2018: Fourth Warmest Year on Record for Planet

Its official, 2018 was the fourth warmest year ever recorded on this planet. Only 2015, 2016, and 2017 were warmer.

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 58.42°F. That is 1.42°F above the 20th-century average.

2018 also marked the 42nd consecutive year with a global temperature above its long-term norm. That means every year since 1976 has posted a warmer than average annual temperature.

While heat dominated most of the planet last year, some places were particularly warm. Record heat was measured across much of Europe and the Middle East. Here in the contiguous US, it was the fourteenth warmest year on NOAA’s books. Alaska, however, was even warmer with its second warmest year ever recorded.

The exceptional warmth of 2018 is largely attributed to the long-term trend of human-caused climate change. While El Niño conditions helped influence record heat in the past, 2018 saw the cooling effects of La Niña in the beginning of the year with ENSO neutral conditions prevailing after April.

Looking at the bigger picture, nine of the ten warmest years on record have occurred since 2005, with the last five years ranking as the five warmest on record.  The only year from the 20th century included on the top ten list is 1998, which is tied with 2009 as the planet’s ninth warmest year on record.

As greenhouse gases – the main driver of global warming – continue to spew into the atmosphere, temperatures will continue to rise and records will likely continue to fall.

Global temperature records date back to 1880.

2018 was Earth’s  4th warmest year on record. Credit: NOAA

November 2018: Earth’s Fifth Warmest November on Record

Our global temperature continued its upward trend last month. November 2018 not only tied 2004 and 2016 as the fifth warmest November on record, but it also closed out the planet’s second warmest September to November season – a period known as meteorological autumn in the northern hemisphere.

According to the State of the Climate report by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, Earth’s combined average temperature for November – over both land and sea surfaces – was 56.55°F, which is 1.35°F above the 20th-century average. This November also marked the 407th consecutive month with a global temperature above its long-term norm. That means the last time any month posted a below average reading was December 1984.

Globally, the collective period of September, October, and November was also unusually warm. NOAA reports that Earth’s average temperature for the season was 1.44°F above the 20th century average of 57.1°F. That makes it the second warmest such period on record. Only 2015 was warmer.

While heat dominated most of the planet during this three-month stretch, some places were particularly warm, including parts of Europe, Scandinavia, Alaska, and eastern Russia. For the contiguous US as a whole, the season was only slightly above average. To put this disparity into context, consider that the mainland United States constitutes less than 2% of the total surface of the Earth. This detail highlights the fact that climate change is a complex global phenomenon that involves much more than the short-term weather that is happening in our own backyards.

These soaring temperatures are largely attributed to the long-term trend of human-caused climate change. ENSO-neutral conditions prevailed in November, which means there was neither a warm El Niño nor a cool La Niña in the Pacific to influence global weather patterns.

Year to date, the first eleven months of 2018 were the fourth warmest such period of any year on record. Global temperature records date back to 1880.

Credit: NOAA

The UN Climate Change Conference in Poland Keeps the Paris Agreement Moving Ahead

The UN Climate Change Conference in Katowice, Poland, known as COP 24, concluded on Saturday. After two weeks of tough negotiations, delegates from nearly 200 countries drafted the rules and processes needed to translate the spirit of the historic Paris Agreement into action.

Years in the making, the 2015 Paris Agreement set the target of holding global warming to 2°C (3.6°F) above pre-industrial levels and urged countries to pursue an even tighter cap of 1.5°C (2.7°F) if possible. To achieve this goal, almost 200 countries submitted individual voluntary emissions reduction plans known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs). But when added up, the current collection of NDCs, which vary widely in ambition, will miss the 2°C goal.  In fact, they would allow for a 3.2°C (5.76°F) rise in our global temperature. This is why the agreement requires countries to reassess their plans every five years once it goes into effect in 2020.

