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NASA & NOAA: July 2012 Was 12th, 4th Warmest On Record

According to data released by NASA and NOAA this week, July 2012 was the 12th and 4th warmest July (respectively) globally on record.  NASA’s analysis produced the 12th warmest July in its dataset; NOAA recorded the 4th warmest July in its dataset.  The two agencies have slightly different analysis techniques, which in this case resulted in not only different temperature anomaly values but rather different rankings as well.

The details:

July’s global average temperatures were 0.47°C (0.85°F) above normal (1951-1980), according to NASA, as the following graphic shows.  The warmest regions on Earth coincide with the locations where climate models have been projecting the most warmth to occur for years: high latitudes (especially within the Arctic Circle in July 2012).  The past three months have a +0.56°C temperature anomaly.  And the latest 12-month period (Aug 2011 – Jul 2012) had a +0.50°C temperature anomaly.  The time series graph in the lower-right quadrant shows NASA’s 12-month running mean temperature index.  The recent downturn (post-2010) is largely due to the latest La Niña event (see below for more) that recently ended.  As ENSO conditions return to neutral or even El Niño-like, the temperature trace should track upward again.

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Figure 1. Global mean surface temperature anomaly maps and 12-month running mean time series through July 2012 from NASA.

According to NOAA, July’s global average temperatures were 0.63°C (1.13°F) above the 20th century mean of 15.2°C (1.12°F).  NOAA’s global temperature anomaly map for July (duplicated below) reinforces the message: high latitudes continue to warm at a faster rate than the mid- or low-latitudes.  Unfortunately in July 2012, almost the entire Northern Hemisphere was warmer than normal.

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Figure 2. Global temperature anomaly map for July 2012 from NOAA.

These figures show just how extreme (intensity & spatial extent) the heat wave over most of the US was during July 2012.  As many people saw during the preceding two-and-a-half weeks, England was cooler than usual.  The same was true for northwestern Europe, most of Australia, and a good portion of South America (Argentina, Bolivia, etc.)  Additional anomalous warmth occurred over Greenland, Russia, eastern Europe, and into central Asia and the Middle East.  The two different analyses’ importance is also shown by these figures.  Despite differences in specific global temperature anomalies, both analyses picked up on the same temperature patterns and their relative strength.

The continued anomalous warmth over Siberia is especially worrisome due to the vast methane reserves locked into the tundra and under the seabed near the region.  Methane is a stronger greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide over short time-frames (<100y),which is the leading cause of the warmth we’re now witnessing. As I discussed in the comments in a recent post, the warming signal from methane likely hasn’t been captured yet since the yearly natural variability and the CO2-caused warming signals are much stronger.  It is likely that we will not detect the methane signal for many more years.  Of additional concern are the very warm conditions found over Greenland.  Indeed, record warmth was observed at a 3200m altitude station in early July.  3.6°C may not sound that warm in July, but the station’s location at 10,500ft altitude is of interest.  I want to post more on this later, but the early July melt occurred over a very short time period, which did not result in a great deal of runoff.  In contrast, continued warmth over portions of Greenland that have not witnessed such warmth did result in rapid melting during 2012 (note: the melt season isn’t over yet either).

These observations are also worrisome for the following reason: the globe is still returning to ENSO-neutral conditions:

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Figure 3. Time series of weekly SST data from NCEP (NOAA).  The highest interest region for El Niño/La Niña is NINO 3.4 (2nd time series from top).

As the second time series graph (labeled NINO3.4) shows, the last La Niña event hit its highest (most negative) magnitude more than once between November 2011 and February 2012.  Since then, SSTs have slowly warmed back above a +0.5°C-1.0°C anomaly (y-axis).  La Niña is a cooling event of the tropical Pacific Ocean that has time-delayed effects across the globe.  It is therefore significant that the past handful of months’ global temperatures continued to rank in or near the top-5 warmest in the modern era.  You can see the effect on global temperatures that the last La Niña had via this NASA time series.  Both the sea surface temperature and land surface temperature time series decreased from 2009 to 2011.  Note that the darker lines (running means) started to increase at the end of 2011, following the higher frequency monthly data.

