The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s 2015 State of the Climate report unleashed a flood of statistics that should overwhelm whatever doubts remain of global warming’s already startling impacts, scientists said Tuesday.
For the first time since record-keeping started, the average annual global temperature exceeded pre-industrial levels by more than 1 degree Celsius. Record to near-record warmth was common on every inhabited continent. Sea surface temperatures and heat content in the upper levels of the ocean also set records, as did sea level, which crept up to 2.75 inches above the 1993 level, when the satellite altimeter record started. Glaciers around the world retreated for the 36th year in a row, the report said.
“As I often point out now, the impacts of climate change are no longer subtle,” said climate scientist Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University. “They are playing out before us, in real time. The 2015 numbers drive that home.”
The strong El Niño weather system in the Pacific played a role in many of the record statistics last year, but they are also signs that an overheated planet is reacting in alarming ways, according to Anders Levermann, a sea level rise expert with the Potsdam Climate Institute in Germany.