2014 Is on Track to Be the Hottest Year Ever on Record
The weather outside has been frightful, but not because it’s cold.
According to a new report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2014 is shaping up to be the hottest since scientists began keeping records more than 130 years ago.
The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature from January to October was 1.22 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the 20th-century average of 57.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
“Record warmth for the year-to-date was particularly notable across much of northern and western Europe, parts of Far East Russia, and large areas of the northeastern and western equatorial Pacific Ocean,” reads the report.
The midsection of the U.S., meanwhile, has been experiencing a below-average winter this year. That’s become fodder for climate change deniers. But scientists say that long-term trends and global averages are more accurate gauges of the planet’s health.
“The real story is that people have forgotten what cold weather is like,” Gavin Schmidt, a climate scientist at NASA, told National Geographic earlier this year. “It was common 20 years ago…. We’re just not used to these things anymore, and that means people aren’t prepared.”
Nations have set a goal of limiting the global average surface temperature to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial temperatures, with the consensus that the increase could result in disastrous storms, melting ice, and rising sea levels. Two members of the Union of Concerned Scientists have argued that the world is on track to exceed that and have suggested revising the goal.
“A policy narrative that continues to frame this target as the sole metric of success or failure to constrain climate change risk is now itself becoming dangerous,” wrote Todd Sanford and Peter Frumhoff in a commentary published in February in Nature Climate Change. “[It] ill-prepares society to confront and manage the risks of a world that is increasingly likely to experience warming well in excess of [3.6 degrees Fahrenheit] this century.”
This week, diplomats are expected to address the inevitability of reaching that threshold as they gather in Lima, Peru, for a United Nations summit to draft an international agreement to battle climate change. The meeting comes weeks after the announcement that the U.S. will reduce its emissions up to 28 percent by 2025 and China will cut its emissions by 2030. The two countries emit the highest levels of carbon dioxide in the world.
“Our sense is that this will resonate in the broader climate community, give momentum to the negotiations and spur countries to come forward with their own targets,” Todd Stern, President Obama’s lead climate change negotiator, told The New York Times. “The two historic antagonists, the biggest players, announcing they’ll work together.”