Dec 21, 2017

The biggest climate findings in 2017

Antarctica
by
Chelsea Harvey
,
E&E News
A massive iceberg calved from the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica in July. Image: NASA
A massive iceberg calved from the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica in July. Image: NASA

The last year has seen major breakthroughs and advancements in climate research. Here are some of the biggest findings reported by scientists in 2017.

1. Temperatures and carbon concentrations are breaking records

In January, both NOAA and NASA officially confirmed that 2016 was the hottest year ever recorded. It's the third time in a row that record has been broken — 2015 and 2014 were both determined to be the hottest years ever observed.

Just two months later, in March, NOAA scientists announced that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations are climbing at a record pace for the second year in a row. According to data recorded at the Mauna Loa Baseline Atmospheric Observatory in Hawaii, CO2 concentrations rose by a whopping 3 parts per million in both 2015 and 2016, well above the average annual jump of 2.3 ppm recorded throughout most of the last decade. Prior to the Industrial Revolution and the large-scale release of greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide concentrations had averaged about 280 ppm. At the time the announcement was made, global carbon dioxide concentrations were resting at about 405 ppm and were expected to continue rising.

As 2017 draws to a close, scientists don't expect it will break 2016's temperature record. But they do think it will rank as one of the top two or three hottest years ever.

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4. Speaking of ice, glaciers are calving like crazy

In July, one of the biggest icebergs ever recorded broke from Antarctica's Larsen C ice shelf and began drifting out to sea. Dubbed "A68" by scientists, it's nearly the size of Delaware and contains about a trillion tons of ice. Just a few months later, in September, Antarctica's massive Pine Island Glacier — which already pours about 45 billion tons of ice each year into the ocean — calved an iceberg four times the size of Manhattan, or about 100 square miles.