Stories by Andrew Freedman

Satellite data confirms globe is warming rapidly

Adapted from J Susskind et al 2019, “Recent global warming as confirmed by AIRS”; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

NASA's global temperature data set, which has found that the past 5 years have been the warmest on record, has received new and independent validation of its readings, per a new study.

Why it matters: The research bolsters confidence in NASA's data set, which climate change doubters have been trying to poke holes in for years, in part because it tends to find greater Arctic warming than NOAA. The study also signals how global observations might be conducted in the future.

Plastics are "potentially everywhere"

Adapted from Ostle, et. al., "The rise in ocean plastics evidenced from a 60-year time series", 2019; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

In the past decade, plastics have been found in the ocean's deepest and most remote points, collecting in massive, dense clumps, and clogging the stomachs of marine life washed up onto shorelines.

What's new: Tiny plastic pieces from broken down bags and packaging are now being detected in another element: the air. These microplastics are being deposited onto an isolated, pristine site in the French Pyrenees at an altitude of about 4,600 feet, per a new study. There's also been a sharp uptick in plastic pollution in the ocean since the late 1950s, according to another study published this week.

Earth had a top 3 warmest March on record, climate agencies find

Global average temperature anomalies for March 2019 compared to the 1951-1980 average.
Global average temperature anomalies in degrees Celsius for March 2019 compared to the 1951-1980 average. Image: NASA GISS.

March may have been unusually cold in parts of the U.S., but globally, average temperatures ticked upward to rank as one of the top 3 warmest Marches on record, new data from climate groups in Europe, Japan and the U.S. shows.

Why it matters: The new data shows that global average temperatures during 2019 are on track to make it another top 5 warmest year, should these trends continue. An El Niño event, featuring unusually warm water in the tropical Pacific Ocean along with an increase in shower and thunderstorm activity near the equator, is helping to add additional heat to the atmosphere.