August 7, 2013
Global Warming Not Slowing, Says Annual NOAA Report
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Last year was one of the hottest twelve months on record, according to a new report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that analyzed global temperatures and climate trends.
The US government agency's report was assembled by over 380 scientists from 52 countries. In addition to analyzing temperature data, the annual report also gave the status of other global climate indicators and significant weather events, using data collected by monitoring stations from around the world.
"Many of the events that made 2012 such an interesting year are part of the long-term trends we see in a changing and varying climate - carbon levels are climbing, sea levels are rising, Arctic sea ice is melting, and our planet as a whole is becoming a warmer place," said acting NOAA Administrator Kathryn D. Sullivan.
"This annual report is well-researched, well-respected, and well-used; it is a superb example of the timely, actionable climate information that people need from NOAA to help prepare for extremes in our ever-changing environment."
According to the report, greenhouse gas emissions continued to rise in 2012, a fact supported by readings taken earlier this year at Hawaii's Mauna Loa Observatory that showed atmospheric carbon dioxide has continued rising to surpass 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time since records have been taken. This number was subsequently revised to reflect a minor miscalculation, putting the real number instead at 399.89 ppm.
Experts noted that some of the report's most striking details were about changing Arctic conditions. For instance, Greenland's ice sheet was found to have melted 97 percent - four times greater than the average melt from 1981 to 2010. In general, sea ice around the North Pole also "shrank to its smallest 'summer minimum' extent since satellite records began 34 years ago," the report said.
The NOAA researchers also found that the temperature of permafrost reached "record-high values" in northern Alaska. Climatologists have warned that melting permafrost could release additional carbon into the atmosphere, which it has been sequestering for millennia. This type of climate feedback loop would only accelerate global warming, according to experts.
Sullivan told the Los Angeles Time that she hoped her agency's annual report would allow private business and policymakers to make educated decisions about resource allocation and emergency preparedness.
"Many of the planning models for infrastructure rely on the future being statistically a lot like the past, and certainly the data should lead one to question if that will be so," Sullivan said.
"Extreme weather events are more frequent and more intense than what we have presumed."
While climate change skeptics point out that global temperatures have been leveling off in recent years, John P. Abraham, professor of thermal sciences at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, told the LA Times that the new NOAA report revealed systemic changes to Earth's overall climate.
"The latest 'State of the Climate' report shows that the Earth continues to heat, the atmosphere is heating, the worldwide ice loss continues, and other symptoms of our warming planet march forward, without cessation," Abraham said. "A lot of people claim that global warming has magically stopped, but the facts, and the Earth, continue to disagree."