2014 Ranks as Earth’s Warmest Year on Record – Wall Street Journal

Posted: Friday, January 16, 2015

A fisherman casts his line at Seal Beach, Calif., in 2014, Earth’s warmest year since 1880, according to NASA and NOAA.

The year 2014 was the world’s warmest on record, despite relatively cool temperatures across parts of North America, two federal agencies responsible for monitoring global climate trends said Friday.

Climate experts from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, working independently, calculated that the globally averaged temperature over land and ocean surfaces for 2014 was 58.24 degrees Fahrenheit, 1.24°F (0.69°C) above the 20th century average, the highest among all years since record keeping began in 1880. By their reckoning, nine of the 10 warmest years now on record all occurred during the 21st century.

Their finding confirms an analysis by the Japan Meteorological Agency, which announced earlier this month that 2014 was the hottest year world-wide on record. The records used by Japan go back to 1891.

Many scientists attribute the warming temperatures to rising concentrations of carbon dioxide, soot and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, such as methane and nitrous oxide, and to land-use changes. Some skeptics, however, have suggested that the rise in global temperatures has actually slowed since 1998, which was itself a record-warm year.

“Why do we think this is going on? The attribution of these long-term trends is a complicated fingerprinting exercise,” but greenhouse gas emissions play a major role, said Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, who helped prepare the analysis.

“We may anticipate further record highs in the years to come,” he said.

The overall global temperature in 2014 masked considerable local variation, the climate analysts said. For example, in the U.S., parts of the Midwest and East Coast were unusually cool, while Alaska and three western states—California, Arizona and Nevada—experienced their warmest year on record.

Unusually warm temperatures also were recorded in eastern Russia, in the interior of South America, most of Europe stretching into northern Africa, as well as parts of eastern and western coastal Australia. “Every continent had some aspect of record high temperatures,” said Thomas R. Karl, director of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.

The U.S. scientists said Friday that unusually high ocean temperatures combined with slightly cooler land-surface temperatures to make 2014 a record-breaking year. The averaged global ocean temperatures were 1.03°F (0.57°C) above the 20th century average. That too set a record. By themselves, the land temperatures were the fourth warmest on record.

Write to Robert Lee Hotz at sciencejournal@wsj.com


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