With the close of the year, 2016 will go down as the hottest year on record. This comes as NASA, the UK Met Office and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration released final reports for the year making it the third consecutive year to break temperature records.

Locally, Texoma saw its highest temperatures since 2012, with a yearly average temperature of 65.2 degrees, according to data released by the National Weather Service Fort Worth office.

“It does look like the average temperature was higher than the past three years, but was beat by 2012,” NWS Meteorologist Jason Godwin said.

 

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These trends of rising temperatures could be attributed to a number of factors ranging from La Niña and El Niño patterns to climate change.

Godwin said the record-breaking rainfall over the summer in 2015 likely helped stave off the heat during what is usually the hottest part of the year. Additionally, 2014 was usually mild throughout the summer, he added.

“It is difficult to say what is affecting year-to-year shifts,” he said.

Since 1900, local yearly average temperatures were confirmed to have risen above 65 degrees 21 times, the NOAA records recorded at a Sherman Co-op station show. Data for other years, notably near the turn of the century, appeared to be missing in the historically colder months of the year and skewed results higher.

Austin College Biology Professor George Diggs said he did not like to refer to these patterns as global warming as they do not show the bigger picture of unusual weather patterns worldwide. Instead, he referred to this more broadly as global climate change.

Diggs said local temperatures have been markedly high in recent years, but they do not accurately reflect ongoing trends and the global picture. Despite 2014's notably mild summer locally, the year would go down on record for its high temperatures worldwide, Diggs said.

“As soon as 2015 ended, that was now the new record,” he said, noting 2016 followed this trend.

The biggest shift in temperatures worldwide has been at the ice caps, which have begun to melt leading to rising sea levels and the destabilization of the arctic jet streams and other currents that globally impact climate. Other impacts can be seen in the melting of many of the planet's glaciers, Diggs said.

For Texas, he said Arctic currents have been able to migrate further south than in previous years leading to winter weather that has been stronger than in previous years. This would likely put an even higher strain on the state's water resources due to its already historically high temperatures.

“It isn't just about a change in temperature, even if temperature is a major part of the changes,” Diggs said.

Diggs said these changes have been attributed to carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere that have been rising since the 1950s. As these and other gases build up in the atmosphere, they help retain heat.

The best evidence of the causes of this gas build up point to the burning of fossil fuels and the burning of trees to clear land, he said.

“As scientists, we gather data, predict outcomes and see what happens,” he said. “Right now, all evidence points to human activity (as the cause).”