2007 Second Warmest Year On Record
WASHINGTON, DC - "With the record for 2007 now complete, it is clear that temperatures around the world are continuing their upward climb", writes Frances Moore in a recent Earth Policy Institute release, "2007 Second Warmest Year on Record". "The global average in 2007 was 14.73 degrees Celsius (58.5 degrees Fahrenheit)-the second warmest year on record, only 0.03 degrees Celsius behind the 2005 maximum. Looking at the northern hemisphere alone, 2007 temperatures averaged 15.04 degrees Celsius (59.1 degrees Fahrenheit)-easily the hottest year in the northern half of the globe since the record began in 1880."
The year 2007 fits into a pattern of steadily increasing global temperature, with the eight warmest years on record all occurring in the last decade. According to the dataset maintained by NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, global average temperature rose from 14.02 degrees Celsius in the 1970s to an average of 14.64 degrees Celsius in the first eight years of the twenty-first century.
Although 2007 did not post a new record high, the year stands out as being extremely warm despite several factors that usually cool the planet. El Niño conditions tend to increase the global average temperature, and yet the second half of 2007 saw the opposite develop-a La Niña, which would usually depress global temperature. In addition, solar intensity in 2007 was slightly lower than average because the year was a minimum in the 11-year solar sunspot cycle. The combination of these factors would normally produce cooler temperatures, yet 2007 was still one of the warmest years in human history. This strongly suggests that the warming effect of increased greenhouse gas concentrations is now dwarfing other influences on the Earth's climate.
The impacts of the exceptional warmth of 2007 were seen around the world: summer sea-ice extent in the Arctic Ocean shrank dramatically to a new low, 23 percent below the previous record, while southeastern Europe suffered through temperatures as high as 45 degrees Celsius in a heat wave that killed up to 500 people. In Japan, thermometers in August reached 40.9 degrees Celsius, the highest temperature ever recorded in that country.
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While some areas baked under intensive heat or drought conditions, others were inundated by record amounts of rain. England and Wales experienced widespread flooding during the wettest May to July period since records began in 1766. In South Asia, some of the worst flooding in decades affected at least 25 million people and killed more than 2,500. Other countries that saw exceptional or record flooding in 2007 include China, Indonesia, Mexico, Uruguay, and fifteen countries across Africa. Intense rainfall events such as these will only become more common in the future, as climate models show that warmer temperatures will cause a greater share of total precipitation to fall in extreme events, producing both more drought and more flooding.
In 2007, the IPCC reported that unabated greenhouse gas emissions would result in a warming of 1.1 to 6.4 degrees Celsius in the twenty-first century. To put this in perspective, temperatures over the last 100 years rose by a comparably small 0.74 degrees Celsius, and yet this appears to have already contributed to trends of more heat waves, longer and more intense droughts, higher sea level, more frequent heavy rain events, and stronger hurricanes. Future warming on the scale projected by the IPCC will bring with it a multitude of outcomes that can only be described as disastrous.
Our future now depends on what we do to limit warming by moving away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy and energy-efficient technologies.