2015: The Warmest Year on Record

As 2015 ended, a new study was released showing that 2015 was way warmer than the average year.

NASA and the NOAA lately published a study that shows that 2015 was the warmest year on record. Lately each year has been getting warmer. The latest record was set in 2014 when temperatures climbed up to 0.74ºC hotter than the 1961-1990 average. The new record shows that the yearly average was around 0.87ºC warmer than the normal average. For more information, I interviewed Mark Croxford, one of the High School science teachers.

Q: I heard 2015 was the hottest year on record. What are some of the causes contribute to this?

A: One of the first things, is that last year was an El Niño year. Right now were having a major El Niño event right now. What happens is that usually you have a warm body of water right here [in Africa, the Indian Ocean and the North Pacific Ocean] which is shifted further east, making this part of the world [Northern America] much warmer than it usually is. [Then] you get a release of heat from the oceans [in Northern America] into the atmosphere. The El Niño year will be warmer year globally than the normal year [which is hotter] by a couple of degrees celsius. However, that is on top of what is most likely the climate change you hear so much about. This is because we’re starting to reach extraordinary levels of Carbon Dioxide among other gases in the atmosphere that we’re producing industrially on a global scale. What is alarming is that usually the second year of an El Niño (we just had an El Niño in 2015) is warmer than the year prior. It is likely that 2016 will probably be warmer than 2015 and 2014.

Q: How does global warming affect our day-to-day lives?

A: Its not straightforward, it not as easy as if suddenly everything gets warmer. You need to think of the world as this very complicated system, and sometimes when you affect one thing the results can be unpredictable. As we heat up the planet, we’re basically giving the atmosphere more energy. It means we [will] have more violent storms, and as you heat up the air it pulls more moisture, and as you have more moisture you will have more rainstorms and larger snowstorms.

Q: Right now the weather is only around 0.87 °C warmer than usual. How much energy does that really supply the atmosphere?

A: You’re thinking of supplying the entire atmosphere of Earth with one degree celsius. That is a tremendous amount of energy. Also, its not equally distributed. It can be locally, its not like everywhere is 0.87 °C warmer, you have your pockets here and there. The poles are warming more than the equator is. You increase your temperature, which mean you decrease your ice shelf. Your taking this thing that is white and very reflective and it get smaller, and what remains is water which is blue and absorbent. The white surface was reflecting the incoming radiation, but now it is absorbing incoming radiation. So you’re accelerating global warming because you’re giving the sun a place to warm up. This seems like the greatest El Niño ever. Also, in the poles there is this gas that releases Methane gas. As the poles melt the Methane is release into the atmosphere and warms it up even more. Its a cycle.

Q:   What can we do to stop this?

A: Well, the Paris climate talks just happened in December. Its the first time that the international community all agreed that indeed, yes, humans have a role in climate change. They have these goals every nation is going to try and hit. Each nation came up with the goals for themselves, and there is no legally binding contract. Every five year these conferences will repeat and every nation will see how well they’re doing and if they need to modify their goal. Last year I took a group of kids to lobby to our congressmen. This was not a scientific thing but an emotional thing, where we told them the specifics of why we care about the specific areas we live in. When you present them with something emotional that makes them sad, they respond to that. You might meet someone like your aunt our uncle who doesn’t care about climate change as much as you do. But I think its really impactful to hold your own opinion. There are small decisions you can make and as they accumulate they make a difference. If everybody would allow for audits, that would also make a great difference. If everyone let go and stopped being stubborn people can change and improve and if everyone can improve then so can our environment.