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March of 2018 Was the Sixth Hottest on Record

The surface region of the globe continues to cool relative to the record hot year of 2016. Equatorial Pacific ocean surface temperatures have remained near or within La Nina states for much of 2017-2018. And the result has been a slight dip as a part of the longer term warming trend.

But as you can see in the graphic below, post 2016 cooling doesn’t look very cool at all. In contrast, most of the world is still in the grips of record heat. And so long as atmospheric greenhouse gas levels remain so high and continue to rise, this state is unlikely to change. Inevitably, unless the build-up of greenhouse gasses through fossil fuel burning slackens, more global record hot years are on the way.

(March of 2018 was 0.89 C warmer than NASA’s 20th Century baseline or 1.11 C warmer than 1880s averages. Image source: NASA.)

Much of the world experienced warmer than normal temperatures during March despite the relative cool-down — with peak heating hitting as high as 7.4 C above average over the Bering and Chukchi seas of the Arctic. Central through East Asia was also far warmer than normal, as was most of Antarctica. A backing up of the Jet Stream generated cooler than normal conditions over Europe and a persistent trough across the U.S. East Coast produced cooler and stormier weather as well. A cool pool over the Equatorial Pacific was a signature of La Nina — a period of natural variability that tends to drive cooler surface temperatures. But a world at sixth hottest on record despite La Nina isn’t really cool at all.

Extending into Record Warm Territory

Overall, we are still in the process of entering new, record warm territory globally. Ever since 2016, global temperatures have not dipped below the 1 C above 1880s averages range on an annual basis. And it is unlikely that they will ever do so again. At least not until the world’s governments resolve themselves to stop burning fossil fuels and to draw down carbon from the atmosphere.

Presently, in the 2016 to 2020 period, it appears that we are exploring a global temperature range between 1 and 1.2 C above 1880s averages. This is comparable to the lower range of the Eemian climate period (around 120,000 years ago) when the North Atlantic was much stormier than we’re used to and when oceans were between 10 and 20 feet higher than they are today. It is a temperature range that supports both stronger droughts and more severe rainfall. A range that is increasing the peak intensity of the most intense thunderstorms and hurricanes. One that is causing serious damage to corals, that threatens ice free Arctic summers, that is increasing Antarctic and Greenland melt rates, that is threatening water supplies for major cities, and that is causing disruptions to crops — from flooding deltas to less predictable growing seasons.

(2018 may become the coolest year of the late 2010s. However, despite a second consecutive La Nina in the Pacific, it will still be far warmer than the super El Nino year of 1998 — which has been left in the dust as a global marker. Image source: NASA.)

At some point during a coming El Nino — possibly as early as fall of 2018, but more likely by the early 2020s — the 1.2 C threshold range will again be tested. By the late 2020s to early 2030s, it is likely that the 1.5 C line will be crossed. The result will be even more climate damage and disruption than we presently experience.

March of 2018, as the sixth hottest March on record, is just one point in time. One dot on the graph that measures the larger trend of human-forced warming. A dot in a world that is facing down increasing damages due to climate change. A world that is now morally called to act with far greater resolve than we have ever displayed before. We have seen far too many delays. And the hard pass is upon us. Those who rise to the occasion will be the heroes of our age. Those who fail — its villains.

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28 Comments

  1. Keith Antonysen

     /  April 24, 2018

    Dr Gavin Schmidt has written about climate change in the past, a topic often raised by deniers, and the speed at which climate is changing currently. Dr Schmidt states we are experiencing a twentyfold increase in temperature, in comparison to, the period of the last ice age to the mid-Holocene.

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2017/07/the-climate-has-always-changed-what-do-you-conclude/

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  2. Dave McGinnis

     /  April 24, 2018

    Good to see you back, Robert. We don’t want an El Nino this fall! Good for hurricanes, bad for us. Wait ’til winter.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
  3. OT, but today’s Earth Nullschool CO map. Following up, per Arctic News, on an early start to the Siberian fire season.
    https://earth.nullschool.net/#2018/04/24/2100Z/chem/surface/level/overlay=cosc/orthographic=124.10,50.25,1017/loc=132.415,48.772

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  4. Andy_in_SD

     /  April 25, 2018

    Villanueva solar plant, to be fully operational later this year, covers 2,400 hectares providing 1.3 million households with green electrical power.

