NOAA Climate Report Confirms 2016 Was Planet's Hottest Year on Record

Sean Breslin
Published: August 10, 2017

The planet was hotter in 2016 than any year since record-keeping began more than a century ago, NOAA confirmed Thursday in a new State of the Climate report. 

Last year surpassed 2015 as the warmest in 137 years of records and was the third consecutive year a new record high was achieved, according to the report released Thursday afternoon. NOAA attributed the record warmth to global warming, but also a strong El Niño in early 2016.

Sea surface temperatures were also the warmest on record, the report confirmed. Since 2000, seas are warming at 2.92 degrees Fahrenheit per century, far above the 1950-2016 trend of warming at 1.8 degrees per century – yet another suggestion that global warming is accelerating.

(MORE: Sea Levels Are Rising Faster in the Southeast, and Scientists May Know Why)

Global sea levels rose to another record high and are now about 3.25 inches higher than the 1993 average, and 2016 was the sixth consecutive year of sea level rise. Seas have averaged a rise of 0.13 inches per year in the past two decades and are rising fastest in the Indian and western Pacific oceans, the report also said.

Another record high was also achieved in global greenhouse gas concentrations. One such gas, carbon dioxide, averaged a global concentration of 402.9 parts per million for the year, passing the 400 ppm threshold for the first time in more than 800,000 years, NOAA said. Concentrations rose by 3.5 ppm in one year, the biggest spike observed since record-keeping began at Hawaii's Mauna Loa 58 years ago.

This graph shows carbon dioxide levels at Mauna Loa from 1980 to 2016.

In the Arctic, average land surface temperatures were 3.6 degrees above the 30-year average and broke the previous record high by 1.4 degrees. Average land surface temperatures in the Arctic are now 6.3 degrees warmer than in 1900, the report said. At its minimum, Arctic sea ice shrank to 1.6 million square miles in September, which was 33 percent smaller than average and tied 2007 for the second-lowest sea ice extent on record.

In Antarctica, record low sea ice extents were recorded in August and November, with the latter measurement drastically smaller than the 30-year average.

Led by NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information, the State of the Climate report has been released annually for the last 27 years. The climate report is a collection of data from tens of thousands of measurements compiled by nearly 500 scientists in more than 60 countries around the globe.

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.

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