2014 Hottest Year on Record Amidst Ocean Heat Spikes and Arctic Wildfires

According to Japan’s Meteorological Agency, 2014 set new inauspicious marks as the hottest year in the global climate record since measures began in 1891.

Temperatures rocketed to 0.27 C above the 1981-2010 average, 0.63 C above the 20th Century average and showed a severe pace of warming of 0.70 C per Century. By comparison, the end of the last ice age featured century scale warming at the rate of 0.04 to 0.05 C every 100 years. So the current rate of warming, according to the JMA measure, is 14-17 times faster. A rapid warm-up driving increasingly severe weather and geophysical changes.

2014 Hottest Year on Record

(JMA measure shows 2014 was hottest year on record. Image source JMA.)

NOAA is also expected to show 2014 as hottest year on record. NASA is likely to show 2014 as 1rst, 2nd or 3rd hottest.

2014, according to JMA, was the first record breaker since the super El Nino year of 1998 with 2014 beating out 1998 by 0.05 degrees C. However, the JMA measure also showed that all ten hottest years on record occurred since 1998. Perhaps more telling is the fact that the JMA measure reveals no hiatus in the pace of global atmospheric temperature increase with all years since 1998 at or above the trend line.

Ocean Heat but No El Nino

World ocean surface temperature spikes were the primary driver of the new global surface temperature record with NOAA’s measure showing a majority of months as hottest ever recorded for the world ocean. North Pacific and North Atlantic Ocean temperatures were particularly hot — with a West Coast heat pool driving ocean dead zone events and starfish die-offs alike. In this region and off the US East Coast, Ocean temperature anomalies regularly topped 4 degrees Celisus above average. An extraordinary degree of heat that, in some cases, saw tropical fish species heading into Arctic waters for solace from the record warmth.

Sea Surface Temperature Anomaly global August 29, 2014

(Extraordinary Sea Surface Temperature spikes occurred in late August and mid October, with most of 2014 showing extreme ocean heating. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

El Nino threatened throughout much of the year. But despite a warming near the Equatorial Pacific temperature thresholds failed to fully tip into El Nino. An ominous sign considering that El Nino is the hot phase of atmospheric and surface temperature variability — which may mean that the next El Nino will drive a global high temperature departure even more extreme than 2014’s record setting value.

Severe Weather, Climate Extremes During Hottest Year

2014 also featured some of the worst weather on record with the US experiencing extraordinary dipole anomalies coincident with polar vortex collapse events and severe Arctic warming. Across the Atlantic, the UK experienced both its stormiest winter on record and its hottest year on record. A year hotter than any since 1649 for that nation.

Throughout the world severe droughts ravaged wide regions with the US Southwest still in the grips of the worst multi-year drought in 1,200 years. This year’s California drought was the most recent iteration of this severe event featuring a ridiculously resilient high pressure ridge that has continued to rob California of much of its typical seasonal moisture.

Amazon drying and wildfires also made news this year amidst a severe drought gripping the Sao Paulo megalopolis in Southeastern Brazil. The ongoing drought has shut off monsoonal moisture, forced residents to ration water, and threatens to put city water officials in the position of turning to use of mud for municipal water supplies.

Glaciologists identified massive sections of Antarctic land ice that had reached the point of irreversible collapse. Many of these researchers pointed toward an expanding pool of warm bottom water undermining sea facing glaciers as the culprit for this increasingly rapid glacial melt. A set of circumstances that creates a higher risk of more rapidly rising seas.

To this point, the City of Miami began a combined program of installing pumps to rid streets of flooding at times of high tide and has assessed a property tax to begin its efforts to fight the surge of waters set off by human caused climate change. New studies also found high risk areas such as Hampton Roads in Virginia now featured tens of thousands of properties under such serious threat of flooding that only FEMA will provide them with insurance — a number that will continue to increase along with the sea levels (globally at 3.3 millimeters of increase per year but as high as 7-8 mm per year in some regions).

Ominous Signs the Permafrost is Starting to Disgorge its Carbon Store

Sections of Siberia and Canada experienced extraordinary warmth during winter and spring of 2014 — setting off severe early season wildfires that raged well into late summer. These megafires continue the trend of recent years in which massive blazes rip through the Siberian tundra region disgorging methane and CO2 laden smoke plumes that then encircle the Northern Hemisphere.

For the Northwest Territories of Canada, this past summer represented its worst fire year ever recorded with massive blazes forming towering pyrocumulus clouds over vast burning regions of Arctic permafrost. A fitting backdrop for the Mordor-like activities of Alberta tar sands extraction.


(Very intense wildfires, some the size of smalls states as seen above in the LANCE MODIS shot from July of 2014, raged through Siberian tundra this summer. For reference the bottom edge of frame is 120 miles. Image source: LANCE MODIS.)

