surface temperatures in the eastern Pacific Ocean. The 2015-16 El Niño was among the strongest on record and has increased global average temperatures.

Even though the El Niño is now decaying, the second year of a major El Niño event is often associated with much warmer than normal conditions and is typically warmer than the first.

For instance, the 1997-98 El Niño was by some measures the strongest on record, and contributed to 1998 becoming the hottest year on record globally at the time.

Since the start of this year, we have seen global temperature records smashed time and time again. This means that much colder temperatures for the second half of the year would be needed for 2016 not to surpass the 2015 record.

Even a strong La Niña event (the cooler opposite of El Niño), which some analysts are forecasting, is unlikely to produce cold enough temperatures.

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One thing that could prevent 2016 becoming a record-breaking hot year is a major volcanic eruption in the tropics. Volcanic eruptions at low latitudes can eject aerosols high into the atmosphere reducing the amount of energy from the sun reaching the Earth’s surface.

Previous eruptions such as Pinatubo in 1991 and Tambora in 1815 (which caused 1816 to be “the year without a summer”) reduced temperatures across much of the globe.

However, it is the year after the eruption that often experiences the most severe cooling, so an eruption would have to be pretty soon and very strong to scupper 2016’s chances of being the hottest year on record.

What about climate change?

The role of climate change is smaller because we’re comparing 2016 with last year (the previous record). Over such short periods of time, the contribution from global warming doesn’t change much.

However, scientists estimated that 2015 was about 1℃ hotter than it would have been without human-caused climate change. As the human influence on the climate has not increased greatly since last year this 1℃ estimate will also apply to 2016.

The highly likely record temperature of 2016 will join the previous 17 record-breaking hot years back to 1937 which were all made more likely due to human-caused climate change (the rising global temperatures were even noticed as far back as 1938).

So even if El Niño is driving the 2016 record, we can say that the temperatures of this year (and indeed the temperatures associated with all the records over the last few years) would be virtually impossible without climate change.

Climate change has been increasing the likelihood of global temperature records for many decades. The vertical red bars show the record-breaking hot years we can attribute to human-induced climate change. The shorter yellow bars show ranges of estimates for how much more likely a record hot year becomes each year.
Andrew King, Author provided

An omen for the future?

We expect 2016 to beat the 2015 record for global average temperature as the decaying El Niño event pushes up surface temperatures.

This year, we’ve already seen devastating events associated with unusually warm temperatures, like the mass coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef, which has been largely attributed to human-induced climate change.

In future, we can expect to see more extreme heat events, like we’ve already seen in 2016, impacting society and ecosystems across the world.

And even though 2016 is likely to be the hottest year by some margin, we wouldn’t bet on this record lasting too long. While 2017 is very likely to be cooler due to a possible La Niña, with the strong warming trend the world’s experiencing it’s only a matter of time before we have another record-breaking hot year.

Only if we substantially reduce our greenhouse gas emissions now will we see the benefit of fewer record heat events in the future.

The Conversation

Andrew King, Climate Extremes Research Fellow, University of Melbourne and Ed Hawkins, Associate professor of climate science , University of Reading

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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It’s official: 2015 was the hottest year ever recorded


Janette Lindesay, Australian National University and Mark Howden, CSIRO

It’s official: 2015 was the hottest year on record. The US-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has confirmed overnight that 2015 saw the global average temperature climbing to 0.90°C above the 20th-century average of 13.9°C. The record has been confirmed by the UK Met Office.

It’s been only a year since the record was previously broken, but 2015 stands out as an extraordinarily hot year. 2014, the previous hottest year, was 0.74°C above the global average. December 2015 marks the first time in the NOAA record a global monthly temperature anomaly has exceeded 1°C – it reached 1.11°C.

Every month since February 1985 has been warmer than average, and 2015 is the 39th consecutive year with above-average annual temperatures in an uninterrupted run that began in the mid 1970s. Ten months in 2015 beat previous records for those months.

The evidence that the so-called “global warming hiatus” is over is compelling – if it ever existed.

https://charts.datawrapper.de/9RvfW/index.html

Air temperatures over the land rose markedly to a new record of 1.33°C above average, and ocean temperatures also reached a new record anomaly of 0.74°C in 2015. The global ocean has absorbed up to 90% of the excess heat retained or accumulated by human activities since the industrial revolution, and ocean temperatures show clear warming trends both at the surface and deep down.

In 2015/2016 a strong El Niño event is bringing some of that heat buried in the ocean back to the surface.

The “perfect storm”

Global temperatures are influenced by both natural and human factors.

2015 saw the development of an El Niño event classed as one of the three strongest on record, comparable to those of 1982/83 and 1997/98.

These events are linked to higher global air temperatures. Since 1850 many of the warmest years have also been El Niño years. El Niño events are driven by changes in the winds across the Pacific Ocean, which move warm water from the western Pacific to the east.

In 2015 central Pacific sea surface temperatures were more than 3°C above average over an area of approximately 5.5 million square kilometres, around 70% of the size of the Australian continent. Air temperatures increase during El Niño events as heat is transferred from the ocean to the atmosphere.

Sea surface temperature anomalies, Oct-Dec 2015 showing the characteristic El Niño pattern of increases across the central to eastern Pacific
NOAA

But a strong El Niño event alone is not sufficient to account for the 2015 record temperature anomaly.

In May 2015 carbon dioxide concentrations reached a monthly value of 403.9 parts per million (ppm) – the highest ever recorded. The average concentration of CO₂ in 2015 may exceed 400 pppm for the first time in human history. CO₂ is the one of the principal greenhouse gases responsible for human-induced global warming.

