With New El Nino Predicted, 3rd Hottest January on Record May be Cool Mark for 2017

Last month was pretty darn hot as global temperature measures go.

According to NASA, the world’s thermometer averaged 1.14 C warmer than 1880s temperatures or about 0.92 C warmer than NASA’s 20th Century baseline. These readings were the third warmest for January since NASA record keeping began in 1880.


(A record hot world cools a little during January of 2017 relative to 2016. Unfortunately, with La Nina fading and a new El Nino predicted and with atmospheric CO2 measures continuing to climb, more record breaking or near record breaking global heat appears to be on the way. Image source: NASA GISS.)

2016-2017 La Nina — Not Very Cool

For a temperature measure that has consistently been producing ‘hottest months on record’ throughout 2016, the dip back to top 3 during January represents an ephemeral respite. More to the point, the fact that this third hottest ever reading occurred during the cool phase of natural variability called La Nina presents little cause for reassurance.

The Pacific Ocean has merely been drawing in more atmospheric heat on balance, as its periodic cycles dictate, during the months of September 2016 through January 2017. But despite a heat draw-down due to this variable cool ocean phase, the period produced consistent second and third hottest months on record globally. In particular, warming at the poles (and especially in the Arctic) appeared to substantially counter the cooling influence of the weak La Nina.


(With a weak La Nina fading, a weak to moderate El Nino apparently on the way, and with atmospheric greenhouse gasses at record high levels, it appears that 2017 temperatures will range close to the record global warmth that occurred during 2016. Image source: NASA.)

Overall, the average temperature of these five cooler La Nina months was 0.876 C above NASA’s 20th Century average (1.096 C above 1880s). A reading considerably warmer than the 1998 super El Nino year average of 0.63 C above 20th Century baselines (0.85 C above 1880s). An average unsettlingly close to the 0.98 C above baseline (1.2 C above 1880s) measure for 2016 as a whole.

Predicted 2017 El Nino Would Push us Back to Near Record Hot Too Soon

With a La Nina period so greatly exceeding 1998 El Nino averages, we can confidently say at this time that the old cherry previously used by climate change deniers for so many frequent misrepresentations has now been left in the dust and ash of the great global burning of fossil fuels continuing unabated since that time and that this year will push CO2 and CO2e levels to above 410 ppm (peak) and 493 ppm respectively.


(Warm Kelvin Wave now propagating across the Pacific indicates that a weak-to-moderate El Nino may form by Summer of 2017. Such an event, when combined with record levels of atmospheric greenhouse gasses, would tend to keep 2017 temperatures closer to record warm ranges established during 2016. Image source: NOAA.)

For the coming months, we can say with some confidence that global temperatures again appear likely to start rising. NOAA model guidance now points toward a likelihood of a new weak El Nino forming by May or June. An event that will possibly expand into a moderate strength event come the Fall of 2017. Already, a plug of warmer than normal water is propagating from west to east just beneath the Equatorial Pacific’s sea surface. And this warm water is expected to expand off South America and then spread westward along the Equator in a classic El Nino scenario for the coming months.

El Nino forecasts for this time of year can be rather uncertain. However, if NOAA models are correct, the added warmth over so much surface water in the Equatorial Pacific will also tend to push an atmosphere already loaded with an abundance of heat-trapping gasses to again warm.


(NOAA CFSv2 model runs show a moderate El Nino forming by late Summer or early Fall. Image source: NOAA.)

So the La Nina range of 0.95 to 1.15 C above 1880s will tend to tip toward 1.05 to 1.25 C above 1880s during a weak to moderate El Nino event. A range very close to what we recently saw during the record warm year of 2016.

