Insurance and Climate Change column

American Meteorological Society Report Confirms 2016 Was Warmest Year on Record

By | August 10, 2017

A new State of the Climate report released today by the American Meteorological Society has confirmed that 2016 surpassed 2015 as the warmest year in 137 years of recordkeeping.

The report was compiled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Center for Weather and Climate at the National Centers for Environmental Information. It’s based on contributions from scientists from around the world, according to those who compiled the report.

The report provides updates on global climate indicators, notable weather events, and other data from environmental monitoring stations and instruments.

“Surface temperature and carbon dioxide concentration, two of the more publicly recognized indicators of global-scale climate change, set new highs during 2016, as did several surface and near-surface indicators and essential climate variables,” the report states. “Notably, the increase in CO2 concentration was the largest in the nearly six-decade observational record.”

Highlights of the report include:

  • The global surface temperature was the highest on record.
  • The global lower tropospheric temperature was the highest on record.
  • Sea surface temperatures were the highest on record.
  • The global sea level was the highest on record.

The report also shows that greenhouse gases were the highest on record.

“The annual global average carbon dioxide concentration at Earth’s surface surpassed 400 ppm (402.9 ± 0.1 ppm) for the first time in the modern atmospheric measurement record and in ice core records dating back as far as 800000 years,” the report states.


According to a paper published this week by University of Florida researchers, sea level rises in the Southeast occurred at a much faster rate than the rest of the world.

The paper focuses on the region north of Cape Hatteras, which has been labeled as a “hot spot,” where the acceleration of sea level rise over the past several decades exceeds that of global mean sea level. The paper in particular looks at sea level rise in the area from 2011 to 2015.

The rapid rise in the area has been attributed to processes that include longshore wind forcing, weakening of the Gulf Stream associated with decreased Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, what’s known as an inverse barometer effect and variability.

Scientists also proposed a new “mechanism” to explain the sea level rise in this area that could benefit flood-watchers, according to a New York Times story published on Wednesday.

“This new mechanism, if it holds up to scientific scrutiny, might ultimately give researchers the ability to predict tidal flooding more accurately and warn communities what to expect months in advance,” the story states.

Cape Hatteras is geographically significant because the Gulf Stream, which runs close to the coast for hundreds of miles, veers off into the deeper ocean when it passes Cape Hatteras.

“That had led scientists to suggest that changes in the Gulf Stream might account for some of the rapid variations in sea level,” the NYT article states. “But now, three University of Florida scientists — Dr. Dutton, Arnoldo Valle- Levinson, and Jonathan B. Martin — suggest that the Gulf Stream was not the primary culprit in the 2011 to 2015 rise.”

However, the scientists discovered that two large atmospheric patterns most likely accounted for the hot spot. Those were the El Niño cycle and the North Atlantic Oscillation.

“The paper suggests that the two sometimes interact in a way that causes water to pile up,” the story states. “The work confirms and extends two earlier papers, including one published in 2015 by a group led by Britain’s National Oceanography Center in Liverpool.”


The New York Times was on the climate beat this week.

Earlier in the week it reported on a “sweeping federal climate change report” that awaits Trump administration approval. The report shows that the average temperature in the U.S. has risen rapidly since 1980 and that recent decades have been the warmest of the past 1,500 years.

“The draft report by scientists from 13 federal agencies concludes that Americans are feeling the effects of climate change right now,” the NYT story states. “It directly contradicts claims by President Trump and members of his cabinet who say that the human contribution to climate change is uncertain, and that the ability to predict the effects is limited.”

The report’s authors state that “many lines of evidence” show human activities are responsible for the recent observed changes in the climate.

“The report concludes that even if humans immediately stopped emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the world would still feel at least an additional 0.50 degrees Fahrenheit (0.30 degrees Celsius) of warming over this century compared with today,” the NYT story states. “The projected actual rise, scientists say, will be as much as 2 degrees Celsius.”

‘Weather Extremes’

The Guardian is reporting that the staff at the U.S Department of Agriculture are being told to avoid using the term “climate change” and to instead use “weather extremes.”

“A series of emails obtained by the Guardian between staff at the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), a USDA unit that oversees farmers’ land conservation, show that the incoming Trump administration has had a stark impact on the language used by some federal employees around climate change,” the Guardian story states.

Evidently also the term “reduce greenhouse gases” is being done away with in favor of “build soil organic matter, increase nutrient use efficiency,” and “sequester carbon” is being replaced by “build soil organic matter.”

The emails with instructions on word and terminology usage come from Bianca Moebius-Clune, director of soil health.

The emails are dated Feb. 16. In them, Moebius-Clune writes that “we won’t change the modeling, just how we talk about it – there are a lot of benefits to putting carbon back in the sail [sic], climate mitigation is just one of them,” according to the Guardian story.

“In contrast to these newly contentious climate terms, Moebius-Clune wrote that references to economic growth, emerging business opportunities in the rural US, agro-tourism and ‘improved aesthetics’ should be ‘tolerated if not appreciated by all,'” the story states.

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