Scientists have confirmed that 2015 was the hottest year yet recorded, smashing the previous record set in 2014.
During 2015, the average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces surpassed the previous record, set last year, by 0.16°C – making it the largest margin yet.
According to Dr Andy Hogg, an associate professor in Geophysical Fluid Dynamics at Australian National University (ANU), the big surprise with this year’s data isn’t that it’s the warmest year ever, but that there is such a drastic jump in temperatures.
“In the decade preceding 2013, warming of surface air temperature was relatively slow, but this can be accounted for by the fact that the heat in the earth system was being taken up by the ocean, mostly in the tropical Pacific,” says Dr Hogg.
Last year was also the fourth time a global temperature record was set since 2000. Every month except January and April was the hottest yet.
This record warmth was spread over most of the planet, with only small pockets of cooler temperatures seen off the tip of South America and in the North Atlantic.
Australia certainly wasn’t immune to the rising temperatures, notes Dr Sophie Lewis from the ANU Research School Of Earth Sciences.
“Extreme global temperatures also reflect what we experienced in Australia in 2015. Since 2002, Australia has seen eight of its ten hottest years, with 2015 placing in the top five. We should be prepared for hot conditions to continue both globally and in Australia.”
Although a strong El Niño this year has contributed to warming, the bulk of the rise in temperatures can be attributed to human-induced climate change, according to Dr Geoff Carey, an Associate Professor at ANU’s Fenner School Of Environment and Society.
“Studies indicate that global warming has already been associated with more severe bushfire conditions across parts of Australia, and increased area burned in some regions,” says Dr Carey.
“The expected direct weather-related effects on bushfires suggest that, later this century, a warmer climate could result in more than a doubling of severe to catastrophic fire danger days and up to a 50 percent increase in area burned by bushfires.”
The United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization has also argued that the recent warming has surpassed "symbolic thresholds," just as world leaders agreed to aggressively target global warming when they met in Paris late last year.