Thermometer (MabelAmber via, CC0)

Climate change and global warming

Climate change can be caused natural and by humans. Temperature changes of a few degrees over several decades or centuries have always been of natural origin in the past. Climate changes are usually caused by changes in the concentration of greenhouse gases and solar radiation.

Global warming in the recent decades has been massively caused by humans. Normally, a global temperature increase of 2 degrees takes several thousand years. This increase has been caused by humans alone in the past century. An even more dramatic warming has become apparent in the last 10-20 years.

Increase of temperatures by continents 1960 to 2016

If you want to observe rising or falling temperatures over a long period of time, you need weather stations that not only existed over the entire period, but also provided data throughout. Looking at the period from 1960 to the present day, only 75 of the more than 4000 weather stations of the German Weather Service are left.

But they indeed provide informative data from many parts of the world and show a general increase in air temperatures. Especially in the last 10 to 20 years, the temperature rose much faster than in the decades before.

All 75 measuring stations provided continuous data throughout the entire measuring period. Changes in these averages are therefore not due to failed individual stations or newly added ones in particularly warm or cold regions. Indicated is the 10-year average. In the missing continents of Africa and Australia, there were no constant weather stations for the period under review, which consistently provided appropriate values.

North America
South America

The graphs show the average daily maximum temperatures as well as the average nocturnal lows. It is quite visible that there are significant increases in temperatures in Europe, North America and Asia. In the Antarctic, on the other hand, the temperature development is almost constant, and even decreasing in recent years.

Average daily maximum temperatures

Europe7.5 °C7.8 °C7.7 °C8.4 °C8.9 °C9.2 °C
Asia18.1 °C18.0 °C17.9 °C18.6 °C18.7 °C19.0 °C
Antarctica-7.5 °C-7.8 °C-7.5 °C-7.7 °C-7.4 °C-7.9 °C
North America-3.2 °C-3.5 °C-3.6 °C-3.0 °C-2.0 °C-1.6 °C
South America29.9 °C29.9 °C30.3 °C30.4 °C30.7 °C31.0 °C

Average nocturnal minimum temperatures

Europe0.6 °C1.0 °C0.9 °C1.8 °C2.1 °C2.8 °C
Asia10.2 °C10.2 °C10.3 °C11.1 °C11.3 °C11.5 °C
Antarctica-14.1 °C-14.4 °C-13.3 °C-14.0 °C-13.6 °C-14.3 °C
North America-10.4 °C-10.2 °C-9.7 °C-9.2 °C-8.3 °C-7.9 °C
South America22.2 °C22.3 °C22.9 °C22.9 °C23.0 °C23.2 °C

Weather extremes

Both in the nights, as well as at daytime the temperatures rise noticeably over the past decades. But not only the average values change, also the extremes do. Based on the media reports, one might suspect that the weather extremes are larger in both directions. Warm months are getting warmer and cold months are getting colder. However, this does not seem to be the case. Whereas the warmest month between 1960 and 1970 in South America had an average temperature of 31.5°C, this peak has risen to around 33°C in recent years. In the other continents, the effects are even slightly lower. Since this is not a 10-year average, but the warmest month in 10 years, global warming does not seem to have a too dramatic impact on temperature extremes.

Warmest months

Europe18.6 °C19.5 °C19.2 °C20.0 °C20.3 °C19.5 °C
Asia29.5 °C29.3 °C29.2 °C29.5 °C29.6 °C30.5 °C
Antarctica2.0 °C2.7 °C2.6 °C2.1 °C2.0 °C2.1 °C
North America8.4 °C8.0 °C7.7 °C8.8 °C9.6 °C9.1 °C
South America31.5 °C31.7 °C31.9 °C32.1 °C32.7 °C33.0 °C

Coldest months

More distinctive are the lowest night temperatures: in the coldest month between 1960 and 1970, the average daily low temperature was -4.4°C in Europe. In the last 20 years it wasn't even -2°C. Winters are less strict in almost all over the world. The strongest increase of nighly temperatures has been recorded in North America. In the winter months 50 years ago, the nightly average temperature fell below -14°C in the monthly mean. In the last years not a single month has reached an average value below -11°C.

Europe-4.4 °C-3.3 °C-4.4 °C-1.9 °C-1.9 °C-1.8 °C
Asia6.7 °C7.0 °C6.6 °C7.8 °C7.8 °C7.5 °C
Antarctica-14.6 °C-17.2 °C-16.8 °C-17.2 °C-16.6 °C-17.5 °C
North America-14.1 °C-14.7 °C-14.9 °C-14.1 °C-12.1 °C-10.9 °C
South America28.5 °C28.5 °C28.8 °C28.8 °C29.1 °C29.2 °C

Data source: German Weather Service. Values edited, supplemented and averaged by continents.