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2016 Hit Records For Global Temperature And Climate Extremes

A field cleared of sunflowers destroyed by drought is seen in Padina, Serbia, on Thursday.

The year 2016 was the warmest on record for the planet as a whole, surpassing temperature records that date back 137 years, according to an annual report compiled by scientists around the globe.

For global temperatures, last year surpassed the previous record-holder: 2015.

According to the annual, peer-reviewed State of the Climate report, it was also a year of other extremes and records, including the highest sea levels and lowest sea ice in the Arctic and Antarctica. And, it was one of the worst years for droughts.

The 299-report, published by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, relies on the work of hundreds of scientists in 60 countries. It shows that 2016 was "very extreme and it is a cause for concern," says NOAA climate scientist Jessica Blunden, a co-editor of the report.

Blunden says that a strong El Nino in the first part of 2016 was a contributing factor, helping push up global temperatures, but that is by no means the sole cause.

NPR's Christopher Joyce reports for our Newscast unit, "The report notes that these changes are consistent with projections of human-caused climate change."

Last year also witnessed new records for the greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane.

"The annual increases in methane and nitrous oxide were pretty much in line with their decadal trends, but the rise in global carbon dioxide of 3.5 [parts per million] was the largest year-over-year increase observed in the 58-year measurement record," Blunden said.

"This brought the global average carbon dioxide concentration for 2016 to 402.9 ppm," surpassing 400 ppm for the first time in modern records or ice core records that go back nearly 800,000 years, she said.

Some other highlights of the report, as collated by The Associated Press:

"- At any given time, nearly one-eighth of the world's land mass was in severe drought. That's far higher than normal and "one of the worst years for drought," said report co-author Robert Dunn of the United Kingdom Met Office.

"- Extreme weather was everywhere. Giant downpours were up. Heat waves struck all over the globe, including a nasty one in India. Extreme weather contributed to a gigantic wildfire in Canada.

"- Global sea level rose another quarter of an inch (3.4 millimeters) for the sixth straight year of record high sea levels.

"- There were 93 tropical cyclones across the globe, 13 percent more than normal. That included Hurricane Matthew that killed about 1,000 people in Haiti.

"- The world's glaciers shrank — for the 37th year in a row — by an average of about 3 feet (1 meter).

"- Greenland's ice sheet in 2016 lost 341 billion tons of ice (310 billion metric tons). It has lost 4400 billion tons (4000 billion metric tons of ice since 2002."

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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