Record-hot winter deals blow to Earth – February adds 5th month past 1951-1980 +1 degree climate limit, world almost past pre-industrial 1.5 degrees climate target

Record heat over Russia and eastern Europe in February 2016
Temperature anomalies for February 2016 of +5 degrees for Russia and eastern Europe. Indicative of an all record-breaking winter. Image via @MJVentrice

December (+1.11C – NASA GISS), January (+1.13C – NASA GISS) and February (+1.15 C – preliminary NOAA NCEP) broke record after record – and have dealt a combined blow that has brought Earth ‘the mildest winter’ and ‘the warmest season’ on record and carried it beyond even ‘climate average’ one degree temperature anomaly.

The mildest winter of course comes straight after Earth’s ‘hottest summer‘ – and forms an integral part of the cascade of climate records we forecasted in April 2014, which included the global heat record of 2015 (that will be surpassed by 2016) based on combining model forecasts of the then-developing Super El Niño with the underlying upward temperature trend.

Counting in thermal inertia of Earth’s climate system we still have our collective (& cumulative!) CO2 emissions since the late seventies to add to the temperature graph as ‘inevitable warming’ – which would comprise at least an additional 0.5 degrees. To bring the broadly agreed 1.5 degrees temperature target of the Paris COP21 climate summit in practice we now need to collectively abandon the concept of ’emissions scenarios’ and ’emissions pathways’ and carry the fossil free transition across its tipping point.

The ‘real’ (pre-industrial) 1.5 climate target implies ‘immediate’ phase out of fossil carbon energy – and implementation of negative emission options at a relevant scale

What is more, we need to additionally start thinking in terms of negative emissions. That is because the official UNFCCC climate targets (of course!) look at warming as compared to the relatively stable pre-industrial climate. Most meteorological institutions however keep updating their climate averages, therefore their baselines, using ever higher ‘climate average’ values (like NASA: 1951-1980, or KNMI: 1981-2010) – and that makes for distorted comparison, if you want to judge cumulative anthropogenic warming (although indeed emissions between say 1850-1950 seem almost negligible when compared to recent emission rises).

Do we need to stick to 1.5 degrees? Yes, we do. Here’s just one reason to convince you.

© Rolf Schuttenhelm |

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