Report: Climate changing more rapidly than at any point on record

glacial retreatGoing, going … As a whole, the world’s glaciers—such as Italy’s Careser Glacier, seen here in August 1933 (top) and August 2012 (bottom)—have lost ice for the last 23 years in a row. IMAGES: COURTESY OF LUCA CARTURAN/UNIVERSITY OF PADOVA

A new look at the “vital signs” of Earth’s climate reveals a stark picture of declining health. As global temperatures rise, so do sea level and the amount of heat trapped in the ocean’s upper layers. Meanwhile, mountain glaciers and Arctic sea ice are melting away beneath an atmosphere where concentrations of three key planet-warming greenhouse gases continue to rise.

“Data show that the climate is changing more rapidly now than it has at any time in the historical record,” says Thomas Karl, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, North Carolina. “The numbers speak for themselves.”

The numbers speak pretty loudly, too. Depending on which data set scientists look at, 2013 falls somewhere between the second warmest and sixth warmest year since record keeping began in 1880. Global sea level reached a new record high last year—about 3.8 centimeters (1.5 inches) above the average measured by satellites between 1993 and 2010. Overall, sea level is rising about 3 millimeters (one-eighth of an inch) each year. And for the 23rd straight year, mountain glaciers on the whole lost more ice than they gained, says Jessica Blunden of ERT Inc., who works with Karl at the climate monitoring agency in Asheville. “Changes in these [glaciers] are visible and obvious signs of climate change,” Blunden says.

The new study, State of the Climate in 2013, was released online today in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. The detailed, peer-reviewed analysis was based on data from environmental monitoring stations on land, sea, and ice and from sensors on satellites and planes. More than 400 scientists from 57 countries contributed to the report. (Previous State of the Climate reports, issued annually since 1991, can be found here.)

Continue reading the article by Sid Perkins here.



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