What 2019’s Hottest June Ever Recorded Says About the Climate Crisis

Hint — It’s accelerating.

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To be a climate scientist, to read the science, or to otherwise track today’s unfolding global disaster brought on by fossil fuel burning, is to witness a historical event beyond the scope anything encountered by human civilization.

(July 14th’s record low Arctic sea ice ringed by far northern wildfires and related smoke plumes is just one signal of a rapidly heating global climate. Image source: NASA Worldview.)

Over the past Century, heat trapping pollution has forced the world to warm by about 1.1 degrees Celsius. That’s 1/4 the difference between what humans are used to and an ice age — but on the side of hot. Seas, swollen by this heat and by thawing glaciers, have risen by an average of about 17 centimeters since 1900. Nine trillion tons of ice — the equivalent to 9,000 mountains — have melted from those glaciers into our oceans. Wildfires in the U.S. now burn twice the number of acres as they did 30 years ago. Flood events are more than twice as frequent as during the 1980s. Strong hurricanes have doubled in frequency in the North Atlantic over a similar period. The Arctic’s sea ice is in full retreat.

And if we continue burning fossil fuels, this is just the beginning.

June of 2019 was the hottest June ever recorded in the 139 year global climate record provided by NASA. It was about 1.15 C hotter than 1880s averages and exceeded the past hottest June — 2016 — by a full 0.11 C margin. In climate terms, this was a big jump upward.

(Distribution of hotter and colder than average temperatures shows most of the globe sweltering under greenhouse gas induced heating. In particular, the Arctic has been hit quite hard in the most recent round of extreme temperatures. Image source: NASA GISS.)

Perhaps more importantly to the larger trend, the first half of 2019 was the second hottest first six month period on record. Meanwhile, 2019’s heat comes in the context of the past five years. All were one of the five hottest years ever recorded. And NASA GISS head Dr. Gavin Schmidt’s projection is pointing toward a potential second hottest 2019 as well. Dr. Schmidt stated as much to the Guardian, saying:

“It is clear that 2019 is shaping up to be a top-five year – but depending on what happens it could be second, third or fourth warmest. The warmest year was 2016, which started with a big El Niño, which we didn’t have this year, so a record year is not particularly likely.”

With the global climate system so large and subject to swings (produced mainly by El Nino and La Nina), consecutive hot years are a signal of accelerating global heating. A trend born out by NASA’s global temperature record. In the 1990s, decadal temperatures averaged around 0.61 C above 1880s readings. The 2000s — 0.8 C hotter. The 2010s thus far — 1.08C hotter. In other words, the global heat gain from the 1990s to the 2000s was approximately 0.19 C while the heat gain so far from the 2000s to the 2010s is about 0.28 C. A near doubling of past 0.15 C decadal temperature increases.

(Record hot July may follow record hot June…)

This apparently accelerating global heating is driven by rising atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. Dr Michael E. Mann noted to Mashable today:

“As we have shown in recent work, the record warm streaks we’ve seen in recent years simply cannot be explained without accounting for the profound impact we are having on the planet through the burning of fossil fuels and the resulting increase in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations.”

Carbon dioxide, which is the primary driver of heat gain, is now at around 411 parts per million37 percent higher than during any period in the last 800,000 years. This level of heat trapping gas is unprecedented in human terms — likely about as high as readings seen during the Middle Miocene 15 million years ago and at least as high as those seen during the Pliocene 3 million years ago.

Methane — another very potent greenhouse gas and the second strongest overall contributor to the climate crisis — is also continuing to rise in concentration. This rise, along with increasing CO2, has been the cause of some anxiety among scientists who monitor the global climate system.

(Rising atmospheric CO2, primarily driven by fossil fuel burning, is the main driver of the global heating crisis we are now experiencing. Image source: NOAA ESRL.)

Together with other trace heat trapping gasses, the global CO2 equivalent heat forcing is around 499 ppm during 2019 (extrapolated from NOAA data). In other words, we’ll be crossing the ominous 500 ppm CO2e threshold very soon.

What all this data means is that we have now turned the ratchet of climate crisis at least once. A set of serious impacts are now locked in. Indeed, we are seeing them. But if we keep burning fossil fuels and turn the ratchet again, it gets much worse from here on out.

(Want to help fight the climate crisis by transitioning to a clean energy vehicle? Get 1,000 free supercharger miles at this link.)

NASA: April of 2019 was Second Hottest on Record

Before we get into the latest record or near record global heat news, I’d just like to make a brief announcement. Concordant with editorial guidance from The Guardian, I’ll be changing my climate communications to more fully reflect the crisis that is now ongoing. Whenever possible, I’ll be using the words — climate crisis to replace climate change, and global heating to replace global warming.

I’ve already made liberal use of the term human forced climate change — this will change to human forced climate crisis or global heating when possible. In addition, the elevation of linkages between fossil fuel burning — which is the crisis’ primary driver — to present global heating will continue.

(Global heat for April of 2019.)

In my view, this verbiage more sufficiently communicates a necessary sense of urgency. For the climate crisis is upon us now and we are now experiencing more extreme impacts. In other words, we’ve already taken one full turn of the climate crisis ratchet by allowing fossil fuels to continue to dominate our energy systems. We don’t want to experience a second or third full turn and the related terrible tightening.

