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NASA, NOAA — 2015 Was Hottest Year on Record By a Significant Margin. 2016 May be Even Hotter.

“Even without El Niño, this would have been the warmest year on record.” Dr Gavin Schmidt, Director of NASA GISS, in a press conference today.

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2015 was a historic year for global temperatures. A massive accumulation of greenhouse gasses pushing above 400 parts per million CO2 (and hitting in the range of 485 ppm CO2e) combined with one of the strongest El Ninos on record to spike global temperatures in every major climate monitor well beyond the 1 C above 1880s threshold. This marks the first time in the history of human civilization that temperatures have been so hot globally. A severe departure that moves our current world decisively out of the Holocene context and into hitherto uncharted territory.

Global Land Ocean Temperature Index

(NASA Land-Ocean Temperature Index shows a historic record hot year for 2015. A trend line that speaks volumes for how much human-forced warming through fossil fuel burning has altered the world’s climate. Image source: NASA GISS.)

In the NASA monitor, 2015 beat out previous record hot year 2014 by a significant 0.13 C margin. A measure 0.87 C above the 1950-to-1981 NASA 20th Century base-line and fully 1.09 C above 1880s averages. Just one look at the graph above tells a stark story of raging global temperature increases — especially since 1980 where the average decadal increase is now solidly above 0.15 C every ten years.

NOAA’s own monitor tells a similar story with 2015 coming in at 0.90 C above the 20th Century average or about 1.12 C above 1880s averages. That’s just 0.38 C below the increasingly dangerous 1.5 C threshold and just 0.88 C below the very dangerous 2 C mark. If the current rapid warming trend in the global temperature graph were to merely continue, we’d pass the 1.5 C mark in less than two decades time and hit the 2 C mark within just 4-5 decades. That said, if an analysis by Dr. Michael Mann is correct, we could hit the 2 C mark by as early as the middle 2030s if we continue fossil fuel burning at such a ridiculously rapid rate.

Most Heat Concentrated Northward

Though 2015 was the hottest year on record, not all of that heat was evenly distributed. Though practically all of the globe experienced above average temperatures for the year, there were noted exceptions. Greatest above average temperature departures concentrated in the upper Latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. Alaska, Western Canada, the Beaufort Sea, the High Arctic north of Svalbard, the Barents and Laptev Seas and most of Northern Continental Asia experienced extreme temperature departures in the range of 3 to 3.6 degrees Celsius above average. Exceptional heat in the range of 2-3 degrees Celsius above average also held sway over the Western United States and an area of warmth in the Northeastern Pacific dubbed the hot blob.

Geospatial Anomalies 2015

(2015 Showed a continued Northern Hemisphere Polar Amplification with regions near and within the Arctic showing the greatest above average temperature anomalies. Image source: NASA GISS.)

Though most of the world showed above average temperature readings, negative departures appeared in the region of the Southern Ocean just north of Antarctica and in the cool pool zone of the North Atlantic south of Greenland. During recent years, atmosphere to ocean heat transfer has been quite intense in the Southern Ocean — the upshot of increasingly powerful storms in the 50s and 60s South Latitude region. The North Atlantic cool pool has also been a persistent feature during recent years — one that is likely related to a weakening of the northward flow of the Gulf Stream, a weakening of overturning circulation in the North Atlantic, and an increased rate of glacial melt outflow from Greenland (as the current signal is stronger than traditional AMOC variability). So, ironically, both cool pools remain as ever more clear indicators that the global climate system is being driven out of balance by a rampant human emission of fossil fuels.

2016 — Third Hottest Year in a Row?

Looking ahead, it appears that 2016 may come in as yet one more hottest year on record. An event that, should it occur, would mark the first time in the global climate record that three back-to-back years set new global atmospheric temperature records (2014, 2015, and 2016).

Heat blowing off into the atmosphere from a record or near-record El Nino still likely hasn’t had its full impact. So the first 4 months or so of 2016 may see some very severe high temperature departures similar to or even higher than what we saw in December (1.42 C above 1880s for JMA, 1.34 C above 1880s for NASA, and 1.33 C above 1880s for NOAA). This probable early-year temperature spike for 2016 may be enough to carry the year forward as the new record holder given the fact that the current El Nino is expected to persist through late spring or early summer. So a record warm 2016 has better than even odds of occurring given the fact that the 2015-2016 El Nino was so strong and since it may hold on well into 2016.

