While popular thought has dictated that the onset of global warming began around 1979, it looks like climate change germinated decades before that hallmark year. A group of scientists has determined that the detrimental effects of greenhouse gases could have been in play as far back as 1937 - a year in which recorded temperatures reached record-breaking heights.
In a paper recently published in the scientific journal Geophysical Research Letters, that self-same year was a harbinger of sorts - it paved the way for other astronomically high temperatures in 1940, 1941 and 1944.
"What we found was that we could actually detect human influence on extreme events a lot earlier than we'd thought," said Oxford University's Daniel Mitchell, a physicist and climate change researcher, as well as one of the co-authors of the article.
While industrialization wasn't quite at its zenith in 1937 as it is today, the scientists theorized from their results - which were garnered from models the team used with data going as far back as 1901 - that the comparatively trace amounts still spurred it on.
As Climate Central reported:
"The record set last year saw average temperatures of 1°C (1.8°F) above those of the late 19th century. A United Nations climate agreement was struck in Paris in December, aiming to keep warming 'well below' 2°C (3.6°F).
The warming effects of fossil fuel use and deforestation remained relatively slight 80 years ago, when compared with the heavy hand they have played in rapid-fire records set more recently. Even so, the researchers concluded that greenhouse gas pollution in 1937 doubled the likelihood of reaching that year's high average temperature."
Another researcher on the project named Andrew King from the University of Melbourne stated that it would have been "virtually impossible" for the Earth's temperature to reach these extremes if the effect of greenhouse gases weren't in play.
"It's just kind of scary that we've been influencing the climate for a very long time, and we haven't really done anything substantial to limit our emissions," King added. "We've just made the problem worse and worse."
Photo: Mikael Miettinen | Flickr