As the globe returns to ENSO-neutral conditions this summer and early fall, how will global temperatures respond?  Remember that global temperatures typically trail ENSO conditions by 3-6 months: the recent tropical Pacific warming trend should therefore help boost global temperatures back to their most natural state (i.e., without an ENSO signal on top of it, although other important signals might also occur at any particular point in time).  Looking further into the future, what will next year’s temperatures be as the next El Niño develops, as predicted by a number of methods (see figure below)?

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Figure 5. Set of mid-July predictions of ENSO conditions by various models (dynamical and statistical).  To be considered an El Niño event, 3-month average temperature anomalies must be measured above +0.5°C for 5 consecutive months (so the earliest an El Niño event is likely to be announced is sometime this fall).  Approximately 1/2 of the models are predicting a new El Niño event by the end of this year.  The other models predict ENSO-neutral conditions through next spring.

From the above, I hope it is clear that the US’s recent record heat wave and historic drought are associated with the most recent La Niña event.  This is typical for the US, given dominant wind patterns that La Niña establishes.  While El Niño would add additional anomalous warmth on top of the slowly evolving climate change signal, it usually also heralds above-average precipitation over most of the US.  That would be a welcome event, given the reach and severity of the drought currently underway.


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2011: 9th Warmest Calendar Year On Record, Even With A La Niña

NASA’s James Hansen and a few of his colleagues released their assessment of 2011 global temperatures recently.  In short, 2011 was the 9th warmest year in the GISS dataset.

Just as importantly, this situation occurred in the midst of a continuing La Niña event that is of moderate strength.  La Niña is characterized by a general cooling of the tropical Pacific waters near the surface; it is frequently referred to as being the opposite of El Niño.  As La Niñas progress, global temperatures tend to cool from their normal state.  This of course has implications as scientists work to differentiate the effects of natural climate processes and those brought about by humans.  If one year’s temperatures are cooler than the preceding year’s (or are warmer), does that mean that global warming has stopped (as skeptics like to say) or does that mean that there are competing forcings that affect the temperatures recorded?

It is the assessment of an overwhelming majority of climate scientists that global warming has not stopped.  Instead, the 2nd half of 2010 and all of 2011 were dominated by La Niña events.  What does this mean?  It means that if the La Niña events had not occurred (and if there were no El Niños either), in other words purely “normal” conditions, 2011 likely would have been warmer than was recorded.  This should become obvious in the next 6 months to 3 years as this La Niña dissipates and conditions across the globe respond accordingly.  It takes ~6 months for downstream effects to show up in observations after ENSO phases start and after they go away.

Here is Hansen et al.‘s updated figure showing global land-ocean temperatures using an index:

Figure 1.  Global surface air temperature anomalies relative to 1951-1980 base period for annual and 5-year running means. Green vertical bars are 2σ error estimates (Hansen et al., 2010). [Source for all graphs: Hansen]

The last black square on the right hand side of the graph is 2011′s temperature index value: +0.51°C.  You can clearly see where the 9th highest ranking comes from when viewing this graph.  You can further see that 2011 was warmer than 2001, 2004 and 2008 (simply comparing the past 10 years of values), as well as every year prior to 2000 save 1998, the year when the last century’s strongest El Niño occurred.

But I wrote above that large changes can occur year-to-year and this is evidenced by the jagged look to the yearly data in the graph above.  So what happens if the data is analyzed in such a way as to remove the yearly signal?  Furthermore, can the ENSO and solar cycle signals be quieted down to get a better idea of what the global temperatures are likely doing?  Yes they can, as the following graph demonstrates:

Figure 2. Global surface air temperature anomalies relative to 1951-1980 base period for (a) the 12-month running mean, and (b) the 60-month and 132-month running means.

The right panel of Figure 2 demonstrates the results of the removal of the ENSO signal (red line, 60-month running mean) and the solar cycle signal (blue line, 132-month running mean).  The addition of more months into the running mean helps to remove more and more noise (to a limited degree, of course).  What is left behind is increasingly the global warming signal in global temperature data.  A key takeaway is this: the same general result can be seen regardless of the specific temperature dataset employed.

To expand on this topic a little more, here is a graph comparing mean temperature anomalies and the Nino 3.4 index (and index used to characterize the ENSO signal as El Niño or La Niña):

Figure 3. Global monthly and 12-month running mean surface temperature anomalies relative to 1951-1980 base period, and 12-month running mean of the Nino 3.4 index.

