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Climate data reflects trends of a warming planet
The vast majority of worldwide climate indicators, including greenhouse gases, sea levels, and global temperatures, continue to reflect trends of a warmer planet, according to the State of the Climate in 2013 report, released last week by the American Meteorological Society.
Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, NC, served as the lead editors of the report, which was compiled by 425 scientists from 57 countries around the world. It provides a detailed update on global climate indicators, notable weather events, and other data collected by environmental monitoring stations and instruments on air, land, sea, and ice.
“These findings reinforce what scientists for decades have observed: that our planet is becoming a warmer place,” said NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D. “This report provides the foundational information we need to develop tools and services for communities, business, and nations to prepare for, and build resilience to, the impacts of climate change.”
The report uses dozens of climate indicators to track patterns, changes, and trends of the global climate system, including greenhouse gases; temperatures throughout the atmosphere, ocean, and land; cloud cover; sea level; ocean salinity; sea ice extent; and snow cover. These indicators often reflect many thousands of measurements from multiple independent datasets.
Major greenhouse gas concentrations, including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide, continued to rise during 2013, once again reaching historic high values. Atmospheric CO2 concentrations increased by 2.8 ppm in 2013, reaching a global average of 395.3 ppm for the year. At the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, the daily concentration of CO2 exceeded 400 ppm on May 9 for the first time since measurements began at the site in 1958. This milestone follows observational sites in the Arctic that observed this CO2 threshold of 400 ppm in spring 2012.
Four major independent datasets show 2013 was among the warmest years on record, ranking between second and sixth depending upon the dataset used. In the Southern Hemisphere, Australia observed its warmest year on record, while Argentina had its second warmest and New Zealand its third warmest.
Four independent datasets indicate that the globally averaged sea surface temperature for 2013 was among the 10 warmest on record. El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO)-neutral conditions in the eastern central Pacific Ocean and a negative Pacific decadal oscillation pattern in the North Pacific had the largest impacts on the global sea surface temperature during the year. The North Pacific was record warm for 2013.
The Arctic observed its seventh warmest year since records began in the early 20th century. Record high temperatures were measured at 20-meter depth at permafrost stations in Alaska. Arctic sea ice extent was the sixth lowest since satellite observations began in 1979. All seven lowest sea ice extents on record have occurred in the past seven years.
NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources.