NASA: The Globe Is Warm & The U.S. Is HOT
Friday, January 18th, 2013
by Theras Wood
You might have felt it, but here’s your proof: Since 1880, there’s never been a hotter year in the U.S. than 2012.
And NASA’s finding could have been even more powerful had the temperature records extended beyond the last 132 years (beginning in 1880).
2012′s temperature readings got scientists talking for another reason: 2012 is now ranked by NASA as the ninth warmest year on record, across the entire world. The immediate problem with these high temperatures is the extreme weather that comes along with them — including widespread drought and monstrous bush fires.
It’s a continuing trend says NASA, and the U.S. is not alone. Excluding 1998, the world’s nine warmest years of the past 132 have all occurred since 2000, with 2010 and 2005 being the hottest years on record.
“One more year of numbers isn’t in itself significant,” says Gavin Schmidt, a Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) climatologist, in the NASA announcement. “What matters is this decade is warmer than the last decade, and that decade was warmer than the decade before,” Schmidt explains.
Name The Blame
What NASA scientists at GISS are ultimately measuring is the extent of global warming produced by those villains of ecology, greenhouse gases.
“The planet is warming. The reason it’s warming is because we are pumping increasing amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere,” Schmidt says.
Temperatures do naturally fluctuate from year-to-year, as there are innumerable variables that impact the climate besides atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). But it’s the pattern of CO2 levels that’s important here.
According to NASA, atmospheric CO2 levels in 1880 were 285 parts per million (ppm), a measurement that reached 315 ppm by 1960. That’s an increase of 30 ppm in 80 years.
Compare that to current day carbon dioxide levels that tip the scales at 390 parts per million — that’s a growth of 75 ppm in 52 years, and a dramatic leap by comparison.
Atmospheric CO2 levels have been rising for decades. As a greenhouse gas, CO2 traps the Sun’s heat — a process that heaves heavy burdens upon our climate. The burning of fossil fuels is largely to blame for this rise, though the chemical compound is naturally occurring.
In fact, you’re creating it right now, simply by exhaling. And that plant on your desk is using your old CO2 as a part of its photosynthesis (except you haven’t watered it in a while, so you might be slowing down the process). This stage of the carbon cycle is one of the reasons why the Earth’s forests are so precious.
The possible reasons for these temperature and co2 trends are legion and covered at length.
However, there are a few things that are increasingly clear each year: the Earth is getting warmer, atmospheric CO2 levels have been steadily increasing, and there are manifold and disastrous consequences that these phenomena can precipitate.
Check out this Reuters video for more on the NASA finding.
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