2015 Shattered All Temperature Records, And it Wasn't Just El Niño

By Maddie Stone on at

In a joint statement this morning, NASA and NOAA confirmed that 2015 was the hottest year on record by a huge margin. We basically knew this — scientists have been calling it since at least July — but now that the official numbers are in, we can see just how wacky a year it was.

“2015 was by far the hottest year on the records we’ve put together,” Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies said in a press conference this morning. “Even without El Niño, this would have been the warmest year on record. We’re looking at at long-term trend, and this is just a symptom.”

For the first time this year, the global average temperature was unequivocally 1ºC warmer than the 19th-century average, placing us halfway to the 2ºC global warming target climate scientists say we need to stay below to avoid catastrophic climate change.

As we’ve been reporting throughout the year, ten out of twelve months in 2015—every month except January and April—broke its respective monthly temperature record. According to Schmidt, many monthly records were surpassed by a much larger margin than they’d been broken in previous years.

And of course, thanks to El Niño, 2015 went out guns blazing: December 2015 was the most anomalously hot month of any in history, at 1.11°C (2.00°F) warmer than its monthly average. (Remember our July-flavoured Christmas? It wasn’t just the northeastern US.) But as NASA and NOAA stressed today, whether or not 2015 had been an El Niño year, it would have been a roaster.

As for 2016? Well, we’re starting out with the most extreme El Niño conditions in history, and we can expect more records to be obliterated in the coming months as a result. “The factors causing this trend are continuing to accelerate,” Schmidt said. “We anticipate that 2016 is to be an exceptionally warm year, and perhaps even another record.”

Hold onto your butts: the future’s just starting to heat up.

Top image via Scientific Visualization Studio/Goddard Space Flight Center

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