Climate Change Cited as Reason for Record Heat in 2015

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Photograph of Earth from space
Source: “Photos of Earth,” (accessed Jan. 26, 2016)

2015 was the hottest year on record since temperature recordings began in 1880, according to global land and ocean surface temperature measurements from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA reports that climate change “is apparent now across our nation.”

Global temperatures in 2015 were 1.62°F above the 20th century average, beating out the previous record hot year of 2014. Fifteen of the 16 hottest years ever recorded have occurred since the year 2000 according to NOAA and NASA measurements.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) says the record-setting heat of 2015 was the result of a combination of the “exceptionally strong El Niño and global warming caused by greenhouse gases.” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas stated that though the “power of El Niño will fade in the coming months,” the “impacts of human-induced climate change will be with us for many decades.”

However, according to Tom Harris, Executive Director of the International Climate Science Coalition, the earth temperature measurements that the NOAA and NASA base their claims of record setting temperatures on are meaningless. According to Harris “NOAA claims an uncertainty of 14 one-hundredths of a degree in its temperature averages, or near twice the amount by which they say the record was set.” He argues the US government is “hyping meaningless records in a parameter that does not exist in order to frighten us about something that doesn’t matter.” Richard Lindzen, meteorologist and Senior Fellow at the CATO Institute, has called claims that 2015 was the hottest year on record “nonsense,” and that “demonization of CO2 is irrational at best.”

On Jan. 25, 2016, climatologist Michael E. Mann and co-authors published a study in Scientific Reports that looked at the likelihood of so many record setting hot years occurring since the beginning of the 21st century. They found that the recent “record warm years are with extremely high likelihood caused by human-made climate change,” and that the odds of this string of record setting temperatures occurring due to natural variability was between 1 in 5,000 and 1 in 170,000. Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Professor Judith Curry says the study by Mann et al. failed to take into account errors and uncertainty in the surface temperature record, as well as the fact that satellite measurements show “essentially no warming for the past 18 years.”


Judith Curry, “On the Likelihood of Recent Record Warmth,”, Jan. 26, 2016

Tom Harris, “Deceptive Temperature Record Claims,”, Aug. 23, 2015

Marc Morano, “Prominent Scientists Declare Climate Claims Ahead of UN Summit ‘Irrational’ – ‘Based on Nonsense’ – ‘Leading Us down a False Path,'”, Nov. 19, 2015

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “Climate,” (accessed Jan. 27, 2016)

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “Global Summary Information – December 2015,” (accessed Jan. 27, 2016)

Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, “Record Warm Years Almost Certainly Due to Human-Made Climate Change,”, Jan. 25, 2016

World Meteorological Organization, “2015 Is Hottest Year on Record,”, Jan. 25, 2016