2016 Was the Hottest Year Ever Recorded

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iStock

Man, it’s a hot one. And by “it” we mean 2016. Reports issued this week by NASA [PDF], NOAA, and the UK Met Office have all concluded that 2016 was the hottest year on record, beating out the sweltering temperatures of the prior two years—which were also record breakers. 

Experts have been taking our planet’s temperature every day since the late 1880s. Longer-term models and projections suggest that the last time Earth got this hot was about 115,000 years ago [PDF].

Last year saw an eight-month stretch of record-high global temperatures from January to August, and all low temperatures met or exceeded the 20th-century average. Sea ice shrank and water levels rose.

Climate scientists like Michael Mann of Penn State University say there can be no doubt about the cause. “The effect of human activity on our climate is no longer subtle,” he told The Guardian. “It’s plain as day, as are the impacts—in the form of record floods, droughts, superstorms, and wildfires—that it is having on us and our planet."

Participants in 2015's Paris accord agreed on the importance of limiting further climate change, and set a maximum cap of a 1.5°C increase in average temperature. We’re currently at 1.1°C.

The time to act is now, says NOAA’s Kevin Trenberth, who says that those who oppose environmental protections for financial reasons would be wise to reconsider. “While there may be some cost in mitigating climate change,” he told The Guardian, “there are already major costs in damages.”

Appealing directly to lawmakers’ wallets, Trenberth argues that “sensible approaches” to cutting emissions and boosting climate resilience “can actually make it a net gain, not only for the planet [but] for everyone.”

What Is a Bomb Cyclone?

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The phrase bomb cyclone has re-entered the news this week as parts of the central U.S. face severe weather. Mountain and Midwestern states, including Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, and South Dakota, all fall in the path of a winter storm expected to deliver tornadoes, hail, heavy snow, flooding, and hurricane-force winds on Wednesday, March 13 into Thursday. It seems appropriate for a storm that strong to have bomb in its name, but the word actually refers to a meteorological phenomenon and not the cyclone's explosive intensity.

According to The Denver Post, the bomb in bomb cyclone stands for bombogenesis. Bombogenesis occurs when a non-tropical storm experiences at least a 24 millibar (the unit used to measure barometric pressure) drop within 24 hours. Low pressure makes for intense storms, so a bomb cyclone is a system that's built up a significant amount strength in a short length of time.

This type of storm usually depends on the ocean or another large body of water for its power. During the winter, the relatively warm air coming off the ocean and the cold air above land can collide to create a sharp drop in atmospheric pressure. Also known as a winter hurricane, this effect has produced some of the worst snowstorms to ever hit the U.S.

The fact that this latest bomb cyclone has formed nowhere near the coast makes it even more remarkable. Rather, a warm, subtropical air mass and a cold, Arctic air mass crossed paths, creating the perfect conditions for a rare bombogenesis over the Rockies and Great Plains states.

Central U.S. residents in the bomb cyclone's path have taken great precautions ahead of the storm. Over 1000 flights have been canceled for Wednesday and schools throughout Colorado have closed.

[h/t The Denver Post]

Watch a Rare ‘Ice Tsunami’ Slam Lake Erie

Clean Lakes Alliance, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Clean Lakes Alliance, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

A combination of freezing cold temperatures and high winds is creating an unusual phenomenon along Lake Erie. As KDKA reports, ice tsunamis are toppling onto lake shores, and many locals have been asked to stay inside and even evacuate their homes.

On February 24, 2019, the National Weather Service in Buffalo, New York issued a warning about dangerous wind gusts in the Lake Erie area. The service urged citizens to seek shelter indoors and avoid traveling if possible. Winds peaked at 74 mph earlier this week, the level of a Category 1 hurricane, and tore down trees and power lines throughout the region.

People who got close to Lake Erie during the windstorm witnessed a rare event known as an ice tsunami. When wind pushed ice on the lake's surface toward the retaining wall, the sheet broke apart and dumped massive ice chunks on the shore. The video below captures the phenomenon.

In some areas, the ice piles grew so large that roadways had to be closed. Residents of Hamburg, New York's Hoover Beach area were asked to voluntarily evacuate due to the encroaching ice.

Ice tsunamis, or ice shoves, are rare, but in some cases they can be life-threatening. In 2013, waves of ice shards from a Minnesota lake destroyed people's homes.

[h/t KDKA]

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