More Warming in the Pipe

Longer term, the rate of greenhouse gas accumulation in the Earth atmosphere on the order of more than 2 parts per million CO2 each year and in the range of 3 parts per million CO2e does not at all bode well. As noted above, simply remaining on the current path of global temperature increase brings the world above 2 C in just 4-5 decades even as risks increase, given current levels of emissions, that the world could see 2 C worth of warming by the mid 2030s. And since greenhouse gasses are the driver in total of the current rampant global temperature increase, we should be very clear that rapid cuts to zero to net negative carbon emissions are necessary for the protection of human civilizations and for the protection of the life-sustaining capacity of the Earth itself.

Links:

NASA, NOAA Analyses Reveal Record Shattering Global Temperatures in 2015

NASA GISS

NOAA Global Analysis

Far Worse Than Being Beaten by a Hockey Stick

Exceptional Slowdown in North Atlantic Overturning Circulation

Observing the Atlantic Overturning Circulation

Arctic Report Card 2015

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1.06 C Above 1880: Climate Year 2015 Shatters All Previous Records For Hottest Ever

We knew it was going to be a record breaker. We knew that atmospheric greenhouse gasses in the range of 400 parts per million CO2 and 485 parts per million CO2e, when combined with one of the top three strongest El Ninos in the Pacific, would result in new all-time global record high temperatures. But what we didn’t know was how substantial the jump would ultimately be.

Today, the numbers were made public by NASA. And I hate to say it, but it’s a real doozy. Overall, according to NASA, Climate Year 2015 — the 12 month period from December of 2014 through November of 2015 — was 0.84 C hotter than NASA’s 20th Century Baseline. That’s 0.11 C hotter than previous hottest year 2014 and a full 0.21 C hotter than climate change deniers’ favorite cherry — 1998. In other words past record hot years are being left in the dust as the world is heating up to ever more dangerously warm global temperatures.

 

Global temperature increase

(NASA’s global temperature graph through end 2014. Climate year 2015, at 0.84 C above the NASA 20th Century baseline, is quite literally off the chart. Image source: NASA GISS.)

In any case, the current NASA Graph above is going to need some serious adjusting as the new global average for climate year 2015 is simply off the top of the chart. A new jump that gives lie to the increasingly obvious fake claim made by climate change deniers over the past two years that global warming somehow ‘paused.’

But aside from reality once again making the fossil fuel cheerleaders of the world (aka climate change deniers) look increasingly imbecilic, 2015’s new temperature increase is a visible sign of increasing climate danger. This year’s 0.84 C temperature departure above NASA’s 20th Century baseline is 1.06 C hotter than 1880s values. It’s a number just 0.44 C (or two more strong El Ninos) away from crossing the very dangerous 1.5 C threshold that nations of the world recently pledged to attempt to avoid at the Paris Climate Summit. It’s also a number more than halfway toward hitting the catastrophic 2 C warming threshold. Perhaps more ominously, Monthly temperature departures in October of 2015 hit a range of 1.06 C above the 20th Century baseline and 1.28 C above 1880s averages — shorter term ranges that are already coming close to testing the 1.5 C threshold.

Hard Work Ahead to Prevent the Most Dangerous Outcomes

Regardless of arguments about how possible or likely we are to avoid such dangerous and catastrophic warming in the future, we should recognize now that we’ve already locked in enough atmospheric and ocean heat to begin setting off dangerous geophysical changes. A world 1 C hotter than 1880 is a world of increasingly rapid sea level rise, a world of increasingly swiftly declining ocean health, a world where water security in many places is already at risk, a world of worsening droughts and deluges, a world in which the strongest storms are growing ever stronger. A world 1 C hotter than 1880 is a world that is starting to see the dangerous and damaging impacts of human-forced climate change. A place where the worst is still yet to come.

So let’s not mince words. It’s going to be bad and it’s going to get worse. How bad and how much worse depends on how rapidly the world weans itself off fossil fuels and hits net zero or net negative carbon emissions. At more than 50 billion tons of CO2e hitting the atmosphere each year now, we have a long way to go and fast. Let’s hope for everyone’s sake that we’re up to the challenge. It’s getting rough out there. Let’s not tempt nature to unleash upon us the worst of the world’s climate demons. Unfortunately, a few have already slipped the bonds. But there are many more waiting if we continue along this wretched path of burning.

