Global climate information

State of the Climate 2015

An annual NOAA State of the Climate report1 has confirmed that 2015 surpassed 2014 as the warmest year on record since at least the mid-to-late 19th century.

Last year’s record heat resulted from a combination of long-term global warming and one of the strongest El Niño experienced since at least 1950. Most indicators of climate change continued to reflect trends consistent with a global warming.

In 2015 Australia experienced its fifth warmest year since national records began in 1910. The month of October 2015 was especially warm, recording the largest anomaly for any month on record.

Notable findings from the report include:

  • Greenhouse gases were the highest on record. Major greenhouse gas concentrations, including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide, rose to new record high values during 2015. The 2015 average global CO2 concentration was 399.4 parts per million (ppm), an increase of 2.2 ppm compared with 2014.

  • Global surface temperature was the highest on record. Aided by the strong El Niño, the 2015 annual global surface temperature was 0.76–0.83 degrees F (0.42°–0.46°C) above the 1981–2010 average, surpassing the previous record set in 2014.

  • Sea surface temperature was the highest on record. The globally averaged sea surface temperature was 0.59–0.70 degrees F (0.33°–0.39°C) above average, breaking the previous mark set in 2014.

  • Global upper ocean heat content highest on record. Upper ocean heat content exceeded the record set in 2014, reflecting the continuing accumulation of heat in the ocean’s top layers. 

  • Global sea level rose to a new record high in 2015. It measured about 2.75 inches (70 mm) higher than that observed in 1993, when satellite record-keeping for global sea level rise began.

  • Tropical cyclones were well above average, overall. There were 101 tropical cyclones total across all ocean basins in 2015, well above the 1981-2010 average of 82 storms. The eastern/central Pacific had 26 named storms, the most since 1992. The North Atlantic, in contrast, had fewer storms than most years during the last two decades.

  • The Arctic continued to warm; sea ice extent remained low. The Arctic land surface temperature in 2015 was 2.2 degrees F (1.2°C) above the 1981-2010 average, tying 2007 and 2011 as the highest on record. The maximum Arctic sea ice extent reached in February 2015 was the smallest in the 37-year satellite record, while the minimum sea ice extent that September was the fourth lowest on record.

For more explanation on climate change see Global climate change projections.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) consists of leading scientists from around the world who review and provides the best consensus judgement on climate change. The IPCC concludes that:

  • Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system. Warming will continue to exhibit interannual-to-decadal variability and will not be regionally uniform

  • There will be more hot days and fewer cold days over most land areas. Heat waves will occur with higher frequency and duration. Occasional cold winter extremes will continue to occur

  • Changes in the global water cycle in response will not be uniform

  • Global ocean will continue to warm, affecting ocean circulation

  • Artic sea ice will continue to shrink and thin, so too will global glacier volume

  • Global mean sea level will continue to rise, but the rate is uncertain.

The latest series of peer reviewed reports generated by the IPCC, including Climate change basics (2013), Impacts Adaptation and Vulnerability (2104), Mitigation (2014) and Synthesis Report (2014). These reports provide some insights into implications for Australia and wider agriculture industry, but are high level2.

Global agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

The IPCC process represents the considered views of the world’s leading scientists, including those from Australia. While climate change is now widely accepted scientifically, there are strong and diverse views on how to respond to this threat. 

Negotiations for global action are ongoing, with the next meeting, the twenty-second session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 22) and the twelfth session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 12), to be held in Bab Ighli, Marrakech, Morocco from 7-18 November 2016.

For details on these discussions see the United National Framework Convention on Climate Change.


1 About the NOAA State of the Climate 2015 report (latest version - accessed 10-09-2016): This yearly "check-up" for the planet, led by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA’s) National Centers for Environmental Information, is based on contributions from more than 450 scientists from 62 countries around the world. It published as a special supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. 

2 About the IPCC: In 1988, as a result of growing evidence on climate change through the 20th century, the World Meteorological Organisation and the United Nations Environment Program set up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to analyse climate change. Five series of reports have been published to date – 1990, 1992, 1995, 2001, 2007 and 2014. These reports provide information on: Human induced climate change; The impacts of human induced climate change; and Options for adaptation and mitigation.