2022 was one of the warmest years on record, despite cooling La Niña conditions in the tropical Pacific.
To make matters worse, the concentration of warming greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere hit a new high last year, while the polar regions continued to warm at a breakneck pace, according to new data released by the world’s leading climate monitoring agencies.
Earlier this week, NASA, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the European environmental monitoring program Copernicus released their respective estimates of climate change in 2022 showing a steady increase in average temperatures worldwide.
Overall, according to NASA, 2022 was the fifth warmest year on record. (will open in a new tab) and Copernicus (will open in a new tab). (NOAA (will open in a new tab) puts the year ended just sixth by a margin.) But parts of the world, including Western Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia, China and northwest Africa, had their hottest 12 months on record.
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The last decade has been 9 of the 10 hottest years on record.
All of the hottest years on record have occurred since 2010, and the past nine years have been the warmest “since modern records began in 1880,” NASA said in a statement.
“When you look at nine of the last 10 years, these are going to be the warmest years in modern history since 1880, and that’s pretty worrying,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said at a joint NASA-NOAA press conference on Thursday (January 12). ) when new data were released. “Unless we take this seriously and take real action to mitigate [the trend]there will be deadly consequences all over the world.”
In 2022, the planet was on average about 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 degrees Celsius) warmer than it was at the end of the 19th century, just 0.7 degrees Fahrenheit (0.4 degrees Celsius) short of the threshold. set by the global climatological community as a tipping point to avoid in order to prevent severe and unpredictable environmental impacts. According to the European Copernicus program, 2022 was also 0.54 degrees Fahrenheit (0.3 degrees Celsius) warmer than the already average from 1991 to 2020.
“It’s definitely warmer now than it has been for at least the last 2,000 years, and possibly much longer,” Russell Vose, NOAA physicist, said at a press conference. “And the speed [temperature] growth over the past 50 years has been faster than at any time in the last two millennia.”
(Image credit: Copernicus)
Record despite La Niña cooling
2022 was in the top 10 hottest years on record, on par with 2015, despite the so-called La Niña effect ruling the tropical Pacific. During La Niña years, surface water temperatures in the East Central Pacific drop, which in turn results in wetter and cooler weather conditions across much of the world.
In contrast, 2015, which was just as warm as 2022 according to recently released data, was an El Niño year with warmer tropical Pacific surface water temperatures and generally drier, warmer weather patterns around the world.
“NASA scientists estimate that the cooling effect of La Niña may have slightly reduced global temperatures (by about 0.11 degrees Fahrenheit or 0.06 degrees Celsius) compared to the average in more typical ocean conditions,” NASA said in a statement. .
Vulnerable poles heat up at breakneck speed
The globe is heating unevenly. In fact, some of the most vulnerable regions have already passed the 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) threshold. The fragile polar regions are warming exceptionally fast, with parts of Antarctica and Siberia experiencing temperatures 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) above the 1991-2020 average in 2022, according to Copernicus. Warmth has exacerbated the annual loss of sea ice, with the Antarctic region recording the second-lowest sea ice extent on record last year. Only in 1987, during the height of the Antarctic summer, did sea ice melt become more massive.
Earlier study supported by NASA (will open in a new tab) showed that the Arctic, the floating ice cap that covers the Earth’s north pole and the surrounding regions of northern Europe and Asia, can be warming at a staggering rate, four times faster than the global average. And this trend is not expected to be subsidized, hinting at accelerated melting of the ice sheets and rising sea levels in the future.
(Image credit: Joughin et al./Science Advances)
Greenhouse gas concentrations reach new high
Scientists are absolutely sure that there are still record and almost record years ahead. In addition to hitting the top ten hottest temperatures, 2022 also saw an increase in atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane, two major contributors to ever-increasing warming. There hasn’t been this much carbon dioxide in the air in the past 2 million years, Copernicus says, while available scientific evidence shows that methane concentrations are the highest in more than 800,000 years.
“A preliminary analysis of satellite data averaged over the entire thickness of the atmosphere shows that the concentration of carbon dioxide has increased by about 2.1 ppm. [parts per million]while methane rose by about 12 ppb [parts per billion]”, Copernicus said in a statement. “The resulting annual average for 2022 was approximately 417 parts per million for carbon dioxide and 1,894 parts per billion for methane.”
According to Vose, the concentration of carbon dioxide, which is mainly emitted by burning fossil fuels, has increased by 50% compared to the pre-industrial era.
(Image credit: Copernicus)
Global ocean heat content in 2022 was the highest ever, according to NOAA, meaning the total amount of energy stored in the top 6,500 feet (2,000 meters) of the global ocean has never been higher. An increase in heat is likely to exacerbate many of the negative effects of climate change, including sea level rise, further melting of the polar ice sheets, and degradation of marine ecosystems.
“Unless there is a major volcanic eruption, there is a 100 percent chance that we will be in the top ten again in the coming years,” Vose said. “With a potentially brewing El Niño and increased concentrations of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, we will certainly be close to a record next year.”
The volcanic eruptions Vos spoke of sometimes temporarily lower global temperatures by throwing large amounts of sunlight-reflecting ash into the stratosphere, the layer of Earth’s atmosphere above the troposphere where most of the weather occurs. On the other hand, some volcanic eruptions, such as last year’s explosion at Hunga Tonga, may contribute to warming by releasing water vapor, which also traps heat, at high altitudes in the atmosphere.
However, Hunga Tong’s contribution to the 2022 heat wave was so small that it could not be measured, Gavin Schmidt, NASA climatologist and director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, told a news conference.
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