Alarmed Scientists Describe February’s “Astronomical” Increase in Global Heat as “Out of a Sci-Fi Movie”

Sunday, March 20, 2016
(graphic: Universal International Pictures)

By Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer


WASHINGTON (AP) — Earth got so hot last month that federal scientists struggled to find words, describing temperatures as "astronomical," ''staggering" and "strange." They warned that the climate may have moved into a new and hotter neighborhood.


This was not just another of the drumbeat of 10 straight broken monthly global heat records, triggered by a super El Nino and man-made global warming. February 2016 obliterated old marks by such a margin that it was the most above-normal month since meteorologists started keeping track in 1880, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


The old record was set just last December and the last three months have been the most above-normal months on record, said NOAA climate scientist Jessica Blunden. And it's not just NOAA. NASA, which uses different statistical techniques, as well as a University of Alabama Huntsville team and the private Remote Sensing System team, which measure using satellites, also said February 2016 had the biggest departure from normal on record.


NOAA said Earth averaged 56.08 degrees (13.38 degrees Celsius) in February, 2.18 degrees (1.21 degrees Celsius) above average, beating the old record for February set in 2015 by nearly six-tenths of a degree (one-third of a degree Celsius). These were figures that had federal scientists grasping for superlatives.


"The departures are what we would consider astronomical," Blunden said. "It's on land. It's in the oceans. It's in the upper atmosphere. It's in the lower atmosphere. The Arctic had record low sea ice."


"Everything everywhere is a record this month, except Antarctica," Blunden said. "It's insane."


In the Arctic, where sea ice reached a record low for February, land temperatures averaged 8 degrees above normal (4.5 degrees Celsius), Blunden said. That's after January, when Arctic land temperatures were 10.4 degrees above normal (5.8 degrees Celsius).


Worldwide, February 2016 was warmer than about 125 of the last 136 Marches.


It was also the warmest winter — December through February — on record, beating the previous year's record by more than half a degree (0.29 degrees Celsius).


Georgia Tech climate scientist Kim Cobb said she normally doesn't concern herself much with the new high temperature records that are broken regularly.


"However," she added in a Thursday email, "when I look at the new February 2016 temperatures, I feel like I'm looking at something out of a sci-fi movie. In a way we are: it's like someone plucked a value off a graph from 2030 and stuck it on a graph of present temperatures. It is a portent of things to come, and it is sobering that such temperature extremes are already on our doorstep."


Scientists at NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information in Asheville, North Carolina, were astonished by the "staggering" numbers, said Deke Arndt, the centers' global monitoring chief.


"Usually these are monthly reminders that things are changing," Arndt said. "The last six months have been more than a reminder, it's been like a punch in the nose."


NASA's chief climate scientist Gavin Schmidt usually discounts the importance of individual record hot months, but said this month was different, calling it "obviously strange."


This was due to the long-term warming from heat-trapping gases and the powerful El Nino, so these types of records will continue for a few more months, but probably will not be a permanent situation, Schmidt said in an email.


But other were not so sure, including Arndt, who compared it to moving into a new hotter neighborhood.


"We are in a new era," Arndt said. "We have started a new piece of modern history for this climate."


Jason Furtado, a meteorology professor at the University of Oklahoma who wasn't part of any of the government teams, simply wrote in an email: "Welcome to the new normal."


To Learn More:

NASA Blames Manmade Climate Change as Earth Heat Record Hits Ninth Month in a Row (by Seth Borenstein, Associated Press)

Hottest September Since Recordkeeping began in 1880 (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov)


anonamouse 8 years ago
What do Himmler's race science, Lysenko's biology, and Borenstein's climate science have in common? Each was the result of a political reality (and lots of state funding). The truth is, with no input from humanity, the Earth's climate began warming 10,000 years ago, and it has warmed A LOT; the mile-thick ice sheet that partially covered North America is long gone. No one knows why. By AD 1000, without any help from CO2, it had become warmer than it is today, right now, even with our "record-breaking heat" (we infer this from the fact that humans did agriculture in places they can't currently farm, like Greenland). That's the Big Picture, no fossil fuels required. To return to the scary present, this winter past was a boon to the South --- cool and wet --- it filled drought-depleted reservoirs while failing to bring down the power lines (no ice storms). It was perfection, really. If this is record-breaking heat, a.k.a. "the end of the world," I think we can stop worrying, maybe even learn to love it. ... No doubt, global temperature "records" will continue to fall, and Mr Borenstein will continue to conflate statistical legerdemain with Reality, uncritically accepting adjusted data to frighten us: for we MUST be made to believe that a changing climate is OUR responsibility --- that is the political goal. ... But it's not our responsibility: People once thought the sun wouldn't rise without blood sacrifices; that is the psychological dynamic exploited by Borenstein et al to reach this political goal. Indeed, we MUST IGNORE the fear-mongering of climate alarmists for the sake of those (black Africans mostly) who otherwise are going to be sacrificed, quite literally, to the great god Climate Change(tm).

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