COCOA, Fla. – Adding another dot to the pattern, a NASA report on climate published this week affirms the continuing warming of our spaceship Earth. The agency found that 2022 was the fifth hottest year on record.

What You Need To Know

  • 2022 tied with 2015 as the fifth warmest year on record

  • NASA said the Earth in 2022 was about 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.11 degrees Celsius) warmer compared with the average in the late 19th century

  • NASA stated that “human-driven greenhouse gas emissions have rebounded following a short-lived dip in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

It shares that fifth spot distinction with the year 2015. It also means that the last nine years have been the hottest nine years on record with the leger going back to 1880.

In a statement, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson described the warming trend as “alarming.”

“Our warming climate is already making a mark: Forest fires are intensifying; hurricanes are getting stronger; droughts are wreaking havoc and sea levels are rising. NASA is deepening our commitment to do our part in addressing climate change,” Nelson said. “Our Earth System Observatory will provide state-of-the-art data to support our climate modeling, analysis and predictions to help humanity confront our planet’s changing climate.”

Florida knows first-hand the impacts of stronger hurricanes. Many communities around the state are still recovering from the impacts of Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Nicole.

The City of Cocoa in Brevard County is among them. As Hurricane Nicole swept through, it caused a number of boats to come loose and knock into the day slips at the marina near Cocoa Village along the Indian River.

The city recently approved the $98,400 price tag to get the damage cleaned up, which should take place in a couple of weeks.

Resident Brad Whitmore, who moved to the area around 2008 with his wife and did some work with the Cocoa Main Street Group, said it was sad to see the marina in such disarray.

“I did a count from a mile-and-a-half down the river, along the shoreline, through the basin and out to this final vessel out here,” Whitmore said. “We lost ten boats that I know of down here that either sunk or were on shore.”

On Friday, we spoke with Dr. Joao Morim, a coastal climate researcher with the University of Central Florida’s Department of Civil, Environmental and Construction Engineering, about NASA’s latest report. 

Given his extensive research in the field, he wasn’t surprised by NASA’s findings, but said it might be novel for some folks.

“For a lot of people it can be surprising because the trends are very strong and we are having groundbreaking temperatures every two, three years now,” Morim said. “2020 was a very warm year and now this year, it’s absolutely crazy because we’re having mean monthly temperatures that sit within the top fifth of all the last five decades. So, that tells us that it’s no coincidence.”

He pointed the fact that not only are we continuing to set records, but the rate is getting progressively faster. Morim described the trajectory as “a steep trend towards the 1.5 degrees of warming at a global level and that is scary.”

“This could take a path of very rapid development that could lead to catastrophic events more often and more widespread, like tropical cyclones, droughts, hot-cold spell, extreme weather,” he said.

Morim echoed NASA’s report that hurricanes continue to have greater opportunities to become stronger due to climate change. He said that’s due to both a warmer atmosphere as well as warmer oceans.

“A warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture and moisture is basically pretty much what gives the fuel to the tropical cyclone. So, we have a now a stronger, tropical cyclone moving at a slower pace,” Morim said. “And what this means, what’s going to happen is it’s going to dump a lot of rain, slowly, moving slowly over small areas, leading to extreme flooding.”

That slower pace for a storm like Hurricane Ian allowed it to intensify from a tropical system to a Category 4 hurricane in about 24 hours in the Gulf of Mexico.

Morim was the lead author on a new study as well from a team of UCF researchers. They found that global models estimating the height of coastal storm waves created by extreme weather can vary by several feet at various points around the world. 

The study, published in the journal Science Advances, found that there can be a variance of up to about 20 feet when comparing global models against historical buoy observations. The research was funded in part by the NASA Sea Level Change Team and the U.S. National Science Foundation.

He said because of Florida’s vulnerability to not only hurricanes, but other impacts of climate change, like rising sea levels, leaders and residents are starting to pay closer attention.

“I do believe that people are now realizing in the state that this is happening in more drastic ways. I’m not saying more frequently, but definitely, it’s becoming extreme,” Morim said. “These extremes are becoming more extreme and therefore, I think people are more concerned now with forecasting these things.”

Given the great necessity, he said it’s frustrating that more hasn’t been done to quell the most impactful elements of climate change. He hopes that drastically improves soon.

“Researchers have been saying this for the last 20 years, the last 10 years and so far, they have been writing what they have been saying,” Morim said. “So, we need to. Take care of it right now so the next generation is one that will have a chance.”