ANSWER: Yes. We find clear evidence of warming from a worldwide variety of temperature measurements. These include thermometers far from the “heat islands” that cities produce, thermometers in the ocean and in boreholes drilled into rocks, thermometers carried aloft by balloons and looking down from satellites. In addition, warming is indicated by most of the significant changes in the timing and location of biological events, such as flowers blooming and animals migrating, as well as changes in snow and ice.

Certainly, weather still exists, giving us short-term changes in temperature and precipitation. Although record high temperatures have become much more common, record low temperatures are still being set. Natural events, such as La Niña—the temporary expansion of cold water across parts of the Pacific Ocean—can make the Earth’s average temperature for a year colder than the previous one. Scientists studying climate thus look at averages over long enough times—usually taken as 30 years—to smooth out the “bumps” (the natural and inevitable ups and downs) produced by the weather. When viewed this way, all of the major ways to measure the temperature near the Earth’s surface show that the climate is warming. NEXT QUESTION

Global Land - Ocean Temperature Index

Figure 1. History of global mean surface air temperature, from the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. The scale gives how much warmer or colder the world was than the average temperature during 1951-1980. Recent warming is clear, but with year-to-year variability. Other research groups have produced similar plots that agree closely; the uncertainties in this plot are shown by the green bars. Notice that if you carefully picked an especially warm year as a starting point, you could find a few years that seem to show cooling, but this does not mean that global warming has stopped; weather still exists, but the climate is warming. (The figure is modified from figure 1a in Hansen, J., Mki. Sato, R. Ruedy, K. Lo, D.W. Lea, and M. Medina-Elizade, 2006: Global temperature change. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci., 103, 14288-14293, doi:10.1073/pnas.0606291103.) The data file is also available at the GISS site, if you want to access the raw numbers and graph it for yourself. The data are updated through 2011.



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