One of the main goals of COP 24 was to create a standardized rulebook for the monitoring and reporting of these independent undertakings.  China – the world’s largest carbon polluter – was pushing for different sets of rules for developed and developing countries. However, in the end, a universal and transparent methodology was agreed upon that subjects all countries to the same level of scrutiny. Every country, regardless of economic status, will have to report their emissions – and the progress made in reducing them – every two years starting in 2024. The deal also calls on countries to deepen their planned emission cuts ahead of 2020.

While the meeting did produce a deal to keep the Paris Agreement alive and moving forward, it was a bumpy road. In fact, the negotiations were almost completely derailed by a debate over climate science of all things.  Many of the delegates wanted to formally endorse the IPCC’s special report on the consequences of 1.5°C (2.7°F) of warming – the more aspirational goal of the Paris Agreement – that came out in October. However, several major oil producing countries, including the US, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait, balked at the idea and pushed to downplay the report’s significance. In the end, a compromise was reached. Instead of a full-fledged endorsement, the conference statement expressed “appreciation and gratitude” for the report’s timely completion.

The question now is, will individual countries make pledges to deepen their emissions cuts and take the necessary steps to make them a reality.

The Paris Agreement, although ratified in record time, is a fragile accord. All commitments are voluntary and vulnerable to the political will of individual governments – both now and in the future. Moreover, there are no penalties for those who do not live up to their promises.

The Katowice meeting was the 24th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The next conference (COP 25) will take place in November 2019 in Chile.

Credit: UN

Fourth National Climate Assessment: A Dire Forecast for US if Action is Not Taken

The Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4) report was released rather inauspiciously last week on the day after Thanksgiving – a traditionally slow news day. Nevertheless, the report is out and it clearly states, “the evidence of human-caused climate change is overwhelming and continues to strengthen.”

The massive report, considered volume two of NCA4, builds on the Climate Science Special Report issued last year. It gives a detailed account of what the impacts will be across the country and how the worst effects could be avoided.

The U.S average temperature, according to the report, has increased by 1.8°F since 1901, and is projected to continue rising. Over the next few decades, temperatures are projected to rise another 2.5°F.  By the end of the century, our average temperature could soar by as much as 11.9°F if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase unchecked.

The report also looks at the long-term economic impacts for the country as the average temperature continues to climb. Costs from rising sea levels could reach as high as $118 billion and the projected total for damaged infrastructure is $32 billion. This is in addition to the reduced agricultural productivity expected from high heat and extended drought events. Overall, the report warns that if significant steps are not taken, climate change could slash the US economy’s GDP by 10% by the end of the century.

Not all doom and gloom, the report’s authors emphasize, “These impacts are projected to intensify—but how much they intensify will depend on actions taken to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the risks from climate change now and in the coming decades.”

While similar in theme to the IPCC report from the UN, this assessment focuses solely on the United States. Emphasizing the fact that rising temperatures will affect different parts of our vast country in different ways, the NCA breaks the nation down into specific regions. It details the current and future impacts of climate change in each one:

The report also includes a supplemental set of State Climate Summaries that give a clear idea of what to expect in each of the 50 states as well as the US territories.

Mandated by Congress under the Global Change Research Act, this exhaustive 1600 page peer-reviewed report was produced by 300 scientists from 13 different government agencies. Published every four years, it is considered this country’s most authoritative statement on climate change.

Annual average temperatures across the United States are projected to increase over this century, with greater changes at higher latitudes as compared to lower latitudes, and greater changes under a higher scenario (RCP8.5; right) than under a lower one (RCP4.5; left). This figure shows projected differences in annual average temperatures for mid-century (2036–2065; top) and end of century (2071–2100; bottom) relative to the near present (1986–2015). Image credit: Fourth NCA, Vol II, figure 2.4.

October 2018: Earth’s Second Warmest October on Record

Our global temperature continued its upward trend last month with October 2018 marking the second warmest October ever recorded on this planet. Only October 2015 was warmer.

According to the State of the Climate report by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, Earth’s combined average temperature for the month – over both land and sea surfaces – was 58.65°F, which is 1.55°F above the 20th-century average. October also marked the 406th consecutive month with a global temperature above its long-term norm. That means the last time any month posted a below average reading was December 1984.

