Via Tumblr, a reinterpretation of Eric Lewis's New Yorker cartoon
While the Midwest might beg to differ considering the year started off with the “polar vortex,” scientists reported that 2014 was the hottest year in Earth’s recorded history.
The New York Times reported that extreme heat blanketed Alaska and a significant portion of the western United States last year, setting temperature records in Nevada, California, Arizona, and Alaska. Some parts of California experienced no winter last year as temperatures exceeded the average for the season by 10 or 15 degrees. While some rejoiced about the break from the cold, this weather trend also exacerbated the severe drought in the state. Several European countries set temperature records as well. And the ocean surface was unusually warm virtually everywhere except around Antarctica, according to the scientists, providing the energy that fueled damaging Pacific storms.
The 10 warmest years on record have all occurred since 1997, which scientists say is a consequence of human emissions and could pose profound long-term risks to both people and the world as the planet continues to warm. What’s most remarkable, however, is that the 2014 record occurred in a year that did not feature El Niño, a large-scale weather pattern in which the ocean dumps an enormous amount of heat into the atmosphere.
Gavin A. Schmidt, head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in Manhattan, said the next time a strong El Niño occurs, it is likely to blow away all temperature records.
“Obviously, a single year, even if it is a record, cannot tell us much about climate trends,” Stefan Rahmstorf, head of earth system analysis at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, told the New York Times. “However, the fact that the warmest years on record are 2014, 2010 and 2005 clearly indicates that global warming has not ‘stopped in 1998,’ as some like to falsely claim.”
Climate change skeptics’ claims are likely to stay, despite the continually growing body of evidence that the planet is getting warmer. John R. Christy, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville who is known for his skepticism about the issue of climate change, pointed out in an interview that 2014 had surpassed the other record-warm years by only a few hundredths of a degree, which is well within the error margin of global temperature measurements.
“Since the end of the 20th century, the temperature hasn’t done much,” Dr. Christy said. “It’s on this kind of warmish plateau.”
While Christy and other skeptics remain unconvinced by the trend of the 10 warmest years occurring since 1997, it’ll be interesting to hear their reaction to another article published by the Guardian which reports that “humans are ‘eating away at our own life support systems’ at a rate unseen in the past 10,000 years, two new research papers say.”