Paired with the Nino 3.4 index data, it is very easy to pick out the ENSO influence on the temperature data.  Peaks in global temperature anomalies tend to occur during El Niños while troughs in anomalies tend to occur during La Niñas.  As you can see, claims that global warming has “stopped” in the past couple of years are not likely to be correct since a prolonged La Niña has occurred during that time frame.  One good indicator of whether or not global warming has stopped will be what the global temperature anomaly is ~6 months after the next El Niño peak occurs (likely sometime in the next 3 years).

Another good indicator of whether global warming has stopped or not will be what global temperature anomalies register as the upcoming solar maximum descends from its next peak.  As the following graph illustrates, the peak is likely to occur 3+ years from now:

Figure 4. Solar irradiance from composite satellite-based time series. Data sources: For 1976/01/05 to 2011/02/02 Physikalisch Meteorologisches Observatorium Davos, World Radiation Center and for 2011/02/03 to 2012/01/11 University of Colorado Solar Radiation & Climate Experiment. Data are concatenated using the 2010/02/03 to 2011/02/02 period.

It is important to note that the global temperature response to the solar cycle is delayed by ~18 months.  So in 4-5 years from now, we’ll have a much clearer idea of the effects of global warming in the 1st half of the 2010s were.  That time period will occur after the next solar cycle maximum and after the next El Niño.  It strains credulity to think that global temperatures will be lower after those two milestones than they are today.

My thoughts on this are easily understood: it is more likely that global temperature anomalies will continue to exhibit decadal-scale rises than falls in our future (21st century).  As I’ve stated many times before, it is also likelier that projected temperature increases are underestimated, not overestimated.  We are more likely to read about additional top-10 warmest year on record in our future.  That said, I’d be happy to be wrong about all of this.  The changing environment we’re living in demands changes to the way our societies function.  I don’t believe those changes will be equally catastrophic to everybody around the globe.  But all of us will be affected by this phenomenon in one way or another.  How we decide to handle those changes will be the key.


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Moderate-to-Strong La Nina Will Continue Into 2011

If you’ve experienced Colorado weather since this summer, you’ve probably noticed that we’ve been warmer and drier than normal.  The monsoon never really kicked in; September 2010 was the 112th warmest and 18th driest (out of 116) September on record; October was the 102nd warmest October on record (with average precipitation state-wide); November is going to come close to average for temperature, and could do so for precipitation, though the northwest mountains have received above-average precipitation while the Front Range continues to track well below average.

Part of the blame for these conditions is the historically dramatic switch from strong El Nino conditions last winter to moderate-to-strong La Nina conditions by this fall.  Note the rapid change from the +1.9C SST anomaly to the -1.5C SST anomaly just 9 months later from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s ENSO monitoring webpage:
Nino 3.4 SST Index 20101121

Colorado tends to be warmer and drier under La Nina conditions, as this pdf from the Boulder NWS office shows (esp. pp 12&18).  Coincident with this La Nina, which should abate by next summer, is even more snow for northwest Colorado and more warm & dry conditions southeastward from there.

A few notes for those interested: The last El Nino event was the strongest on record since 1997-98.  The last El Nino’s strength and durations wasn’t forecasted particularly well by the suite of models used to do such things.  The current La Nina’s strength was much more accurately forecasted, although the rapidity of regime change wasn’t handled quite as well.  Neutral El Nino/La Nina conditions should return by next summer or fall.

ENSO continues to be one of the strongest causes of monthly and seasonal temperature and precipitation trends.  Underlying ENSO and other oscillations is global warming, which is already directly affecting the Arctic and will show up more prominently at lower latitudes in coming years.  The effects on ENSO and other oscillations by global warming is an area of ongoing research.

Cross-posted at SquareState.


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Jan-Aug 2010 Hottest On Record: NASA & NOAA

You have likely heard or read by now that the first 8 months of global temperature in 2010 were the warmest of any such period in recorded history.  Unlike earlier months this year, I’ve started to see more coverage of this in the corporate media.  Unfortunately, the coverage I have seen has been short and lacking in critical context.  Most of the coverage has actually been of anecdotal situations, like the record-shattering 2010 Russian heat wave.  Stories about the above-average Atlantic hurricane season and the Pakistani floods leaving tens of millions displaced have typically not included much, if any, notation that record heat has been recorded across the globe.

