Its official! 2015 was the warmest year ever recorded on this planet.
According to a report by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, Earth’s combined average temperature for the year – over both land and sea surfaces – was 58.62°F. That is a staggering 1.62°F above the 20th century average. It smashed the previous annual record set just last year by 0.29°F – the largest margin on record. 2015 also marked the 39th consecutive year that our annual global temperature was above its long-term norm.
While a strong El Niño –a periodic natural climate phenomenon – influenced this record warmth, it does not tell the whole story. The long-term trend of human-caused climate change was also a key factor. NOAA reports that fifteen of the sixteen warmest years on record have occurred this century and they were not all El Niño years.
Although heat dominated most of the planet in 2015, some places were particularly warm, including North America. Here in the contiguous US, with an annual temperature of 54.4°F, which is 2.4°F above average, it was our second warmest year on record. Only 2012 was warmer in the lower forty-eight states.
Overall, having back-to-back record warm years is a somewhat rare event. But, as greenhouse gases – the main drivers of global warming – continue to spew into the atmosphere, our average global temperature will continue to rise and records will likely continue to fall. Global temperature records date back to 1880.