2016 Was The Hottest Year On Earth… What’s Next?

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Last year was the hottest year on Earth, according to climate records. What should we expect this year?

For the third straight year, the Earth broke its highest temperature record in 2016. While the Earth’s temperatures have been rising for several decades now, this is the first time that records were broken three years in a row, which seems to be revealing an alarming pattern.

As the New York Times article below states, “Temperatures are heading toward levels that many experts believe will pose a profound threat to both the natural world and to human civilization.”

So where do we go from here, and what should we expect for the future?

Here’s more on the record-breaking heat wave that is impacting our planet:

In 2015 and 2016, the planetary warming was intensified by the weather pattern known as El Niño… But the bigger factor in setting the records was the long-term trend of rising temperatures, which scientists say is being driven by increasing levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

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“A single warm year is something of a curiosity,” said Deke Arndt, chief of global climate monitoring for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “It’s really the trend, and the fact that we’re punching at the ceiling every year now, that is the real indicator that we’re undergoing big changes.”

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El Niño has now ended, and climate scientists almost universally expect 2017 to be cooler than the year before. But the scale of the heat burst has been startling to many of the experts, and some of them fear an accelerated era of global warming could be at hand over the next few years.

Even at current temperatures, billions of tons of land ice are melting or sliding into the ocean. The sea is also absorbing most of the heat trapped by human emissions. Those factors are causing the ocean to rise at what appears to be an accelerating pace, and coastal communities in the United States are beginning to spend billions to fight increased tidal flooding

The finding that a record had been set for the third year in a row was released on Wednesday by three government agencies, two of them American and one British, that track measurements made by ships, buoys and land-based weather stations. They analyze the figures to correct for known problems, producing an annual average temperature for the surface of the Earth…

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NASA’s calculations suggested that the planet had warmed by well over a half-degree Fahrenheit from 2013 to 2016. That is a huge change for the surface of an entire planet to undergo in just three years, and it appears to be the largest temperature increase over a three-year period in the NASA record, which begins in 1880.

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Since 1880, NOAA’s records show only one other instance when global temperature records were set three years in a row: in 1939, 1940 and 1941. The Earth has warmed so much in recent decades, however, that 1941 now ranks as only the 37th-warmest year on record.

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When the heat buildup in the ocean is taken into account, global temperatures are rising relentlessly. Scientists have calculated that the heat accumulating throughout the Earth because of human emissions is roughly equal to the energy that would be released by 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs exploding across the planet every day.

It is true that at the Earth’s surface, the warming seems to be proceeding in fits and starts. “The arc of global warming will be variously steep and less steep,” said Richard Seager, a climate scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. “It never stopped.”

In fact, the rate over time has been reasonably close to predictions that scientists first offered decades ago. Those same scientists have long warned that humanity is courting disaster by failing to bring fossil-fuel emissions under control.

For example, many experts on sea level believe that a rise of 15 or 20 feet has already become inevitable, though they cannot say how fast it will happen. A rise that large would drown most of the world’s coastal cities without heroic efforts to fortify them.

Read the full article at www.nytimes.com

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