WASHINGTON (AP) - A new massive federal study says the world in 2012
sweltered with continued signs of climate change. Rising sea levels, snow
melt, heat buildup in the oceans, and melting Arctic sea ice and Greenland
ice sheets, all broke or nearly broke records, but temperatures only sneaked
into the top 10.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Tuesday issued a
peer-reviewed 260-page report, which agency chief Kathryn Sullivan calls its
annual “checking on the pulse of the planet.” The report, written by 384
scientists around the world, compiles data already released, but it puts
them in context of what’s been happening to Earth over decades.
“It’s critically important to compile a big picture,” National Climatic Data
Center director Tom Karl says. “The signs that we see are of a warming
Sullivan says what is noticeable “are remarkable changes in key climate
indicators,” mentioning dramatic spikes in ocean heat content, a record melt
of Arctic sea ice in the summer, and whopping temporary melts of ice in most
of Greenland last year. The data also shows a record-high sea level.
The most noticeable and startling changes seen were in the Arctic, says
report co-editor Deke Arndt, climate monitoring chief at the data center.
Breaking records in the Arctic is so common that it is becoming the new
normal, says study co-author Jackie Richter-Menge of the U. S. Army Corps of
Engineers’ Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory in Hanover, N.H.
Karl says when looked at together, all the indicators show a climate that is
changing over the decades. Individually, however, the story isn’t as simple.
Karl says surface temperatures haven’t risen in the last 10 years, but he
notes that is only a blip in time due to natural variability. When looking
at more scientifically meaningful time frames of 30 years, 50 years and more
than 100 years, temperatures are rising quite a bit, Karl said. Since
records have been kept in 1880, all 10 of the warmest years ever have been
in the past 15 years, NOAA records show.
Depending on which of four independent analyses are used, 2012 ranked the
eighth or ninth warmest year on record, the report says. Last year was
warmer than every year in the previous century, except for 1998 when a
record El Nino spiked temperatures globally. NOAA ranks 2010 as the warmest
year on record.
They don’t have to be records every year, Karl says.
Overall the climate indicators “are all singing the same song that we live
in a warming world,” Arndt says. “Some indicators take a few years off from
their increase. The system is telling us in more than one place we’re seeing
While the report purposely doesn’t address why the world is warming, “the
causes are primarily greenhouse gases, the burning of fossil fuels,” Arndt
The study is being published in a special edition of the Bulletin of the
American Meteorological Society.
The Climate of 2012 report: