Earth’s Warming Climate

The year 2018 ranked as the fourth warmest since 1880. The three warmer years were 2016, 2017, and 2015 according to scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS).

“2018 is yet again an extremely warm year on top of a long-term global warming trend,” said GISS Director Gavin Schmidt. Since the 1880s, the average global surface temperature has risen about 1°Celsius (2°F). According to Schmidt and colleagues, this warming has been driven in large part by increased emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere through human activities.

Surface temperature measurements of the Earth by NASA come from 6,300 locations. They include weather stations, ships and buoys at sea, and Antarctic research stations. The measurements produce the global average temperatures during the year. The baseline period from 1951 to 1980 is used as the mean value for comparison. The difference between the current readings and the 1951-1980 mean is accurate to within 0.1˚F with a 95% certainty level according to NASA.

This chart plots the monthly annual values from 1880 to 2018. Each time a record warm annual mean is set, it displays the year in the right margin. The most recent decades show rapid increases in the annual mean. It will cycle through the values a few times. Reload to see it again.

NASA Earth Observatory | Joshua Stevens | Goddard Institute for Space Studies

Scientists from multiple agencies agree on the rising temperature trend. The following plot shows annual mean variations from the 1951-1980 mean. Annual variations clearly stand out as wiggles in the plot. The steeper warming trend since 1980 is clear.

Five agencies are plotted together: NASA, NOAA, the Japan Meteorological Agency, the Berkeley Earth research group, and the Met Office Hadley Centre (UK). They all show the same trend and closely match the annual variations of each other.

NASA Earth Observatory | Joshua Stevens | Goddard Institute for Space Studies

I am encouraged when I read that more people believe global warming is taking place. Presently, about 70% of those in the U.S. agree. My post on the Yale public opinion survey is here. Are we going to do anything about it? Individually, we can take measures to reduce the carbon footprint of ourselves and homes. That isn’t enough.

Will our government agencies take on the challenges to guide the country toward better outcomes for the sake of our children and grandchildren? Will our nation join others to mount a global effort? At this time, I don’t see it happening. We should be leading the way with ideas and technologies. Give people direction. Motivate companies to be innovative about reducing the carbon footprint we impose upon this planet. How great would that be to see such a revolution? It could stimulate the economies of the world and give future generations a more livable planet.

Looking back from sometime in the future, will we see ourselves rising to meet the challenges? Or, will we merely see more people recognizing that they are in a worsening situation and doing nothing about it?

8 thoughts on “Earth’s Warming Climate

  1. There’s been no doubt in my mind for more than a decade that climate change is an existential threat to humankind. Yet we fiddle around quibbling over nonexistent border threats and other political trivia while the earth slowly burns. It reminds me of the pot frog story. Who/what’s to blame? Round up the usual suspects. 😖

    • I’m with you on that. Energy waste and warming was in my class lessons for 20 yrs. Maybe some of those kids, now adults, will feel compelled to act.

  2. I worry a lot about future generations and the flora and fauna with whom we share the planet. It is a huge problem that will take a global effort to abate and the US should be leading the way. Instead, power playing and greed is all we see. 😦
    Go, lemmings, go!

  3. I strongly disagree. When accidents happen, and it is disingenuous to think they won’t, they are irreparable. I would think that lesson should be clear by now from Chernobyl and the tsunami in Japan. As I type this, radioactive waste is leaking into the dunes from containers of spent fuel from the defunct nuclear plant in Zion Illinois. Botanists are starting to find deformed plants there. Solar and wind can amply supply our needs. but like our food supply, we need to decentralize its production.

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