It's official. 2016 is the newest warmest year on record.
That's according to officials from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Record upon record
The information was gathered by NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information and NASA, and they found that for "eight consecutive months, January to August, the globe experienced record warm heat."
In a press release and teleconference, the two agencies said "with this as a catalyst, the 2016 globally averaged surface temperature ended as the highest since record-keeping began in 1880."
On average, the mean global temperature was .99 degrees Celsius above the 20th century mean, just barely beating out 2015, the previous record holder.
“2016 is remarkably the third record year in a row in this series,” said NASA's Gavin Schmidt. “We don't expect record years every year, but the ongoing long-term warming trend is clear.”
He added, "most of the warming occurred in the past 35 years, with 16 of the 17 warmest years on record occurring since 2001."
A few other key findings:
- Sea surface temperature was the highest on record.
- Averaged land surface temperature was the highest on record.
- Arctic sea ice extent for the year was 3.92 million square miles, the smallest annual average since record-keeping began in 1979.
- Antarctic sea ice extent for the year was 4.31 million square miles, the second smallest annual average since record-keeping began in 1979.
That's a lot of records. But among all those high temperatures, the most surprising are the huge temperature jumps recorded in the Arctic. According to the NASA data, temperatures in the Arctic averaged as much as 4 degrees Celsius higher than normal, by far the biggest change recorded across the globe.
What it all means
Among other things, the new data shows that the Arctic Ocean is warming at a rate "two to three times faster than the rest of the planet," according to NOAA climate scientist Deke Arndt.
He referred to the world's oceans as kind of a heating savings account since the waters are absorbing most of the excess heat that humans are pumping into the atmosphere.
And while some members of the incoming Trump administration have called human-impacted climate change into question, the researchers were clear about one thing: this warming is on us.
"Pretty much all the rises you’re seeing here," Arndt said, "are the result of human activities."
The team said they will continue to provide their assessments to the American people.
"Our mission" Arndt noted, "is to describe the state of the climate and our methods on how we got there."
The researchers say it is likely the average global temperature will stay at least 1 degree above average from now on. Climate scientists say we are on track to hit an average of 2 degrees Celsius above average sometime this century.
They warn that rise will change the world in potentially devastating ways, including the possibility of more extreme weather events, destabilized coastal communities, altered ecosystems and the potential to create a huge number of climate refugees — victims of drought and flooding.
To keep that from happening, the United States and more than 190 countries signed an agreement in December within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Among its goals are keeping the average global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius, as well as funding and adopting clean-energy technologies.