LONDON –– Global temperatures in 2015 were the warmest on record, according to data published by meteorologists in Britain and the United States.
The Met Office figures show that 2015 was 0.75C warmer than the long-term average between 1961 and 1990.
American data suggests that 2015 “shattered” the temperature record by the widest margin ever recorded.
Experts say the record temperatures were due to a combination of El Niño and human-induced warming.
Data produced by the American space agency (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) show that 2015 “shattered” the previous record set in 2014 by 0.13ºC.
According to NOAA, the increase in temperature over land and ocean surfaces between 2014 and 2015 was the largest margin by which the record has been broken.
The fact that 2015 was going to break records had been heavily trailed by research agencies all over the world.
The Met Office predicted that 2015 would be between 0.52 and 0.76 above the long-term average. The actual temperature came in near the top end of that forecast.
“Looking ahead, 2016 looks like it’s also going to be another warm year and that’s associated with the fact that human influence on the climate through greenhouse gas emissions has pushed us into new territory,” said Dr Peter Stott from the British meteorological organization’s Hadley Research Centre.
“We’re much warmer than we were and then we’ve got the continuing effects of El Niño in the Pacific Ocean as well.”
American experts agreed that the key reasons for 2015’s record figures were a long-term trend of warming, mainly caused by the burning of fossil fuels, combined with the El Niño weather event.
“The reason that 2015 has not just broken the record but has blown past it is because we are seeing a long-term temperature trend interact with the strongest El Niño of our generation,” said Professor Katharine Hayhoe, director of the climate science centre at Texas Tech University.
“What we have this year is the long-term rate of change with an extra spike of El Niño on top,” she told BBC News.
The year 2015 also was the first full one to break the 1ºC barrier above pre-industrial levels –– a key benchmark for warming. Politicians from all over the world meeting in Paris last December promised to keep the global rise in temperatures “well below two degrees”, in a bid to avoid dangerous climate change.
Much of the warming has happened in the past 35 years, says NASA, with 15 of the 16 warmest years on record occurring since 2001.
According to NOAA, 2015 is the fourth time an annual global temperature has been set this century. 2015 also saw record high temperatures for ten months, with five months showing the highest departure from the average of any month on record.
And Dr Thomas Karl, who directs the administration’s National Centres For Environmental Information, said current conditions would likely lead to 2016 being as warm as –– if not warmer than –– 2015.
“In December and recent months in the autumn, records were broken by a substantial margin –– much stronger than what we had seen earlier in the year. And it’s going to be very difficult for that not to continue into at least the first part of next year because, in particular, the ocean temperatures are so warm,” Karl explained.