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The climate crisis deepens further…

According to NASA GISS, global temperatures have again jumped into near record hot ranges. Readings from this key global monitor found that April of 2019 hit 0.99 degrees Celsius above mid 20th Century ranges. This is about 1.21 C above 1880s values that bound the start of the NASA monitor. In total, it’s a value that makes April of 2019 the second hottest such month in the 139 year global climate record. And the temperatures we are experiencing now are likely the hottest annual and decadal averages in the last 120,000 years.

(April of 2019 anomalies paint a picture of global heat. Image source: NASA.)

Looking at the NASA temperature anomalies map above we find the greatest departures from typical April averages centering on the higher latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. This distribution of abnormal warmth is consistent with polar amplification in which relative warming tends to center on the poles as atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations increase. The ongoing and massive burning of fossil fuels — beginning in the 18th Century and rapidly ramping through the 20th Century — has provided the majority of these gasses. They are pushing the Earth system into the severe warming spike we now see today.

The Equatorial region also showed elevated heat — consistent with an ongoing weak El Nino (which also nudges Earth into the warm side of natural variability, making regional and global all time heat records more likely). Meanwhile, very few cool pools were found. The notable region being a persistent cool zone in the North Atlantic near melting Greenland (predicted by climate models and a facilitator of unstable weather for North America, the Northern Atlantic, and Europe).

Overall temperature track for 2019 is still behind the record hot year of 2016 (see predicted range by Dr. Gavin Schmidt above). And it appears likely that 2019 will hit in the range of 5th to 1st hottest on record. This year, however, is likely to strike close to or even above 2016 values during some months as the effect of the weak El Nino combined with the larger trend of global heating by fossil fuel burning sets the stage for potential new high temperature records.

(Want to help fight the climate crisis by transitioning to a clean energy vehicle? Get 1,000 to 5,000 free supercharger miles at this link.)

 

Something Rotten With The Climate — January 2015 Comes in As Second Hottest

Hot off the heels of a new global temperature record in 2014, January of 2015 hasn’t missed a beat. Global warmth still rages, as bestirred as a Shakespearean prince outraged at loss and betrayal of a once-constant and steady father.

The month, as many, many months preceding, continued to display a reckless accumulation of heat.

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According to NASA GISS, January was 0.75 C above the global 20th Century average, or about 0.95 C above 1880s levels. This departure is somewhat above previous second hottest year place-holders — 2002 and 2003 — which both showed an angry 0.71 C rise. It is, however, behind the record-holding January of 2007 which at 0.93 C above the 20th Century average remains the hottest month in the total global surface temperature measure. The first of many to make attempts on the 1 C departure level.

January 2015

(Global Temperature anomaly map as provided by NASA GISS.)

Spatial assessment of hot and cold anomalies showed much of the world with hotter than normal temperatures. In the Northern Hemisphere, cooler temperatures were primarily confined to the Northeastern US, Eastern and Northeastern Canada, and a region through Baffin Bay, Eastern Hudson Bay, and the adjacent Canadian Archipelago. In Austral zones, the heat sink of the Southern Ocean continued to display resilience as near-Antarctic regions also showed slightly cooler than normal departures.

But these were the sole significant zones showing cooler than normal weather. In contrast, a broad belt ranging from the tropics through the sub-tropics showed +0.5 to 2 C temperature departures. But the Northern Hemisphere again showed the most significant heat with Northwestern North America, Asia and Europe all showing extreme temperature anomalies in the range of 2 C to 8.1 C above average.

Arctic amplification also reared over the Beaufort Sea and through the Northern Polar zone with heat anomalies in excess of 2 to 4 degrees C above average and with numerous days in which the entire Arctic displayed +3.5 C or higher departures.

zonal anomalies

(GISS zonal temperature anomalies.)

Zonal anomalies also revealed this trend with a region from 50 to 60 North Latitude showing temperature departures in the range of +2.8 C across the entire Latitudinal belt. Meanwhile, the region of 80 to 90 North was under nearly as strong a departure of +2.5 C above 20th Century averages for that zone. By contrast, the only zonal region with below average temperatures was beyond the 60 degrees South Latitude Line and averaged a rather minor departure of about -0.4 C.

Conditions in Context

The second hottest January on record comes after a Century-long warming trend in which temperaures have risen by an average of about 0.85 C above 1880s levels and about 1.1 C above a low point that occurred around 1910.

Land Ocean Temperature Index

(Global Land-Ocean Temperature Index — GISS/NASA.)

This warming is about a 20 times faster pace than at the end of the last ice age. During that time, it took 10,000 years for the Earth to warm by about 4 degrees Celsius. Over a single Century, we have achieved the equivalent to 1/5 post ice age warming on top of 1880 levels. It is also worth noting that recent record warm years in 2014, 2010, and 2005 occurred absent the kind of very strong El Nino that occurred in 1998. Most notably, for 2014, no El Nino was declared at all.

Which shows that for the climate, there is something indeed rotten in Denmark — and everywhere else for that matter.

Links:

NASA’s Global Surface Temperature Analysis

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