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The Hottest Year We've Experienced Could Be Normal by 2025

A massive global heat increase is already locked in, say scientists.

Globally, 2015 was the warmest year in known history, beating 2014’s record by .23 degrees Fahrenheit.  And this week, science is telling us it’s “inevitable” such skin-broasting heat could become the new normal in less than a decade.

Specifically, Sophie Lewis and other Australian researchers are sounding the alarm on the impending temperature hike, which they say is rocketing down the pipeline due to human activities. If emissions remain at current rates, years like 2015 will be normal worldwide as soon as 2025. In all emissions scenarios, they’ll be normal no later than 2040 despite humanity’s best efforts to reduce global warming, according to their study in the Bulletin of American Meteorological Society.

In this case, normal is being defined as “when at least half of the years following a record year were cooler and half warmer.” While the researchers say Earth is already locked into this new reign of heat, the amount of carbon-fighting action countries take might keep some regions cooler than the global average and others much hotter. Australia could fall into the latter category: Lewis calls it the “canary in the coal mine that will experience this change first.” Here’s more from a University of New South Wales press release:

That means the record hot summer of 2013 in Australia—when we saw temperatures approaching 50°C in parts of Australia, bushfires striking the Blue Mountains in October, major impacts to our health and infrastructure and a summer that was so hot it became known as the ‘angry summer’—could be just another average summer season by 2035.

But if we reduce emissions drastically to the lowest pathway recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (RCP2.8), then we will never enter a new normal state for extreme seasons at a regional level in the 21st Century.

About the Author

  • John Metcalfe
    John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.