Latest State of the Climate: Yup, Still Getting Hotter
The annual State of the Climate is in, and for readers looking forward to cracking a beer and diving into the 275-page report, read no further. Spoiler Alert: The planet is still getting hotter.
The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association issues a report each year compiling the latest data collected by scientists from around the world. Here’s a review, in six charts, of some of the climate highlights from 2013.
The ocean surface continues to warm.
Four independent datasets show that for surface ocean temperatures, last year was among the 10 warmest years on record. The North Pacific set a new record.
Sea levels reach a record high.
The global mean sea level continued to rise, keeping pace with a trend of 3.2 millimeters per year over the last two decades.
Glaciers retreat for the 24th consecutive year.
Preliminary data from the U.S., Canada, Norway, Austria, Nepal and New Zealand show that last year was likely the 24th straight year of glacier ice loss worldwide. The consistent worldwide retreat of mountain glaciers is considered one of the clearest signals of global warming.
Greenhouse gases continue to climb.
Carbon dioxide, the most important greenhouse gas, reached a concentration of 400 parts per million parts of air for the first time in May 2013. The data shown is from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. Data collection was started there by C. David Keeling of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in March 1958. This chart is commonly referred to as the Keeling curve.
The planet's surface remains near its warmest.
Four independent datasets show last year was among the warmest in modern record keeping. It ranked between second and sixth, depending on the dataset. The map above shows temperature departure from the norm. Australia had its warmest year on record.
Warm days are up; cool nights are down.
This chart shows temperature extremes -- when daily high temperatures max out above the 90th percentile and nightly lows fall below the lowest 10th percentile. Globally, last year had the sixth-highest number of warm days on record and the eighth-fewest cool nights. Together, that put last year in the top 10 most extreme on record.
North America was largely an exception, with a relatively wet and mild year experienced in the United States. Europe and Asia had a high number of warm days, and Asia had the fewest cool nights on record.
Trends also continued at the poles. The seven lowest observations of ice in the Arctic have all occurred in the last seven years. In Antarctica, the ice has counterintuitively been expanding, despite warmer temperatures. One reason for more surface ice in the South is that winds have increased there in recent decades, a shift linked to increased greenhouse gases.
More from Tom Randall:
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