January hottest on record, NASA reports
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Feb 17, 2016  |  Vote 0    0

January hottest on record, NASA reports

A swath of northern Canada, Alaska, Russia and the Arctic experienced the most pronounced warming, with temperatures 4 to 12.9 C above the 1951-1980 average

OurWindsor.Ca

Toronto wasn’t the only place experiencing unseasonable weather to start 2016, as global average temperatures hit a record high last month, according to data released by NASA.

A record-breaking anomaly — an increase of 1.13 C — was also observed in January compared to the average temperature recorded between 1951 and 1980, NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies reported this week.

“It’s a snapshot into the future,” Deborah Harford, executive director of the Adaption to Climate Change team at Simon Fraser University, told the Star about the value of the data.

“It’s useful because it can help us plan now for what we need to prepare for. One of the major changes in climate projected by climate models is that we’ll have warmer, wetter winters. The fact that it’s a hotter January is a good example of that,” Harford said.

She said “extraordinarily hot” weather in recent years is tied to man-made climate change and processes like El Niño and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), an El Niño-like pattern of ocean temperature changes in the Pacific Ocean basin.

A large band of territory across northern Canada, Alaska, Russia and the Arctic experienced the most pronounced warming last month, a map based on the recent NASA data showed.

Temperatures in that area were 4 to 12.9 C warmer than the 1951-1980 average, NASA found.


Where the temperature is rising


According to Paul Beckwith, a part-time professor at the University of Ottawa specializing in abrupt climate change, the high Arctic is warming between five to eight times faster than the global average.

Beckwith told the Star that warming in the Arctic is changing the behaviour of jet streams, which in turn influences the frequency, severity and duration of extreme weather events like torrential rains and droughts.

Large parts of Canada have had very warm weather so far this winter, for example, while the East Coast has been hit with severe snowstorms due in large part to the evaporation of warmer surface water in the Atlantic Ocean, he said.

“The key point is the Arctic: what happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic,” Beckwith said.

“The Arctic changes are influencing weather patterns in the northern hemisphere severely . . . and it’s also affecting the southern hemisphere, as well.”

The average surface temperature in 2015 broke all previous records “by a strikingly wide margin,” reaching 0.76 C above the 1961-1990 average, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) found.

That made 2015 the warmest year since record keeping began in 1880, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported.

And for the first time, global temperatures that year were approximately 1 C above pre-industrial levels.

“It is a sobering moment in the history of our planet,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement.

While El Niño had a marked impact on temperatures in 2015, the effect of human-caused climate change will continue to influence global trends over the coming decades, Taalas said.

“The power of El Niño will fade in the coming months but the impacts of human-induced climate change will be with us for many decades.”

Toronto Star

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