2011: The 9th hottest year on record

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
Jan. 20 2012 10:34 AM

2011: The 9th hottest year on record

If anyone tells you the Earth isn't warming up...

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

Advertisement

... tell them they're full of it.

2011 was the ninth hottest year on record, and those records go back 130 years.

And then they might say, well, sure, but that could be coincidence. Then you look them straight in the eye, and you say:

Nine of the ten hottest years on record have been since 2000.

The map above shows changes from average (where the average is from 1951 to 1980). You see clearly that temperatures over land have increased almost universally. Most of the ocean temperatures have gone up as well; the one big cooler region in the eastern Pacific is due to the La Niña last year, so it's a temporary effect. Even with La Niña dropping temperatures, the overall effect is an increase in temperature. I'll note that sunspot numbers were low last year as well, which (if anything) should result in a (very) slight cooling effect too.

Climate change deniers will gnash and froth -- I expect the comments to this post to reflect that, as they always do -- but the bottom line is this. The Earth is getting hotter. Human beings are at least partly to blame, and the evidence has piled up that we are mostly to blame. Not the Sun, not cosmic rays, not orbital oscillations. Humans.

As I've said before, here are the facts:

The Earth is warming up. The rate of warming has increased in the past century or so. This corresponds to the time of the Industrial Revolution, when we started dumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases warm the planet (hence the name) -- if they didn't we'd have an average temperature below the freezing point of water. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas which is dumped into the atmosphere by humans to the tune of 30 billion tons per year, 100 times the amount from volcanoes. And finally, approximately 97% of climatologists who actually study climate agree that global warming is real, and caused by humans.

Given the vast amount of evidence supporting all this, denying it is fantasy. Again, that won't stop deniers: they will obfuscate, blow smoke, and nitpick details to make them seem important. But what they're doing is fiddling while Earth burns.



Related posts:


TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Right to Run

If you can vote, you should be able to run for public office—any office.

I Went Hunting for Ebola in 2004. (What I Found Was Bats.)

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Ben Bradlee’s Fascinating Relationship With JFK

Culturebox

The Simpsons World App Is Finally Here

I feel like a kid in some kind of store.

Technology

Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

Move Aside, Oxford Comma, the New Battle Is Over Single or Double Quotes

On the Internet, Men Are Called Names. Women Are Stalked and Harassed.

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 22 2014 11:57 AM Why Wasn't the WHO Ready for Ebola?
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 21 2014 5:57 PM Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors
  Life
Atlas Obscura
Oct. 22 2014 12:03 PM Colonia Fara: An Italian Summer Camp for Happy Little Fascists
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 10:00 AM On the Internet, Men Are Called Names. Women Are Stalked and Sexually Harassed.
  Slate Plus
Working
Oct. 22 2014 6:00 AM Why It’s OK to Ask People What They Do David Plotz talks to two junior staffers about the lessons of Working.
  Arts
Behold
Oct. 22 2014 11:04 AM Do All U.S. Presidents Look the Same? What About Japan’s Prime Ministers?
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 22 2014 10:29 AM Apple TV Could Still Work Here’s how Apple can fix its living-room product.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 22 2014 12:30 PM Update: Sunspot 2192's X-Class Flare
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.