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Dozens of climate records broken in 2015, scientists say

Published 02/08/2016

The records include the highest amount of heat energy absorbed by the oceans and the lowest groundwater storage levels globally
The records include the highest amount of heat energy absorbed by the oceans and the lowest groundwater storage levels globally

Dozens of climate records were broken last year, according to a report nicknamed the annual physical for the planet.

Soon after 2015 ended, it was proclaimed the hottest on record - and the new report shows the broad extent of other records and near-records set last year.

Those include record heat energy absorbed by the oceans and the lowest groundwater storage levels globally, according to the research from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the US.

"I think the time to call the doctor was years ago," NOAA climate monitoring chief Deke Arndt, co-editor of the report, said in an email. "We are awash in multiple symptoms."

The 2015 State Of The Climate report examined 50 different aspects of climate, including dramatic melting of Arctic sea ice and glaciers worldwide.

A dozen different nations set hottest year records, including Russia and China.

South Africa had the hottest temperature ever recorded in the month of October, at 48.4C (119.1F).

"There is really only one word for this parade of shattered climate records: grim," said Georgia Tech climate scientist Kim Cobb.

Ms Cobb was not part of the report, but called it "exhaustive and thorough".

Scientists also said the turbo-charged climate affected walrus and penguin populations and played a role in dangerous algae blooms, such as one off the Pacific Northwest coast.

They added that there were brutal heat waves all over the world, with ones in India and Pakistan killing thousands of people.

Much of the intense record-breaking and record-flirting weather was because of a combination of a natural El Nino - the periodic warming of parts of the Pacific that changes weather globally - and ever increasing man-made global warming.

"This impacts people. This is real life," said NOAA climate scientist Jessica Blunden, co-editor of the report published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society on Tuesday.

Oklahoma University meteorology professor Jason Furtado said in an email that the report, which he was not part of, illustrates the combined power of nature and humans on Earth's climate: "It was like injecting an already amped-up climate system with a dose of (natural) steroids."

Around 450 scientists from around the world helped write the report and in it, the NOAA highlighted one of the lesser-known measurements, ocean heat content.

Around 93% of the heat energy trapped by greenhouse gases - such as carbon dioxide from the burning of coal, oil and gas - goes directly into the ocean, the report said. And ocean heat content hit record levels both near the surface and deep.

NOAA oceanographer Gregory C Johnson, a study co-author, said the oceans are storing more heat energy because of man-made climate change with an extra El Nino spike.

AP

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