Last year was the second hottest year ever recorded, according to a new global surface temperature analysis released by NASA on Thursday. 2017 ranked second after 2016, and marks the perpetuation of the long-term warming trend afflicting the planet.
The dip in 2017’s temperatures compared to the previous year was likely due to the absence of El Niño, whose impact in the Pacific raised overall warming in 2015 through the first third of 2016. NASA’s report highlights that if the effects of El Niño were statistically removed, then 2017 would have been the warmest year recorded. Last year’s warming trends were the strongest in the Arctic regions, where there is a continued eradication of sea ice.
“Despite colder than average temperatures in any one part of the world, temperatures over the planet as a whole continue the rapid warming trend we’ve seen over the last 40 years,” Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, explained in the statement.
According to this new analysis, Earth’s average surface temperature rose by an estimate of 2 degrees Fahrenheit over the last 100 years, which makes 2017 the third consecutive year that global temperatures were more than 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-Industrial Revolution levels. Scientists believe that if the world warms by more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) then the planet will cross a tipping point of irreversible damage.
This NASA report also coincides with a recently released report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which used a different analytical method to rank 2017 as the third hottest year, behind 2016 and 2015. NASA explains that the “minor difference” is because the agencies use different means to analyze global temperatures, but emphasize the more grave takeaway of both analyses remains the same: Earth’s warmest years on record have occurred since 2010.
NASA came to its conclusion by analyzing surface temperature measurements gathered by 6,300 weather stations, measurements from Antarctic research stations, and weather observations gathered from ship and buoy-based readings.
In tweets posted after the report was published, NASA asserted that “rising global temperature are already creating impacts around the world” listing long, intense fire seasons and melting ice caps as indicative of massive change. The current warming trend is of a unique significance compared to the planet’s historical cycles of glacial advance and retreat because the unprecedented changes we are seeing right now are a result of human activity.