Jeff Severinghaus of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography said if this is Earth’s annual checkup, “the doctor is saying ‘you are gravely ill.”
Severinghaus was referring to the NOAA report just released, titled ‘State of the Climate.’
Let’s see if these excerpts from that report describe a planet that is ‘gravely ill.’
Carbon dioxide: “Using measurements taken worldwide, scientists estimated 2014 global average carbon dioxide concentration at 397.2 parts per million (ppm), an increase of 1.9 ppm over the 2013 global average.”
Temperatures: “Globally averaged surface temperature for 2014 was 0.27° -0.29° Celsius (0.49°-0.52°F) above the 1981–2010 average. Depending on the small differences among different data sets, 2014 was either the warmest or tied-for-warmest year since records began in the mid-to-late 1800s.”
Precipitation: “When taken as a whole, precipitation over land was generally below average, while precipitation over the oceans was above average. … Southeastern North America, eastern Europe, northeastern South America, central Africa, much of southeast Asia, and eastern Australia were drier than usual. Compared to 2013, however, dry conditions over western North America, northern Eurasia, and southern Africa became less extreme. Above-average precipitation fell over southern Europe and central South America, with the exception of Brazil.”
Soil mosture: “While slightly wetter than 2013, the global average soil moisture in 2014 was near-normal.”
Sea level: “In 2014, global average sea level was 2.6 inches (67 mm) above the 1993 average, which is the highest yearly average in the satellite record (1993-present). Overall, sea level continues to rise at a rate of one-eighth of an inch (3.2 mm) per year.”
Fires: “Overall, total global fire emissions in 2014 were on par with the long-term average. Emissions were much higher than normal in North America (mostly Canada) and the Indonesian archipelago. While North America and Indonesia saw elevated fire emissions, lower than-average emissions were observed in South America and Africa due to a combination of lower tropical deforestation rates and land use changes.”
Glaciers: “In 2014, glaciers continued to shrink. Based on an analysis of more than three dozen reference glaciers with long-term monitoring, the 2014 BAMS State of the Climate reports that in 2014, glaciers experienced an average loss of 853 millimeters of water equivalent, meaning the equivalent depth of water (spread out over the entire glacier area) that would be produced from the amount of melted snow or ice. This loss was not quite as severe the loss from 2013 (887 millimeters), but it still counted among the larger losses recorded since 1980.”
Temperature Extremes: “In terms of both warm days and cool nights, cool conditions prevailed across large parts of the North America, especially the eastern half of the continent. Across much of the rest of the globe, though, 2014 conditions were unusually warm compared to 1961–1990.”
River Outflow: “Overall, however, there was a large decrease in the spring’s high-flow season compared to 2013. Most rivers showed lower than usual conditions except for a few rivers near the Mediterranean Sea such as the Danube. Asia experienced a considerable low-flow deficit in August. The Ganges–Brahmaputra, northern Indochina peninsula, Lena, and East Asia were in a low-flow state, while the Kolyma, Ob, and river systems in southwestern China were in a high-flow state.
North America, Africa, and Australia experienced an average year in terms of annual amount and seasonal variations of runoff, though the peak occurred one month earlier than the long-term average in Australia. Rivers in the northern part of North America such as the Yukon and the Mackenzie experienced high flow, while rivers in the southern part of North America (including the Mississippi and the Colorado) and in Africa (the Congo and the Nile) had lower flow than their long-term average.
The Fifth Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that over the long term, runoff and river discharge generally have generally increased at high latitudes, with some exceptions. However, the report concluded, “no long term trend in discharge was reported for the world’s major rivers on a global scale.”
In all honesty, does that sound like a patient who is ‘gravely ill?’
2014 was also a year of increasing vegetation cover over the world’s surface, record harvests, declining mortality and morbidity, the further retreat of malaria, polio and other vector born diseases, an increase in global GDP and per capita income, low levels of storms and storm intensity.
Maybe we should be asking a few pointed questions about our doctor…