Last year shattered 2014’s record to become the hottest year since reliable record-keeping began, two U.S. government science agencies announced Wednesday in yet another sign that the planet is heating up.
2015’s sharp spike in temperatures was aided by a strong El Nino weather pattern late in the year that caused ocean waters in the central Pacific to heat up. But the unusual warming started early and steadily gained strength in a year in which ten of 12 months set all-time records, scientists said. The new figures, based on separate sets of records kept by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, could fuel debate over climate change in an election year in which the two main political parties remain divided over what to do about global warming and, indeed, whether it exists. “2015 was by far the record year in all of the temperature datasets that are based on the instrumental and surface data,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies at NASA, which made the announcement jointly with NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “It really underlines the fact that the planet really is still warming, there is no change in the long term global warming rate, and we know why that is,” he said. NASA reported that 2015 was officially 0.23 degrees Fahrenheit (0.13 degrees Celsius) hotter than 2014, the prior record year, a sharp increase for a global temperature record in which annual variation is normally measured in the hundredths of a degree. NOAA’s figures showed slightly greater warming, of about 0.29 degrees Fahrenheit (0.16 degrees C) hotter than 2014….