2014 the hottest year since records began, climate experts confirm

Last year global temperatures were 0.69C above 20th century averages

Never mind the Polar Vortex that refrigerated large parts of the United States at its outset, 2014 ended up being the Earth’s hottest year since records began in 1880, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, and NASA said in a joint announcement tonight.

The new findings will stoke fears that the rate of global warming is accelerating and the cause is humans pouring out emissions from fossil fuel burning as they put growth in prosperity ahead of the health of the planet.  The rise in global temperatures last year notably happened without the influence of an El Niño in the Pacific Ocean, an occasional event that in the past has been linked with unusually warm periods.

According to NOAA which had its own methodology for sifting the data, the average temperature across both land and ocean surfaces was 1.24 degrees Fahrenheit, or 0.69 degrees Celsius, above the 20th century average, beating both previous record warm years, 2005 and 2010 by 0.07 degrees Fahrenheit.

 

Among places on the globe where the heat was in evidence included parts of interior South America, most of Europe and parts of North Africa, expanses of Russia as well much of Australia.  Other climate agencies and research centres around the world have also identified 2014 as a record-breaking year.

“Every continent had some aspect of record high temperatures” in 2014, said Tom Karl, director of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center.

“While the ranking of individual years can be affected by chaotic weather patterns, the long-term trends are attributable to drivers of climate change that right now are dominated by human emissions of greenhouse gases,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies.

He told reporters that “the data shows quite clearly that it’s the greenhouse gas trends that are responsible for the majority of the trends.”  He went to assert that the trends in greenhouse gas emissions are continuing and therefore “we may anticipate further record highs in the years to come”.

Reacting swiftly to the new findings, the White House said they served as a reminder that climate change is a reality and that “we can’t wait to take action” to deal with it. The last time that NOAA said that Earth had set a record for cold was in 1911.

“The globe is warmer now than it has been in the last 100 years and more likely in at least 5,000 years,” said climate scientist Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University in New Jersey, who wasn't part of either research team. “Any wisps of doubt that human activities are at fault are now gone with the wind.”

“We are witnessing, before our eyes, the effect of human-caused climate change,” said Pennsylvania State University professor Michael Mann.

It remains to be seen if the latest reports will finally persuade the increasingly lonely band of climate change deniers to pay attention. Their ranks include Senator Jim Inhofe, a Republican Senator from Texas, who has just taken the chairmanship of the chambers Environment Committee.

The new heating of the planet was driven in particular last year by unusually warm oceans, where high-temperature were easily broken.

The struggle to reach a global accord to force countries to recognise the crisis and take action continues. In December, 200 countries will gather in Paris to try to hammer out a new global bargain.  The US, which never signed the Kyoto Treaty and has been a general laggard, may have given the chances of success a boost when it announced a bilateral deal with China late last year jointly to take steps to curb emissions.

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