NOAA recorded the 3rd warmest August on record; the 2nd warmest Jun-Aug on record; and Jan-Aug 2010 tied the same time period from 1998 as the warmest on record.  The most intense El Nino in recorded history occurred in 1997-1998, which helped push global temperatures to record levels.  The El Nino of 2009-2010 wasn’t nearly as strong, but added to the background warming brought about by global warming to match the warmest Jan-Aug in modern history.

August 2010

NASA’s global analysis reported a +0.67°C (+1.206°F) surface temperature anomaly for August 2010 (over the 1951-1980 base period).  August 2010 had the 7th highest anomaly of Augusts in the NASA dataset, according to NASA’s GISS dataset.

NOAA’s global analysis reported a +0.6°C (+1.08°F) surface temperature anomaly for August 2010.  According to the NOAA methodology, the two warmer Augusts observed were in 1998 (+1.3°F) and 2009 (+0.62°C  or +1.12°F).

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The Heat Continues: NASA & NOAA Detail Warmest Jan-Jun On Record in 2010

The first half of 2010 has been the hottest globally in recorded history.  A small change from last month: I briefly saw this headline at the top of a corporate media outlet: MSNBC.  I should have taken a screen-shot because I saw it at 10:45P local time last night and it had been replaced by 11:00P when I looked again.  So it would be untruthful to claim, for this month at least, that you couldn’t have seen this story covered in a prominent way by the corporate media.  I will lament that it took four straight months of record warmth before they did, however.  I will also lament that it was replaced, nearly in the middle of night, by other headlines within minutes – short shrift for such an important topic.

In a similar fashion as last month, the NOAA analysis of global temperatures have marked the warmest month of June, the warmest 3-month April to June period and, along with NASA, the warmest 6-month January to June period in recorded human history.  That makes for one heck of a headline, doesn’t it?

June 2010

NASA’s global analysis reported a +0.59°C (+1.062°F) surface temperature anomaly for June 2010 (over the 1951-1980 base period).  June 2010 joined June 2005 as the third highest anomaly in the NASA dataset, behind the record anomaly from 1998 of 0.69°C (1.24°F) and the 0.62°C (1.116°F) anomaly from 2009, according to NASA’s GISS dataset.

NOAA’s global analysis reported a +0.68°C (+1.224°F) surface temperature anomaly for June 2010.  According to the NOAA methodology, the next warmest June was observed in 2005: +0.66°C (+1.188°F).

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No Surprise: NASA & NOAA Detail Warmest May, Mar-May & Jan-May On Record in 2010; Future Hot Summers In The U.S. In Store

The first five months of 2010 have been the warmest in recorded history.  But have you seen that story covered by the corporate media?  Nope – and you aren’t likely to any time soon either … at least until the records become so widespread and intense that there’s no longer much we can do about them.

Both the NASA and NOAA analyses of global temperatures have marked the warmest month of May, the warmest 3-month March to May period and the warmest 5-month January to May period in recorded human history.  Both datasets go back 131 years into the past.  The warmest month, 3-month and 5-month periods out of 131 other years has been reached.  Perhaps if the highest scoring Super Bowl in history had just occurred, some corporate entity might be interested in covering it.

May 2010

NASA’s global analysis reported a +0.66°C (+1.134°F) surface temperature anomaly for May 2010 (over the 1951-1980 base period).  This tied the previous record anomaly from 1998 and beat the 0.59°C (1.062°F) anomaly from 2005, according to NASA’s GISS dataset.

NOAA’s global analysis reported a +0.69°C (+1.24°F) surface temperature anomaly for May 2010.  According to the NOAA methodology, the next warmest May was observed in 1998: +0.63°C (+1.13°F).

January-May 2010

With record and near-record monthly temperature averages observed so far in 2010, it is no surprise to see the January-May period this year also setting a temperature record.  According to NASA, the Jan-May 2010 period has been the warmest at +0.72°C (+1.3°F).  For comparison, NASA includes the same period from the two warmest years in their dataset so far: 2005 and 1998.  Globally averaged surface temperatures in Jan-May 2005 were +0.62°C (+1.118°F) and during the same period in 1998 were +0.61°C (+1.098°F).  So the Jan-May 2010 observed warmth was 0.10°C more than the same period in the warmest year to date on record.

