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UEA research reveals 2015 as hottest on record

Data from UEA’s Climatic Research Unit and the Met Office Hadley Centre reveals that 2015 was the warmest ever.

Provisional full-year figures for global average near-surface temperatures show that last year was the warmest on record in an annual series of figures dating back to 1850.

Climate scientists at UEA and the Met Office produce the HadCRUT4 dataset, which is used to estimate global temperature.

The global temperature series shows that 2015 was 0.75 ±0.1°C above the long-term (1961-1990) average, a record since at least 1850.

When compared with the pre-industrial period, the 2015 average global temperature was around 1°C above the long-term average from 1850 to 1900.

Limiting warming to no more than 2˚C has become the target for global climate policy. The 1˚C rise above pre-industrial levels represents a particularly important marker as the world continues to warm due to human influence.

Prof Phil Jones, from UEA’s Climatic Research Unit, said: “2015 was the warmest on record – and significantly warmer than all other years. Global temperatures also reached 1°C above pre-industrial levels for the first time.”

The estimated figure of 0.75°C ±0.1°C above the long-term (1961-1990) average is within the predicted range from the Met Office annual global temperature forecast.

The forecast was for the average global temperature in 2015 to be between 0.52°C and 0.76°C above the long-term (1961-1990) average, with a central estimate of 0.64°C. The forecast made in 2014 had correctly predicted that 2015 was very likely to be one of the warmest years in the record.

Prof Jones added: “While a strong El Niño elevated global temperature this year, it is clear that human influence is driving our climate into uncharted territory.

“Based on temperature data from the last major El Nino event in 1997/8, we predict that 2016 will likely be warmer still. This is because 2015 is analogous in its increasing warmth through the year to 1997.”

Updates to the HadCRUT4 dataset are compiled from many thousands of temperature measurements taken across the globe, on land and at sea, each day.

Uncertainties arising from incomplete global coverage, particularly a lack of observations from Polar regions, and limitations of the measurements used to produce the data sets, have been included in the calculations.

Peter Stott, head of climate monitoring and attribution at the Met Office’s Hadley Centre, added: “Remaining uncertainties are clearly much smaller than the overall warming seen since pre-industrial times.” 

Image: Ged Carroll, Flickr. 

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