Last year was the second-hottest year on record for the United States (after 2012), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported Monday. And only 2011 saw more billion-dollar weather disasters.
But what made 2016 unusual was just how widespread the warming was. “The breadth of the 2016 warmth is unparalleled in the nation’s climate history,” explained NOAA. “No other year had as many states breaking or close to breaking their warmest annual average temperature.”
Breadth of warming is exactly the kind of signature you’d expect from human-caused climate change, which is driving more and more record temperatures over a larger and larger area. Indeed, as ThinkProgress has reported, 2016 was the hottest year on record globally, crushing the previous record, 2015, which itself crushed the previous record, 2014.
“2016 was an exclamation point, another record warm year in a record warm decade filled with unprecedented, increasingly devastating extreme weather events,” leading climatologist Michael Mann said via email. “It was Mother Nature’s warning to the climate change-denying, incoming Trump administration.”
Last year also saw the warmest average low temperature in U.S. history. This is another fingerprint of carbon pollution. Warmer nighttime temperatures are inherently linked to climate change, studies have shown.
NOAA notes that “depending on where you live, 2016 was either parched, soggy — or both.”
Global warming comes with real consequences. Last year saw 15 different billion-dollar weather/climate disasters, the second-most in U.S. history after 2011.
California’s current five-year drought, the harshest in 1,200 years, continued during 2016. NOAA reports that “some 100+ million trees have perished and are a public safety hazard.” Studies show climate change made the drought more severe.
Only weeks after the unprecedented three-day August deluge that dumped one to two feet of water on parts of Louisiana, a study directly linked it to global warming. One researcher explained, “The odds of an event like this have increased over the past 100 years by at least 40 percent — and most likely a doubling.”
Finally, Munich Re, a top reinsurer, recently released analysis of 2016’s global natural disasters. “A look at the weather-related catastrophes of 2016 shows the potential effects of unchecked climate change,” said Peter Höppe, Head of Munich Re’s Geo Risks Research Unit. “But there are now many indications that certain events — such as persistent weather systems or storms bringing torrential rain and hail — are more likely to occur in certain regions as a result of climate change.”