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Global Warming

The Planet’s Temperature is Rising

The globe is warming. In 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded in its authoritative fifth assessment report that “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased”. They also stated that “Human influence on the climate system is clear.” How did they reach those sobering conclusions?

Scientists from NASA and other research institutions around the world have been routinely collecting temperature data from a wide number of locations all over the planet. Their records of Earth’s average temperature go back to the 1880s, the earliest year for which reliable instrumental records were available worldwide. The National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), which is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), has maintained global average monthly and annual records of combined land and ocean surface temperatures for more than 130 years. These data show that temperatures have climbed to more than 1.8°F (1°C) above pre-industrial levels as of 2015, and the long-term global upward trend is clear and unambiguous (Figure 1)

Figure 1: Global temperatures have been going up particularly since the 1980’s.

The 2013 Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change(IPCC) stated that “each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850”. Data also shows that, globally, the last decade has been the warmest ever recorded – 2015 was the warmest year on record according toNASA and NOAA, and 2016 is on track to beat 2015.

Figure 2: 2015 was the warmest year since modern record-keeping began in 1880.

Adding to the evidence of direct temperature measurements, studies by independent teams of researchers indicate that the planet is undergoing one of the largest climate changes in Earth’s history, and also one of the fastest in the past 65 million years. Not only that, the current warming is projected to occur at a rate 10 times faster than any change over that period.