NASA and NOAA: 2018’s heat was one for the record books

The average global temperature is, like an escalator,
undoubtedly moving in one direction. 2018 marks the fourth hottest
year since scientists began recording annual global temperature
averages in 1880, according to new independent analyses by
NASA
and the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
.

“There’s no question about those trends in the data however
we slice it,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard
Institute for Space Studies, in a
press conference
on Wednesday. “And our understanding of why
those trends are occurring is also very robust: It’s because of
the increase in greenhouse gases that we put into the atmosphere
over the last hundred years.”

The rise in global temperature coincided with another alarming
trend: an increase in catastrophic disasters. Last year in the
United States, we saw 14 major climate and weather disasters that
each exceeded $1 billion in losses, according to a separate
report
 from NOAA. The combined losses are estimated at $91
billion, the bulk of which can be attributed to Hurricane Florence,
Hurricane Michael, and the complex of fires in the West (including
the Camp Fire, the most destructive fire in California
history).

NASA /
NOAA

Collectively, the last five years represent the hottest on
record. 2016 retains the title of hottest year, a peak partially
explained by El Niño, a recurring period of warming in the
tropical waters of the Pacific Ocean. “Generally speaking, when
we have an El Niño, global mean temperature is warmer in the year
that follows,” Schmidt said in the press conference.

The Earth is now 1.5 degrees F (0.83 degrees C) warmer than the
1951 to 1980 average — a number that may appear small but comes
with big implications. “So when you start to change the average
surface temperature of the earth, you change the wind patterns —
and then before you know it, you change the monsoons,” wrote
journalist Thomas Friedman in the book Hot, Flat, and Crowded. On
top of that, warming also changes evaporation rates, resulting in
both more extreme drought and rainfall.

“These changes are having consequences on the ground,” said
Deke Arndt, chief of the monitoring section at NOAA’s National
Centers for Environmental Information, in the press conference. He
pointed to some of the extreme weather patterns we’ve seen in the
United States recently, such as heavier rainfall in the East and
persistent drought in the Southwest. And last year in Hawaii, the
island of Kauai broke the national record for the
most rainfall over a 24-hour period
, Arndt said.

Global warming is not distributed equally — some regions, like
the Arctic,
are warming much faster
. Another strange element of Earth’s
dysfunctional climate: Morning temperatures are increasing
more rapidly
than afternoon temperatures in the United States.
“This is one of the most significant and emergent themes in the
21st century in U.S. temperatures,” Arndt said.

Lesson learned: If you want to be good to yourself as the planet
warms, sleep in when you can.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline
NASA and NOAA: 2018’s heat was one for the record books
on
Feb 6, 2019.

Source: FS – All – Science – News
NASA and NOAA: 2018’s heat was one for the record books