Risks for Heat Related Climate Disruptions to Remain Heightened

So much re-warming so soon on the tails of 2016 is not very good short or medium-term news for the global climate system. It means that issues such as severe droughts and floods, disruption of monsoonal weather patterns, increasingly prevalent wildfires, climate related stresses to crops, global coral bleaching, and immediate melt stresses to polar zones are likely to fail to abate during 2017. The one silver lining being that 2017 is less likely to hit a new record global high temperature mark than 2016 was. But global temperatures hitting so high already at the tail end of three record warm years in a row is little cause for comfort.



The Climate Prediction Center


Leave a comment


  1. Genomik

     /  February 28, 2017

    Great news! NOT!
    Related to this is that California can expect more rain instead of snow because of warmer ocean waters. This can be very challenging as this years storms have shown and the fact the system was designed for snow in the winter, not rain. Extreme rain can flood the delta as well as stress the dams.


  2. redskylite

     /  February 28, 2017

    Many thanks R.S for that very detailed appraisal of what may be in store. It’s frustrating to watch our slow progress in trying to get back in balance, especially when we are still electing counter productive governments, unfortunately led by people mostly of my age. The graphs show a very straightforward signal of what is really happening. A very small few are creating a lot of negative noise, when we need a clear positive vision. The science is clear. The Conversation has an informative article on the decline of staple food crops today.

    “When it comes to the staple crops – wheat, rice, maize, soybean, barley and sorghum – research has found changes in rainfall and temperature explain about 30% of the yearly variation in agricultural yields. All six crops responded negatively to increasing temperatures – most likely associated with increases in crop development rates and water stress. In particular, wheat, maize and barley show a negative response to increased temperatures. But, overall, rainfall trends had only minor effects on crop yields in these studies. ”


    • It’s a combination of impacts — rising temperatures, more extreme weather (flood to drought, drought to flood), sea level rise flooding productive farmland, and the rather rapid movement of climate zones as well as other factors that can compound risks.

      For the present, we have an uptick in the FAO price index:


      Worth noting that it’s still below what’s considered to be the ‘danger zone.’ However, it appears we have a number of global hunger hotspots popping up. It appears that regions of the world have fallen out of the global food market and are suffering due to systemic weakness in food production and access compounded by climate impacts.

      East Africa has again fallen into severe hunger crisis:

      “The number at risk on the continent stretches well beyond the countries identified by UNICEF. The U.N. World Food Program (WFP) reports that 12 million people living in the Horn of Africa and Southern Africa are now dependent on food aid.”

      Drought and war are identified as chief causes. But you cannot separate the larger influence of climate change on drought from this issue, as some have attempted to.

    • From Operation U.S.A. —

      “East Africa is currently experiencing the worst drought to hit the region in 60 years. The UN has officially declared famine in parts of southern Somalia—regions of Lower Shabelle and southern Bakool. It is predicted that the entire south of Somalia will face famine within the next two months. Operation USA is working to assess unmet needs on the ground, with its initial response focusing on water resource needs in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camps. The Dadaab camps–the largest in the world–are reported to receive as many as 1,300 refugees a day, the majority fleeing war-torn Somalia. These camps house almost 400,000 displaced people in three camps originally designated for 90,000.”


    • Scheduling tweet on this, thanks.

  3. Cate

     /  February 28, 2017


    “Massive Permafrost Thaw Documented in Canada, Portends Huge Carbon Release

    Study shows 52,000 square miles in rapid decline, with sediment and carbon threatening the surrounding environment and potentially accelerating global warming.

    Huge slabs of Arctic permafrost in northwest Canada are slumping and disintegrating, sending large amounts of carbon-rich mud and silt into streams and rivers…..According to researchers with the Northwest Territories Geological Survey, the permafrost collapse is intensifying and causing landslides into rivers and lakes that can choke off life downstream, all the way to where the rivers discharge into the Pacific Ocean…..”

    Much more in the story on implications for all Arctic countries.

  4. Sheri

     /  March 1, 2017

    This is very disheartening …..

  5. coloradobob

     /  March 1, 2017

    Have we underestimated the West’s super-floods?

