Category: Climate Change
Published: Thursday, 21 January 2016 14:24
Written by NOAA - Bernd Riebe
The State of the Climate November 2015 report noted that in order for 2015 to not become the warmest year in the 136-year period of record, the December global temperature would have to be at least 0.81°C (1.46°F) below the 20th century average—or 0.24°C (0.43°F) colder than the current record low December temperature of 1916. In fact, December 2015 was the warmest month of any month in the period of record, at 1.11°C (2.00°F) higher than the monthly average, breaking the previous all-time record set just two months ago in October 2015 by 0.12°C (0.21°F). This is the first time in the NOAA record that a monthly temperature departure from average exceeded 1°C or reached 2°F and the second widest margin by which an all-time monthly global temperature record has been broken. (February 1998 broke the previous record of March 1990 by 0.13°C / 0.23°F.)
With the contribution of such record warmth at year's end and with 10 months of the year record warm for their respective months, including the last 8 (January was second warmest for January and April was third warmest), the average global temperature across land and ocean surface areas for 2015 was 0.90°C (1.62°F) above the 20th century average of 13.9°C (57.0°F), beating the previous record warmth of 2014 by 0.16°C (0.29°F). This is not only the highest calendar year temperature, but also the highest temperature for any 12-month period on record. The global temperatures in 2015 were strongly influenced by strong El Niño conditions that developed during the year.
The 2015 temperature also marks the largest margin by which an annual temperature record has been broken. Prior to this year, the largest margin occurred in 1998, when the annual temperature surpassed the record set in 1997 by 0.12°C (0.22°F). Incidentally, 1997 and 1998 were the last years in which a similarly strong El Niño was occurring. The annual temperature anomalies for 1997 and 1998 were 0.51°C (0.92°F) and 0.63°C (1.13°F), respectively, above the 20th century average, both well below the 2015 temperature departure.
This marks the fourth time in the 21st century a new record high annual temperature has been set (along with 2005, 2010, and 2014) and also marks the 39th consecutive year (since 1977) that the annual temperature has been above the 20th century average. To date, including 2015, 15 of the 16 warmest years on record have occurred during the 21st century. 1998 is currently tied with 2009 as the sixth warmest year on record.
Overall, the global annual temperature has increased at an average rate of 0.07°C (0.13°F) per decade since 1880 and at an average rate of 0.17°C (0.31°F) per decade since 1970.
Read more: 2015 The Warmest Year on Record
Category: Climate Change
Published: Thursday, 27 August 2015 12:56
Written by Bernd Riebe
Video: Watching Rising Seas from Space
27 AUG 2015 - NASA's interdisciplinary Sea Level Change Team
Seas around the world have risen an average of nearly 3 inches (8 centimeters) since 1992, with some locations rising more than 9 inches (25 centimeters) due to natural variation, according to the latest satellite measurements from NASA and its partners. An intensive research effort now underway, aided by NASA observations and analysis, points to an unavoidable rise of several feet in the future.
The question scientists are grappling with is how quickly will seas rise?
"Given what we know now about how the ocean expands as it warms and how ice sheets and glaciers are adding water to the seas, it's pretty certain we are locked into at least 3 feet [0.9 meter] of sea level rise, and probably more," said Steve Nerem of the University of Colorado, Boulder, and lead of the Sea Level Change Team. "But we don't know whether it will happen within a century or somewhat longer."
Team scientists will discuss a new visualization based on 23 years of sea level data -- the entire record of available satellite data -- which reveals changes are anything but uniform around the globe. The record is based on data from three consecutive satellite missions; the first a collaboration between NASA and the French space agency, Centre National d'Études Spatiales (CNES), launched in 1992. The fourth in the series will be Jason-3, led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) with participation by NASA, CNES and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT).
In 2013, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued an assessment based on a consensus of international researchers that stated global sea levels would likely rise from 1 to 3 feet (0.3 to 0.9 meter) by the end of the century. According to Nerem, new research available since this report suggests the higher end of that range is more likely, and the question remains how that range might shift upward.
The data reveal the height of the sea surface is not rising uniformly everywhere. Regional differences in sea level rise are dominated by the effects of ocean currents and natural cycles such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. But, as these natural cycles wax and wane, they can have major impacts on local coastlines.
"Sea level along the west coast of the United States has actually fallen over the past 20 years because long-term natural cycles there are hiding the impact of global warming," said Josh Willis, an oceanographer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "However, there are signs this pattern is changing. We can expect accelerated rates of sea level rise along this coast over the next decade as the region recovers from its temporary sea level 'deficit.'"
Scientists estimate that about one-third of sea level rise is caused by expansion of warmer ocean water, one-third is due to ice loss from the massive Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets and the remaining third results from melting mountain glaciers. But the fate of the polar ice sheets could change that ratio and produce more rapid increases in the coming decades.
The Greenland ice sheet, covering 660,000 square miles (1.7 million square kilometers) -- nearly the area of Alaska -- shed an average of 303 gigatons of ice a year over the past decade, according to satellite measurements. The Antarctic ice sheet, covering 5.4 million square miles (14 million square kilometers) -- larger than the United States and India combined -- has lost an average of 118 gigatons a year.
"We've seen from the paleoclimate record that sea level rise of as much as 10 feet [3 meters] in a century or two is possible, if the ice sheets fall apart rapidly," said Tom Wagner, the cryosphere program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "We're seeing evidence that the ice sheets are waking up, but we need to understand them better before we can say we're in a new era of rapid ice loss."
Although Antarctica's contribution to sea level rise currently is much smaller than that of Greenland, recent research indicates this could change in the upcoming century. In 2014, two West Antarctica studies focused on the acceleration of the glaciers in the Amundsen Sea sector showed its collapse is underway.
East Antarctica's massive ice sheet remains the primary unknown in sea level rise projections. Though it appears to be stable, a recent study found under a major glacier two deep troughs that could draw warm ocean water to the base of the glacier, causing it to melt.
"The prevailing view among specialists has been that East Antarctica is stable, but we don't really know," said glaciologist Eric Rignot of the University of California Irvine and JPL. "Some of the signs we see in the satellite data right now are red flags that these glaciers might not be as stable as we once thought. There's always a lot of attention on the changes we see now, but as scientists our priority needs to be on what the changes could be tomorrow."
One of the keys to understanding future rates of ice loss is determining the role ocean currents and ocean temperatures play in melting the ice sheets from below their edges. A new, six-year NASA field campaign took to the waters around Greenland this summer to probe how warming ocean waters are triggering Greenland glacier degradation. The Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) project is taking coastal ocean temperature measurements, observing glacial thinning at the ice's edge, and producing the first high-resolution maps of the seafloor, fjords and canyons in the continental shelf surrounding Greenland.
NASA uses the vantage point of space to increase our understanding of our home planet, improve lives and safeguard our future. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth's interconnected natural systems with long-term data records. The agency freely shares this unique knowledge and works with institutions around the world to gain new insights into how our planet is changing.
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.