While heat dominated most of the planet this October, some places were particularly warm. These included eastern Russia, northern Australia, Alaska, and most of the east coast of the United States. These soaring temperatures are largely attributed to the long-term trend of human-caused climate change. ENSO-neutral conditions prevailed in October, which means there was neither a warm El Niño nor a cool La Niña in the Pacific to influence global weather patterns.

For many people in the central US, however, October was relatively cold. These chilly temperatures, driven by a deep dip in the jet stream, helped cool the national average to 0.3°F below normal for the month. To put this disparity into context, consider that the contiguous United States constitutes less than 2% of the total surface of the Earth. This detail highlights the fact that climate change is a complex global phenomenon that involves much more than the short-term weather that is happening in our own backyards.

Year to date, the first ten months of 2018 were the fourth warmest such period of any year on record. Global temperature records date back to 1880.

October 2018 was the second warmest October ever recorded on this planet. Credit: NOAA

September 2018: Earth’s Fourth Warmest September on Record

Our global temperature continued its upward trend last month with September 2018 tying 2017 as the fourth warmest September ever recorded on this planet.

According to the State of the Climate report by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, Earth’s combined average temperature for the month – over both land and sea surfaces – was 60.4°F, which is 1.40°F above the 20th-century average. September also marked the 405th consecutive month with a global temperature above its long-term norm. That means the last time any month posted a below average reading was December 1984.

While heat dominated most of the planet this September, some places were particularly warm, including much of Europe, Russia, the Middle East, and both the eastern and southwestern regions of the United States. For the contiguous US as a whole, September 2018 marked the fourth warmest September on record.

These soaring temperatures are largely attributed to the long-term trend of human-caused climate change. ENSO-neutral conditions prevailed in September, which means there was neither a warm El Niño nor a cool La Niña in the Pacific to influence global weather patterns.

Year to date, the first nine months of 2018 were the fourth warmest such period of any year on record. Global temperature records date back to 1880.

September 2018 was the planet’s 4th warmest September on record. Credit: NOAA

Special IPCC Report: Massive Global Effort Needed to Avoid Worst Climate Change Impacts

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C on Monday. It clearly states that the impacts of climate change will be greater at a lower degree of warming than previously thought.

Written by 91 scientists from 40 countries, the report finds that quick and dramatic action needs to be taken to avoid a warming increase of 1.5°C (2.7°F) above pre-industrial levels. Without aggressive cuts to global greenhouse gas emissions, the planet is expected to  reach this warming threshold between 2030 and 2052.

The Paris Agreement set the target of holding global warming to 2°C (3.6°F) above pre-industrial levels and urged countries to pursue an even tighter cap of 1.5°C (2.7°F) if possible. This more aggressive goal was added at the urging of officials from low-lying island nations – those most susceptible to sea level rise. As such, the IPCC began to look more closely at what 1.5°C (2.7°F) of warming would mean for people and ecosystems around the planet.

Previously, scientists thought that the most severe effects of climate change could be held off if the planet stayed below 2°C (3.6°F) of warming. However, this report shows that those impacts will come sooner, at the 1.5°C (2.7°F) mark. These consequences include coastal inundation from rising seas, worsening droughts and wildfires, as well as food shortages and mass die-offs of coral reefs. An extra half-degree Celsius, from 1.5°C to 2°C, would magnify those impacts.

To avoid the worst case of these types of effects, the report says the global economy needs to be transformed within the next few years. More specifically, greenhouse gas pollution must be reduced by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, and 100% by 2050. While this is technically possible, the report also highlights it will require enormous political will.

Under the Paris Agreement, every country around the globe submitted individualized plans to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs). While an important first step, these are not enough to meet the agreement’s 2°C (3.6°F) goal, to say nothing of the more aspirational target of 1.5°C (2.7°F).  In fact, they would allow for 3°C (5.4°F) of warming by the end of the century. However, the agreement does legally obligate countries to reconvene every five years to present updated plans spelling out how they will deepen their emissions cuts.

