It is official, 2017 was the third warmest year ever recorded on this planet. Only 2015 and 2016 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 58.51°F. That is a staggering 1.51°F above the 20th-century average.
2017 also marked the 41st consecutive year with a global temperature above its long-term norm. That means the last time any year posted a below average reading was 1976.
While heat dominated the planet last year, some places were particularly warm. Here in the contiguous US, it was our third warmest year on record.
The exceptional warmth of 2017 is largely attributed to the long-term trend of human-caused climate change. While El Niño conditions helped influence record heat in the past, 2017 was the warmest year on record without an El Niño being present in the Pacific. In fact, ENSO neutral conditions prevailed for most of the year and La Niña – the cool counterpart of El Niño – developed in the autumn.
Looking at the bigger picture, nine of the ten warmest years on record have occurred since the beginning of the 21st century. Three of those years – 2014, 2015, and 2016 – were back-to-back record breakers. As greenhouse gases – the main drivers 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.