In previous articles, causes and effects of both climate change and global warming have been discussed. While this provides the reader with a good insight of the problem, perhaps it doesn’t show how urgent it is. Read below to find a compilation of global warming facts: a series of things that are happening right now related to climate, sea extent, ecosystems and more.
GLOBAL WARMING FACTS: TEMPERATURE
- 2015 was the hottest year on record. According to a press release from the World Meteorological Organization, the global average surface temperature ranked at 0.76±0.1ºC above the 1961-1990 average, marking the first time global surface temperatures are above 1ºC from those of the pre-industrial era. Source: World Meteorological Organization
- The same press release states that the period between 2011 and 2015 is the warmest five-year period on record and that 15 of the 16 hottest years on records have happened this century.
- February 2016 broke the temperature monthly record by the widest ever margin, ranking at 1.23ºC above 20th century average, according to NOAA. Source: NOAA
- The December 2015-February 2016 average global temperature was the highest in the 1880-2016 period, ranking at 1.13ºC above the 20th century average. It also marks the highest 3-month departure from average for any 3-month period on record.
- The same report by NOAA says that the six highest monthly temperature departures have all happened in the last six months.
- A region stretching from eastern Russia to central Europe and most of Alaska saw February temperatures over 5ºC higher than the 1981-2010 average.
- In Austria, February 2016 was 4.1ºC warmer than the 1981-2010 average.
- In the 10 days between February 3rd and February 13th, the town of Beatrice, Canada, saw a temperature drop of 49ºC, going from 8ºC to -41ºC due to cold air coming from the north.
GLOBAL WARMING FACTS: CARBON DIOXIDE
- The pre-industrial concentration of CO2 on the atmosphere was 280ppm. As of December 2015, it was of 402.56 ppm. Source: NWF
- The CO2 concentration in atmosphere at Mauna Loa observatory went from 2.17 ppm/year in 2014 to 3.05 ppm/year in 2015. The concentrations of carbon dioxide measured at MLO only vary by 0.26 ppm/year from the global values. Source: NOAA
- Historically, higher concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere result in higher temperatures. Source: EPA
- The oceans have absorbed about 1/3 of the carbon dioxide produced from human activities since 1800 and about 1/2 of the carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels. This makes the pH of the water to rise. Ocean acidification puts ocean life forms at the face of mass extinction. Source: NY Times and Teach Ocean Science
GLOBAL WARMING FACTS: SEA-ICE EXTENT
- The 2015 annual minimum Artic sea-ice extent was reached on September 11, ranking at 4.41 million square kilometers, which is 1.81 million square kilometers lower than the 1981-2010 average. Source: NASA
- According to the same report by NASA, the summertime minimum Arctic sea-ice extent has been diminishing since the 1970s, thanks to warmer temperatures. This has accelerated since 1996 and the 10 lowest minimum extents have been reached in the last 11 years.
- NASA says that 2015’s minimum sea-ice extent, the fourth lowest in recorded history, was not caused by any particular weather event, in opposition to 2012, when the minimum reached its lowest thanks to a cyclone.
