Illustration for article titled Trumps NOAA: Blame Humans for Arctic Heat Waves of 2016
Photo: Getty

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is playing no games. The federal department wants everyone to know that human-caused climate change is so real that 2016 Arctic heat waves would not have happened without it.


This is according to new research NOAA published in the journal Weather and Climate Extremes this month. Climate models the team used would not create the extreme warmth the Arctic saw in 2016—not until they added people to the equation. The paper concluded that 60 percent of the 2016 Arctic heat was likely attributable to us humans and our fossil fuels.

“None of the simulations using only natural climate influences were able to reproduce the extreme warmth that overtook the Arctic in 2016,” a press release reads.

Observed differences from average temperature in 2016 (left) and two computer simulations of 2016 (right)
Observed differences from average temperature in 2016 (left) and two computer simulations of 2016 (right)
Image: NOAA

Unusual warmth overtook the Arctic on multiple occasions in 2016, starting at the beginning of the year. There were so few days below freezing that by May, the Arctic literally went off the charts. Fewer freezing days, in turn, meant more melting, and record low sea ice growth in the fall. A fall heat wave was so rare that experts called it a “black swan event.”

What does President Donald Trump think of one of his leading science agencies pinning this on us humans? Probably not much. It’s not like he really believes in climate science. But his disbelief isn’t stopping the Arctic. The situation up north is continuing to worsen, and that’s having ripple effects all over the world.

“It’s been said the Arctic is the canary in the coal mine,” said co-author Martin Hoerling, a NOAA meteorologist, in a press release. “The canary in the coal mine really chirped loudly in 2016. This is where the signal is clearly emerging beyond the noise, and it affirms predictions of how climate change will unfold on Earth.”


If we keep up our current rate of greenhouse gas emissions, 2016's wild Arctic heat waves could become the new normal—within in a decade, the researchers say. We’ve already seen a few this year. Welcome to the future.

Senior staff writer, Earther. All things environmental justice, please. I'm addicted to Stardew and love few things more than I love my cat.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter