Wednesday, January 27, 2016

235.6 - 2015 was the warmest year on record

2015 was the warmest year on record

Alright, some news on another front to which I have not paid a lot of attention of late: global warming aka climate change.

Some months ago I noted that 2015 was on track to be the warmest year on record. Well, guess what: It wasn't sidetracked. On January 20, NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, announced that worldwide, 2015 was in fact the warmest year since records began in 1880.

The conclusion was seconded by NASA, which does its own, independent analysis. Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, labeled 2015 as "remarkable even in the context of the larger, long-term warming trend," a trend that has seen 15 of the 16 warmest years occurring since 2001.

Which means, in case you didn't catch it, that each year from 2001 on has been warmer than any year from 1880  to 2000 except for one, which was 1998. Another way to put it is to say that the 16 warmest years on record have come in the last 18 years.

So much for the "global warming has stopped" and "no warming for X number of years" bull that the nanny-nanny naysayers spew.

One of the reasons for the record-breaking year - the record it broke, by the way, was set in 2014 - was because of a strong El Niño. That same cycle, according to research published by the British Met Office, will drive 2016 to be even warmer than 2015.

As a sidebar, don't expect the nanny-nanny naysayers to cite El Niño in an attempt to dismiss the record heat: It was a strong El Niño that drove 1998's warmth, that again being the outlier year they cite to claim that global warming has stopped. So citing El Niño is to reject their own argument - not that such contradictions have stopped them before.

What's more, all this could easily get worse: A study published on January 18 in the scientific journal "Nature Climate Change" showed that the amount of human-made heat energy absorbed by the oceans of the world has doubled since 1997. In what the researchers called a rough but reliable estimate, the world's oceans absorbed approximately 150 zettajoules of energy from 1865 to 1997, and then absorbed about another 150 zettajoules in the next 18 years.

A Joule is a unit of electrical, mechanical, or heat energy. A zettajoule is a billion trillion Joules. To give you an idea of how much energy we are talking about, if you exploded one Hiroshima-sized atomic bomb every second for a year, the total energy released would be two zettajoules. So in the past 18 years, Earth's oceans have absorbed human-made heat energy equivalent to a Hiroshima-style bomb being exploded every second for 75 straight years.

These are staggeringly big numbers and they show just how much heat energy is going into the oceans - which also means sparing us from its direct effects on surface temperatures. In fact, 90% of of the heat energy we generate goes into the oceans, and every year deeper and deeper ocean waters are warming. The thing is, at some point and no one knows just what that is, the oceans will reach a saturation point and be unable to soak up the heat we generate - and global warming, that is, surface temperatures, will skyrocket because there will be nowhere else for the heat to go.

All of which may be part of the reason that the latest survey of world business and economic leaders by the World Economic Forum ranks climate change as their No. 1 concern. It didn't say anything about what they propose to do about it, but it does indicate that the economic elites are beginning to realize that climate change is not something off in the distant future or that only affect little nations and unimportant people but, especially by virtue of the extreme weather events it generates, it is threatening their wallets. And that will get them moving.

Which would be more encouraging were it not for recent psychological research that shows that the denialists have "disproportionate influence" on people who are already skeptical. Put another way, it found that the naysayers were not to any degree swayed by facts. Which we already suspected, but still its disheartening to see an actual study showing it.

We are so screwed.

Sources cited in links:

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