    For the past several decades, paleo-hydrologist Victor Baker of the University of Arizona has been using techniques similar to Minoura’s to study the flood history of the Colorado Plateau. Like Minoura, he’s found that floods much larger than any in recorded history are routine occurrences. And like Minoura, he feels his research is being largely ignored by agencies and public utilities with infrastructure in the path of such floods.


  6. Apart from the amazing summer heat in the land of Oz, seems other things are also strange in the southern hemisphere:

    Glacial Pace for Southern Hemisphere Cyclone Season.

    1) Don’t know if “glacial pace” is a good term for describing slow-moving phenomena any more 🙂
    2) How fast are we moving into uncharted territory all over the globe?

    • wili

       /  March 1, 2017

      Good point and question, Dave. I do feel as though we have turned some major climatic corner this year.

  7. coloradobob

     /  March 1, 2017

    “A sense of despair”: The mental health cost of unchecked climate change

    Climate change is taking an obvious physical toll on earth: from depleted farmland to the rise of toxic pollution to the degradation of long-stable ecosystems to the disappearance of biodiversity and endangered species.

    But looking beyond the physical, experts are also trying to sound the alarm about the quieter, more insidious effects of climate change: namely, that global warming is threatening the emotional health of humans worldwide.

    “We see a sense of despair that sets in as inevitably Mother Nature, who we think of as our nurturing force, tells us we’re not going to be able to survive the conditions she’s set for us,” Dr. Lise Van Susteran, a practicing psychiatrist and expert on the dangers of climate change on mental health, told CBS News.

    Dr. Van Susteran presented on this topic earlier this month at the Climate & Health Meeting in Atlanta, a conference that looked at climate change through the lens of public health. Former Vice President Al Gore organized the meeting when, days before President Trump’s inauguration, a long-planned Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) summit on the topic was abruptly cancelled.


    • mulga mumblebrain

       /  March 1, 2017

      Colorado, I’ve believed for some time that the ever heightened belligerence of the denialists is no longer just the result of Rightwing pathopsychology and intense, unremitting, brainwashing by fake-stream media, like the execrable Murdoch machine. I think that they are also afflicted by sub-conscious stresses, first that they are wrong and have caused the destruction of their own children, and that they are wrong, and will be made to pay for it. Both are nasty and debilitating incubi to carry.

      • Shawn Redmond

         /  March 1, 2017

        “We see a sense of despair that sets in as inevitably Mother Nature, who we think of as our nurturing force, tells us we’re not going to be able to survive the conditions she’s set for us,”
        “The conditions SHE’s set for us”.
        It comes down to wording doesn’t it. I think everyone here for the most part would look past this little nuance without giving it a second thought. This wording is very subtle even clandestine. It gently removes our part in the coming conditions, setting up the idea that we had little or no part in the changes we now see. “SHE” has set the conditions. What a great way to keep the riches flowing to the few. We can now make “mother nature ” the terrorist and squeeze the last bits of “gold” out of the earth and the peasants under the pretence of saving our own skins, and theirs of course. Geo-enginering anyone? Faustian bargain? BAU for certain, all in the good name of survival, (capitalism). Control the narrative, slowly moving away from the ongoing source of the problem and making it appear to be the saviour. If they can get enough of the centre left to believe in a techno fix the denialists will have no trouble going to work mining the oil and ore to build the wall, or should I say ceiling, between us and the sun. Those few actually pulling the strings likely think we have more room to maneuver than we do.

        • mulga mumblebrain

           /  March 2, 2017

          Yes, we are being driven to self-destruction by a tiny, all-powerful and utterly malevolent ruling parasite class. Not only do they and their poisonous fake-stream media liars either utterly deny the Holocaust already smashing down on us, or, even more bizarrely, simply ignore it. but also all the destruction of Life on Earth does not go to raise humanity up, but only to ever more grotesquely enrich a tiny ruling caste. When eight men control more wealth than 3.6 billion, it is not just beyond obscene, but the quiescent acceptance of such an abomination is possibly even more shocking.

