The planet is continuing to heat up. Month after month, we have been breaking temperature records, something that looks set to continue now for the rest of the year. Though these are taken on just a month by month basis, when looked at for a 12-month period, a picture emerges that is worryingly consistent. The period covered from June 2015 through to May 2016 was the hottest 12 month period on record, a record that has just been broken for the ninth time in a row, reported The Guardian.
This means that every single 12-month period ending in September 2015 through to May 2016 has broken the record. This news comes following the fact that 2014 and 2015 were both the hottest years on record, and everything so far is pointing to 2016 smashing it yet again, which will be the first time ever that three consecutive years have broken this record. This rapid heating of the planet is starting to be felt, and nowhere more so than in the Arctic, which has so far experienced its lowest summer ice extent.
This is because the Arctic is warming at a rate thought to be twice that of the global average, something that is predicted to have a disastrous impact not only on the people and wildlife that live in the North, but which could have a knock-on effect for the rest of the planet. While in the Antarctic some reports show that ice is growing, this is newer, thinner sea ice, and does not make up for the melting of the thicker, older glaciers in other regions of the continent. Some scientists are now worried that we may have reached the tipping point, and that even if we stop burning all fossil fuels now, the planet will continue to warm for decades to come.
While the strong El Niño that began last year clearly had a role to play in the recent records, it cannot explain all the dramatic warming that has been seen over the last decade. There was another massive El Niño in 1997 to 1998, and this contributed to September 1997 to August 1998 breaking the record for the hottest 12-month period at that point in time.
But the years following this period have continued to smash the record, again and again, meaning that the September 1997 to August 1998 is now seen as just the 60th warmest 12-month period. Since there has not been any other significant El Niño during this following duration, the weather phenomenon clearly isn’t to blame for the rise in global temperatures.
[H/T: The Guardian]