The Earth got its annual checkup, and according to climate scientists around the globe, it looks as though its fever is continuing to rise.
NOAA released the 24th annual State of the Climate report, on July 17 2014, including data compiled by 425 scientists in 57 countries. According to Thomas Karl, director of NOAA's National Climatic Data Center, "The climate is changing more rapidly in today's world than at any time in modern civilization." When asked how he would rate the health of the planet, he compared it to how a person might look at unwanted weight gain over time. "We're continuing to see ourselves put more weight on from year to year," he said.
The report details an overall trend of rising land and sea temperatures, with most annual land and ocean temperatures among the top ten warmest. Greenhouse gases reached record levels, with CO2 topping 400 ppm at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii for the first time. Sea level and ocean humidity levels continue to rise, contributing to more deadly weather events, like Super Typhoon Haiyan. Arctic sea ice is retreating while the sea ice near Antarctica is expanding. Antarctic glacial ice - use on land - is retreating.
Here are more highlights:
- Greenhouse gases continued to climb: Major greenhouse gas concentrations (carbon dioxide - CO2, methane and nitrous oxide) rose to record high levels. Atmospheric CO2 concentration hit a global average of 395.3 ppm for the year. At the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, the daily concentration of CO2 exceeded 400 ppm on May 9 2013.
- The Earth's surface continues to warm: Four major independent datasets show 2013 was among the warmest years on record, ranking between second and sixth depending upon the dataset used. In the Southern Hemisphere, Australia observed its warmest year on record, while Argentina had its second warmest and New Zealand its third warmest.
- Sea surface temperatures increased: Four independent datasets indicate that the globally averaged sea surface temperature for 2013 was among the 10 warmest on record. El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO)-neutral conditions in the eastern central Pacific Ocean and a negative Pacific decadal oscillation pattern in the North Pacific. The North Pacific was record warm for 2013.
- Sea level rose: Global mean sea level continued to rise during 2013, on pace with a trend of 3.2 ± 0.4 mm per year over the past two decades.
- The Arctic sea ice extent remained low as temperatures climbed: The Arctic observed its seventh warmest year since records began in the early 20th century. Record high temperatures were measured at 20-meter depth at permafrost stations in Alaska. Arctic sea ice extent was the sixth lowest since satellite observations began in 1979. All seven lowest sea ice extents on record have occurred in the past seven years.
- Tropical cyclones near average overall but extreme weather events became more extreme: In the Western North Pacific Basin, Super Typhoon Haiyan - the deadliest cyclone of 2013 - had the highest wind speed ever assigned to a tropical cyclone, with one-minute sustained winds estimated to be 196 miles per hour.
- Antarctic sea ice extent reached record high for second year in a row; South Pole station set record high temperature: With the South Pole annual temperature rising to a record peak, scientists do not understand why the Antarctic sea ice increased its expansion to reach a record high of 7.56 million square miles on October 1. This is 8.6 percent higher than the record low maximum sea ice extent recorded in 1986. (A previous report noted that Antarctica also experienced its record low temperature in 2013.)