  8. Marcusblanc

     /  March 1, 2017

    Saw this article on methane in the pacific, both in the water column and on the sea bed, and the bacteria in low-oxygen areas that creates much of it.


  9. Vic

     /  March 1, 2017

    Making China great again.

    Both the production and the consumption of coal in China have fallen for the third year in a row, while the utilization rate for coal-fired generators has declined to 47.5% – an all time low – down from a peak of 79% in 2011.

    China installed a world record 33.2 gigawatts of solar in 2016, more than doubling the previous record of 15 GW installed by China in 2015.

    In terms of wind, China installed ‘just’ 17.3GW in 2016, down from the record annual install of 29GW in 2015, again set by China.


    • Vic – good article – thanks for the link. Astounding reduction in coal use.

      Then – there’s the “Faustian bargain”, to use Jim Hansen’s term… but we can hope.

      • Just in case the comment about the “Faustian bargain” is obscure…

        Reduced coal burning = reduced CO2 (not to mention tons of other pollutants) = reduced global warming / climate weirding over the long term (centuries to millennia) – which is good news.


        Reduced coal burning = reduced particulate pollution = reduced global dimming = increased global warming / climate weirding over the short term (weeks to months).

        • Mark in OZ

           /  March 1, 2017

          Good Ob Dave!
          In contrast to this progressive thinking and policy, Straya celebrates it’s legendary ‘exceptionalism’ and seeks to prove that a ‘clean coal’ route is her preferred direction.

          Of course, this capture and sequestration technology is unproven and according to the current ‘pioneer’ in this regard ( The Kemper Project in GA) it is ridiculously un-economic and hence unviable.

          We’ll either prove beyond all doubt we are exceptional or we’ll prove beyond all doubt that our politicians are terrified (thus beholden) of the empire who hiss unpleasant phrases into their ears to ensure that ‘growth’ is not interrupted, ROI and ROE advance and the ‘key stakeholders’ ( off shore shareholders) are rewarded.
          We did not invent political venality, but we’re proud as Punch in having ‘perfected’ it.


    • mulga mumblebrain

       /  March 1, 2017

      Chinese leaders can read scientific reports, and understand them.

  10. Cate

     /  March 1, 2017

    12-year study shows that some plants in Greenland are greening up almost a full month earlier than they did a decade ago. “The change corresponds to nearly an entire growing season, and breaks the record for the greatest shift in spring emergence that the scientists have observed in the Arctic.”

    Changes in the growing season are associated with diminishing sea-ice cover…..Shifting patterns of plant growth may in turn affect herbivore life-cycles: more caribou calves died in years when spring green-up preceded calving season.

    In short, the issue of food supply is hitting the big mammals in the Arctic.

  11. coloradobob

     /  March 1, 2017

  12. Cate

     /  March 1, 2017

    Some good news out of Alberta: an incentive program for residential and commercial solar installations. About time. I hope this inspires the Trudeau govt to create a national program on a similar scale. Btw, in my province, we already have an insulation-rebate program for electrically-heated homes. Small steps, but at least in the right direction.


  13. coloradobob

     /  March 1, 2017

    Antarctica hits record high temperature at balmy 17.5°C (63.5°F)

    An Argentine research base near the northern tip of the Antarctic peninsula has set a heat record at a balmy 17.5 degrees Celsius (63.5° Fahrenheit), the UN weather agency said on Wednesday.

    The Experanza base set the high on March 24, 2015, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said after reviewing data around Antarctica to set benchmarks to help track future global warming and natural variations.