    The Villanueva, Mexico plant will be the largest facility of its kind in America and will only be surpassed in size by similar behemoths installed in India and China.

    https://mexiconewsdaily.com/news/sunflowers-in-the-desert/

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  5. Slightly OT but of great interest re climate / history intersection:
    Climate Science and Ancient History in Basel, 27-29 November 2018 (Call for Papers).
    Sounds very holistic, lots of disciplines all willing to work together to create more accurate late climate histories from the Holocene’s last quarter.
    https://altegeschichte.philhist.unibas.ch/de/forschung/forschungsprojekte/climate-science/ has pdf. this link is just html – via https://paregorios.org/posts/2018/04/ancient-climate-cfp/,

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  6. redskylite

     /  April 25, 2018

    As the atmospheric CO2, annual temperature ans seal level rise measurements slowly climb, researchers have observed an increase in winter wave heights and extreme storms in Western Europe, not without consequences such as erosion and cliff collapses.

    Winter wave heights and extreme storms on the rise in Western Europe

    Average winter wave heights along the Atlantic coast of Western Europe have been rising for almost seven decades, according to new research.

    The coastlines of Scotland and Ireland have seen the largest increases, with the average height of winter waves more than 10mm/year (more than 0.7metres in total) higher than in 1948.

    That has also led to increased wave heights during extreme weather conditions, with levels off the Irish coast increasing 25mm/year during the past 70 years, representing an average increase of 1.7m.

    The study, accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, was conducted by scientists at the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France, the University of Bordeaux and the University of Plymouth.

    They say its findings are important for scientists and coastal managers looking to predict future wave heights, and take measures to protect coastal communities across Western Europe.

    https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/news/winter-wave-heights-and-extreme-storms-on-the-rise-in-western-europe

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  7. kassy

     /  April 25, 2018

    Record concentration of microplastics found in Arctic

    Liked by 1 person

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  8. kassy

     /  April 25, 2018

    2nd attempt:

    Record concentration of microplastics found in Arctic

    Record levels of microplastics have been found trapped inside sea ice floating in the Arctic.

    Ice cores gathered across the Arctic Ocean reveal microplastics at concentrations two to three times higher than previously recorded.

    As sea ice melts with climate change, the plastic will be released back into the water, with unknown effects on wildlife, say German scientists.

    Traces of 17 different types of plastic were found in frozen seawater.

    Microplastics are tiny plastic pieces under five millimetres long. They can be eaten by filter-feeding animals and passed up the food chain.

    A considerable amount of microplastic is released directly into the ocean by the gradual breakdown of larger pieces of plastic. But microplastics can also enter the sea from health and beauty products, washing synthetic textiles or abrasion of car tyres.

    Their “plastic fingerprint” suggests they were carried on ocean currents from the huge garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean or arose locally due to pollution from shipping and fishing.

    http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-43879389

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  9. Jean Swan

     /  April 25, 2018

    I wonder if Scott Pruitt ,EPA chief,is having a nervous breakdown? Scott Pruitt reportedly wanted his motorcade to flash its lights and sirens to speed up trips to restaurants and airports ..http://www.businessinsider.com/epa-logo-marijuana-leaf-scott-pruitt-2018-4

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    • I don’t think many people like Pruitt as a person — considering how much damage he is causing to clean air, water, and to the global climate system.

      Like

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  10. Ecocurious

     /  April 25, 2018

    Sadly, the ‚takeaway‘ from this article will be, for the deniers, a reduction in global temperatures. My question: is there a unified reading that reflects the total energy in the system? When climatic temperatures sink, it means that the oceans have absorbed heat. This doesn’t mean that the system has lost energy, but merely transferred it. A measurement that includes heat in the oceans and the atmosphere combined would give an undeniable reference. Thank you again for your very important site.