Links:

NASA GISS: Global Temperature Analysis

NASA GISS

Paris Climate Conference ‘At the Limits of Suicide’

UPDATES TO FOLLOW

NOAA Shows June of 2015 Smashed All Prior Heat Records; El Nino Keeps Strengthening; Hothouse Mass Casualties Strike Europe, Japan

Under an oppressive human fossil fuel emission, the world just keeps getting hotter and hotter, the 2015-2016 El Nino just keeps looking ever more monstrous, and reports of tragic, heat-related, mass casualty events just keep rolling in.

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JULY 21, 2015: All the major climate monitors have now chimed in — NASA, Japan’s Meteorological Agency, NOAA. And June of 2015 is now marked as the hottest recorded in every single one. But of these, the NOAA measure, which provided its Global Analysis report yesterday, clearly is the starkest.

Showing extraordinary warming, June of 2015, according to NOAA, hit +0.88 C above the 20th Century average. That’s an excessive leap of +0.12 C over last year’s previous record June measure showing a +0.76 C global temperature departure and just 0.02 C behind the all-time monthly record values for any month hit just this year during February and March (+0.90 C).  When compared to 1880s averages, June was fully 1.08 C hotter. That’s more than halfway to the (not safe) 2 C threshold which IPCC has marked off as the point where catastrophic impacts from human caused climate change really start to hit high gear.

June anomaly

(On the up ramp to a hothouse. The NOAA global climate record for land and ocean temperatures over the last 136 years in which June of 2015 is now the all-time hottest. Image source: NOAA.)

We can clearly see the progress of rapid warming over the past 136 years in the above graph. Particularly since 1980 — when global temperatures really started to hit a rapid ramp up. Note that the mythological pause is not at all evident in the above graph. Global temperatures through June measures just kept driving on — higher and higher.

Back to Back Record Years on the Way — The Human Warming Escalator and The El Nino Jump

With all the June measures coming in so strongly on the hot side, and with the first half of this year already substantially warmer than the previous record warm year of 2014, it appears that we are locking in for back-to-back years of record heat. These new records are occurring in the context both of the larger, human-forced warming trend and as we hit the warm end of the global natural variability scale — El Nino.

It’s important to remember that the driver of these new records is the underlying accumulation of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. Deke Arndt, chief of the monitoring branch of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), noted at a press conference last month:

“Climate change is a long-term driver, so that’s like standing on an escalator as it goes up. So, the longer that we go into history, we’re riding up the escalator. And now that we’re getting an El Niño event, we happen to be jumping up at the same time, and so they play together to produce outcomes like what is likely to be the warmest year on record.”

And propelled by that human warming escalator, the current El Nino jump is starting to look absolutely savage.

El Nino Just Keeps Growing Stronger

For today’s Australia Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) report showed the current El Nino striking down yet another 1997 record. According to BoM findings, all key Nino ocean zones have shown surface temperatures in excess of 1 C above average for 10 successive weeks. This shatters the previous record duration for such an event — occurring in 1997 at 8 weeks in length. Notably, the current record heat build for Nino zones is still ongoing. So the new, 2015 record could extend further.

Overall, BoM shows the entire Eastern Equatorial Pacific now at +2 C. To get an idea what this looks like, we can take a peek at the Earth Nullschool sea surface temperature anomaly measure:

image

 

(The entire Northern, Eastern and Equatorial Pacific is exceedingly hot — showing anomalies in the +1 to +4 C range practically everywhere. Meanwhile, temperatures in the Central Pacific are starting to approach Super El Nino ranges. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Taking in this shot, it’s worth pausing for a moment to appreciate the fact that not only is the Equatorial Pacific outrageously hot, the entire Northern and Eastern Pacific from the Arctic on south is just off-the-charts hot. If you ever wondered what the emerging face of a Godzilla El Nino looks like, well, just remember this shot.

NOAA, meanwhile, shows El Nino continuing to extend its foray into strong event range. The critical Nino 3.4 measure of Central Pacific Ocean temperatures jumped again in the July 20 weekly report — hitting a +1.7 C anomaly. This is jump up from last week’s +1.5 C measure and is now knocking on the door to a super El Nino threshold of +1.8 C. NOAA’s three weekly reports for July now average +1.53 C for the Central Pacific — solidly in strong El Nino range for the month.