    • coloradobob

       /  March 1, 2017

      Evaluating Highest-Temperature Extremes in the Antarctic

      By Maria de Los Milagros Skansi, John King, Matthew A. Lazzara, Randall S. Cerveny, Jose Luis Stella, Susan Solomon, Phil Jones, David Bromwich, James Renwick, Christopher C. Burt, Thomas C. Peterson, Manola Brunet, Fatima Driouech, Russell Vose, and Daniel Krahenbuhl

      Officially investigating, documenting, and verifying such high-temperature extremes is the business of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Commission for Climatology (CCl). For this purpose, the WMO CCl has created an international evaluation committee of climatologists and meteorologists associated with Antarctic temperature measurements to establish the highest-temperature extremes of the region.

      Their investigation verified what is, as of now, the current record high: a balmy 19.8°C (67.6°F). This temperature was observed on 30 January 1982 at Signy Research Station at Factory Cove, Borge Bay, on Signy Island. This record, collected with instruments that follow WMO’s standards, has now been made public by WMO.


  14. coloradobob

     /  March 1, 2017

    Denmark Generated Enough Wind Energy To Power All Its Electricity Needs On Wednesday
    February 24th, 2017


  15. climatehawk1

     /  March 1, 2017

    Tweet scheduled.

  16. coloradobob

     /  March 1, 2017

    U.S. Monthly Records Summary

    High Max – 410
    High Min – 323
    Low Max – 0
    Low Min – 1


  17. coloradobob

     /  March 1, 2017

    New Records: Antarctic High Temperatures & World Tropical Cyclones

    Additionally, new verified Record Extremes now exist for Western Hemisphere’s most intense tropical cyclone (by central pressure) and a new (tied) record extreme for World’s most intense tropical cyclone (by sustained surface wind speed).


    Western Hemisphere: Tropical Cyclone: Most Intense Tropical Cyclone (by Central Pressure)

    Hurricane Patricia: A WMO evaluation committee confirmed findings by the NHC TC experts, Todd B. Kimberlain, Eric S. Blake, and John P. Cangialosi with the 872 hPa central pressure estimate and the 95m/s (185 kt, 215 mph) estimated winds on 1200 UTC 23 October 2015.


  18. wharf rat

     /  March 1, 2017

    Please tell me the melt season hasn’t started already.

  19. coloradobob

     /  March 1, 2017

    And a recent paper on the issue of darkening of the Greenland Ice Sheet:

    http://science.sciencemag.org/content/355/6327/78 8

    In Greenland, the great melt is on. The decline of Greenland’s ice sheet is a familiar story, but until recently, massive calving glaciers that carry ice from the interior and crumble into the sea got most of the attention. But between 2011 and 2014, satellite data and modeling suggested that 70% of the annual 269 billion tons of snow and ice shed by Greenland was lost through surface melt, not calving. Complex feedbacks appear to be responsible: Warmer summers are abetted by microbes and algae that grow on the increasingly wet surface of the ice, producing pigments that boost the absorption of solar energy. Soot and dust that blow from lower latitudes and darken the ice also appear to be playing a role, as are changes in weather patterns that increasingly steer warm, moist air over the vulnerable ice.

  20. Shawn Redmond

     /  March 1, 2017

    Way OT but I just came across this at the Government of Canada’s site on natural resources. I’m attaching the link that has infrastructure maps for the energy sector covering the continent. I mostly stumbled on it while reading the memorandum of understanding signed by Can. US and Mexico in February this year. Here is the news release:
    And the following link is for static maps covering a lot of varying infrastructure from intercontinental power lines, pipe lines, etc to solar irradiance maps and power plants. All in the spirit of energy trade between the three countries of course.

  1. Février 2017 : Record absolu de faible extension de la banquise Antarctique et autres nouvelles marquantes du réchauffement climatique – Docuclimat, comprendre pour mieux agir!
  2. Widespread Coral Bleaching Strikes Great Barrier Reef Again in 2017 | robertscribbler
  3. Widespread Coral Bleaching Strikes Great Barrier Reef Again in 2017 | RClimate

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