In all, about 1,300 gigatons of carbon are stored in the now thawing permafrost, a region Joe Romm is calling the permamelt (perhaps permaburn is a better term). And a human enhanced warming of the Arctic appears to be speeding that carbon’s rate of release into the atmosphere. An impact that could further accelerate human-caused warming. An ignominious circumstance leading to more record warm years and related global climate extremes to come. One that adds urgency to the need to rapidly transition away from fossil fuel burning and human activities that dump massive volumes of carbon into the atmosphere.


JMA Global Average Surface Temperatures Reach New Record in 2014

2014 Was The Hottest Year By Far

Met Office Confirms 2014 was Hottest Year on Record for UK


2014’s Unprecedented Arctic Wildfires

The Climate Reanalyzer

Leave a comment


  1. wili

     /  January 7, 2015

    When it rains, it pours! Great to have another great post. What are the possibilities that this year will yet again be record breaking? Aren’t they still predicting another and a bigger El Nino for this summer-ish.

  2. wili

     /  January 7, 2015 Most of the latest models (blue) are mostly above the forecast ensemble mean (dashed black line).

    • IRI/CPC models show likelihood of weak El Niño through spring. CFSv2, the one you posted, shows likelihood of moderate El Niño come summer 2015. These two model sets aren’t quite in agreement.

      It’s worth noting we have had 2 months with Niño 3.4 anomalies above +0.5 C. 5 necessary for El Niño and it looks like we may edge just below the threshold in Jan or Feb.

      • Henri

         /  January 7, 2015

        My prediction for 2015. We will have a mild El Niño but it will cause the temperature to top 2014 only slightly. The denialists are jubilant and declare climate change beaten because an El Niño year raises the temperature so little compared to normal (since, you know, 2014 is the new normal). Scientists continue to plead on deaf ears and it will be some 10 to 15 years before the same scientists will get crucified for supposedly not have given a warning (although they did).

        Disclaimer: I am not a climate scientist and the above prediction is pure guesswork. The parts containing human behavior are meant to be sad/funny and only moderately realistic.

    • So it’s pretty murky. But it does look like the current warm pattern is still ongoing (though we are entering a cooler phase before the next a Kelvin wave).

    • Feature of interest — deep 930 mb low between Iceland and Greenland. May make a mess for Scandinavia in coming days.

      RRR is back for the west coast, at least for this week. California drought still going very strong. Perhaps a little improvement over the next few months, perhaps not. But long range looks like the situation may be heading back toward bad.

      ECMWF shows western warm up by mid January. Could be rather strong. Worth watching.

      Bering and extreme North Atlantic keep showing warm ups. This could continue to suppress sea ice expansion in those zones resulting in rather low extent values for this time of year. Current measures are 2nd to 3rd lowest on record for this date.

  3. Andy in San Diego

     /  January 7, 2015


    Not sure if you saw this from the old thread (apologies if you did, and to others). But as for the NWT we have an immense region now entering thaw from permafrost.

    We’ve seen a 2.0C increase in ground temp for a giant area in the NWT. It is now at -1.5C (striking distance of 0.0C) and increasing. This is a great link, the various sections have great info.

    This includes ground collapse exposing permafrost to thaw.

    Some folks have been doing great work for a long time here.

    Glad to see you back.

    • Cheers and thanks for this Andy. Looks like NWT is in a similar situation to those in Siberia — rapid permafrost thaw. Will read this study with interest.

      I’m still looking with shock at West Canadian crude selling at 33 dollars today. It really is a game of chicken for the oil producers now. GoM, Latin and South America all set to expand against this backdrop. Seems the industries are hell bent to push their energy crack at all costs…

      • Andy in San Diego

         /  January 7, 2015

        33 per barrel does not cover costs for tar sands (I think it is close to 40/barrel). It is a make busy, keep the equipment running and keep personnel onsite situation. Right now it costs more to do layoffs is all.

        If the price holds low then we’ll start to see scale back.

  4. Andy in San Diego

     /  January 7, 2015

    Bad year ahead for Sao Paolo State.

    They received 80% of average historical rainfall for December for their primary water storage system.

    They are at 6.9% now and dropping. They only hold 100 days at 100% as historically they had no shortage of rain so it was no issue.

    • Looking pretty bad for the rainy season… All those reservoirs are short.

      Thanks for the links, Andy.

      • Andy in San Diego

         /  January 7, 2015

        They have 2 more months to get lucky is all.

        Jan – Normal for Sao Paolo State = 239 mm
        Feb – Normal = 218 mm
        March – Normal = 160 mm

        If they run 80% normal as we’ve seen in December, it’s still a done deal.

