2016: Global Temperatures Continue to Be High
2016 is now, according to initial figures, another record warm year. The year was one of three that have consistently been much warmer than the long term trend. Scientists from the Met Office Hadley Centre and the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit produce the HadCRUT4 data set, which is used to estimate global temperature.
Global temperature long-term records illustrate that 2016 was 0.77°C (±0.1 °C) above the long-term (1961-1990) average which is a record since at least 1850. If the temperature is compared with the 1850 to 1900 baseline, then 2016 average global temperature anomaly was around 1.1°C above that level. The baseline from 1850 to 1900 is indicative of pre-industrial temperatures. The 2015 global temperature was 0.76°C (±0.1 °C) above the long-term (1961-1990) average. Both 2015 and 2016 are remarkable years in terms of how much they stand out from the long-term average temperature average range. The 2016 temperature was influenced by a particularly strong El Niño event. El Nino is a fluctuation in temperatures due to naturally occurring sea surface temperature oscillations in the Pacific region. It has contributed about 0.2°C to the annual average for 2016.
The Met Office had predicted in its 2016 forecast, which was issued at the end of 2015, that 2016 would be one of the warmest years in the record. This prediction is now confirmed to be true based upon the HadCRUT4 data set which is a set of data used to estimate global temperature. Further information can be found on the Met Office web site.
NOAA, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, noted the influence of the El Nino causing 2016 to begin “..with a bang. For eight consecutive months, January to August, the globe experienced record warm heat.” NOAA’s National Center for Environmental Information (NCEI) described the average surface temperatures as the highest since records began in 1880. The link here has an info-graphic highlighting some temperature anomalies from around the globe. It includes some startling record high temperatures.
Larsen C Ice Shelf: Biggest Ever Iceberg?
Project MIDAS, a UK-based Antarctic research project, is investigating the effects of a warming climate on the Larsen C ice shelf. This article highlights some of their research which can be found on their web site. The Larsen C ice shelf is moving towards the ocean and the research is recording the state of the ice using radar and other techniques. In places the ice is 450 metres thick. The research has focused on a rift that has developed and started to grow. This is important as the Larsen B ice shelf saw a similar rift grow and develop rapidly in 2002. The Larsen B ice shelf splintered and collapsed very rapidly, in just over one month. NASA has images of the abrupt breakup of the ice sheet on their World of Change web site. A large area of ice shelf, 3,250 square kilometres or 1,250 square miles, disintegrated and allowed glaciers to move forwards. The glaciers have subsequently accelerated and thinned. Another ice shelf, Larsen A, has also lost much area in a similar retreat: it lost about 1,500 square kilometres of ice during an abrupt event in January 1995.
A huge rift has opened on the Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf. The crack has appeared in the floating ice shelf which is situated on the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula. It has now grown in length to over 170 kilometres. The crack may lead to a huge iceberg forming although when this will happen remains unclear as it is very difficult to predict these events. When the ice calves off, the Larsen C Ice Shelf will lose more than 10% of its area. This will leave the most retreated ice front ever recorded and will change the landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula.
Monitoring of the Larsen C ice shelf is being undertaken remotely by the European Sentinel-1 satellite. It has the ability to continually view the rift even through cloud using radar technology. Images from the satellite enable monitoring to be recorded and this has shown a relatively rapid growth in the rift.
Whilst ice shelves that are floating are not going to affect global sea levels, the concern is that any land based glaciers that feed into the ice shelf will begin to speed up and disintegrate potentially melting into the sea. This may affect the sea level depending upon the volume of ice that subsequently melts.
If the area of the Larsen C ice shelf does break off it represents removal of 9-12% of the ice shelf area and this will leave the ice front at its most retreated position ever recorded. There has been increased activity in the rift since 2010 with it growing in length and width in the tip position.
Chile’s Wildfire Destroys Town: Santa Olga
Chile has been experiencing some major wildfires that can be viewed from space. The main reason for the fire is drought, high temperatures and strong winds. Some fires may have been started deliberately though. Santa Olga, a town of around 6,000 people has been destroyed according to this BBC news article. These are the worst wildfires in Chile’s modern history. Some images can be seen on the International Business Times news page.
There has been a state of emergency declared in some areas and the fires have spread around several areas near to Constitución which is on the coast. Smoke from the fires has covered Santiago, the capital city. The fires have consumed roughly 273,000 hectares (1,060 square miles) and killed several people. For the extent of some of the fires see the NASA Earth Observation satellite imagery.