Record high temperatures in December confirmed 2014 as the hottest year on record, NASA and NOAA reveal
By Megan Darby
A record warm December confirmed 2014 as the hottest year since records began in 1880, leading US meteorologists revealed on Friday.
The average temperature across land and ocean was 0.69C higher than the 20th century average, NASA and NOAA calculated.
It means that 14 out of the 15 hottest years have happened since 2000, which scientists said showed clear evidence of a global warming trend.
Models showed greenhouse gases were responsible for the majority of that warming trend, Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s climate science programme, said in a press call.
In a statement, climate scientist Michael Mann said the latest data should put to rest what he termed “absurd” claims of a pause in warming over the past 15 years.
“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 US announcement independently backs up the trend revealed by the Japan Meteorological Agency earlier this month.
The Union of Concerned Scientists noted it was the 38th year temperatures had exceeded the 20th century average. That means nearly two thirds of the global population have never experienced an average year.
“Climate change is increasingly staring us in the face,” said senior UCS climate scientist Brenda Ekwurzel. “As long as industrial emissions keep rising, temperature records will keep breaking.
“It’s more than just temperature, too. The past several years have produced record-high sea levels, record-low Arctic ice volume, and many other new records.”
The average sea ice extent of the Arctic was 10.99 million square miles, the sixth smallest area since measurements started 36 years ago. At the South Pole, Antarctic ice reached a record large area of 13.08 million square miles.
Parts of the US, Russia, Europe, Australia and northern Africa all broke high temperature records, as well as several areas of ocean.
There were some pockets of cold weather, notably in North America. Canada experienced its coldest year since 1996. However, these were outweighed by hot weather elsewhere.
“A single year, even if it is a record, cannot tell us much about climate trends,” Stefan Rahmstorf, a climate scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research told the New York Times.
“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.”
Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change said the data should focus the minds of governments ahead of a proposed UN climate deal, scheduled to be signed off in Paris this December.
“No politician can afford to ignore this overwhelming scientific evidence or claim that global warming is a hoax. Climate change is happening, and as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, national scientific academies and scientific organisations across the world have all concluded, human activities, particularly burning of fossil fuels and deforestation, are primarily responsible.”