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Video: NASA’s Dr Gavin Schmidt on 2016 as the hottest year on record

Posted on 17 January 2017 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Carbon Brief by Roz Pidcock

On Wednesday, the world’s three major meteorological organisations will reveal how global temperature in 2016 stacked up against previous years. Given exceptional warmth in most months, it is all but guaranteed that scientists will confirm 2016 as the hottest year on record.

During his brief lecture tour of the UK last week, Carbon Brief caught up with Dr Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Science. NASA is one of the three agencies due to release their findings this week. The others are the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the UK Met Office/University of East Anglia.

What’s behind the record warmth in 2016? Starting the year with a strong El Niño is worth about an extra 0.1 or 0.2C on top of the long-term trend from greenhouse gases, says Schmidt.

He tells Carbon Brief:

“Why did we have a record year? It’s 80-90% because of the long-term trend and 10% because of El Niño…We’re on a rising trend and when we have anomalously warm trends on top of a rising trend, those are going to be record years.”

Looking forward, we shouldn’t expect each year in succession to be warmer than the last, Schmidt notes:

“We don’t anticipate that 2017 will be a record year because we’re starting off with less of an El Niño signal and more of a neutral/La Niña signal.”

While pinpointing whether one year is hotter than another is interesting from a scientific standpoint, it doesn’t alter the bottom line that the climate is warming, Schmidt says:

“The difference between whether 2016 was the first or second warmest doesn’t make any difference to the impacts that we anticipate over time, and it doesn’t really make any difference to the predictions we’re making for the future. The bottom line is the planet is warming, we’re in a period of exceptional warmth historically.”

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Comments 1 to 6:

  1. We will soon find out that his assertion that there is no ENSO driver for north and south pole sea ice anomalies this year to be incorrect.

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  2. @jja just eyeballing the records from NSIDC it appears that, if anything, La Nina years are associated with less Arctic sea ice than El Nino years.  The record low year 2012 was a La Nina year.

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  3. I didn't relaise the tip of Western Antarctica was THAT close to South America: do they get boat people?

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Off topic.

  4. rocketeer@2

    The NASA presentation of Arctic Sea Ice Minimums shows several noticable lows. The chart is developed form the NSIDC data.

    Comparing them with Jan Nulls' presentation of ENSO events and magnitudes and NOAAs ONI which were the basis for Jan Nulls' presentation, there are several lows that do not correlate with strong La Nina events. For example:

    • The lows of 1990, 1993 and 2005 were essentially ENSO Neutral periods.
    • And the low of 1995 occured at the start of an El Nina event.
    • 2002 and 2007 occured at the start of a La Nina, before the event could have a significant impact on the ice extent.

    1985 and 2012 look like outliers of the potential for La Nina to be a signifcant factor in low Arctic Sea Ice Extent.

    However, there may be connection between El Nino events and a low Artic extent occuring a year or two later, like 2017 is shaping up to be, a low arctic minimum with an ENSO Neutral or weak La Nina condition but shortly after a powerful El Nino.

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] Picture/link only comment and suspected to be sockpuppet of earlier banned poster. Some people just dont know how to read the Comments policy.

    [DB] Sock puppet confirmed and commenting privileges suspended.  As will all future iterations, puppet.

  6. Rocketeer@2,

    Corrections/clarifications to my previous post. Working in a rush can clearly be detrimental.

    Though I started looking at Jan Null's (not Nulls') presentation to match Arctic Sea Ice Minimums to the ENSO events, I ultimately found that the NOAA ONI table was a better way to determine what the ENSO conditions were leading up to an Arctic Sea Ice September minimum.

    With that in mind, and looking at all cases where the Arctic minimum was lower than years before and after, the following are clarified observations:

    • 1981, 1990, 1993 and 2005 were during ENSO Neutral periods.
    • 1985, 1999, and 2012 appear to be the cases where lower Arctic Sea Ice Extent occured at the end of or during a La Nina event.
    • 1995 and 2007 occurred at the start of a La Nina. Not likely that La Nina conditions significantly impacted the minimum ice extent.
    • 2002 occurred near the beginning of an El Nino event with a full year of ENSO Neutral preceeding it.
    • 2015 occurred a full year into an El Nino.
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