Global Temperatures Hit Record High For Third Year In A Row

Average surface temperature approaching 1˚C above 20th Century average

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Jan. 19, 2017) – World temperatures have hit a record high for the third year in a row in 2016, creeping closer to a ceiling set for global warming with extremes including unprecedented heat in India and ice melt in the Arctic, US government agencies say.

The data, supported by findings from other organisations, was issued two days before the inauguration of US President-elect Donald Trump, who questions whether climate change is caused by humans.

The average surface temperature over land and the oceans in 2016 was 14.84 degrees Celsius — 0.94C above the 20th-century average — according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

US space agency NASA reported almost identical data, and the UK Met Office and University of East Anglia, which also track global temperatures for the United Nations, said 2016 was the hottest year on record.

Temperatures, said to be lifted by both man-made greenhouse gases and a natural El Nino event that released heat from the Pacific Ocean last year, beat the 2015 record by 0.04C.

It is the fifth time in 12 years the globe has set a new annual heat record. Records have been set in 2016, 2015, 2014, 2010 and 2005.

"We don't expect record years every year, but the ongoing long-term warming trend is clear," said Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

Global temperature records date back to the 1880s.

The UN-affiliated World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and other international weather-monitoring groups agreed 2016 was a record, with international weather agency chief Petteri Taalas saying "temperatures only tell part of the story" of extreme warming.

Experts say temperatures are unlikely to set a new peak in 2017 after the El Nino faded, even as greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels keep building up in the atmosphere, led by China and the United States.

Piers Forster, climate expert at the University of Leeds, said this year was likely to be cooler.

"However, unless we have a major volcanic eruption, I expect the record to be broken again within a few years," he said.

Ash from big eruptions can dim sunlight.

Canada experiences costliest natural disaster

Among last year's extreme weather events, wildfires in Alberta were the costliest natural disaster in Canada's history while Phalodi in west India recorded a temperature of 51C on May 19, a national record.

North America also had its warmest year on record, the Great Barrier Reef off Australia suffered severe damage from rising temperatures, and sea ice in both the Arctic Ocean and around Antarctica is at record lows for mid-January.

"Of course this is climate change, it's overwhelmingly climate change," said Corinne Le Quere, director of England's Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, who was not part of the NOAA or NASA teams.

"Warming [is] nearly everywhere. The Arctic sea ice is collapsing. Spikes in fires from the heat. Heavy rainfall from more water vapour in the air."

At a conference in Paris in late 2015, 200 countries agreed on a plan to phase out fossil fuels this century and shift to renewable energies such as wind and solar power.

They agreed to limit warming to "well below" 2C above pre-industrial times, while pursuing efforts for 1.5C. By that yardstick, the rise stood at about 1.1C in 2016.

"Long-term indicators of human-caused climate change reached new heights in 2016," Mr Taalaas said, referring to rising levels of carbon dioxide and methane.

He also said warming was having other knock-on effects, such as melting Greenland ice that is pushing up sea levels.

Mr Trump, who has described climate change as a hoax, has threatened to cancel the Paris Agreement and shift to exploiting cheap domestic coal, oil and gas.

At a meeting in Marrakesh days after Mr Trump's victory, however, almost 200 countries said it was an "urgent duty" to combat climate change.

"The hottest year on record is such a clear warning siren that even President-elect Trump cannot ignore," said Mark Maslin, Professor of Climatology at University College London.

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