New index of warming due to human influence on climate released

A new index of warming due to human influence on climate was released this week in the journal Nature Scientific Reports. It exceeded 1°C above mid-19th-century levels in 2017 and is rising faster than ever before, leaving little time to achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Global temperatures may be pushed up temporarily by El Niño events or down by volcanic eruptions. We combine temperature observations with measurements of drivers of climate change to provide an up-to-date estimate of the contribution of human influence to global warming“, explains team member Karsten Haustein, who led the study.

The level of human-induced warming reached 1.02°C above the average for 1850-79 in November 2017 (with a 5-95% uncertainty range of 0.88-1.22°C) based on HadCRUT4 temperature dataset from the UK Met Office, or 1.08°C when estimated using a version of HadCRUT4 (Cowtan/Way) that interpolates over poorly-sampled regions like the Arctic.

This figure is updated continuously on

This ‘Global Warming Index’ has been increasing continuously since the 19th century, with no pause in recent decades“, Haustein continues. “It has risen at a rate of 0.16°C per decade over the past 20 years, and is expected to average 0.96°C above 1850-79 for the decade 2010-2019. Worryingly, it appears to be accelerating, despite the recent slow-down in carbon dioxide emissions, because of trends in other climate pollutants, notably methane.”

A robust, continuously-updated index of human-induced warming – the only component of global temperatures we have any control over – is essential to monitor progress towards meeting temperature goals“, notes David Frame, a study co-author. “We hope the ‘Global Warming Index’ will provide this essential information to the UNFCCC process.”

Using the index in conjunction with carbon budget estimates based on current emissions, the remaining time until we cross the (anthropogenic) warming target of 1.5°C or 2°C can be monitored continuously as well on

The paper is freely available online at

These results were presented to delegates of the UNFCCC COP23 at a side-event “Measuring progress towards Paris Agreement goals: aligning science and policy” on 13 November.

Read a guest post by Karsten Haustein on this paper.

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