Every year, hundreds of scientists from around the world analyze data on climate conditions and issue a State of the Climate Report. This year’s report, covering 2017, shows that a variety of records were set for the Earth’s temperature, atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHG), and sea level rise. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says it is especially concerned about how rapidly temperatures and greenhouse gas concentrations are rising.
Here are some highlights.
Global temperatures: Each of the last four years set a new record high for the Earth’s temperature. Temperatures across land and seas ranked as the second or third highest since record-keeping began in the 1800s. The temperature was 1.8°F above average in 2014; 1.98 F above average in 2015 and 2017; and 2.16% average in 2016, NOAA said. The top 10 warmest years have all occurred since 1997 and the four warmest years on record have taken place since 2014.
NOAA explains, “Given the size and tremendous heat capacity of the global oceans, it takes a massive amount of accumulated heat energy to raise Earth’s average yearly surface temperature even a small amount. Behind the seemingly small increase in global average surface temperature over the past century is a significant increase in accumulated heat. That extra heat is driving regional and seasonal temperature extremes, reducing snow cover and sea ice, intensifying heavy rainfall, and changing habitat ranges for plants and animals—expanding some and shrinking others.”
Greenhouse gas concentrations: The global growth rate of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has nearly quadrupled since the early 1960s. Last year, the concentration reached 405 parts per million, the highest in modern measurements and in ice core records going back as far as 800,000 years.
Sea level rise: Sea levels rose 3 inches higher than the 1993 average and set a new record. Global sea level is rising at an average rate of 1.2 inches per decade.
Fires: Global fire activity was the lowest since 2003, but was very high in parts of North America, South America and Europe. Fires in British Columbia destroyed 1.2 million hectares of timber, bush and grassland; wildfire in the Western United States burned 4 million hectares at a cost of $28 billion, triple the previous record wildfire losses in the US set in 1991.
Storms: There were 85 named storms in tropical areas of the world, slightly above the 1981-2010 average. In the North Atlantic basin, precipitation events were the seventh most active in the last 164 years, including Hurricanes Harvey, Maria and Irma.