The report is a sort of annual checkup on the Earth, compiled by NOAA and the American Meteorological Society out of data from researchers in 64 countries.
Atmospheric CO2 readings jumped by the largest percentage on record, with the annual average concentration topping 400 parts per million for the first time. That’s not only a record in modern observations, but more than has been found in ice cores dating back 800,000 years.
Nearly a third of the Earth’s land area was hit by drought in 2016. About 16 percent of the land was in severe or extreme drought — an area comparable to the size of Russia, said Robert Dunn, a climate scientist at the Met Office, the British weather agency.
Temperatures in places like India and the Middle East spiked to extremes rarely seen before. Mercury poked about 50°C (122°F) in Iran, Iraq, and Kuwait during 2016, Dunn said.
The far North continued to warm at a much faster pace than the rest of the globe. The Arctic is about 3.5°C (6.5°F) warmer than it was in 1900, eating away at sea ice, glaciers, and the massive ice sheet over Greenland. “The effects of warming are cascading through the ecosystem and the environment like we’ve ever seen before,” said Jeremy Mathis, the head of NOAA’s Arctic Research Program.
And while the data amassed this year isn’t as extensive as what went into Thursday’s report, 2017’s temperatures appear to be running somewhere close to the highs clocked in recent years, said Deke Arndt, chief of the climate monitoring branch at NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information.
“I think it is safe to say it is likely to finish among the three warmest overall for the year,” Arndt said.