NASA says 2017 was 2nd-hottest year on record

NASA says 2017 wasn’t the hottest year on record but the second-hottest, with El Niño in retreat; the hottest year on record was 2016, which did have an El Niño effect, the New York Times reports.

Many scientists reportedly expected 2017 to be much lower than it was, though, simply because of the absence of a true El Niño. But average surface temperatures are, in fact, going up globally, and any blip downward is bound to be pretty high, still.

“This is the new normal,” the paper quoted Gavin A Schmidt, director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, which conducted the analysis, as saying. But, he said, “It’s also changing. It’s not that we’ve gotten to a new plateau—this isn’t where we’ll stay. In 10 years we’re going to say, ‘Oh look, another record decade of warming temperatures.'”

Average global temperature change: 2013–2017 compared to a baseline average from 1951–1980. (NASA)

An analysis by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which uses a slightly different method of computing the average global surface temperature by putting less weight on temperatures in the Arctic, called 2017 the third-hottest year on record.

The map above, which shows the regions of Earth that were hotter from 2013 to 2017 than they were between 1951 and 1980 in red, orange, or yellow, clearly shows that the Arctic has experienced a more significant warming of average surface temperatures than any other big region. A formula that puts more emphasis on the Arctic is, therefore, going to come out with a more significant change for the Earth over all.

So the numbers are a little different, but both NOAA’s and NASA’s analyses found that 17 of the 18 warmest years since modern record-keeping began have occurred since 2001.

Don’t get the wrong idea: it’s still really, really cold in the Arctic. Just because the average temperatures there are warmer than they were 50 years ago doesn’t mean it’s warm.

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Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.