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NASA: Temperature "Standstill," But Hottest Decade Since Late 1800's

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Published on Jan 15, 2013

From NASA:

NASA's analysis of Earth's surface temperature found that 2012 ranked as the ninth-warmest year since 1880. NASA scientists at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) compare the average global temperature each year to the average from 1951 to 1980. This 30-year period provides a baseline from which to measure the warming Earth has experienced due to increasing atmospheric levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. While 2012 was the ninth-warmest year on record, all 10 of the warmest years in the GISS analysis have occurred since 1998, continuing a trend of temperatures well above the mid-20th century average. The record dates back to 1880 because that is when there were enough meteorological stations around the world to provide global temperature data.


Much more here: http://j.mp/nasa2012temps

Jim Hansen, the longtime head of NASA's Goddard Institute, has co-written a separate memo with two colleagues examining several factors that have likely contributed to what he calls the "the recent apparent standstill in global temperature."

It is at this link: http://j.mp/hansen2012temps

But on the time scale of one decade to the next, he and his colleagues wrote:

"[T]he continuing planetary energy imbalance and the rapid increase of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use assure that global warming will continue on decadal time scales."

Here are a couple of fascinating excerpts:

Global surface temperature in 2012 was +0.56°C (1°F) warmer than the 1951-1980 base period average, despite much of the year being affected by a strong La Nina. Global temperature thus continues at a high level that is sufficient to cause a substantial increase in the frequency of extreme warm anomalies. The 5-year mean global temperature has been flat for a decade, which we interpret as a combination of natural variability and a slowdown in the growth rate of the net climate forcing....

The largest climate forcing is caused by increasing greenhouse gases, principally CO2 (Fig. 5). The annual increment in the greenhouse gas forcing (Fig. 5) has declined from about 0.05 W/m2 in the 1980s to about 0.035 W/m2 in recent years. The decline is primarily a consequence of successful phaseout of ozone-depleting gases and reduction of the growth rate of methane. Also, the airborne fraction of fossil fuel CO2 emissions has declined and the forcing per CO2 increment declines slowly as CO2 increases due to partial saturation of absorption bands, so the CO2 forcing growth rate has been steady despite the rapid growth of fossil fuel emissions....

...A slower growth rate of the net climate forcing may have contributed to the standstill of global temperature in the past decade, but it cannot explain the standstill, because it is known that the planet has been out of energy balance, more energy coming in from the sun than energy being radiated to space. The planetary energy imbalance is due largely to the increase of climate forcings in prior decades and the great thermal inertia of the ocean. The more important factor in the standstill is probably unforced dynamical variability, essentially climatic "noise".

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