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    • The natural variability cycle between La Nina and El Nino periodically balances heat between the ocean surface and the atmosphere. During the La Nina phase, the ocean is uptaking more heat, during El Nino, the ocean bleeds some of that heat back to the surface region and the atmosphere.

      Though no unified measure exists, we have numerous studies that track ocean heat gain — which is an even more clear warming signal than atmospheric heat gain. Of course, both systems are rapidly gaining heat.

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  11. Many of us accept what the scientists say about Global Warming / Climate Change. But no matter how the public “debate” about it goes, we should in any case transition to renewable energy as soon as possible.

    Look at it this way: If we make the transition anyway and GW/CC does not happen, we would still benefit from the wonderful economic, societal, and environmental advantages that renewable energy offers. If the science turns out to be right and human-caused GW/CC is happening, transitioning to renewable energy as soon as possible may be the only thing that saves us from an environmental catastrophe.

    Read more about some of the benefits of renewable energy at https://wp.me/p72ZfM-4Z.

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  12. Abel Adamski

     /  April 25, 2018

    An Excellent read

    Like

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  13. Abel Adamski

     /  April 25, 2018

    Never fear, the Technologists are here to solve this CO2 problem and keep the fossil fuel economy healthy and profitable and a hidden Carbon Tax passed in the last budget
    From MIT Technology Review
    https://www.technologyreview.com/s/610927/the-daunting-math-of-climate-change-means-well-need-carbon-capture/
    He adds that the boosted US tax credit for capturing and storing carbon, passed in the form of the Future Act as part of the federal budget earlier this year, will push forward many more projects and help create new markets for products derived from carbon dioxide (see “The carbon-capture era may finally be starting”).
    So instead we realize we have this legacy of emissions in the atmosphere and we need tools to manage that. So there are companies like Climeworks, Carbon Engineering, and Global Thermostat. Those guys said we know we’re going to need this technology, so I’m going to work now. They’ve got decent financing, and the costs are coming down and improving (see “Can sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere really work?”).

    The cost for all of these things now today, all-in costs, is somewhere between $300 and $600 a ton. I’ve looked inside all those companies and I believe all of them are on a glide path to get to below $200 a ton by somewhere between 2022 and 2025. And I believe that they’re going to get down to $100 a ton by 2030. At that point, these are real options.

    At $200 a ton, we know today unambiguously that pulling CO2 out of the air is cheaper than trying to make a zero-carbon airplane, by a lot. So it becomes an option that you use to go after carbon in the hard-to-scrub parts of the economy.

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    • Spike

       /  April 25, 2018

      Paywalled but you get the gist of it – clearly we are going to need some sort of urgent carbon capture projects this century and ASAP. If you can sell the product in a stable longlasting form even better.

      https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/carbon-brick-may-be-building-block-of-a-low-emission-world-zfzmnw75x

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    • bostonblorp

       /  April 25, 2018

      Lots of questionable assumptions from Mr. Friedmann. Some outright dangerous. Like “The good news is we don’t need that billion tons today. We have 10 or 20 or 30 years to get to a billion tons of direct air capture.” The rate at which the climate is changing “faster than expected” is dizzying. Anyone suggesting we have a grace period of 30 years is immediately discredited in my opinion.

      There are a lot of trivial examples of where captured carbon could go (soda drinks – where it immediately releases again). Nowhere is there a proposal about where to put gigatons of carbon nor how to pay for it when it has no economic use whatsoever but simply needs to be taken out of the air.

      This is a dangerous man.

