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NASA Declares 2016 as the Hottest Year in History: What This Could Mean for Earth’s Future

Graph depicting the upward trend of average temperatures from 1881- 2016. Photo courtesy of NASA

Graph depicting the upward trend of average temperatures from 1881- 2016.
Photo courtesy of NASA

On January 18th, NASA declared that 2016 was the warmest year on record globally. This seems to have become a trend, being the third year in a row to break the record for average temperature.

While there is much controversy regarding the cause of the rising temperatures, NASA describes this phenomenon as “driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere.”

Specifically, the average global temperature was 58.68 degrees Fahrenheit. This marks about a two-degree increase from that of the late 1800s. While this may seem insignificant, NASA has previously expressed fear of what this upward trend in global temperatures means for the future of the planet.

Unlike the naysayers that feel that this two-degree increase is insignificant, NASA proposes that global warming will have very drastic effects on the planet. Just a few from their list are precipitation pattern changes, more droughts, rising sea levels, and intensified hurricanes. Specifically for the Northeast of the United States, NASA predicts heat waves and rising sea levels. Certain industries, such as agriculture and fisheries, are also expected to be compromised.

Many people question how such a miniscule increase has such drastic effects. It seems impossible that two degrees could wipe out all of Earth’s coral reefs by the year 2100. However, it is entirely possible, because this two-degree increase is simply an average. NASA has stated that the increase can mean “much more [of an increase] in some locations and at certain times.”

Dave Shimel, a supervisor of JPL’s Carbon Cycle and Ecosystems group, stated, “Most of temperature change may occur during a small fraction of the year, when it actually represents conditions that could be five or ten degrees warmer than pre-industrial temperatures.” This means that the Earth is not experiencing constant two-degrees above average temperatures. Instead, it is experiencing five or ten degrees above average temperatures for a few months at a time in a specific location. It is much easier to believe an increase of ten degrees for a few months of the year could wipe out the coral reefs than an increase of two degrees. This is what explains the drastic effects NASA predicts for the planet in the next century.

By Kaitlyn Brown’19, Social Media Chair

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