Just How Warm Has the Earth Gotten Since 1880? Watch This and See.
Feedback loops, anthropogenic emissions, carbon sequestration. Natural variability, enteric fermentation, parts per million. Climate change news stories—forget the dry, academic papers from which they’re typically sourced—are often stuffed with so many inside-baseball terms that casual readers might get a few sentences in, stumble over the precise meaning of a scientific word or phrase, lose interest, and then return to whatever else they were doing during their lunch break before they opened the Facebook link posted by that granola friend they met junior year abroad.
That’s why it's occasionally more effective to ditch the multisyllabic, "Final Jeopardy"–level terms, and tell a climate change story visually—as NASA recently did with an animation that depicts worldwide temperature abnormalities for every month over the past 13 decades.
As the years tick away, watch as the lighter-blue colors of the 1800s, indicating normal temperature years, give way to the dark-red colorings of the last few decades, illustrating warmer-than-usual years. “It’s like a virulent fever covering the body of a sick host,” wrote John Metcalf of The Atlantic Cities.
The animation, with a run time of two minutes and change, was produced on the occasion of a NASA report earlier this week that 2013 was the seventh-warmest year since 1880. Nine of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 2000 (2010 and 2005 occupy the top spots). And while the continental U.S. experienced its 42nd warmest year in 2013, placing it in the 31st percentile, last year was the hottest in Australian history—proving that weather cycles produce fluctuations in average temperatures, not only from year to year but from region to region as well.
This animation clearly indicates Earth has gotten progressively warmer since 1880, and it’s only going to get hotter.
“Each calendar year will not necessarily be warmer than the year before,” according to a NASA statement. “But with the current level of greenhouse gas emissions, scientists expect each decade to be warmer than the previous one.”
So we've got that to look forward to, which is nice.