Since 2008 the CO₂ concentration has increased by an average of 2.1 ppm per year, largely due to fossil fuel and land-use emissions, emphasising the significant impact of human activity on the atmosphere.

CO₂ concentrations now exceed pre-industrial levels by more than 40%, and the likelihood of this increase and the associated warming being due only to natural factors is vanishingly small.

Carbon dioxide exceeded 400 ppm in 8 months in 2015.
NOAA

Climate extremes everywhere

Across the globe 2015 was characterised by weather and climate extremes from floods and severe storms to droughts and heatwaves.

In Australia climate conditions are being pushed beyond our historical experience of natural climate variability and into new territory. Global warming has increased the likelihood of record-breaking temperatures by up to 100 times.

In 2015 records were broken once again across Australia, in a series of high temperature events particularly in Western Australia (January), Queensland (March), and the south-eastern states (October, November and December).

The Bureau of Meteorology 2015 Annual Climate Statement highlights October as particularly noteworthy. October 2015 was 2.89℃ warmer than the average October inn Australia. While this doesn’t make October the hottest month overall (that title still belongs to the summer months), it is the largest margin by which a monthly record has ever been broken.

High temperatures broke the internet (literally); led to cancelled sporting events in Victoria and South Australia; and added to severe bushfire conditions in several states.

October 2015 warmest on record with largest temperature anomaly.
Australia Bureau of Meteorology

In response to concerns about this ongoing warming and the associated heat extremes, the wine industry is exploring adaptation options including changing grape varieties; cereal crop, fruit, vegetable and milk producers are trying to reduce the impact of heatwaves and droughts on yields; and we need to change our behaviour and infrastructure to deal with the health impacts of more extreme temperatures and more frequent heatwaves.

We are all affected by global warming.

The necessity of mitigation

The climate and weather impacts of 2015 in Australia are examples of what is happening around the globe, adding to the overwhelming body of evidence of the reality and impacts of global warming.

The combination of a strong El Niño event with ongoing human-induced warming of the ocean and atmosphere set up the conditions for 2015. It is unlikely to be the last such record.

El Niño events are part of natural climate variability and will continue to occur, and until greenhouse gas emissions are reduced at least in line with the Paris Climate Agreement global temperatures will continue to rise for the foreseeable future.

As agreed by the governments of the world at the Paris UNFCCC meeting, the need for effective and urgent local, national and global action to reduce emissions has never been more pointed.

The Conversation

Janette Lindesay, Professor of Climatology, Australian National University and Mark Howden, Research Scientist, Agriculture Flagship, CSIRO

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

2015 to be hottest year ever: World Meteorological Organization


Paul Yacoumis, The Conversation

2015 will likely be the hottest year on record, according to a preliminary analysis released by the World Meteorological Organization. Worldwide temperatures are expected for the first time to reach more than 1℃ above pre-industrial temperatures.

The five years from 2011-2015 will also likely be the hottest five-year period on record. Average global atmospheric CO₂ concentrations over three months also hit 400 parts per million for the first time during the southern hemisphere Autumn this year. On top of this, we are experiencing one of the strongest El Niño events ever recorded.

According to Dr Karl Braganza, head of climate monitoring at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, these climate milestones are both symbolic and highly significant.

“One degree is half way to the 2 degree guardrail of warming that the global community is aiming for in terms of future climate change,” Dr Braganza said.

“400 parts per million of CO₂ in the atmosphere is a composition that the climate system has not likely seen in probably the past 2.5 million years.”

In Australia, 2015 is likely to fall into the top 10 warmest years on record, all of which have occurred this century.

Dr Braganza said that record breaking hot weather was now six times more likely than it was early last century. Meanwhile, the oceans continue to warm at an alarming rate.

“About 90% of the additional heat from the advanced greenhouse effect goes into warming the oceans,” he said.

This is particularly worrying as any change to sea temperature is potentially very significant in terms of impacts on Australia’s weather, from droughts to flooding rains.

Dr David Karoly, Professor of Atmospheric Science at the University of Melbourne, said that there was little doubt as to the cause of the warming.

“It is now all but certain that 2015 will be the hottest year since record keeping began.

“The new record high global temperature in 2015 is mainly due to human-caused global warming, with smaller contributions from El Niño and from other natural climate variations,” Dr Karoly said.

According to calculations by Karoly and colleagues as part of the World Weather Attribution Project coordinated by Climate Central, temperatures will likely reach around 1.05℃ above pre-industrial temperatures. Of this, about 1℃ can be attributed to the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, about 0.05ºC-0.1ºC to El Niño, and about 0.02ºC to higher solar activity. The numbers don’t quite add up to 1.05℃ due to uncertainties and natural variability.

The World Meteorological Organization statement comes as world leaders are set to meet in Paris next week to begin the next round of negotiations on taking action against climate change.

Comments compiled with the assistance of the Australian Science Media Centre.

The Conversation

Paul Yacoumis, Editorial intern, Environment & Energy, The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Elephant: 35 000 Killed in a Year


The link below is to an article reporting on the death toll for elephants in just one year – 35 000 individuals.

For more, visit:
http://worldnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/04/30/11467687-slaughtered-for-their-ivory-up-to-35000-elephants-slain-in-one-year-charity-says

Holiday: Destination Decided


I’m fairly sure that I have now arrived at a decision as to my destination for my upcoming holiday. I’m fairly sure I’ll be going to Uluru, probably King’s Canyon and also some places around Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. It seems like a fairly good time of the year to head that way.

I also have a date for the holiday and I will be away for two weeks.

More to come as I plan the trip.