Red Cross/ Red Crescent Climate Centre

US and UK scientists: 2015 hottest year on record

21/01/2016 - by the Climate Centre

In separate announcements yesterday US and British scientists said their latest data showed Earth’s 2015 surface temperatures were the warmest in their modern records.

Independent analyses by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA said last year was the warmest year since 1880 – continuing a long-term warming trend in which all but one of the 16 warmest years on record were since 2001.

Global average temperatures in 2015 shattered the previous record set the year before by 0.13 degrees: “Only once before, in 1998, has the new record been greater than the old record by this much,” the US agencies said.

Taking certain measurement uncertainties into account, NASA said it was estimating 2015 was the warmest year “with 94 per cent certainty”.

“Climate change is the challenge of our generation, and NASA’s vital work on this important issue affects every person on Earth,” said the US space agency’s Administrator Charles Bolden.

“Today’s announcement not only underscores how critical NASA’s Earth observation programme is, it is a key data point that should make policy-makers stand up and take notice – now is the time to act on climate.”

‘Overall warming’

Gavin Schmidt, Director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, added: “2015 was remarkable even in the context of the ongoing El Niño.

“Last year’s temperatures had an assist from El Niño, but it is the cumulative effect of the long-term trend that has resulted in the record warming that we are seeing.”

Scientists at the UK Met Office Hadley Centre and the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit, meanwhile, said their latest data showed “the 2015 average global temperature was around 1 °C above the long-term average from 1850 to 1900.”

The unit’s Professor Phil Jones said: “While there is a strong El Niño-elevated global temperature this year, it is clear that human influence is driving our climate into uncharted territory,” said

The Met Office statement added that a lack of observations from polar regions and limitations of measurements used to produce the data sets had been factored into the latest calculations. But Peter Stott added: “Remaining uncertainties are clearly much smaller than the overall warming seen since pre-industrial times.”

A still showing the most recent years from a NASA visualization of Earth’s long-term warming trend from 1880 to 2015 as a five-year average: Orange represents temperatures warmer than the 1951–80 baseline and blue temperatures that are cooler. (Image: NASA/GSFC/Scientific Visualization Studio)