See what Dec 2015 to Feb 2016 looked like, temperature-wise:
2016 started off way hotter than 2015. A sudden jump like this is called a step change. If you expect we'll now cool off to our previous decadal average, forget that. We've "leveled up".
The current warming surge amounts to what’s called a step change — a practically instantaneous shift in our planet’s climate.
This sudden shift in temperature has arrived because of a confluence of events: Long-term global warming, the multiyear effect of El Niño, and extreme weather — including persistent heat waves at the regional scale.
The major cause of February’s exceptional warmth is global warming,…
… El Niño can’t explain all or even most of the current warming spike — especially the warmth in the Arctic.
Based on the Met Office’s estimates and my calculations, 2016 will probably be around 1.1 to 1.5 degrees above the 1850-1900 average. An annual breach of 2 degrees could happen as soon as 2030, according to climate model simulations,…
According to a five-year prediction from the Met Office, global temperatures may fall slightly over the next year or two, as the El Niño wanes and temporarily cooler ocean temperatures associated with La Niña take hold. But global warming will make that respite brief: 2018, 2019 and 2020 will likely be warmer than 2015, and the warming trend is expected to continue long after that. Sixteen of the 18 years that followed the last big El Niño (1997-98) were warmer than 1997. [emphasis mine]
Step changes also happen in other climate issues, such as the rate of sea level rise. Sudden jumps in the rate of melt indicate a tipping point was passed, and new self-reinforcements have kicked in.
Doubling times in non linear events often don’t fit a pure exponential curve — instead tending to follow a series of spikes and recessions with major transitional events coming at the end of any ‘curve.’ [emphasis mine]
Our path ahead: major transitional events kicking us into new regimes of change we'll hate.
Planet on brink of 'tipping point' as thawing soil and sediment releases large volumes
of carbon dioxide and methane into atmosphere
The first comprehensive study of permafrost melting concludes that we're on the brink of a tipping point.
Experts said dangerous climate change was almost “inevitable” and the planet was on the brink of a “tipping point” as thawing permafrost releases large volumes of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere, causing temperatures to rise and more permafrost to melt.
They warned that governments were engaged in “wishful thinking” when it came to emission reductions …
…policymakers had made assumptions about climate change based on a “linear relationship” between global temperature rise and CO2 emissions. They found that the release of huge amounts of carbon would render past emissions projections useless as they fail to account for the exponential growth triggered by melting permafrost.
Lead author Thomas Gasser said his study was the first time such a tipping process was adequately accounted for in emission budgets.
“Permafrost carbon release … is also an irreversible process over the course of a few centuries, and may therefore be considered a ‘tipping’ element of the Earth's carbon-climate system … [emphasis mine]
On that subject, another new study found that weathering in Western Canadian permafrost is releasing sulfuric acid, which will release even more CO2 from eroding rocks than carbonic acid would. It's too early to quantify and include in models.