Born after 1976? You’ve Lived Your Entire Life on a Hotter Planet

January 16, 2015 | 11:28 am
Brenda Ekwurzel
Senior Climate Scientist, Director of Climate Science

According to NOAA and NASA, 2014 was the hottest global average surface temperature ever recorded. There have now been 38 consecutive years in a row that global mean surface temperature has been above the twentieth century average. 

My colleague Aaron Huertas suggested we compare this staggering temperature fact with census data for the world. When we compared December 2013 global census data by age, we found around 65 percent of people worldwide have never experienced an average global temperature below the 20th century average. This is likely a conservative estimate, given the yet to be fully accounted for number of births during 2014.

Map sources: NASA; International Population Data from Dec 2013 U.S. Census Bureau

Map sources: NASA; International Population Data from Dec 2013 U.S. Census Bureau

The 2014 hottest record occurred despite a fickle El Niño, the Pacific Ocean pattern that has marked previous record hot years. Is this a first taste of global warming pulling away from the ups and downs of natural cycles? Or are we going to have the to and fro for the next couple of decades?  A clue may exist in the recent hourly carbon dioxide data from Mauna Loa. The earliest hourly and daily appearance for surging past the symbolic 400 ppm mark already occurred on the first day of 2015. The first time that threshold was passed at Mauna Loa in 2014 was in March and in 2013 it happened in May.

About the author

More from Brenda

Brenda Ekwurzel ensures that program analyses reflect robust and relevant climate science, and researches the influence of major carbon producers on rising global average temperatures and sea level. Dr. Ekwurzel is a co-author of the fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4) Volume II. She presents frequently to a range of audiences on climate science, educating the public on practical, achievable solutions for climate change.