The 2015 global temperatures set fire to all previous records.
Yeah, yeah, we know you know that climate scientists at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration are in the middle of a broken record phase, announcing that each year is warmer than the past. (In fact, the top 10 warmest years have occurred since 1998.) Why should you care? Because it’s going to keep being this hot, and it’s part of an anthropogenic trend, contrary to what certain presidential candidates in spit-shined boots would want you to believe.
During a press conference on Wednesday, Gavin Schmidt, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, put it like this: “The bottom line, as you can see, is that 2015 is by far the warmest in records that we have put together.”
The official records go back to the 1880s, and given a baseline of 1951 to 1980, the global temperature increased by 1.57 degrees Fahrenheit. The only other time a year had so badly beaten the previous year’s record was in 1998, coming off a freaky-strong El Niño.
NASA and NOAA independently came to the same conclusion that 2015 was muy caliente on a record-breaking scale, using sensors that dot the globe, in weather stations, ships, and buoys. Almost everywhere they looked — Antarctica, Europe, North America — if the temperatures didn’t break records, it was close.
“The warmth was spread throughout the globe,” says Thomas Karl, NOAA’s director National Centers for Environmental Information.
It also means longer warm seasons: In 2015, 10 of 12 months were the hottest ever, with October, November, and December being particularly balmy. Sure, trick-or-treating in jorts is great, but the sea level increases, glacier melts, loss of polar ice, and shrinking biodiveristy will ultimately outweigh North American convenience.
Though we’re currently in El Niño conditions, which are associated with a raise in global temps, the weather anomaly didn’t influence the first three-quarters of 2015.
“The reason why this is such a warm year is the long-term underlying trend,” Schmidt says. “There’s no evidence that trend has paused, slowed, or is on hiatus.”
What this El Niño really stands to impact, if you’re in the mood for predictions, is next year. The odds that 2016 will be even warmer still, says Karl, are certainly in its favor.
Leprosy is an ancient disease, the oldest disease known to be associated with humans, with evidence of characteristic bone pitting and deformities found in burial sites in India as far back as 2000 B.C.
It’s thus only natural that many might think the disease is a relic of the past. My recent studies in a Brazilian state where the disease is prevalent shows that leprosy is closer to us than we might think, however. The disease is growing in armadillos. And while these animals are not exactly the cuddly type to which humans are drawn, armadillo-to-human contact is spreading. And, when the species do interact, armadillos are giving leprosy back.
On August 6, 1945, an Allied plane dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, creating a fireball 1,200 feet in diameter. Disaster rained down upon the city, killing an estimated 150,000 people and leveling both the biological and man-made landscape. Little was left standing, but somehow the ginkgo trees were able to weather one of the most destructive moments in human history.
It might seem counterintuitive that we don’t know who wrote one of the Beatles’ most famous songs, but a never-ending debate attributing it to either John Lennon or Paul McCartney has left us with an enduring mystery. Who actually wrote the melody of “In My Life,” the 23rd-greatest song of all time? Although we’ve spent decades pulling apart Beatles songs, even using A.I. to recreate them, so far we’ve only been able to guess. Now, a statistician at Harvard thinks he finally has an answer.
Enterprising Hollywood villains like Dr. Evil, Ernst Blofeld, and Dr. Claw have two things in common: They’re all rich, and they all own cats.
They also unexpectedly illustrate a new study showing that infection with a cat-borne, brain-controlling parasite is correlated with entrepreneurship. Toxoplasma gondii has been linked to schizophrenia, hallucinations, and Hawaii’s dead seals, but now it appears it might have an upside.
On the Indonesian island of Flores, there lives a group of people known as the Rampasasa pygmies. Their average height is about four feet seven inches, and their hamlet is very close to Liang Bua, a cave made famous by the 2003 discovery of a very small female skeleton roughly 80,000 years old. The skeleton has since been joined by 12 other members of the Homo floresiensis family, all discovered in the cave. The Rampasasa claim an ancestral link to the tiny early human species, attempting to cash in on the connection. It makes sense: They’re small too, and tourists are willing to pay to see a real-life “hobbit.” But a new study released Friday in Science threatens to put an end to the lucrative business.