Thu 28 Dec ‘17 12.00 GMT
Scientists say 2017 is set to be the third warmest year on record in the US as they look back on a year littered with stark signals of climate change.
The year-to-date average temperature across the contiguous US has been 2.6F above the 20th-century average, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa), placing it only behind 2012 and 2016 in terms of record warmth.
December may influence the overall 2017 ranking, but according to Jake Crouch, a climate scientist at Noaa: “We can say with confidence that the year will be in at least the top five,” for record warmth.
“It’s been another really warm year for the contiguous US,” Crouch said. “The last time we saw a year with below-average temperatures was 1996. So this will be the 21st consecutive year that’s above average. And even though it’s not a record, we are seeing climate change manifest itself.”
Eight states – Arizona, New Mexico, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia – have in fact experienced record warmth for the first 11 months of the year. A national record, however, is out of reach due to the lack of an El Niño, a periodic climatic event that appeared last year and spurred extra heat.
But the fingerprint of climate change extends beyond just temperature. California’s deepest drought on record was broken by intense rainfall at the start of the year, an example of the long dry spells interrupted by ferocious downpours that scientists say are becoming more frequent in a warming world.