NASA/NOAA: 2015 ‘Warmest Year on Record’ – Except in Earth’s Lower Atmosphere

By Barbara Hollingsworth | January 21, 2016 | 3:57 PM EST

NOAA APT weather satellite recording data over Brisbane, Australia. (NOAA)


( – According to land-based and ocean-based surface temperature recordings, 2015 was “the warmest year on record” since 1880, officials from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said Wednesday during a conference call with reporters.

“Land temperatures broke the all-time warmest record,” said Thomas Karl, director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, adding that the record for warmest month was broken in 10 of the last 12 months.

However, Karl also stated that 2015 was not the hottest year in the lower troposphere, the lowest section of the Earth’s atmosphere, despite what could be an historically strong El Nino causing warmer-than-average temperatures. 

According to satellite data that measures temperatures in the lower troposhere, 2015 was only the third warmest year on record, he said.

“We expected about 50 percent stronger response in the atmosphere because of El Nino,” Karl told reporters, explaining that there was “very little response in the satellite and weather balloon data.”

“There’s no record in general in the lower atmosphere… but stay tuned for 2016,” he said, explaining that “warmth occurs after the beginning of a subsequent calendar year.”

Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, concurred, adding that because 2016 started with “a very strong El Nino, we expect it to be an exceeding warm year.”

An analysis of the satellite data by John Christy, director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama/Huntsville, and his colleague, Roy Spencer, also found that 2015 was just the third warmest year on record - behind 1998 and 2010.

(Source: Dr. Roy Spencer)

But Christy noted that the satellite data is a more accurate way to measure not only global temperature, but also the Earth’s response to greenhouse gas emissions, which have been blamed for global warming.

“A crucial point is that the bulk atmospheric temperature as measured by satellites and balloons is a much better metric for measuring the response of the climate to extra greenhouse gasses,” Christy told 

Despite record-high surface temperatures, satellite data shows that “2015 was not even close to the hottest year on record,” James Taylor, Heartland Institute senior fellow for environment and energy, pointed out in an oped in Forbes.

“This past year saw what is likely the most powerful El Nino during the satellite temperature record,” Taylor wrote.

 “With a record El Nino, we should have experienced record high temperatures. Yet we didn’t…. Indeed, if a record strong El Nino cannot bring global temperatures back to the warmth of 1998, what can – and when will that be?” he asked.

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