This piece originally appeared on Livemint.com
Even as the US elected Donald Trump, who had questioned climate change in the past, 2016 missed out on the distinction of being the hottest on record since 1880. It could well have been, but the temperatures cooled down in September and October, which one of the media outlets that supported Trump mistook as evidence against global warming. The reason was a retreating El Niño, an abnormal weather pattern caused by warm waters of the western Pacific Ocean flowing eastwards.
As it stands, the world is getting warmer (chart 1). While the temperature rise in 2015 and 2016 is due to El Niño, it’s not the only reason (chart 2). One of the immediate effects is the speed at which glaciers are receding (chart 3). In July, 90 million cubic yards of glacier collapsed in the Aru range in Tibet, resulting in one of the largest avalanches.
Meanwhile, a new study, published recently in Nature Geoscience, confirmed more strongly than before the link between climate change and glacial melting. In 2017, we will do well to keep track of those glaciers, and what Trump does with the Paris climate pact aimed at mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.