Washington, Jan 25 Global surface temperatures surged by a record amount from 2014 to 2016, boosting the total warming since the start of the last century by over 25 per cent in just three years, according to a study.
The Earth's average surface temperature climbed about 0.9 degrees Celsius from 1900 to 2013.
By analysing global temperature records, researchers found that by the end of 2016, the global surface temperature had climbed an additional 0.43 degrees Celsius.
"Our paper is the first one to quantify this jump and identify the fundamental reason for this jump," said Jianjun Yin, associate professor at University of Arizona (UA) in the US.
"As a climate scientist, it was just remarkable to think that the atmosphere of the planet could warm that much that fast," said Yin, lead author of the study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
The spike in warming from 2014 to 2016 coincided with extreme weather events worldwide, including heat waves, droughts, floods, extensive melting of polar ice and global coral bleaching.
The new research shows that natural variability in the climate system is not sufficient to explain the 2014-2016 temperature increase, said Cheryl Peyser, a UA doctoral candidate in geosciences.
The researchers also projected how frequent such big temperature spikes would be under four different greenhouse emission scenarios.
Record-breaking temperature jumps and the accompanying extreme weather events will become more frequent unless greenhouse gas emissions decline, the team found.
The strong 2015-2016 El Nino roiled the ocean and released all the stored heat, causing a big jump in the Earth's surface temperatures.
"Our research shows global warming is accelerating," Yin said.
The researchers analysed observations of global mean surface temperatures from 1850 to 2016, ocean heat content from 1955 to 2016, sea level records from 1948 to 2016 and records of the El Nino climate cycle and a longer climate cycle called the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.
The analysis showed the 0.24 degrees Celsius global temperature increase from 2014 to 2016 was unprecedented in the 20th and 21st centuries.