      Liked by 2 people

      Reply
      • Abel Adamski

         /  April 26, 2018

        Which is why my sarcastic preface, however that being said, there are mechanism’s that can convert the CO2 into pure Carbon – think Graphene and Graphite for use instead of Coking coal and other industrial uses, even a reduction to CO can be used as building blocks in “petro chemical” industries.
        However the time frame is down the track too far and expensive, we need major efforts far sooner, the project Drawdown mentioned in the NYT article – (I use firefox – just right click and select open in Private Window and voila , the article is available).
        Every bit helps and some of the sources and solutions are readily available, cheap and easy to implement

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  14. Mike S

     /  April 25, 2018

    The world overall is definitely warming. I feel there is a very uneven distribution of that warming in the U.S.

    Temperature patterns in the U.S. change from week to week, but at least 2/3 of the time, the Southwest is much more above normal than the Northeast U.S. A very persistent pattern is the Midwest, Northeast, and mid-Atlantic having near or below-normal temperatures, and the Southwestern quarter of the country having well above normal temperatures. And of course, northern and western Alaska also having way above normal temperatures.

    The climate-change deniers can look out their windows in Washington DC and say “look at all this cooler-than-normal weather we’ve been having”. If our seat of government was in southern California, they’d have a very different impression.

    Europe has warmed up quite a bit recently, but the northeastern quarter of the lower 48 states in the U.S. continue to have little in the way of warmer-than-normal weather. Meanwhile places from southern CA to west Texas roast under near-record warmth. This has been a very predominant pattern the past several years- many places all over the globe being much hotter than normal, but temperatures averaging near normal from Iowa to Maryland to Maine. So global warming is spread out very unevenly.

    Liked by 1 person

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  15. wili

     /  April 25, 2018

    Macron just noted: “There is not planet B”

    Like

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  16. kassy

     /  April 25, 2018

    Within Decades, Floods May Render Many Islands Uninhabitable

    Wave-induced floods—abetted by rising seas—could ruin the water supplies of thousands of islands, a new study claims.

    For the Marshall Islands, climate change isn’t some distant, future danger: It is already wreaking havoc across the Pacific country’s more than 1,100 low-lying atolls.

    Now, a new study claims that climate change may soon deal the country’s water supplies a death blow. As sea levels rise around the islands, bigger waves will flood farther inland than ever before. If enough of these waves hit in succession, flooded saltwater will irreparably taint the islands’ freshwater supplies.

    https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/04/marshall-islands-climate-change-floods-waves-environment/

    or this one (with informative graphs and pictures) :

    Low-lying coral islands across the tropical oceans could become “uninhabitable” in the coming decades because of the combined impacts of sea level rise and large waves, a new study suggests.

    Earlier research, based on sea level rise alone, suggested this wouldn’t happen until at least the end of this century.

    But regular inundation from coastal flooding could push islands beyond a “tipping point” where groundwater resources cannot recover from infiltration by salty seawater, leaving residents with no drinkable water.

    The study focuses on one atoll of the Marshall Islands, but the warning also applies to other populated atolls in the Pacific and Indian oceans, the researchers say – including those in the Cook Islands, Maldives, Seychelles and Hawai’i.

    However, the study may be giving an overly-pessimistic outlook, other scientists tell Carbon Brief. This is partly down to the sea level rise scenarios used, but also because many other atolls still support residents without usable groundwater.

    https://www.carbonbrief.org/low-lying-atolls-could-become-uninhabitable-earlier-than-thought

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  17. As the Gulf Stream declines and the oceans take up more heat from the sun, where does that excess heat go? Some to the equatorial currents, but some is being directed to the Antarctic. There is a blob of hot water between New Zealand and Australia that is having an increasing impact on our weather. The constant high temperature in south-east Australia (I live near Bega) is affecting drought here, and if it continues could interfere with winter wheat.

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    • Abel Adamski

       /  April 26, 2018

      Plus affecting marine life, especially vegetation such as the massive Kelp forests that are cso critically important for fish species, both as food, and breeding grounds where the baby fish can hide from the predators as they grow, a base to an important element of the Marine food/energy transfer chain

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      Reply
  18. and the impact on the melting of the Antarctic. I think this shift of heat from the north to the south via the sea currents is an importan issue and i would hope that Robert finds it interesting too.

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