2017 was the second hottest year on record after 2016, according to data collected by NASA, and the hottest year without the short-term warming influence of an El Niño event.
For comparison, the neutral El Niño conditions and the level of solar activity in 1972 were quite similar to those in 2017. 45 years later, the latter was 0.9°C hotter than the former. For each type of year – La Niña, El Niño, and neutral – the global surface warming trend between 1964 and 2017 is 0.17–0.18°C per decade, which is consistent with climate model predictions.
In recent years, a troubling pattern has emerged, illustrated succinctly in these headlines from The Guardian articles:
- 2013 was the second-hottest year without an El Niño since before 1850
- Global warming made 2014 a record hot year
- Record hot 2015 gave us a glimpse at the future of global warming
- We just broke the record for hottest year, nine straight times
- Global warming continues; 2016 will be the hottest year ever recorded
- 2017 is so far the second-hottest year on record thanks to global warming
Those early years were the height of the denier frenzy about the mythical global warming ‘hiatus.’ At the time, various factors were temporarily dampening global surface warming, while the oceans — which absorb over 90% of the excess heat from the increased greenhouse effect — continued warming rapidly.
It was only a matter of time until short-term effects stopped holding back the rise of Earth’s surface temperatures. That’s now happened, and as a result we’re seeing unleashed global warming causing record temperatures year after year.
The United States was also battered by extreme weather events fueled by climate change in 2017. Research has already shown that global warming boosted Hurricane Harvey’s record rainfall (and associated flooding) by about 38%.
California’s record wildfire season was similarly exacerbated by the state’s scorching hot, extended summer. The southwestern states were cooked by record hot summer temperatures this year, and global warming is contributing to increasingly worse droughts in America and Europe. The U.S. was hit by 15 billion-dollar weather and climate disasters in 2017, and it will likely be the costliest such year on record once all of the hurricane damages are tallied.
These extreme weather events are expensive — more than we can afford, especially in the cost of lives — and they’re only a mere taste of what’s to come. Until we manage to make a serious, dedicated effort to drastically reduce global carbon pollution, temperatures will continue to climb and the consequences of inaction on tackling climate change will become more severe and devastating. While it broke many of today’s records, 2017 is just a taste of what’s to come. And it seems highly unlikely at this point that it will be holding onto those climate records for long.
* Expanded from original source by Dana Nuccitelli published on January 2, 2018 at The Guardian. © 2018 The Guardian. All rights reserved.