According to NOAA, the Jan-May 2010 period has also been the warmest: +0.68°C (+1.224°F).  The NOAA site also contains information from the same period during the warmest or the next warmest year on record.  Their methodology differs slightly from NASA’s, but is just as valid and acts as an independent check on the other dataset.  NOAA’s methodology identified 1998 as the next warmest for global land and ocean surface temperatures at +0.67°C (+1.21°F).

Context

Global averages and multi-year trends are all very well and nice, but what do these records mean?  Is there a way to contextualize them in more day-to-day terms so that more of the public can understand the threat they pose?  I think so.  I’m going to provide a couple of examples that mean something to me; hopefully they help clarify the problem for others as well.

Record high temperatures have been occurring in the Middle East and Africa.  I know, big shock, you haven’t heard of those in the corporate media either.  Well, they happened.  I’m sure one of the stereotypical concepts of the Middle East and portions of Africa is the incredible heat the region experiences.  So what kind of records are we talking about?  Try 125.6°F (50°C) in Basra, Iraq on June 14; 125.6°F (50°C) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on June 22; 117.7°F (47.6°C) in Faya, Chad on June 22; 116.8°F (47.1°C) in Bilma, Niger.  Bahrain had its hottest day ever in June on the 20th – 46.9°C; Qatar similarly hit its hottest June day ever with 48.8°C.  Kuwait saw 123.8°F (51°C) on June 15th, missing their hottest all-time temperature by 1°F (0.9°C).  Myinmu, Myanmar hit its all-time record high back on May 12th – 116.6°F (47°C).

Okay, those are some really high temperatures.  Along the Front Range in Colorado, 100°F and higher have until now represented extremely hot days.  The frequency of 100°F days was, in the 20th century, pretty low – a couple of days at most during any one year, as the figure below from a recent NOAA report shows.

We have a choice to emit fewer emissions through the end of this century or more emissions. How many 100°F days could Colorado see if we take the low emissions path? 7-21 per year (1-3 weeks) for the Front Range and 35-49 per year (5-7 weeks) for southeast Colorado, as the next figure shows.  It is important to keep in mind that this emissions scenario depends on us changing our rate of pollution quickly and aggressively, something that does not look likely to happen.

Given our current, actual greenhouse gas emissions, which track along or slightly above the IPCC’s A1F1 scecario (the highest they considered), what kind of summers can we expect to see later this century?  8 weeks of 100°F days every year could become “normal”.  Not once or twice a year – up to 2 months of 100°F days.  Areas in southeast Colorado could be subjected to 12 weeks of 100°F days – the entire summer! – as the figure below shows.

In fact, nearly the entire country would, for the first time, experience 100°F days. The desert southwest? Given their current maximum yearly temperatures, I have to think they would find out what the Middle East goes through. Can you imagine what weeks of 100°F days would do to our agriculture, power sources and water supplies?  If we can imagine that hellish future, do we want to avoid it?  I hope that images like these and the implications of those realities coming to be will spur even more people to change their own personal lives as well as demand changes on the local, state, national and international scales.  Those temperature records I started out with could seem relatively balmy compared to the high emissions future we’re headed toward.


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NASA & NOAA: April 2010 Hottest on Record; Jan-Apr 2010 Hottest on Record

Both NASA and NOAA released their separate analyses of global temperatures through April 2010 this week.  Both agencies come to the same conclusions: April 2010 was the warmest April on record; the four-month period of Jan-Apr 2010 was the warmest such period on record (dating back to 1880).

April 2010

NASA’s analysis reported a +0.73°C (+1.314°F) surface temperature anomaly for April 2010 (over the 1951-1980 base period).  This easily beat the previous record 0.66°C (1.188°F) anomaly from 2007 and the 0.62°C (1.116°F) anomaly from 2005, according to NASA’s GISS dataset.

NOAA’s analysis reported a +0.76°C (+1.37°F) surface temperature anomaly for April 2010.  According to the NOAA methodology, the next warmest April was observed in 1998: +0.71°C (+1.28°F).