NOAA also began to track a third warm Kelvin Wave running across the Pacific. This Kelvin Wave is propagating eastward as a result of a strong West Wind Backburst that has blown over the Western Pacific throughout much of July. These winds are pushing warm surface waters down and under the Equatorial region. Ocean heat that will resurface off South American. Recharging already hot waters with a new hot influx and further strengthening an already strong El Nino.

The signal of this new warm water flood is now really starting to show up in the model runs. Corrected seasonal models now show an event in the range of 1997-1998. Uncorrected runs, including the Euro ensemble, continue to show potentials for an event that would make the 1997 Super El Nino look tiny by comparison.

Monthly anomalies Nino 3.4 Monster El Nino

(NOAA’s CFSv2 models still picking up a heat impact murmur of a monster El Nino in our near future. Image source: NOAA.)

Typically, El Nino reaches peak strength during Northern Hemisphere Fall and Winter. So we’re in a ramp-up phase that could last through October and November and we are already starting to hit strong event values in July. The current El Nino is predicted to remain a feature until late Winter or early Spring of 2016. Strongest global temperature heightening impacts come during and slightly after peak ocean warming due to El Nino. So the temperature records we’ve seen so far in 2014 and 2015 may just be prelude to the main event.

Heat Related Mass Casualties in Europe and Japan

It really is the kind of global heat spike that you don’t want to see. The kind that enables heatwaves to put droves of people into hospitals with life-threatening heat ailments. Earlier this summer, both India and Pakistan suffered mass casualty heatwave events. Instances that filled hospitals with tens of thousands of patients. In India, 2,500 souls were lost. In Pakistan, the number hit 1,242. These represent the 5th and 8th most deadly heatwaves on record, respectively.

Now, reports are starting to trickle in that Europe and Japan are suffering similar, although still somewhat less acute mass casualty events due to record heat. According to Dr. Jeff Masters, excess mortality due to heat had claimed more than 1,200 lives across Western Europe through early July. Meanwhile, reports are also starting to trickle in from Japan of heat related mass casualties. A report last week from Japan’s Fire and Disaster Management Agency found that 3,000 people had been admitted for heat stroke to hospitals across the island nation during the period of July 6 through 12.

Over the next few days, record-breaking heat is again expected to invade parts of southern Europe, setting the stage for more potential heat casualties.

Conditions in Context — Heat Breaking New Records Means More Extreme Weather

All time record high global temperatures for 2015 and likely at least a decent period during 2016 means we are also likely to continue to experience odd and severe weather conditions over many regions of the globe. A fact that was punctuated in Southern California earlier this week as the remnants of a tropical cyclone dumped 1.69 inches of rain — or more than ten times the amount of rainfall typical for July — over parts of San Diego through Monday. Possibly a taste of what’s to come for California should the currently building Godzilla-type El Nino — pumped up by a catastrophic rate of human greenhouse gas emission — crush the West Coast blocking pattern and hurl a barrage of powerful storms at the drought-parched state. A situation many may be hoping for at this time, but which they could easily come to regret as the extreme intensity of weather switches in the new climate age of 1 C warming start to become evident.

Links:

NOAA Global Analysis

June 2015: Earth’s Warmest on Record

2015 On Track to Be Hottest Year Yet

NOAA Press Conference Notes

Earth Nullschool

What The Weekend Rains Did to Southern California

Hat Tip to Colorado Bob and Ryan in New England

Hat Tip to Andy in San Diego (How about that rain?)

Hat Tip to Matt

 

 

 

2015 El Nino to Bring Back-to-Back Hottest Years on Record?

For the past six months, the Pacific Ocean has been very, very warm. A vast and unsettling expanse of record heat building from the tropics on through the mid lattitudes and into the Arctic.

Sea surface temperatures across a broad swath of ocean from the equator on north and eastward have consistently measured between 0.5 and 5 degrees Celsius above average. A lazy reverse C pattern of heat stretching from the equator running up along the west coast of North America and then re-curving westward just south of the polar zone.

It is a pattern that is indicative of a well developed positive phase Pacific Decadal Oscillation. A kind of pattern that results in very warm sea surface temperatures for much of the Pacific. And a pattern that tends to favor the formation of El Nino.

As of December 2014, PDO values had climbed to their highest on record. And with these high sea surface temperature values related to PDO, the Pacific also seemed to be quietly settling into what, at first, appeared to be a mild El Nino.