For the US, the second largest carbon polluter in the world after China, political will for climate action is something that is sorely lacking. President Trump announced plans to withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Agreement and has been rolling back his predecessor’s Clean Power Plan, the principle aspect of this country’s NDC.

Nonetheless, 2018 marks the halfway point between the passage of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015 and the 2020 target for countries to begin ratcheting up their greenhouse gas cutting commitments. As such, this new report will be key to the discussions at the upcoming UN Climate Conference in Katowice, Poland this December.

Credit: Climate Matters

This Year’s “Climate Week NYC” Will Focus on Accelerating Climate Action

Climate Week NYC begins on Monday. This annual global summit takes place alongside the UN General Assembly and brings together leaders from a variety of sectors, including government, business, and non-profit organizations, to discuss solutions to climate change.

Organized by The Climate Group since 2009, the goal of the conference is to keep this pressing issue high on the global agenda. This year, which marks the halfway point between the passage of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015 and the 2020 target for countries to ratchet up their greenhouse gas cutting commitments, the event will focus on ways to accelerate climate action. The ultimate goal of the non-binding Paris Accord is to limit global warming to 2°C (3.6°F) above pre-industrial levels

Public events to raise awareness and support of the summit’s mission are scheduled all week around the city, from September 24-30. They range in style from panel discussions and seminars to concerts and exhibitions. For the full program of events, go to the Climate Week website.

August 2018: Earth’s Fifth Warmest August on Record

Our global temperature continued its upward trend last month. August 2018 marked not only the fifth warmest August on record, but also closed out the planet’s fifth warmest June to August season – a period known as meteorological summer in the northern hemisphere.

According to the State of the Climate report by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, Earth’s combined average temperature for August – over both land and sea surfaces – was 61.43°F, which is 1.33°F above the 20th-century average. This August also marked the 404th consecutive month with a global temperature above its long-term norm. That means the last time any month posted a below average reading was December 1984.

Globally, the collective period of June, July, and August was also unusually warm. NOAA reports that Earth’s average temperature for the season was 1.33°F above the 20th century average of 60.1°F. That makes it the fifth warmest such period on record.

While heat dominated most of the planet during this three-month stretch, some places were particularly warm, including much of Europe, central Asia, and the southwestern United States. For the contiguous US as a whole, the season tied with 1934 as the fourth warmest summer on record.

These soaring temperatures are largely attributed to the long-term trend of human-caused climate change. ENSO-neutral conditions prevailed in August, which means there was neither a warm El Niño nor a cool La Niña in the Pacific to influence global weather patterns.

Year to date, the first eight months of 2018 were the fourth warmest such period of any year on record. Global temperature records date back to 1880.

Credit: NOAA

July 2018: Earth’s Fourth Warmest July on Record

Our global temperature continued its upward trend last month with July 2018 marking the fourth warmest July ever recorded on this planet. Only July 2015, 2016, and 2017 were warmer, with July 2016 holding the top spot.

According to the State of the Climate report by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, Earth’s combined average temperature for July – over both land and sea surfaces – was 61.75°F, which is 1.35°F above the 20th-century average. July also marked the 403rd consecutive month with a global temperature above its long-term norm. That means the last time any month posted a below average reading was December 1984.

While heat dominated most of the planet this July, some places were particularly warm, including much of Europe, Scandinavia, the western United States, and parts of southern Asia. For the contiguous US as a whole, July 2018 tied with 1998 as the eleventh warmest July on record.

These soaring temperatures are largely attributed to the long-term trend of human-caused climate change. ENSO-neutral conditions prevailed in July, which means there was neither a warm El Niño nor a cool La Niña in the Pacific to influence global weather patterns.

Year to date, the first seven months of 2018 were the fourth warmest such period of any year on record. Global temperature records date back to 1880.

July 2018 was the planet’s 4th warmest July on record. Credit: NOAA