(CN) – Global warming trends are hard to ignore, according to NASA, especially after its researchers compared 16 years of climate data gathered by satellites with temperature measurements on Earth and found some alarming parallels.
The warmest years on record were 2016, 2017 and 2015, in that order. Also, measurements from Earth’s surface might be shortchanging the warming in the Arctic, according to a new study published on Tuesday in the scientific journal Environmental Research Letters.
Nearly 50 years ago, groundwork on climate policy entered the international stage when the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) created a committee to exchange information on environmental research.
While 66 percent of Americans believe global warming is caused by human activity, just 45 percent think global warming will pose a serious threat in their lifetime. Only 44 percent said they worry about the issue, according to a March 2019 Gallup poll.
Research on climate change has been robust over the years as warming temperatures give way to longer summers, shorter winters and melting polar ice caps.
In the new study, scientists at NASA used data collected from the Aqua satellite launched in 2002. The satellite uses Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS), an instrument that maps air and surface temperatures, water vapor and cloud properties.
Overall, it’s a whole separate battery of data than what has been used to measure warming temperatures on Earth. Lead researcher Joel Susskind from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center said the satellite data complements the surface data because there is a more complete global coverage, but both sets of data come to the same conclusions.
“This is important because of the intense interest in the detail of how estimates of global and regional temperature change are constructed from surface temperature data, and how known imperfections in the raw data (due to station moves, gaps, instrument and practice changes, urban heat island effects) are handled,” said Susskind.
Large amounts of data were gathered and sorted through by researchers, including 16 years of climate data and data from 6,300 weather stations.
Co-author Gavin Schmidt from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies said in an interview the key factor is the data independently verified years of climate data on global warming.
“People don’t want to believe it. They ask, ‘Well how do you know you’re right…how do you know?’ It’s an ever-present issue. We ask ourselves, ‘How do you validate these things? How can you demonstrate what you’re doing isn’t just kind of right, but quantitatively right?’”
Results were similar throughout the study’s conclusion save for discrepancies in the Arctic, which researchers say is melting faster than surface-based measurements can track.
Next, researchers will try and adapt this method for future studies on Earth’s surface.
Schmidt said, “We have 16 years of trends to compare to, which is OK, but we want to know what was happening in 1950 or 1970 with the Earth’s surface. How can we use the modern data that we have to better estimate changes in the past?”