It’s possible that in a given year this decade average global temperatures could leap over the 1.5-degree mark, but the more worrisome trend comes when that level of warming persists over decades.
A major report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated that global warming could surpass 1.5 degrees Celsius by around 2040.
The consequences of such warming are already being felt around the world, ranging from last year’s devastating floods in Pakistan to record-breaking heat waves in Europe and Asia, and ongoing drought around the world. Studies have shown that global warming will intensify many of these kinds of extreme weather events.
NOAA’s analysis also sounded the alarm over the health of the world’s oceans.
Ocean heat content, which is a measure of the amount of heat stored in the upper levels of the ocean, hit a record high last year, surpassing the record set in 2021. Scientists routinely monitor ocean heat because warmer waters contribute to ocean acidification, sea-level rise and extreme weather.
Temperatures in 2022 also continued to affect sea ice coverage at the Earth’s poles. Antarctica’s average yearly sea ice coverage shrank to 4.1 million square miles, approaching the record low set in 1987. The Arctic, meanwhile, recorded its average yearly sea ice coverage at 4.1 million miles, the 11th-smallest extent on record, according to NOAA.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson called the findings of both reports a “call to action.”
“Our warming climate is already making a mark: Forest fires are intensifying; hurricanes are getting stronger; droughts are wreaking havoc and sea levels are rising,” Nelson said in a statement.
Denise Chow is a reporter for NBC News Science focused on general science and climate change.