There’s no argument to be made about whether 2017 was hot or not. The only uncertainty is whether it was the second or third warmest year ever recorded.
According to a recent NASA analysis, average global temperatures last year were 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the mean average between 1951 and 1980. This would be good for second warmest year ever recorded. But a NOAA report found that temperatures were 1.51 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th-century average. This would rank as the third warmest year ever recorded, trailing 2016 and 2015.
While these two studies used different methodologies to produce slightly different figures, the conclusion from both agencies is the same: the Earth is heating up. In fact, the five warmest years on record have all occurred since 2010.
And unlike in 2016 – which was the hottest year ever recorded – the warming in 2017 had nothing to do with El Nino, the Pacific Ocean patterns that can cause record-setting warm weather.
Climate change skeptics have long pointed to El Nino and La Nina, the Pacific cooling event, to cast doubt over the reality of long-term warming trends. The Trump Administration, which refuses to acknowledge climate change as a problem, has rolled back pollution regulations and scrubbed references to climate change from federal websites.
Despite all this, the evidence is clear. Over the past century, average temperatures have climbed significantly as greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, and industrial agriculture reached record amounts.
In the United States alone last year, 16 major climate-and-weather-related catastrophes caused more than $306 billion in damages and killed at least 362 people. The climate is changing.
Photo, posted March 24, 2016, courtesy of Flickr.