NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported Monday that global surface temperatures in 2015 were the warmest on record.
Not only was it the warmest year ever, but it shattered the previous record — 2014 — by 0.13 C.
Last year was 0.87 C warmer than the 1951-1980 average.
READ MORE: 2015 on tap to be warmest year on record
According to NASA, 2015 temperatures are part of a continuing warming trend. Since the late 19th century, Earth has warmed by 1 C, believed to be due mainly to increased carbon dioxide (CO2) and other human-made emissions in our atmosphere.
“The warmth was spread around the globe,with some notable exceptions, one being in the North Atlantic,” said Tomas Karl, director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.
The most dramatic warming has occurred over the past 35 years with 15 of the 16 warmest years occurring since 2001.
El Niño plays a role in global surface temperatures, but even this doesn’t account for the extreme warming that occurred in 2015, NASA says.
“2015 was remarkable even in the context of the ongoing El Niño,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. “Last year’s temperatures had an assist from El Niño, but it is the cumulative effect of the long-term trend that has resulted in the record warming that we are seeing.”
“Even without El Niño, this would have been the warmest year on record,” Schmidt said. “And that’s mainly due to the increase in the burning of fossil fuels and the carbon dioxide that goes with it.”
Schmidt said noted that the atmosphere hasn’t seen the same warming as the global surface temperature, with no records broken. However, the repercussions of a record warm year will be seen.
“Stay tuned for 2016,” Schmidt said.
As a consequence of a warming atmosphere, there will likely be more rainfall and heavier events, the scientists said. There will likely be more heat waves, a continual loss of Arctic sea ice, the loss of glaciers and warming oceans.
Schmidt stressed that extreme climate events are all separate and shouldn’t be thought of as one entity. The consequences of a warming planet play out differently in each extreme event. Climatologists understand that a warming planet increases heat waves and the intensity of precipitation events. But for others, such as hurricanes, the jury is still out.
“Climate change is the challenge of our generation, and NASA’s vital work on this important issue affects every person on Earth,” said NASA administrator Charles Bolden. “Today’s announcement not only underscores how critical NASA’s Earth observation program is, it is a key data point that should make policy makers stand up and take notice — now is the time to act on climate.”
As for what to expect for 2016, Karl said that, due to both El Niño continuing into the new year as well as the trend, it’s likely to be another record-breaking year.
“If you’re going to be betting, 2016 is going to going to be warmer than 2015,” he said.