The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that 2014 was the warmest year on record.
In 2014, the most essential indicators of Earth’s changing climate continued to reflect trends of a warming planet, with several markers such as rising land and ocean temperature, sea levels and greenhouse gases ─ setting new records.
The report, compiled by NOAA’s Center for Weather and Climate at the National Centers for Environmental Information is based on contributions from 413 scientists from 58 countries around the world.
The report’s climate indicators show patterns, changes and trends of the global climate system. Examples of the indicators include various types of greenhouse gases; temperatures throughout the atmosphere, ocean, and land; cloud cover; sea level; ocean salinity; sea ice extent; and snow cover. The indicators often reflect many thousands of measurements from multiple independent datasets.
The details in the report make for pretty grim reading.
- Greenhouse gases continued to climb
- Record temperatures observed near the Earth’s surface
Four independent global datasets showed that 2014 was the warmest year on record. The warmth was widespread across land areas. Europe experienced its warmest year on record, with more than 20 countries exceeding their previous records. Africa had above-average temperatures across most of the continent throughout 2014, Australia saw its third warmest year on record, Mexico had its warmest year on record, and Argentina and Uruguay each had their second warmest year on record. Eastern North America was the only major region to experience below-average annual temperatures.
- Sea surface temperatures were record high
- Global sea level was record high
But as NPR’s Christopher Joyce reports, the eastern US was one of the outliers in that it was colder than average and saw some bitter winter storms.
On the temperature front, Europe was hotter than ever. But it wasn’t hotter than blazes everywhere. The eastern U.S. got a break. The winter there was especially cold, which led some climate skeptics to question the whole idea of climate change.
Jessica Blunden, a climate scientist and report author who consults for NOAA, says the weather in the East was an outlier.
“For example, the lower latitudes of eastern North America and parts of Russia were well below average during this period — up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit below average,” Blunden says. “But then in the higher latitudes, Alaska, for example, was super warm for this time of year — 18 degrees above average in late January.
So the eastern U.S. got lucky — if you consider record-breaking snow, and cold weather lucky. Keith Seitter, head of the American Meteorological Society, which published the report, found that ironic.
“I’m here in Boston,” he says. “We had an incredibly tough winter, but that doesn’t change the fact that the globe is getting warmer. And 2014 really represents some kind of landmark year in that respect.”
As the climate report shows, weather is local. Climate is global.
Unfortunately the east is where the geniuses who occupy the halls of power in the US Congress largely live and work and this enabled the skeptics who can’t seem to distinguish between climate and weather to yuk it up with the argument that they think is incredibly clever, “How can there be global warming when it’s snowing so much? Huh? Huh?”
Expect to hear that argument again in congress and in letters to the editor when the first snowstorm hits again this winter.