Warmer temperatures are the new normal
Hotter weather appears to be here to stay, El Nino or not. That's according to the U.N. weather agency. It warned that the Paris climate accord last year shouldn't give way to complacency about global warming.
The World Meteorological Organization issued its annual climate report following a record-hot 2015. It highlighted records already announced by different countries' weather agencies. The agency pointed out that 2015 was breaking records on the surface. It also broke records hundreds of meters deep in the ocean.
And the first two months of 2016 were even hotter. These months are so startling that they "have sent shockwaves around the climate science community." That's according to David Carlson of the World Climate Research Program.
Climate scientists blame record high temperatures last year and this year so far on a combination of a super-sized El Nino. It is a natural warming of parts of the Pacific that changes weather worldwide. Another factor is a long-term global warming trend from the burning of fossil fuels.
NASA said last month was 1.35 degrees Celsius (2.43 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than average. Of that, 0.8 degrees (1.44 degrees Fahrenheit) comes from the long-term warming. And 0.25 degrees (0.45 degrees Fahrenheit) comes from El Nino. The rest is from unexplained residual. This was calculated by climate scientist Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute in Germany and the University of New South Wales.
Even after the El Nino phenomenon abates in coming months, way above normal temperatures won't exactly go away, Carlson and others said.
"We're on a slope; sometimes the slope goes very steep, sometimes it's a little bit more shallow, but we're going upward," Carlson said in a news conference. "So the normal is going to be increases: It's going to be increased temperature, increased ocean heat content, loss of ice, we know all of these things."
Katharine Hayhoe is a Texas Tech climate scientist who wasn't part of the WMO team. But she agreed: "These records vividly illustrate the destructive power of an El Nino on climate change steroids."
The WMO predicts warmer weather accompanied by pockets of both drier and wetter conditions, depending on the region, around the world.
WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas told reporters in Geneva that many people believe the climate issue is "solved ... since we reached a nice agreement in Paris." But, he said, "we haven't changed our behavior yet."