A new analysis of global temperatures released Thursday by NASA and NOAA confirms that the planet is still warming at an alarming rate.
The agencies performed two independent analyses on the newly-available 2017 global temperature data, which showed the world is 1.6°F above the 1951-1980 baseline used. Though they had slightly different approaches and gave different specifics–NASA ranked 2017 as the second hottest year, NOAA said third–they agreed on the general trend of rising temperatures.
The past few years have been hotter due to El Niño effects, a climatic oscillation in the Pacific ocean that affects global weather and temperatures. 2017 was in the cooler stage of that cycle, called La Niña, which made the temperatures dip below previous years.
Yet, this does not mean the climate is cooling. If fact, if the effects of the El Niño cycle are factored out, 2017 is the warmest year on record. It’s undeniable that “we are in a long-term warming trend,” Gavin Schmidt, of the NASA team, said in a media conference call.
Some parts of the planet are being affected more than others.
“The vast majority of heat trapped ends up in the ocean,” said Deke Arndt of the NOAA team. Sea surface temperatures, key drivers of extreme weather events like hurricanes, were the hottest on record in 2017. Considering the record-setting hurricane season the U.S. experienced in 2017, warming oceans may seem like a localized issue but their devastating effects reach far beyond the sea surface.
The same can be said of the poles. The largest increases in average temperatures has been and continues to be recorded in the Arctic and Antarctic, which does not bode well for the rest of the globe. There were times last year that the poles had lost more than a quarter of its usual ice cover, meaning there was much less ice to reflect back the warming rays of the Sun. Consequently, this sets up a “positive feedback,” Arndt said, leading to ever greater and faster warming. Other downstream effects of melting ice are the release of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, and rising global sea levels.
WATCH: Learn how rising sea levels and sea surface temperatures recently wreaked havoc on Boston with a powerful bomb cyclone.
Banner image credit: NASA