The annual State of the Climate report, published Thursday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, confirmed that 2016 not only set a new mark for heat but broke records for sea-level rise and heat-trapping pollutants, along with the amount of ocean ice and snow cover that were lost.
It is "extremely unlikely" 2014, 2015 and 2016 would have been the warmest consecutive years on record without the influence of human-caused climate change, according to the authors of a new study.
The comprehensive report came days after The New York Times publicized a draft of a separate major climate change report that is awaiting Trump administration approval.
The authors of the leaked study disagree with that stance, writing in the report: "Many lines of evidence demonstrate that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are primarily responsible for recent observed climate change". That's not only a record in modern observations, but more than has been found in ice cores dating back 800,000 years. The temperature of the region of the atmosphere just above the Earth's surface, known as the troposphere, was also the highest on record, as was the global average for the surface of the sea. Both land and sea surface temperatures set new highs. The warming represented a 3.5°C increase in temperature since recordkeeping began in 1900.
California experienced its warmest summer on record past year, the report noted, as one of its most severe droughts gave way to one of its wettest winters. Over the past two decades, sea level has increased at an average rate of about 0.13 inch (3.4 mm) per year, with the highest rates of increase in the western Pacific and Indian Oceans. This was the sixth consecutive year global sea level has increased compared to the previous year. In addition to many parts of the globe experiencing major floods in 2016, for any given month at least 12 percent of global land was experiencing at least "severe" drought conditions, the longest such stretch in the record. The numbers are the differences from the pre-industrial era, calculated as the average mean surface temperature of 1880-1899.
The Arctic is warming faster than lower latitudes. Below the surface, record high temperatures at the 20-meter (65-feet) depth were measured at all permafrost observatories on the North Slope of Alaska and at the Canadian observatory on northernmost Ellesmere Island.
The data compiled in the report showed 2016 was overall a year of records. A total of 93 named tropical cyclones were observed worldwide in 2016, well above the 1981-2010 average of 82 storms.