U.S. Science Agency Says 2015 is 97% Likely to be the Hottest Year on Record

The world has experienced record-breaking warmth every month so far in 2015, making this year virtually guaranteed to be the hottest on record, according to a U.S. science agency.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) said that 2015 was 97% likely to be the hottest year so far, eclipsing 2014, the current warmest year.

Last month was the warmest ever August globally since records began in 1880, at 1.58F above the 20th century average. Every month this year has been the hottest on record, with the period of January to August 1.51F above the long-term average.

In an update published on Thursday by Noaa, scientists said that manmade global warming and the El Niño climate phenomenon were the cause.

Deke Arndt, chief of the monitoring branch at Noaa’s national centres for environmental information, said: “Longterm climate change is like climbing a flight of stairs: over time you get higher and higher. El Niño is like standing on your tippy toes when you’re on one of those stairs. Both of those together work to create the warmest temperature on record. We would not be threatening records repeatedly if we had not climbed the stairs for decades.”

The agency said that there was “high confidence” that El Niño – a climate phenomenon that occurs when a vast pool of water in the western tropical Pacific Ocean becomes abnormally warm – would last through the winter and the level of heat in the oceans meant it was extremely likely that 2015 would be the warmest on record.

Arndt said “We would have to see some really unusual cooling behaviour and the reason that the probabilities are so high are not just that we have such a big lead just now but because much of that is being driven by the oceans, and the ocean tends to have a strong persistence, meaning one month is very, very related to the next month. The oceans don’t turn quickly.”

In a blogpost, scientists at the agency wrote: “We estimate a 97% probability that 2015 will become the warmest year on record.”

Arndt described the jump in the record broken for August as a “relatively large” one compared to previous new records. Since the 21st century, the world has broken 30 monthly warmth records as climate change takes hold.

Noaa also said that 31.5% of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, up six percentage points since July, and drought had intensified in parts of the south-eastern U.S.

Oregon and Washington had their warmest summers on record, while California and Nevada are among the four U.S. states on track to experience their hottest year yet. Alaska is having its secondest warmest year to date.

Christiana Figueres, the UN climate chief charged with forging a new agreement on climate change at a summit in Paris at the end of the year, said the new data demonstrated the need for action on climate change.

The U.S. agency’s data follows a report by the UK Met Office earlier this week which predicted that 2015 and 2016 will be the warmest – or near-warmest – on record.


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This segment is brought to you through a partnership between the UNDP Climate Change Team at the Ministry of Environment in Lebanon and the NAHARNET team. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any party/institution.

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