The numbers are in. The year 2014 – after shattering temperature records that had stood for hundreds of years across virtually all of Europe, and roasting parts of South America, China and Russia – was the hottest on record, with global temperatures 1.24F (0.69C) higher than the 20th-century average, U.S. government scientists said on Friday.
In North America, California saw its hottest year, with annual average temperatures 4.1F (2.3C) higher than 20th century average, and scant relief for a punishing drought. Surprisingly, Alaska showed record warm temperatures as well. But for the remainder of North America, it was the opposite story [see Global Map and color Key, below].
The world was the hottest it has been since systematic records began in 1880, especially on the oceans, which the agency confirmed were the driver of 2014’s temperature rise.
The scientists said 2014 was the 38th consecutive year of above-average temperatures. That means nobody born since 1976 has experienced a colder-than-average year.
“Any one year being a record warm one is not in itself particularly significant, but this is one in a series of record warm years that are driven by the continuing underlying long-term global warming,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies.
Thirteen of the 15 hottest years have occurred since 2000.
“We expect that heat records will continue to get broken – not everywhere and not every year – but increasingly, and that does not bode well for a civilization that is continuing to add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere at an increasing rate.” “Nineteen eighty-eight was also a record warm year at the time. Now it doesn’t even rank in the top 20,” Schmidt said.
The last record cold year was more than a century ago in 1911.
“We can safely say it’s probably the warmest year in 1,700 and 2,000 years, and I think it’s probably safe to say 5,000 years,” said Don Wuebbles, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Illinois who has worked on a number of IPCC reports. “You have a continuous upward trend over the last century and that is telling us something. We have a clear signal that our climate changing, and when you look at the evidence it’s because of human activities.”
“The evidence is so strong I don’t know why we are arguing any more,” Wuebbles said. “It’s just crazy.”
The odds of that temperature shift occurring because of natural climate variability were less than one in 27 million, according to the Climate Central research group.
“The data from NASA and NOAA is the latest scientific evidence that climate change is real, and we must act now to protect our families and future generations,” said Senator Barbara Boxer, the California Democrat and climate champion. “Deniers must stop ignoring these alarms if we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”
Campaign groups said the milestone ought to spur new efforts to fight climate change. “The Obama administration must back international efforts to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050,” said Shaye Wolf, the climate science director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “We need a global agreement that keeps most dirty fossil fuels in the ground and provides ample support for developing nations to leapfrog into clean energy economies.”
On the current emissions trajectory, the world will attain average warming of 7.2F or 9F [4C or 5C] by 2100, which climate scientists say would be catastrophic.
Read the full report at TheGuardian.com
VIDEO: Watch 135 Years of Global Warming in 30 Seconds. This NASA video animation depicts how temperatures around the globe have warmed over the years from 1880 to 2014.