2015 sets global temperature record by a wide margin

Experts say no sign of slowdown in long-term warming trend

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2015’s global average temperature broke the record by the biggest margin ever, and 2016 could be even warmer.

By Bob Berwyn

The average global temperature for 2015 was the warmest since record-keeping started in 1880, breaking the mark set last year by a full quarter degree, according to the latest climate update from NASA and NOAA.

Discussing the new temperature record in a telephone conference call, experts with the two agencies said 2016 could be hotter yet because of warmth stored in the oceans. There’s no sign at all that the long term global warming trend will slow down any time soon, said NASA researcher Gavin Schmidt.

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Widespread December warmth across the northern hemisphere helped drive the average global temperature for 2015 to a new record.

“The warmth was spread across the globe … it’s the first time that 10 months in a year all broke the record for those respective months,” said NOAA’s Thomas Karl, director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. Impacts of the warming trend could include more extreme rainfall events, Karl added.

The planet’s average surface temperature has risen about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1.0 degree Celsius) since the late-19th century, a change largely driven by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere.

Most of the warming occurred in the past 35 years, with 15 of the 16 warmest years on record occurring since 2001. Last year was the first time the global average temperatures were 1 degree Celsius or more above the 1880-1899 average.

“2015 was remarkable even in the context of the ongoing El Niño,” said GISS Director Gavin Schmidt. “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.”

The full 2015 surface temperature data set and the complete methodology used to make the temperature calculation are available at: http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/.

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