“May 2015 through September 2016 were the warmest 16 months on record. The year 2016 passed the previous year as the warmest year since records began.”
By Dr. John J. Hidore
May 21, 2017—Nearly three-fourths of the earth’s surface is covered by ocean and it is ocean temperatures which control global atmospheric temperatures. Approximately 90% of the energy absorbed by Earth goes into the oceans. The other 10% is absorbed by the land masses.
In the early years of keeping weather records there was very little data available concerning the world oceans. Now there is much and the data is constantly increasing. The oceans are absorbing heat energy at a faster rate now than in the past. A recent study indicates that the amount of heat energy absorbed by the oceans has doubled since 1997. The oceans are estimated to have absorbed as much energy since 1997 as in the previous years of record.
Most of the heat added to oceans is absorbed near the surface. The actual change in temperature in the ocean surface is extremely small due to the high heat capacity of water. It takes more heat energy to change the temperature of a given unit of water than to change the temperature of air or earth materials.
The amount of energy it takes to change the temperature of a given unit of water one degree Celsius will change the temperature of a unit of dry air by four degrees. The same amount of energy will change dry land by about five degrees. This helps explain why the atmosphere and bare land get so hot.
Evidence of Global Warming
The majority of people, including both scientists and non-scientists around the world, understand that our planet earth is warming. There is overwhelming evidence that this is the case. Geological evidence indicates that the earth is now the warmest it has been in the last 650,000 years. Data also indicates the 20th Century was the warmest century in the past 1000 years.
The year 1880 marks the beginning of the modern historical record. Analysis of the collected data indicates the temperature on the planet has been increasing rapidly in the years since the global record was established.
The number of weather stations collecting temperature data has increased rapidly with time. There are now more than 6000 sites where data is being collected. Satellites are now also contributing data.
Global Temperatures for the 21st Century
Since 2000 global monthly temperatures have broken records more than 30 times. The average global temperature has increased about 0.8ºC (1.4ºF) since 1880. About 2/3 of this increase has been since 1975. Most of the warmest years on record have occurred since the beginning of the year 2000. It is significant, that in comparison to all the record warmth, the coldest year on record was more than one hundred years ago in 1911.
Record Temperatures Since 2000
Regions where record high mean annual temperatures occurred since the beginning of the year 2000 are:
Africa, 7 countries
Antarctica Asia, 21 countries
Europe, 23 countries
North America, 4 countries
Oceania, 2 countries
South America, 5 countries
Global Warming: 2015 to Date
The year 2015 was the warmest year on record up to that date. The mean temperature was 14.7 ºC (58.62degrees F). This was 0.9 ºC (1.62degrees F) above the mean of the 20th Century and 0.2 ºC (0.29degrees F) over 2014. It was the largest annual temperature increase on record. All months in 2015 set new records with the exception of January and April. December of 2015 was unusually warm, even for 2015. It was more than one degree Celsius warmer than the 30 year normal. Climate normals are set by 30 year intervals. The current normal is the period from 1981 to 2010.
Record Breaking Temperatures
Many global temperature records were recorded in 2015 and the trend continued into 2016. February 2016 continued a string of nearly a dozen straight months of record monthly temperatures. The winter season, December through February, was also a record.
In February 2016 global temperatures were not only record temperatures, but they rose drastically. The increase over the previous year was also the most since records began in 1880. May 2015 through September 2016 were the warmest 16 months on record. The year 2016 passed the previous year as the warmest year since records began. July of 2016 was the warmest month ever recorded since 1880.
Indian Heat Wave of 2016
India experienced extreme high temperatures in the spring of 2016. In May a severe heat wave alert was issued for several states. A severe heat wave is one in which temperatures of at least 47.2°C (117°F) occur.
In the city of Philodi, in western India, unofficial temperatures reached 51°C (124°F). This is the highest temperature on record in India. Temperatures averaged above 40°C (104 ºF) over large areas. Some urban high temperatures were:
New Delhi 47 °C (117 ºF)
Churu 50 °C (122 ºF)
Philodi 51.°C (124 ºF)
Global Warming and Population
High temperatures in India had a huge effect on the human population. The impact on the country was immense. More than 300 million people were adversely affected. Crops failed or were below average in 13 states in during the growing season. Thousands of farmers abandoned their farms. Approximately 17,000 villages had, or were facing water shortages. Several Indian states shut down schools to reduce risk to students. Heatstroke was a widespread problem and many deaths were reported across the region. It has been classified as one of the deadliest heat waves in modern history.
The Hazards of Extreme Temperatures
It needs to be understood that temperature numbers are just a measure of atmospheric heat. What is truly important is the impact of the greater heat. Record high temperatures affect almost all living things in the region where they occur. What future temperatures will be is unknown. Since record high temperatures are occurring more and more frequently it seems highly probable that new and more frequent high temperature extremes will occur and that the effects will become more hazardous to life on the planet. The only real solution to the problem is to reduce the emissions producing the warming and curb population growth.