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Climate change

2017 was one of the three hottest years on record, Nasa and NOAA scientists say

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 January, 2018, 6:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 January, 2018, 6:00am

However you slice it, last year was a top-three scorcher. Global temperatures in 2017 were the third-highest on record, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the second-highest, according to data from Nasa.

While the results announced during a joint briefing on Thursday have slight statistical differences, they clearly show that global warming continues its upwards climb, scientists said.

The results were buttressed by analyses from the United Kingdom Met Office and the World Meteorological Organisation, which also ranked 2017 as a top-three year for recorded global temperatures.

Apart from a few cold spots, “the planet is warming remarkably uniformly,” Gavin Schmidt, director of Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said at the briefing.

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The average temperature in 2017 across land and ocean surfaces was 0.82 Celsius (1.51 degrees Fahrenheit) above the average for the 20th century, just behind the record-breaking temperatures set in 2016.

This makes the last three years – 2015, 2016 and 2017 – the hottest years since 1880. In fact, six of the hottest years have occurred just since 2010.

While global temperatures differed across continents, virtually all of them felt the heat. South America experienced its second-warmest year since continental records began in 1910, according to NOAA data.

Asia felt its third-warmest, Africa its fourth-warmest and Europe its fifth-warmest year on record. North America and Oceania, a region that includes Australia, Polynesia and several other island chains, felt their sixth-warmest year since record-keeping started.

The record-breaking temperatures in 2016 were fuelled slightly by El Nino, a multiyear weather pattern that can result in warmer regional temperatures.

But 2017 was warm even without that additional help, as the pattern transitioned toward the cooler La Nina phase.

Data from the National Snow and Ice Data Centre also showed that Arctic sea ice this year covered 4.01 million square miles, marking the second smallest extent for that month since 1979, when records began.

Antarctic sea ice only covered 4.11 million square miles this year, breaking the previous record set in 1986 by 154,000 fewer square miles.