The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its annual Arctic Report Card for 2016 last month, which revealed some rather alarming details. The Arctic region saw “unprecedented” warming air temperatures that delayed the fall freeze-up, according to the annual report, which is summarized in the companion video shown right.
“We’ve seen a year in 2016 in the Arctic like we’ve never seen before,” Jeremy Mathis, director of NOAA’s Arctic Research Program, told journalists at the American Geophysical Union’s seasonal meeting in San Francisco last fall.
“It clearly shows a stronger and more pronounced signal of persistent warming than in other previous years in our observational record.”
This is the 11th straight year in which scientists have produced the Arctic Report Card, and there has been no indication that would not continue. This year, 61 scientists from 11 countries were involved in the effort of putting together the report.
“This is the best possible science we can do,” Mathis said.
What the science shows is alarming. For one thing, the average annual air temperature over Arctic land areas was the highest on record—an increase of 3.5℃ since 1900. (Arctic temperatures are rising at double the rate of global temperatures.) Spring snow cover set a record low in the North American Arctic, and the Greenland ice sheet continued to shed its mass, as it has each year since scientists started tracking this by satellite, in 2002.
NASA and the NOAA have jointly confirmed that 2016 was the hottest year in recorded history, ever since mankind began recordkeeping in 1880. The record was previously held by 2015, and prior to that, by 2014. At the end of October, Arctic ice was at its second-lowest point since we started keeping track.
Record-warm months dominated in 2016, including: January, February, March, April, May, June, July and August. September was the second warmest month on record; October, the third; and November the fifth.
The average global temperature this November was 1.31 degrees F above the 20th-century average of 55.2 degrees. This was the fifth-highest November temperature in 122 years of record-keeping, according to scientists from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.
For the season, September to November, the temperature was 1.39 degrees F above the average of 57.1 degrees, ranking as as the second highest temperature for this period on record, 0.32 degrees cooler than the record set in 2015.
The year to date, spanning January to November in this analysis, was the warmest such period on record. The average global temperature was 1.69 degrees F above the average of 57.2 degrees, surpassing the record set in 2015 by 0.13 degrees F.
The United States under the Obama administration had entered into the Paris Climate Agreement on October 5, 2016. However, with the transition to the new Trump administration, the prospects of this commitment are now uncertain. The agreement had set out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C.