NOAA, NASA Agree: 2018 Fourth-hottest Year on Record
The year 2018 was the Earth’s fourth-hottest year on record, continuing a decades-long progression of warming, with the past five years collectively the warmest on record, according to reports released Wednesday.
The year just past also saw 14 weather and climate related disasters with losses of $1 billion or more, which totaled about $91 billion in damages. The number of such events and their cumulative cost ranked fourth highest since such records began in 1980. One of them was hail storms Aug. 6 and 7 which hit the Rockies and high plains — the Colorado Springs Cheyenne Mountain Zoo was one casualty of those storms.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s annual report was released Wednesday, coming to the same conclusion that also was reached independently by the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies .
“Twenty-eighteen is yet again an extremely warm year on top of a long-term global warming trend,” Goddard Institute for Space Studies Director Gavin Schmidt said in a statement.
The reports caught the attention of many across the climate science community, including Waleed Abdalati, director of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado.
“There is a lot of variability in a system, but when you get a five-year average saying the same thing, you are beyond the variability component, and you can feel much more confident that what you’re looking at is a signal,” Abdalati said.
“And when you look at that against the backdrop of the trend that preceded that, there is a pretty significant statement there about where we are in terms of warming. It’s easy, if someone is skeptical to look at a hot year and say it’s meaningless, we’ve been here before. But if you look at two, three, four, now five very warm years, then it is much harder to dismiss that.
The global climate record dates back to 1880, the year that it became possible to gather reliable and consistent temperatures around the Earth.
NOAA’s report showed that a long-term heating trend continued last year as persistent warmth across large swaths of land and ocean resulted in the fourth hottest year in NOAA’s 139-year climate record. The year ranked just behind 2016, the warmest year ever, 2015, which was the second warmest, and 2017, the third warmest.
According to a news release, NOAA found that the average global temperature was 1.42 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average. It was the 42nd consecutive year, since 1977, with an above-average global temperature. Nine of the 10 warmest years have been recorded since 2005, with the last five years comprising the five hottest.
Other findings include:
•The globally averaged sea surface temperature was 1.19 degrees Fahrenheit above average, while the land surface center was 2.02 degrees Fahrenheit above average. Both were the fourth highest on record.
•Much of Europe, the Middle East, Russia and New Zealand recorded record-high land temperatures. Additionally, parts of the southern Pacific Ocean and sections of the north and south Atlantic Ocean also saw record high sea-surface temperatures.
While hail storms were the most costly weather events along the Front Range, the most costly 2018 weather disaster in the country was Hurricane Michael, which claimed $25 billion in damages. Right behind Michael were the western U.S. wildfires and Hurricane Florence, which both racked up $24 billion in damages, according to NOAA.
The human toll also was high, with 247 killed and many more injured in weather and climate disasters.
But again, Abdalati cautioned against the mentality of placing a single year under the microscope to the exclusion of broader trends.
“People place way too much emphasis on a single year, usually to re-enforce a story, or a narrative, they have in their mind, already,” he said. “The temperature record and sustained warmer temperatures, the data, tells the narrative. It doesn’t support something preconceived. ... It’s simply telling a story, in itself.”
Charlie Brennan: 303-473-1327, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/chasbrennan