2016 was the hottest year on record for planet Earth, in the 137 years that global temperature records have been kept. This news was released by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confirming their results. This event also marks the third year in a row, starting in 2014, that global surface temperature records have been broken, with each successive year topping its predecessor.

“2016 is remarkably the third record year in a row in this series,” exclaims GISS Director Gavin Schmidt. “We don’t expect record years every year, but the ongoing long-term warming trend is clear.”

The average surface temperature from last year came in at 1.78 degrees Fahrenheit (0.99 degrees Celsius) above the 20th-century average. The year was marked by numerous individual temperature events, including the tail end of a back-to-back record-breaking El Niño that started in 2015, and disturbingly high temperatures — between 20 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit being seen in the Arctic for the second winter in a row.

Once is happenstance, twice is a pattern. But now that we’ve experienced a third consecutive year of chart-topping temperatures, the trend that is unfolding before us is becoming clear. “A single warm year is something of a curiosity,” explains Deke Arndt, chief of global climate monitoring for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “It’s really the trend, and the fact that we’re punching at the ceiling every year now, that is the real indicator that we’re undergoing big changes.” 

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