- A study published in The Cryosphere journal states that central Arctic Ocean sea-ice thinned by 65% between 1975 and 2012. It went from 3.59 meters to 1.41 meters. The September levels, when the ice is at its minimum, decreased 85% percent in the same period, going from 3.01 meters to 0.44 meters Source: Live Science
- While traditionally increasing while Arctic sea-ice decreases, the sea-ice cover in Antarctica went below normal levels in mid-August after being at much higher levels than normal in the first half of the year. This dip might have been caused by the unusually strong El Niño phenomenon from 2015. Source: NASA
GLOBAL WARMING FACTS: ICE-SHEETS, GLACIERS AND RISE IN SEA LEVEL
- If the Greenland ice-sheet melted entirely, sea levels would rise an average of 6 meters. Similarly, if the Antarctic ice-sheet melted entirely, sea levels would rise an average of 60 meters. Source: NSIDC.org
- The Greenland ice-sheet has already started to melt. The period between 1979 and 2006 saw an acceleration of this process, with it peaking in 2007. While winter snow accumulation has offset the melt, the latter is still outpacing accumulation because increased temperatures have led to faster melt and movement of glaciers on the edges of the island. Source: NSIDC.org
- The Antarctic ice-sheet has also started to melt but the changes are not yet significant. The Antarctic Peninsula has warmed by 2.5ºC since 1950 and a large portion of West Antarctica has started to lose ice mass. Source: NSIDC.org
- This meltwater, as well as the one coming from the glaciers in Alaska, flows into the oceans. The water also expands as it gets warmer, thus resulting in rising sea levels. Source:
- Sea levels have increased very fast in the last two decades and if they keep increasing at this rate, coastal cities will face a critical risk of flooding. Miami, for example, could be dealing with more risks of flooding by 2050 than any other urban area in the world and could have sea levels up to five feet higher than today. Source: National Geographic and Nature
GLOBAL WARMING FACTS: WEATHER
- The drought the Mediterranean Levant region has been enduring since 1998 is potentially the worst this region has seen in the last 900 years. Source: NASA
- Severe drought affected Africa in the 2014-2015 season. It’s the worst the continent has seen since 1932/1933, putting food security and agricultural crops at risk. Drought was also experienced in parts of South America and Indonesia. The El Niño phenomenon caused the drought in the latter. Source: World Meteorological Organization
- Tornado clusters, groups of twisters spanning several days, are becoming more common and deadly. While the average number of episodes has remained more or less constant since 1950, the number of twisters in each cluster has risen from 10 in 1950 to 15 in the last decade and nowadays, tornados are more likely to strike in clusters. While this isn’t necessarily due to climate change, the shifting weather patterns could be influencing this. Live Science
- With warming ocean waters, hurricanes and tropical storms are set to become stronger. According to Nature.org, they are going to unleash faster winds and last longer, causing more damage. Source: Nature.org
- The unusually strong El Niño phenomenon seen in 2015 and the start of 2016 is a consequence of above normal temperatures in the Pacific Ocean. The temperature at sea surface was of 2ºC above average and has only been documented three times in 65 years. Source: Time.com
- While annual precipitation levels were largely within the normal margins in 2015, many regions around the world experienced instances of extreme rainfall, with 24-hour downpours exceeding the monthly mean. Source: World Meteorological Organization
- Fewer cold days and nights, as well as more intense and prolonged heatwaves are to be expected. Source: Carbon Brief
GLOBAL WARMING FACTS: ECOSYSTEMS
- The Natural Wildlife Federation affirms that 25 to 35% of plant and animal species could face extinction by the end of the century if climate change is not harnessed. This is supported by Nature.org, which leans towards the 25% value. Source: NFW.org and Nature.org
- A meta-analysis by Mark C. Urban warns that 1 in 6 species (16%) will face extinction by the end of the century if global average temperatures rise above 4ºC. An increase of 2ºC, on the other hand, would signify extinction of 1 in 20 species, or 5.2%. Source: Science Magazine
- The IUCN Red List of Endangered Species lists —as of March 28th, 2016— 1274 species as critically endangered due to climate change, severe weather and pollution. Source: IUCN Red List
- The IUCN Red List of Endangered Species lists —as of March 28th, 2016— 1698 species as endangered due to climate change, severe weather and pollution.
- According to National Geographic, tropical Andean tree species are shifting between 2.5 and 3.5 vertical meters a year on average to find cooler areas that support their existence. NatGeo stresses, however, that to outrun climate change, these trees need to shift 20 vertical meters on average every year. Source: National Geographic
- The Golden Toad, native to Central America, was the first animal species to become extinct due to climate change effects, back in 1989. The Monteverde Harlequin Frog also disappeared. Source: National Geographicç
- 50 species in total are listed on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species as extinct due to climate change, severe weather and pollution.
- A study conducted in Costa Rica suggests that rainforests face the growth of trees with tougher leaves and harder bark after enduring logging. These trees are stronger in the face of extreme drought but are also slower to grow, which may lead to more open rainforests that don’t store as much carbon dioxide. One of the people conducting the study goes on to say that these trees could potentially become sources of carbon rather than sinks. In short, the Amazon could start “coughing up” some carbon dioxide Source: Live Science and Climate Central
- Climate change has created extreme dry conditions in Northwest Tasmania, which has been provoking bushfires in the Gondwana forest, turning 89,000 acres of 1000 year-old trees to ashes. Source: Live Science