2015 looks set to be the hottest year on record (image via)
Recent research from the United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) showed that the first five months of this year were the warmest start to a year since records began in 1880.
But what’s the significance of this? And how does it fit in with the overall picture of climate change and global warming?
2014 was declared the hottest year since records began – and so far, 2015 looks set to continue the trend. Though results from the world’s top three monitoring agencies (NOAA, the Japan Meteorological Agency and NASA) do vary slightly from month to month, all three agree that the past five months represent the hottest start to a year since records began 134 years ago.
And there’s a high chance that the scorching start will continue. Analyses show that the El Nino effect (a periodic warming of the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean) has an 85% chance of continuing through winter 2015-2016. Combined with the existing trend of rising global temperatures, the possibility of record-shattering heat seems highly probable.
While these high temperatures might not have been felt across all of the world’s more temperate regions, it doesn’t mean they’re not everyone’s concern.
What’s the Bigger Picture?
Well, it’s true that based on the way our weather system works, natural variations are to also be expected from year to year – sometimes to an extreme degree. It’s also true that shifts in global climate patterns (“natural” climate change) do occur naturally over periods of hundreds or thousands of years.
But here is the concerning part: most of our recent data is unanimous about the fact that the climate is now changing faster than ever before – and showing no signs of stopping. NASA reports the worrying statistic that nine of the ten warmest years on record have occurred since 2000 and that carbon dioxide levels in the air are their highest in 650,000 years.
Most scientists also agree that this change is caused predominantly by carbon pollution – and that humans are going to need to adapt to survive. Increases in global temperatures can bring some pretty disastrous weather consequences, including more flash floods and significant sea level change.
What Does This Mean For Me?
As already mentioned, higher temperatures are almost certain to lead to more extreme weather events, including droughts and violent storms. But never fear: there’s plenty you can do to protect yourself should such an event occur. Alinta Energy has some great advice for avoiding power disasters in extreme weather, while medicinenet.com has tips for protecting yourself and those around you in a heatwave.
Longer term, we can help to do our bit by putting pressure on our governments and watching our own carbon emissions – sustainable living apps like JouleBug, which help users to make smarter, greener decisions, are a great place to start.
Scientists predict that the recent trend for heavy rain, droughts and snow storms will continue or worsen over the next 100 years if levels of greenhouse gases continue rising at their current rate, so there’s never been a better time to get involved.