That's the diagnosis of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the American Meteorological Society, which released their annual State of the Climate report Thursday. NOAA said the report took into account tens of thousands of measurements from independent data sets, reflecting global climate indicators, notable weather events, and measurements of greenhouse gas emissions, sea level, ocean salinity, snow cover and sea ice.
It is "extremely unlikely" 2014, 2015 and 2016 would have been the warmest consecutive years on record without the influence of human-caused climate change, according to the authors of a new study.
The latest federal report on the Earth's warming climate doesn't mince words about the disturbing trends, man's contributions or the dangers that millions across the globe already face, especially in low-lying coastal areas in Florida and elsewhere.
But as humanity continues to rely on fossil fuels for energy, unprecedented levels of greenhouse gases are polluting the atmosphere, acting like a blanket to capture heat around the Earth, the report emphasised. That's not only a record in modern observations, but more than has been found in ice cores dating back 800,000 years. Both land and sea surface temperatures set new highs.
Scientists are now trying to characterize the relationship between yearly record high temperatures and human-caused global warming. The warming represented a 3.5°C increase in temperature since recordkeeping began in 1900. One-third of the sea level rise since 1880 has occurred since 1990, and coastal communities from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic are at increasing risk of routine flooding, saltwater intrusion into the drinking water supply and the collapse of roads, utilities and other vital infrastructure. Average sea surface temperatures across the Arctic Ocean during August in ice-free regions ranged from near normal in some regions to around 13° to 14°F (7° to 8°C) above average in the Chukchi Sea and eastern Baffin Bay off the west coast of Greenland, and up to 20°F (11°C) above average in the Barents Sea. On September 10, the Arctic sea ice annual minimum extent tied with 2007 for the second lowest value on record, at 1.60 million square miles, 33 percent smaller than average. When anthropogenic warming is considered, the likelihood of three consecutive record-breaking years happening any time since 2000 rises to as high as 50 percent, according to the new study. Globally, temperatures were up nearly a full degree over the average measured from 1981 to 2010.
"Drought in 2016 was among the most extensive in the post-1950 record", said the report.
In 2016, meteorologists recorded 93 named tropical storms worldwide - above the 1981 to 2010 average of 82, but fewer than the 101 storms in 2015.