This week’s release from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration made it official: 2015 was the warmest year on Earth since record keeping began in 1880.
The average temperature across global land and ocean services was 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average, and 0.29 degrees above 2014, which was the previous warmest year. NOAA said 2015 marked the fourth time that a new record has been set this century.
The contiguous United States had its second warmest year, trailing behind 2012.
“Ten months had record high temperatures for their respective months during the year,” the report on the global averages stated. “The five highest monthly departures from average for any month on record all occurred during 2015.”
December 2015 – last month – actually torched the record book all by itself.
The average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 2.00°F above the 20th century average – the highest for December in the 1880–2015 record, surpassing the previous record of 2014 by 0.52°F.
The December temperature departure from average was also the highest among all months in the historical record and the first time a monthly departure has reached +2°F from the 20th century average.
“Global warming is alive and well – not that that’s a good thing,” said Kevin Trenberth, distinguished senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder.
He said 2015 put a punctuation mark on a period of time during which the rate of warming appeared to slow.
“Some thought of it as a hiatus, or a pause, in global warming during the years 1999-2013. But having 2015 as the warmest year on record by far, following the record year of 2014, dispatches altogether that notion, or any sense, that global warming might have stopped,” Trenberth said.
A powerful El Niño pattern in the Pacific Ocean contributed significantly to the 2015 record, he said, pushing along the inexorable warming created by human activity with fossil fuels.
In other NOAA data, this analyzed by the Rutgers Global Snow Lab, the average annual Northern Hemisphere snow cover extent during 2015 was 9.5 million square miles, the 11th smallest annual snow cover extent since records began in 1968.
The first half of 2015 saw generally below-normal snow cover extent, with above-average coverage later in the year, the report stated.
To check NOAA’s weird weather map (actually, NOAA refers to it as anomalies) for 2015, click here.