January-April 2010

With record and near-record monthly temperature averages observed so far in 2010, it is no surprise to see the January-April period this year also setting a temperature record.  According to NASA, the Jan-Apr 2010 period has been the warmest at +0.75°C (+1.35°F).  For comparison, NASA includes the same period from the two warmest years in their dataset so far: 2005 and 1998.  Globally averaged surface temperatures in Jan-Apr 2005 were +0.64°C (+1.152°F) and during the same period in 1998 were +0.61°C (+1.098°F).  So the Jan-Apr 2010 observed warmth was 0.11°C more than the same period in the warmest year to date on record.  And yet the science-hating climate change deniers can’t stop themselves from talking about “global cooling”!  I will point out again that these temperature records are occurring at a time when the lowest and longest solar minimum in a century is just ending.  What will the next 5 to 10 years look like?

According to NOAA, the Jan-Apr 2010 period has also been the warmest: +0.69°C (+1.24°F).  The NOAA site also contains information from the same period during the warmest or the next warmest year on record.  Their methodology differs slightly from NASA’s, but is just as valid and acts as an independent check on the other dataset.  NOAA’s methodology identified 2002 as the next warmest for global land and ocean surface temperatures at +0.68°C (+1.22°F).  While the NOAA data don’t indicate the incredible surge in surface temperatures that the NASA data does, a record is a record.  Moreover, the long-term trend is really what counts.  And in both the NOAA and NASA datasets, the long-term trends are bad in terms of upcoming ramifications on ecosystems and human societies.

The NOAA report also includes information on tropospheric and stratospheric temperatures.  I want to point out that April 2010 has the 2nd warmest lower tropospheric (lowest 5mi/8km) of the atmosphere on record: +0.50°C (+0.90°F), behind 1998 which saw +0.76°C (+1.37°F) temperatures.  There is a big difference in this dataset from the ones I discuss above: the troposphere data goes back only 32 years.  Here is a visual representation of the dataset for Aprils from 1979-2010.  However, the data show the same kind of trend that the surface temperatures show: up.  1998 was likely affected more because of the intensity of the El Nino that was present over the 1997-1998 northern hemispheric winter season.  There has also been an El Nino event this winter, but has affected temperatures globally in slightly different ways.

I would like to mention something else at this point.  The Bush Regime tried very hard to delay or cancel satellite missions that would continue to monitor different conditions globally from being funded, and thereby launched.  Satellites don’t operate forever; replacements must be planned for and successfully launched and operated – all of which requires less interference from political hacks, like those that were put into publicly funded agencies by Bush.  I felt that interference was one of the under-reported stories in the last decade.  Without up-to-date technologies being planned and put into place to monitor conditions, some of the observations discussed in this post wouldn’t be possible.

2010 should set the annual average temperature record if the trends seen so far this year continue.  Natural processes and cycles are being overwhelmed by anthropogenic forcing (greenhouse gas pollution).  That’s why the proposed climate and energy legislation in both chambers of the U.S. Congress are so important.  That’s why the legislation must be strengthened, not weakened.  We continue along with business as usual at our own peril.

Cross posted at SquareState.


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NASA & NOAA: March 2010 Warmest on Record

Earlier this week, I posted a piece about the warmest March on record, according to NASA’s satellite dataset.

Yesterday, NOAA issued their March 2010 Global Analysis.  Their analysis is constructed in a different way than is NASA’s, which is good – it serves as an independent check on the other.    NOAA reached the same conclusion as NASA did: March 2010 was the warmest March on record.

According to NOAA, globally averaged temperatures for the month of March reached 1.39°F (0.77°C) above the 20th century average of 54.9°F (13.5°C).

Here are what the worldwide temperature anomalies look like.  You can see the very warm (compared to normal) temperatures across Canada, the Middle East, Africa and South America.  Cooler temperatures were found across eastern Russia, southeast US and northeastern Europe.

One relatively short-lived pattern is helping to drive these record temperature anomalies: El Niño.  One of the warmest Marches on record was observed during the 1997-1998 El Niño event.  That El Niño was much stronger than this one in intensity – so something else must be impacting the temperatures.  That something is very likely human-induced climate change.  The solar cycle remains near its minima – that hasn’t changed in well over a year now.

