Report: Global temperature hike already halfway to 'two degree warming' limit

 Paris Climate Conference: COP21 Explained
COP21 Explainer - John Sutter_00004330


    Paris Climate Conference: COP21 Explained


Paris Climate Conference: COP21 Explained 02:09

Story highlights

  • Average global temperature rise listed at 0.98 Celsius
  • That's halfway to the two degree average warming limit
  • When the limit is breached, the planet will suffer grave consequences, says CNN's John Sutter

(CNN)Looks like Earth is already halfway to the danger zone.

Less than two weeks before a crucial global climate summit in Paris kicks off, NOAA, NASA and other global temperature monitors released data showing that the planet is halfway to two degrees of warming, the much publicized limit of "controllable" climate change.
    Global data from NOAA released Thursday shows that the average temperature across the entire planet for the month of October was a record shattering 0.98 degrees Celsius (1.76 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than average for the month of October -- making it the highest average temperature reached compared to normal in Earth's historical record.
    The list of superlatives for the month is staggering:
    -- the warmest October ever observed (in 136 years of NOAA records),
    -- the warmest month ever compared to average (out of 1,630 months),
    -- the sixth consecutive month breaking a global temperature record, and
    -- seven of the 10 warmest months have occurred in 2015.
    The NOAA data is backed up by similar data sets maintained by NASA and the Japan Meteorological Agency, which also ranked October as the hottest month on record compared to average. All of this virtually guarantees that 2015 will rank as the warmest year overall, breaking the record that was set just last year.

    Help from El Nino

    The temperatures got a boost this year from what may end up being the strongest El Nino ever recorded reaching its peak. El Nino, which is characterized by warming of ocean waters in the tropical Pacific Ocean, is helping to drive global temperatures upward this year. With all of the extra heat coming from the oceans during an El Nino, years that feature the phenomenon tend to be the warmest years, whereas years that feature a La Nina -- which contain cooler than normal waters in the Pacific -- tend to be the coolest years.
    And while this year's El Nino is already one of the three-strongest El Nino events ever have seen, it cannot fully account for all of the warming. After all, 13 of the 15 warmest years on record have occurred since the year 2000, and this is the first year to feature a strong El Nino since 1998. In fact, recent La Nina years, such as 2010 and 2007, were warmer than El Nino's that occurred several decades earlier. So while El Nino and La Nina can move the needle a little up and down, the overall trend continues to climb higher and higher thanks largely to man-made climate change and greenhouse gas emissions.
    But when you add in a super-charged El Nino on top of a planet being continually warmed by greenhouse gas emissions, you wind up with years that are literally off the charts.

    Beyond two degrees

    So what happens if the planet breaches the two degrees of warming threshold? Nothing good, according to reports reviewed by CNN's John Sutter, who has written extensively on the subject.
    Sutter -- who pulled reports from the National Research Council, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the World Bank -- says wildfires in the United States could significantly increase in size, hurricanes would be slightly more intense, more species would be at risk for extinction, Arctic ice would continue to melt, crop yields would decrease and the availability of freshwater would significantly decline.