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Global mean surface temperature change from 1880 to 2016, relative to the 1951–1980 mean.The black line is the global annual mean and the red line is the five-year lowess smooth.
El Niño generally tends to increase global temperatures.
While record-breaking years can attract considerable public interest, individual years are less significant than the overall trend.
Some climatologists have criticized the attention that the popular press gives to "warmest year" statistics; for example, Gavin Schmidt stated "the long-term trends or the expected sequence of records are far more important than whether any single year is a record or not." Of the 20 records, Schmidt stated that the 2014–16 El Niño event was "a factor ...
The trend is faster for land than ocean, faster for Arctic regions, and faster since the 1970s than the longer period.
Most of the observed warming occurred in two periods: around 1900 to around 1940 and around 1970 onwards; Attribution of the temperature change to natural or anthropogenic (i.e., human-induced) factors is an important question: see global warming and attribution of recent climate change.
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Deke Arndt leads the monitoring group at NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information and offered an analogy in a report on NPR: "The long-term warming is a lot like riding up an escalator over time.