        If they run the normal rate they’ll still be at 0% by April in the main supply. I still think we’ll see tap’s off in March.

  5. Gerald Spezio / January 5, 2015
    Doug, your “question” demonstrates that you do not understand even the basics of what near term extinction means.

    And my question was, where people thought might be a good place to move to avoid the worst aspects of climate change.

    So Gerald apparently thinks all action is pointless, because he knows HE JUST KNOWS, we are headed toward near-term extinction.

    Peer reviewed science on that one Gerald?


    Guy McPherson doesn’t count. I’d be happy to post for you what he’s been wrong about.

    • Andy in San Diego

       /  January 7, 2015

      “where people thought might be a good place to move to avoid the worst aspects of climate change. ”

      That is a bloody fascinating question! So many variables, so little time.

      Does one look for and ecosystem that is resilient to the temperature / rainfall . climatic shift? Does one consider a locale where there is a low population (less competition). Does one look for rainfall, agricultural opportunities. A defensible location… There are so many variables, I don’t think anyone has the answer. And if they do, do they share it?

      That question puts the human condition to the test!

      • I would say British Columbia if it weren’t sitting right next to a rapidly declining ocean zone.

      • For the “doomsteaders”. Is there a better term?
        “There seems to be no shortage of rich Americans afraid of the future.”

        “Each residential unit is provisioned with a five-year supply of freeze-dried and dehydrated survival food per person. This is high quality food that has a shelf life of more than 20 years and is stored in special oxygen-free containers. This means that a Full-Floor residential unit has a 30 man-year supply of food and the Half-Floor residential unit has a 15 man-year supply of food.”

        This strikes me as perverse. I commented on this at another site:

        “I would say this is a perverse reflection of the type of society that capitalism, especially deregulated capitalism, produces –every man for himself, screw everyone else once I’ve got mine.
        It is also an insight into how the monied elite think about the American system. They are happy to rig it in their favor and corrupt the government for the benefit of big business, but they are ready to bail once they know the scam is over.”

      • Perhaps just another way that capitalism commodifies catastrophe.

      • Henri

         /  January 7, 2015

        “I would say British Columbia if it weren’t sitting right next to a rapidly declining ocean zone.”

        Also, isn’t boreal forest one of the prime candidates for being the first biome to collapse due to the climate change?

        • If the change was slow, it would have a chance to transition to a more tropical forest. Not likely at this pace.

      • wili

         /  January 7, 2015

        I love (=hate) the way rich conservatives always point to Katrina as proof that the gov is incompetent in the face of disasters when it was their own W who gutted FEMA under the tender care of Michael “heck of a job” Brown, who posted and viewed emails at the height of the crisis about what he was wearing, but ignored for 4 days emails offering critical medical equipment.

        • I think it’s pretty likely we end up with the kind of bad government conservatives talk about when conservatives happen to be in power.

          ‘What? I messed up? Nope, that’s just government inefficiency.’

      • A few are discussing the retreat from coastlines. Talk should be about retreating to the poles, the very last place to hide in a 6°C world. We could have an abrupt climate event within the warming that is already occurring as is discussed by Paul Beckwith, an expert on abrupt climate change. He calls the melting of summer Arctic sea ice a “blue ocean event” which will allow for much more absorption of solar heat, accelerating runaway climate change in the Arctic.

      • Robert In New Orleans

         /  January 7, 2015

        The Pacific NW and western Canada sound good on paper. My concerns would be:
        1. Super powerful mid latitude cyclones fueled by GW.
        2. Earthquakes and volcanism associated with the subduction of the Juan de Fuca plate.
        3. Radiation from abandoned Eurasian nuclear reactors.
        4. Airborne and seaborne pollution from east Asia.
        5. Unknown unknowns/Black Swan events.
        6. My own catastrophic thinking.

        • Watch the Peter Ward video Apneaman posted. Then recall that one of the world’s fastest expanding dead zones is off the US NW and British Columbia. A dead zone fueled by warm, anoxic water upwelling in that region. This will probably be one of the first places we see H2S coming from ocean surface waters in a catastrophic warming event.

      • Robert In New Orleans

         /  January 7, 2015

        The “Survival Condo” looks like a future archeological dig site/tomb.

    • Gerald Spezio

       /  January 7, 2015

      Doug, I hope that you can find a place to confront the future.
      I hope that every single one of us can.
      I do think that GM far more right than wrong.
      Much of the answer will become evident this year.

    • Brian

       /  January 7, 2015

      Just what we need, a couple of million climate refugees arriving here on our shores to despoil what’s left of the rainforest. The world’s wealthy elites are already buying up all our real estate and making the place virtually unrecognizable. Not to be too mercenary about it, but deal with your own problem and force the governing elites in your own backyard to take action against climate change because there is going to be no where that escapes the combined effects of environmental degradation and climate change. Moving won’t help. There are no more frontiers to conquer and destroy. Take responsibility for your own welfare and your own region.

