Climate Change: You decide with the facts

Getz Ice Shelf, Antarctica (Photo: NASA/MGN Online)

We hear year after year about the dangers of climate change and global warming.

We hear how carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide are rising rapidly and, as a result, have direct implications on our planet. You may get some of your information from Facebook or your favorite radio talk show. However, is that the best way to gather the needed scientific data in order to make your own decision?

I have been following the science of climate change for many years. If I have learned one thing over the years, it is the immense amount of data that is published and studied on this subject. It is very difficult to even comprehend how multiple science disciplines interact in the science of climate change. Remember: this is a topic that covers atmospheric chemistry, ocean interaction, climatology, physics, computer modeling, Arctic sea ice and solar activity – just to name a few.

So how do we as citizens, keep up with the discussion of climate change?

My answer is with the American Meteorology Society, which is one of the oldest scientific societies in the country. Every year, the organization publishes an assessment of the climate as we know it. Recently, the 27th edition of the State of the Climate in 2016 was published. This is a 275-page report using 500 scientific authors to detail the climate as we know it.

Here are some of the highlights:

• Carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide continue to increase and reach new record highs. In fact, this was the largest annual increase on record.

• For the first time ever, CO2 surpassed 400 ppm in the modern measurement record and in ice core records dating back as far as 800,000 years.

• The Earth’s surface recorded record warmth for a third consecutive year.

• Several countries, including Mexico and India, reported record high annual temperatures.

• In the Arctic, land surface temperature was 2°C above the 1981-2010 average. This represents a 3.5°C increase since records began in 1900.

• Sea ice in the Arctic was at its lowest maximum in the 37-year satellite record.

• The Greenland Ice Sheet reached a record low value and the onset of ice melt was the second earliest in the 37-year satellite record.

• Sea surface temperature was at a record high at the global scale.

• Annual mean sea level reached a new record high, which was the sixth consecutive year of increase.

• In the Antarctic, record low daily and monthly sea ice extents were observed.