This winter has been kind of insane in the U.S., with a polar vortex one week and snow storms in the South the next, which has some climate change-deniers howling about global warming. NASA is shutting down the naysayers with a new report and illustration that shows the actual overall impact of global warming over the past six decades. What starts out as a happy blue planet in the graphic quickly becomes an angry red one, with nine of the 10 hottest years all occurring in the new millennium. It’s a quick and easy way to visualize the difference between weather and climate and to understand the devastating impact excess carbon emissions are having on the planet.
NASA analyzed data from the past 60 years, taking information from over 1,000 meteorological stations around the globe, satellite data and numbers from the Antarctic research station. They found that the average temperature for 2013 was 58.3 degrees Fahrenheit, which is a full 1.1 degree warmer than the temperature in the middle of the last century. If you go back to 1880, the global temperature has risen 1.4 degrees. According to the report, weather events will always cause fluctuations from year to year, but what matters most is the overall picture. That overall change, and not individual weather events or even single years, is what we need to be concerned about.
The report also shows that except for 1998, the 10 hottest years in the past 134 years have all taken place since the new millennium. 2005 and 2010 were the hottest of all. And while weather can be extremely cold or extremely hot in certain areas around the globe from year to year, “long-term trends in surface temperatures are unusual and 2013 adds to the evidence for ongoing climate change,” said GISS climatologist Gavin Schmidt. So while each year may not be successively warmer than the last, the overall temperature has consistently increased from decade to decade, as the NASA graphic illustrates. Leave to NASA to put it all into perspective even while the snow is falling.
Images from NASA Goddard