Last week NOAA and NASA provided their annual analysis of global climate. It was no surprise to those following the data that 2014 was the warmest year across global land and ocean surfaces since record keeping began. This same conclusion has been reached by other organizations also studying climate trends.
Few issues today are as contentious as the topic of global warming, also known as climate change. Rarely is an issue so widely questioned when there is such a large degree of scientific consensus on the issue. There are political, social, religious, and economic strings attached to this subject that make it such a divisive issue. As this is the case, there are a few facets of the announcement that deserve some attention.
The 2014 Global Temperature Anomalies
- The year 2014 was the warmest year across global land and ocean surfaces since records began in 1880. The annually-averaged temperature was 0.69°C (1.24°F) above the 20th century average of 13.9°C (57.0°F), easily breaking the previous records of 2005 and 2010 by 0.04°C (0.07°F). This also marks the 38th consecutive year (since 1977) that the yearly global temperature was above average. Including 2014, 9 of the 10 warmest years in the 135-year period of record have occurred in the 21st century. 1998 currently ranks as the fourth warmest year on record.
- The 2014 global average ocean temperature was also record high, at 0.57°C (1.03°F) above the 20th century average of 16.1°C (60.9°F), breaking the previous records of 1998 and 2003 by 0.05°C (0.09°F). Notably, ENSO-neutral conditions were present during all of 2014.
- The 2014 global average land surface temperature was 1.00°C (1.80°F) above the 20th century average of 8.5°C (47.3°F), the fourth highest annual value on record.
Not Just the Temperature
There is a strong consensus among climate scientists that global warming is occurring and that it is caused largely by the activities of people. The evidence comes from more than just global temperature readings.
The evidence comes from multiple fields of science. These include but are not limited to:
- Ice cores records.
- Tree rings records.
- Paleontology (e.g. previous adaptations to climate change, the fossil record of extinctions linked to CC, etc.).
- The migration of plant and animal populations generally uphill or poleward.
- The spread of various diseases and pests into habitats that did not formerly support them (e.g. predatory crabs moving into the less-cold Arctic Sea).
- Average global temps of surface thermometers rising over the decades.
- More high temp records than cold, and that ratio is growing.
- Satellite observations show more radiant energy entering the Earth’s atmosphere than leaving it.
- Melting glaciers which are millions of years old.
- Rising sea temps, rising sea level, migration of sea populations.
- Prolonged, hotter droughts.
- More and more record torrential rains and subsequent flooding.
- Nights warming more than days, winter more than summer, the poles more than the equator.
- The accounting of industrial carbon exhaust pollution and its expected results matches most of the rise in global temperature. The rest can be accounted for by methane and CO2 released by previously inactive natural processes. Those processes include the thawing of the Arctic tundra and the permafrost.
Plus, these all paint the same picture. That is perhaps the strongest evidence of all.
Before Jumping on a Bandwagon…
While we have acknowledged that more than data and scientific evidence shape an individual’s stance on climate change, there is one thing that I would ask you to do regardless of your opinion. That would be to develop at least a basic understanding of the topic at hand. Ask yourself if you really have a basic understanding of the climate. This can be a very complicated area of investigation, but some of the basics are easily understood. If you want to contribute to the discussion that should be taking place around this important issue, please consider becoming climate literate.
A climate-literate person:
- understands the essential principles of Earth’s climate system,
- knows how to assess scientifically credible information about climate,
- communicates about climate and climate change in a meaningful way, and
- is able to make informed and responsible decisions with regard to actions that may affect climate.
Click on the image above for an informative brochure about Climate Literacy.