2015 Warmest Year on Record

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Stock image of Thermometer Credit: Terry Morris, Getty Images GETTY ID#: 155306536

By: Sherrie Chen

Stock image of Thermometer Credit: Terry Morris, Getty Images GETTY ID#: 155306536

On Sunday, January 17, 2016, the NBC Democratic Debate was held in Charleston, South Carolina. Senator Sanders won the debate overall, crushing Clinton on healthcare reform and Wall Street. Secretary Clinton criticized Senator Sanders’ inconsistent gun control record but O’Malley portrayed both Hillary & Bernie as inconsistent.. Clinton criticized Senator Sanders for criticizing the President for taking money from Wall Street. Sanders then said “You’ve received over $600,000 in speaking fees from Goldman Sachs in one year.”

As 2016 begins, 2015 seems far away. However,  the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA’s announcement on Wednesday brought people’s attention back to last year, which was the Earth’s warmest since record-keeping began in 1880. 10 months last year were the  warmest on record.

In all, this makes quite a lot of sense; this past Christmas was neither white nor winter-like at all. December looked and felt more like April. 2015’s annual temperatures were a whopping  1.62˚F (0.90˚C) above the entire 20th century average. Last December was the first month reaching 2 ˚F above normal ever for the entire globe.

In contrast, some well-known winter vacation cities such as Washington and Boston have been through the biggest snowstorms their history.

With all these data and  phenomena list above, why, after all, was 2015 so warm?

The biggest factor was El Niño, which is characterized by significant warming over tropical ocean waters in the Pacific. Not only warm water in ocean pumps much excess heat into the air, it eventually raises the global temperature. And this is the reason why El Niño years tend to be warmer than non-El Niño(also known as neutral or La Niña) years.

But not everything can be counted on  El Niño, even though it was the major driver. Another reason,which might sound much more familiar to people, was  “increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere,” released by a NASA press. Carbon dioxide can even make neutral or even La Niña year’s hotter than previous strong El Niños that scientists have noticed in recent years.

In result,15 of the top 16 warmest years have occurred since 2000 (1998 being the lone pre-21st century year on the list). Still, we still hope to have a normal winter for 2016.

 

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