In 1880, when modern global temperature records began, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were at 285 parts per million. In 2011, they are were over 390 parts per million. That has trapped a lot of extra energy on earth — see “The Radiative Forcing of the CO2 Humans Have Put in the Air Equals 1 Million Hiroshima Bombs a Day.”
As we’ve spewed greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere at at a faster pace, global temperatures have accelerated upward, particularly since the 1970’s. To illustrate this rise, NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies released this fascinating video of 131 years of temperature records edited into a 30-second video.
“We know the planet is absorbing more energy than it is emitting,” said GISS Director James E. Hansen. “So we are continuing to see a trend toward higher temperatures. Even with the cooling effects of a strong La Niña influence and low solar activity for the past several years, 2011 was one of the 10 warmest years on record.”
Hansen said he expects record-breaking global average temperature in the next two to three years…. “It’s always dangerous to make predictions about El Niño, but it’s safe to say we’ll see one in the next three years,” Hansen said. “It won’t take a very strong El Niño to push temperatures above 2010.”