      But if not…..

      …..Have you thought about Alaska? I hear it is quite lovely this time of year. :-)))

      • Exactly. We’re all in the zone now.

        I think people who bank on moving will be rather disappointed by their future circumstances. What we’re talking about is differences in severity of pain. There really aren’t any safe havens.

    • Apneaman

       /  January 7, 2015

  6. Someone tell Bob about the 2 new posts, he’s going to sh!t missing out on this.It’s like another Christmas! Thanks Robert.

  7. Satellites measure increase of sun’s energy absorbed in the Arctic

    “NASA satellite instruments have observed a marked increase in solar radiation absorbed in the Arctic since the year 2000 – a trend that aligns with the steady decrease in Arctic sea ice during the same period.”

  8. Evidence for a wavier jet stream in response to rapid Arctic warming

    “New metrics and evidence are presented that support a linkage between rapid Arctic warming, relative to Northern hemisphere mid-latitudes, and more frequent high-amplitude (wavy) jet-stream configurations that favor persistent weather patterns. We find robust relationships among seasonal and regional patterns of weaker poleward thickness gradients, weaker zonal upper-level winds, and a more meridional flow direction. These results suggest that as the Arctic continues to warm faster than elsewhere in response to rising greenhouse-gas concentrations, the frequency of extreme weather events caused by persistent jet-stream patterns will increase.”

    • Watching another large circulation around Greenland today. Huge meridional flow stretching from off Florida all the way to just south of Svalbard.

  9. Ouse M.D.

     /  January 7, 2015

    The arctic air circulation at 10 hPa looks to be a new one for the books. 4 vorteces rotating steadily, sucking in more and more warm air into the arctic.
    And the older sea ice is being pushed into the warm Atlantic.
    No good signs for the summer.

  10. Colorado Bob

     /  January 7, 2015

    Australia Is Burning, and Climate Change Is Making It Worse

    “Much of Australia experienced temperatures very much above average in 2014, with mean temperatures 0.91°C above the long-term average,” said Neil Plummer, assistant director for climate information services, in a statement. The year was the third-hottest on record, following the hottest-ever year in 2013.

  11. One thing that seems realistic to me is that we really don’t know what the future holds as far as rainfall patterns e.t.c. because you just know that these right-wing conservative types will try an ill advised geo-engeneering attempt. After being so wrong about global warming for so long, once it finally dawns on these elite assholes that it’s real, rather than cutting back consumption, they’ll go for a hail mary, and try and alter the climate in their favor.

    Who here thinks it will be a well controlled and thought out experiment?

    After these pricks try their geo-engeneering, who knows, maybe it will shift rainfall patterns to the desert, and dry out the areas that get abundant rain now.


    • AMEG endorses this scheme:
      In conjunction with other techniques of pulling CO2 out of the atmosphere such as biochar and forest restoration, this may be the only shot we have of leaving a habitable planet for future generations. I’m not a big fan of techno-fixes by “free market” capitalists because they simply use them to perpetuate business-as-usual, and the big obstacle for effecting social change today is that governments the world over have been reduced to handmaidens for corporations.

    • Have to say it —

      It does appear to me that GM is promoting geo-engineering. Sad to see really, considering the fact that he attacks the rational basis for a renewable energy switch away from fossil fuels.

  12. Spike

     /  January 8, 2015

    Five times as many people will die of heart disease in Germany by 2098 as climate change causes more intense heatwaves.The results are based on a moderate emissions scenario up to 2098.

    “Since the future increase in heat wave frequency and duration is projected to be higher in Western and Southern Europe than in Central Europe, future heat-related mortality could be even higher in the former regions,” says Zacharias.

  13. Brian

     /  January 8, 2015

    Economist Robert Pollin: Towards a Green Economy: Models that are Working

    part 3 of nine. I will post the whole series from Reality Asserts Itself if people find they are interested. Or follow links on The Real News.

    I’ll post part 1 as well just for background:

  14. Just how many clues do we really need?
    Isn’t anyone with authority listening?
    Can’t they use their authority to do something about it?
    Or do people with strong agendas have the ears of those in authority?

    The politicians of this world need to move and, move fast and move NOW before it’s too late. (assuming it’s not too late already).

    If our politicians continue to be ineffective, then we are doomed to the scenario depicted in this cartoon . . . .


  1. 2014 Hottest Year on Record Amidst Ocean Heat Spikes and Arctic Wildfires | GarryRogers Nature Conservation
  2. 2014 Hottest Year on Record Amidst Ocean Heat Spikes and Arctic Wildfires | GarryRogers Nature Conservation

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