It is crucial to understand that the vast majority of the warming the Earth has experienced as a result of human-induced climate change has occurred not on land, but in the oceans.  The Earth’s temperature above land in recent months and years has increased above climatological averages, that is true.  But the oceans have absorbed more heat than the land has.  And that will have significant repercussions in the future.  That heat has to go somewhere because the climate system is out of balance and it’s getting worse by the year.  That heat, due to the lag in response time of the ocean, will be around for decades to centuries.  The more we add, the longer it will take to return to the climate of the past 1000 years.

As I wrote earlier this week, people should expect additional records to be set this year and in the long-term.  Until we stop forcing the climate, and for a long while after that, things will just keep getting warmer.

Cross-posted at SquareState.


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NASA: March 2010 Warmest On Record

According to NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), March 2010 witnessed the warmest globally averaged temperatures for any March in the past 131 years: 0.84°C above normal.

Globally, temperatures from January-March were 0.75°C above normal, ranking 2nd in the GISS record and beating out the same time periods from 2005 and 1998, the two warmest years in the GISS record.

This comes on the heels of the 6th warmest February, according to NOAA, which calculates global temperatures slightly differently than does NASA.  NOAA should release their own monthly report in the next couple of days.

The location of places that were warmer and cooler than normal continued from the past few months: below average in the southeast U.S., Europe and most of Russia.  Mexico was also cooler than normal.  Meanwhile, Canada and the Arctic experienced much warmer temperatures than normal.  The Middle East, northern Africa, South America and Antarctica were also notably warm.

Given our continued climate forcing with greenhouse gas pollution, the 2010s are likely to set a new record for the warmest decade.  This was true for the 2000s, the 1990s and the 1980s.  2010 is already starting out with some of the warmest temperatures globally on record.  Shifting some of those warmer than normal temperatures over the U.S. might help to convince the public that the developing climate crisis deserves their attention.


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February 2010: 6th Warmest on Record

NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) has released their February 2010 Global Analysis Report.  Preliminary analysis indicates that globally averaged surface temperatures in February 2010 were the 6th warmest on record (dating back to 1880): 1.08°F (0.60°C) above the 20th century average of  53.9°F (12.1°C).  Perhaps more significantly, lower tropospheric temperatures were the 2nd warmest on record (dating back to 1979), trailing only February 1998, when a very strong El Nino was impacting the planet.

As I wrote one month ago, this 6th warmest February follows the 4th warmest January and the 8th warmest December.  This makes the Dec-Jan-Feb average surface temperature the fifth warmest on record for the season,  1.03°F(0.57°C) above the 20th century average of  53.8°F(12.1°C).

Conditions around the globe were pretty similar to those reported in January: below average temperatures over the U.S., Europe and Russia.  Much warmer temperatures than normal over Alaska, Canada, northern Africa and the Middle East.  The heat anomalies resulting from the current moderate El Nino can be seen in the Pacific Ocean as well.

Why did most of the U.S. experience below average temperatures while Alaska and Canada were so warm?  The Arctic Oscillation continued to make its presence felt.  This winter, the AO allowed cooler air from the Arctic to flow south over southern land masses while allowing warmer air from the mid-latitudes to flow north.  But remember, everything is relative.  Those warmer temperatures over the Arctic still weren’t high enough to melt sea ice, for example.  The cooler temperatures flowing out from the Arctic actually allowed for new ice to form along the edge of ice that already existed, bucking trends seen in recent years.  The Arctic witnessed a late-season surge of ice growth that I’ll cover in more detail in a few more weeks.

One of the unfortunate side-effects of a cooler than normal winter across the U.S. is the public’s perception of climate change and its effects.  Too often, folks confuse weather and climate.  I think that’s fairly natural: weather is what we experience every day; climate is about long-term trends and our memories are often different than what recorded observations indicate. Blizzards up and down the populous east coast don’t exactly spur thoughts of a warmer globe.

Legislation that would begin addressing climate change on a national scale continues to be bottled up in the dysfunctional U.S. Senate.  Closer to home, efforts like increasing Colorado’s Renewable Energy Standard to 30% by 2020 are pushing local efforts further.  We need to focus on what the climate trends are and act accordingly.  We can (must!) upgrade and update the way we live with a great deal of real cost savings in the next 10 years.  There are more “6th warmests” ahead of us, even if we do make the needed changes.  How many there are is largely up to us.

Cross-posted at SquareState.

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