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How hot was it? 2014 was Earth's warmest year on record, data show



The average surface temperature on Earth was higher in 2014 than at any time since scientists began taking detailed measurements 135 years ago.

The 1.4-degree Fahrenheit rise since 1880 confirms long-term warming patterns and renewed alarm about changes that could flood coasts, provoke more severe storms and dry out croplands around the globe, climate experts at NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Friday.

Scientists at the two agencies relied on data collected by 6,300 land-based weather stations around the world, from research stations in Antarctica and from a network of ships and satellite-communicating buoys that dot the oceans. Experts at NOAA determined that Earth's average surface temperature in 2014 was 1.24 degrees above the 20th century average of 57 degrees Fahrenheit. A related analysis from NASA scientists also confirmed a record increase above a base line period between 1951 and 1980.

In a particularly ominous sign, 2014 marked the first time in 25 years that a global surface temperature record was set without a strong warming influence from the Pacific Ocean current oscillation known as El Niño.

December “sealed the deal” by setting a new record as the warmest month ever measured, NOAA reported. May, June, August and September set new records for monthly highs, and October tied a previous high, NOAA said.

The data add to a recent string of record warmth planet-wide. Nine of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 2002, according to NOAA. (The other top 10 year was 1998, which ranks fourth in the record books due in part to a particularly strong El Niño phase.)

The warming trend can be explained only by including the effects of human activity, including the burning of fossil fuels that add heat-trapping greenhouse gases to Earth's atmosphere, agency scientists said.

“Greenhouse gas trends are responsible for the majority of the trend that we see,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York. Because such emissions continue to rise, Schmidt added, “we may anticipate further record highs in the years to come.”

Although land surface temperature ranked fourth in the record books, record temperatures in every ocean basin drove the global average to new heights. Ocean water retains heat longer, and heat-driven expansion contributes to sea level rise.


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