For the third consecutive year, the Earth set a global heat record, a sign some scientists say that human contributions to climate change are superseding natural variability.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA released their 2016 temperature data this morning.
NOAA’s temperature records go back 137 years.
“Remarkably this is the third consecutive year a new global annual temperature record has been set,” a NOAA report says. “This marks the fifth time in the 21st century a new record high annual temperature has been set.”
The other years were 2005, 2010, 2014 and 2015.
The average global temperature in 2016 was 1.69 degrees above the 20th century average of 57 degrees. That surpasses the 2015 record, which surpassed the 2014 record.
“This is actually a multi-decade trend,” said Deke Arndt, who leads the monitoring branch of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. “2016 being the warmest on record is a data point at the end of many data points that indicates several decades of warming.”
Part of what made 2015 and 2016 was the strong El Nino pattern that kept the equatorial Pacific at abnormally high temperatures.
And while Gavin Schmidt, NASA’s director for the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, doesn’t believe 2017 will top 2016, he does expect it to be in the top 5 record warmest years.
“Because the long-term trends are so clear, it’s still going to be a top 5 year in our analysis,” Schmidt said about 2017. “Whether someone wants to say after a record year that now we’re cold because it didn’t break last year’s record, I think people are savvy enough to see how transparent that is.”
Schmidt and Arndt steered away from questions regarding the incoming administration’s view of climate change and how they may respond to Wednesday’s report.
President-elect Donald Trump has questioned how much human activity is contributing to a warming climate.
Still, Schmidt said “pretty much all of the long-term trend you are seeing is attributable to human activity.”