2015 Will Probably Be the Hottest Year Ever—and 2016 Might Top It

Record-high levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere plus a strong El Niño could mean faster warming is on the way.
Firefighters work to dig a fire line on the Rocky Fire in Lake County, California, on July 30. (Photo: Max Whittaker/Reuters)
Nov 29, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Taylor Hill is an associate editor at TakePart covering environment and wildlife.

As world leaders gather in Paris to talk climate change for the next two weeks, the United Nations’ weather agency released a report Wednesday showing that 2015 will most likely be the hottest year ever recorded.

In a press conference, World Meteorological Organization head Michel Jarraud said that data from the first 10 months of 2015 leaves the group “very confident that 2015 will be the warmest year on record, with ocean surface temperatures at the highest level since measurements began.”

But the bad news doesn’t stop there—the record-setting year is likely to breach the symbolic level of 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) above the preindustrial level.

“It is probable that the 1 degree Celsius threshold will be crossed,” said Jarraud, blaming the temperature rise on both a strong El Niño weather pattern and human-induced warming thanks to increasing levels of greenhouse gas emissions entering the atmosphere. El Niño may render 2016 even hotter.

“This is all bad news for the planet,” Jarraud said.

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Climate scientists have stressed the importance of keeping average temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius to avoid catastrophic impacts including increased floods, more severe weather events, worsening drought, and more.

At the Paris climate talks, 145 world leaders are expected to pledge limits on their levels of the air pollutants that impact global temperatures.

“Greenhouse gas emissions, which are causing climate change, can be controlled. We have the knowledge and the tools to act,” Jarraud said. “We have a choice. Future generations will not.”

The WMO report also looked at the warming trend from 2011 to 2015. This was the hottest five-year period on record, according to the agency, with temperatures about 0.57 C (1.01 F) above the 1961 to 1990 reference period.

“The world’s 10 warmest years have all occurred since 1998, with eight of them being since 2005,” the WMO said.

But 2016 could top them all, because concentrations of C02 gas in the atmosphere have broken modern records every year for the past 30 years, and meteorologists are predicting an even stronger El Niño next year.

“The year whose annual mean temperature is likely to be most strongly influenced by the current El Niño is 2016 rather than 2015,” the WMO said.