2016 Was the Hottest Year Ever Recorded

iStock
iStock

Man, it’s a hot one. And by “it” we mean 2016. Reports issued this week by NASA [PDF], NOAA, and the UK Met Office have all concluded that 2016 was the hottest year on record, beating out the sweltering temperatures of the prior two years—which were also record breakers. 

Experts have been taking our planet’s temperature every day since the late 1880s. Longer-term models and projections suggest that the last time Earth got this hot was about 115,000 years ago [PDF].

Last year saw an eight-month stretch of record-high global temperatures from January to August, and all low temperatures met or exceeded the 20th-century average. Sea ice shrank and water levels rose.

Climate scientists like Michael Mann of Penn State University say there can be no doubt about the cause. “The effect of human activity on our climate is no longer subtle,” he told The Guardian. “It’s plain as day, as are the impacts—in the form of record floods, droughts, superstorms, and wildfires—that it is having on us and our planet."

Participants in 2015's Paris accord agreed on the importance of limiting further climate change, and set a maximum cap of a 1.5°C increase in average temperature. We’re currently at 1.1°C.

The time to act is now, says NOAA’s Kevin Trenberth, who says that those who oppose environmental protections for financial reasons would be wise to reconsider. “While there may be some cost in mitigating climate change,” he told The Guardian, “there are already major costs in damages.”

Appealing directly to lawmakers’ wallets, Trenberth argues that “sensible approaches” to cutting emissions and boosting climate resilience “can actually make it a net gain, not only for the planet [but] for everyone.”

Friday’s Best Amazon Deals Include Digital Projectors, Ugly Christmas Sweaters, and Speakers

Amazon
Amazon
As a recurring feature, our team combs the web and shares some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. Here’s what caught our eye today, December 4. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

What Is a Bomb Cyclone?

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The phrase bomb cyclone has re-entered the news this week as parts of the Northeast face severe weather. Inland areas of Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts all fall in the path of a winter storm that could deliver the first major snow accumulations of the season. It seems appropriate for a strong storm to have bomb in its name, but the word actually refers to a meteorological phenomenon and not the cyclone's explosive intensity.

According to The Denver Post, the bomb in bomb cyclone stands for bombogenesis. Bombogenesis occurs when a non-tropical storm experiences at least a 24 millibar (the unit used to measure barometric pressure) drop within 24 hours. Low pressure makes for intense storms, so a bomb cyclone is a system that's built up a significant amount strength in a short time.

This type of storm usually depends on the ocean or another large body of water for its power. During the winter, the relatively warm air coming off the ocean and the cold air above land can collide to create a sharp drop in atmospheric pressure. Also known as a winter hurricane, this effect has produced some of the worst snowstorms to ever hit the U.S.

If the current storm reaches bomb level, residents in inland New England can expect snowfalls of 1 to 3 inches per hour, whiteout conditions, power outages, and even thundersnow. Here are some emergency supplies you should have on hand.

[h/t The Washington Post]