On pace for hottest year on record

By Jason Hawk - jhawk@civitasmedia.com

With the exception of some blazing hot days, this summer so far has seemed mild.

Temperatures here in Oberlin spiked into the 90s in late June, making for some sweaty days. They’re expected to rest in the mid-80s for the foreseeable future.

The long-term is a different story.

This year is on track to be Earth’s hottest since modern meteorological records started in 1880, according to NASA and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.

We all remember Northeast Ohio’s unseasonably warm winter. December 2015 was the warmest of any month ever recorded, two degrees Fahrenheit higher than the monthly average.

Global temperature so far this year have been steady at about 2.7 degrees above pre-Industrial Age averages.

That might seem like a minuscule change, but global temp variations are measured in tiny fractions of degrees overall — the NOAA had never measured a jump so large.

The agency says the gradual heat-up has actually been 30 months in the making, each shattering new records for planetary land and sea surface temperatures. It’s the globe’s longest and hottest streak on record.

So far, 2016 has seen the hottest spring season, culminating in the hottest May, federal climate researchers said.

NOAA climate models show a 50 percent greater chance that Ohio and our Great Lakes region will have well-above-average temps through the summer.

That’s important not only for comfort levels, but because what it can mean for crops, lawns, and water supply. A recently map drafted by the NOAA showed moderate drought affecting eastern Ohio, creeping as far west as Lorain County.

That means this year is on track to shatter the heat record set in 2015, which in turn broke the warmth record set in 2014.

Scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies said 2015 is the record-holder based not only on government data but on independent analyses with 94 percent certainty.

“Climate change is the challenge of our generation, and NASA’s vital work on this important issue affects every person on Earth,” said NASA administrator Charles Bolden, adding, “Now is the time to act on climate.”

What’s causing the heat?

Last year, El Nino did the trick. It’s an ocean-warming effect in the Pacific that can vastly affect areas of the planet.

That added to the heart, but scientists say the long-term culprit is rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere that continue to blanket in more warmth from sunlight. Those levels in May passed 400 parts per million at the South Pole. The NOAA said that’s the last, most remote place on the planet to hit the mark.

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.

By Jason Hawk