Chances For 2015 El Nino Rise

The key value for El Nino is a measurement for sea surface temperatures along a region of the Central Equatorial Pacific known as Nino 3.4. Stretching from about 160 West to 120 West Longitude, this expansive zone of ocean waters below Hawaii tends to warm with the onset of El Nino.

image

(Nino 3.4 zone in center of frame on the Earth Nullschool Sea Surface Temperature anomaly map for March 4, 2015 shows warm waters again building in the Central Pacific. Averages in the zone for this date are around +0.75 C above normal. Note the + 2 C hot pool just to the western edge of the zone [orange-yellow coloration] and the +4 C hot pools [yellow coloration] off the US West Coast. Image source: Earth Nullschool. Data Source: Global Forecast Systems Model.)

The threshold NOAA uses to determine El Nino is a sea surface temperature anomaly for this area of +0.5 degrees C above average. And ever since September of 2014, sea surface temperatures have been hovering above the +0.5 C line.

NOAA’s determination for El Nino requires 5 three month average periods in which Nino 3.4 exceeds this mark. And it looks like, so far, four out of five of those periods have met the El Nino requirement. September, October and November (SON) averaged +0.5 C. October, November and December (OND) averaged +0.7 C. And November, December and January (NDJ) averaged +0.7 C. With all weekly measures for February coming in near or above January values, it appears the DJF value will post somewhere near +0.6 C (please see NOAA’s Weekly ENSO Status Report).

Even if March values dropped to +0.4 C, a weak El Nino would emerge in the Pacific during Spring of 2015. However, sea surface temperatures for this zone are not falling as we enter March. They are instead ramping higher.

New Warm Kelvin Wave Forming

For beneath the Central Pacific a new pool of warm water is forming. It is rising to the surface, providing yet another shot of heat to an equatorial region teetering on the threshold of El Nino. A new Kelvin Wave that carries with it more than enough energy to tip the scales for a 2015 event:

El Nino Kelvin Wave

(Warm Kelvin Wave again forming in the Pacific. This event will likely be enough to push 2015 into El Nino. Image source: NOAA/CPC.)

The Kelvin Wave will slowly rise to the surface, elongate and transfer some of its latent heat to the sea surface and atmosphere. Driving this Kelvin Wave along are west wind backbursts that today were in the range of 25 mph sustained with gusts to 35. These gusts are continuing to drive warm water eastward and downward, providing more energy for the Kelvin Wave as well as any emerging El Nino. A set of winds that could well grow stronger as a weather pattern know as the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) is predicted to ramp up, bringing stormy weather and more counter trade wind air flows across the Western Pacific equatorial zone.

These combined factors have spurred Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology to post a renewed El Nino Watch. NOAA is also showing a heightened chance for El Nino, with a near 60% probability for the event emerging late winter or early spring.

Meanwhile, some models for the Nino 3.4 region show continued warming along with a heightening El Nino throughout 2015:

2015 El Nino

(BoM Nino 3.4 sea surface temperature anomaly (SSTA) prediction model shows El Nino building throughout 2015. Note that the Australia BoM SSTA threshold is +0.8 C for Nino 3.4 while NOAA’s threshold is SSTA in excess of +0.5 C for seven months running. Image source: Bureau of Meterology.)

Back-to-Back Record Hot Years?

The +1.9 C peak and rising prediction for Nino 3.4 in the above graphic is indicative of a relatively strong El Nino by mid November of this year (for reference, the 1998 Super El Nino peaked at around +2.3 C for this region while 2010 peaked at +1.5 C). But even a far milder El Nino would likely have far-ranging consequences, especially in a world that has been pushed to keep warming and warming by the massive human fossil fuel emission.

All that heat again building along the equatorial Pacific would likely shove the Earth’s oceans and atmospheres again above record thresholds. And that would mean that 2014’s record as the hottest year for the Earth’s surface may only stand for but a few seasons more.

The risks for another record hot year for 2015 are, therefore, again rising.

UPDATE:

As of March 5, 2014, NOAA has now officially declared weak El Nino conditions for the Equatorial Pacific. Please see this related discussion LINK.

Links:

Bad Climate Outcomes

NOAA’s Weekly ENSO Status Report

NOAA/CPC

Australia’s Bureau of Meterology

Earth Nullschool

Global Forecast Systems Model

Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO)

Hat Tips:

Colorado Bob

Phil

Scientific Hat tip to Kevin Trenberth and Michael Mann

Wili

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