JAN 20, 2017 1:47 PM PST

2016 Hottest Year On Record

Heat spells and subsequent droughts, as well as rain storm deluges all reared their destructiveness this past year - and it’s showing. According to two separate analyses done by NOAA and NASA, 2016 was the hottest year on record since 1880, when people started keeping track of temperature highs and lows to begin with.

Both analyses, which were computed independently, show that globally-averaged temperatures in 2016 were 1.78 degrees Fahrenheit (0.99 degrees Celsius) warmer than the mid-20th century mean. And this year isn’t unique - it’s the trend that’s particularly frightening. “2016 is remarkably the third record year in a row in this series,” said NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies Director Gavin Schmidt. “We don’t expect record years every year, but the ongoing long-term warming trend is clear.”

Dipping more into the specifics of the warming process, NOAA reports that the globally-averaged land surface temperature was 2.57°F (1.43°C) above the 20th century average, surpassing the previous record from 2015 by 0.18°F (0.10°C). The high temperatures over land surfaces were seen throughout most of the planet, from Far East Russia, Alaska, far western Canada, to Eastern United States, sweeping down to Central America and northern South America,all the way over to eastern and western Africa, north central Siberia, and including south Asia, the southeast Asia island nations and Papua New Guinea, as well as the northern and eastern coasts of Australia. Yep, that pretty much covers most of it.  But the biggest hit comes from this one sentence in NOAA’s summary: “No land areas were cooler than average for the year.” Uh-oh.

The globally-averaged sea surface temperature during 2016 was also above the 20th century average by 1.35°F (0.75°C). It too broke the record from last year by 0.02°F (0.01°C).

NASA reports that their analyses “incorporate surface temperature measurements from 6,300 weather stations, ship- and buoy-based observations of sea surface temperatures, and temperature measurements from Antarctic research stations.” NOAA uses most of the same raw data, but the way in which both organizations analyze the data differs. If you’re interested in reading the data analyses yourself, you can find the full 2016 surface temperature data set and the complete methodology used to make the temperature calculation at http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp. 

Photo: NOAA

Sources: NASA, NOAA, The Washington Post, Science Daily

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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