One Month Above 1.5 C — NASA Data Shows February Crossed Critical Threshold

We had a number of preliminary indicators that February of 2016 was going to be ridiculously hot. And, according to new reports from NASA, those indicators appear to have born out.

In short, we’ve just experienced a month that was more than 1.5 C hotter than 1880s averages. It’s not a yearly average in this dangerous range — but likely the peak reading from a very intense El Nino combining with the growing base forcing of human climate change. That said, it’s a foretaste of what could very easily happen on a 5-15 year timescale in the annual measure if fossil fuel burning and related carbon emissions do not radically ramp downward.

February of 2015 was About 1.57 C Hotter Than 1880s Averages

According to NASA GISS, February of 2016 was the hottest February ever recorded by a long shot with global temperature departures hitting a never-before-seen above average range. Land and ocean temperature averages hit 1.35 C above NASA’s 20th Century baseline (1951-1980). This extraordinarily hot global reading represents a 1.57 C departure from average temperatures in the 1880s. In other words, for one month during February of 2016, global temperatures exceeded the dangerous 1.5 C threshold.

NASA record Warm February

(February of 2016 showed an extreme departure from global average temperatures. Much of the extra heat focused on the Northern Polar region with the High Arctic bearing the brunt of it. Image source: NASA GISS.)

Japan’s Met Agency also showed February temperatures exceeding 1.5 C above 1880s averages. So we only await NOAA’s findings for final confirmation.

Overall, these temperatures were the highest anomaly departure ever recorded in the NASA GISS monitor. The previous highest anomaly reading being January of 2016 at +1.14 C above 20th Century and +1.36 C above 1880s averages. Overall, the three month period of December, January and February hit an amazing +1.20 C above 20th Century averages or +1.42 C above 1880s averages. Overall, this three month departure is +0.51 C above peak three month departures during the 1997-1998 El Nino or a peak-to-peak warming from strong El Nino to strong El Nino at a rate of 0.28 C per decade.

Such high peak to peak increases may imply an acceleration above the baseline rate of warming of 0.15 to 0.2 C per decade since the late 1970s. However, such above baseline rates of warming will need to also bear out in the post strong El Nino record before such a claim can be made with any confidence.

Ridiculous Amount of Heat Over the Northern Polar Region

Looking at the geographical distribution of these extreme, above average, temperatures we find a broad swath of record heat in the range of 4 to 11.5 degrees Celsius hotter than normal covering a huge swath surrounding and including the Arctic. A region stretching from just north and west of the Great Lakes including Northwest Canada, Alaska, the Beaufort and East Siberian Seas, the Chukchi, the Laptev, the Kara, a huge expanse of Europe and Asia stretching from Eastern Europe to Lake Baikal and north to the Arctic Ocean, the Barents, the Greenland Sea, the Northeast tip of Greenland and most of the region of the High Arctic above the 80 degree North Latitude line, all experienced these extremely warm readings.

Still very warm 2 to 4 C above average temperatures surrounded much of this zone even as a broad 2-4 C above average hot spot is apparent over the record El Nino region of the Eastern Equatorial Pacific. Smaller regions experiencing similar 2 to 4 C anomalies include sections of Brazil and Columbia, a region over Southern Africa, Northern Australia and Northern New Zealand.

Overall, very few regions show cooler than normal temperatures — though the cool pool just south and east of Greenland continues to stand out as a feature that is likely related to human-forced climate change.

Feb zonal anomalies NASA

(Zonal anomalies show an extreme polar amplification signature for February of 2016. Image source: NASA GISS.)

The disposition of extreme temperature departures centering over the Northern Polar zone is indicative of a pattern of extreme polar amplification during a strong El Nino year. As such, we can infer that the circumpolar winds did little to keep warm, Equatorial Pacific air isolated to the lower Latitudes and instead had weakened to the point that Equator to Pole heat transfer was facilitated.

The temperature anomaly map at the top implies a warm meridional air flow issuing directly from the Equatorial Pacific and over the Northeast Pacific and Western North America. A second implied meridional wind pattern appears running from the Eastern Equatorial Atlantic over Western Europe and the Barents and Greenland seas. These dual Equator to Pole warm air slots appear to have helped to push High Latitude zonal anomalies in the polar region to very extreme warm temperatures for February with the highest departures approaching 6 degrees Celsius above average for the entire region north of the 80 degree Latitude line.

Arctic Degree Days above Freezing

(We’re going to need a bigger graph to measure the Freezing Degree Day anomaly below average which has now hit near -1,000. An above average warmth that has continued since a spate of record Winter heat during February. It’s an all-time low in a measure that typically doesn’t level off until June. For reference, the less Freezing Degree Days, the closer the Arctic is to thawing. Image source: CIRES1.)

Zonal anomalies remain high above the 45 degree North Line — hitting a steep slope from 2 C to 6 C as we progress northward. An Equatorial peak in the range of 1.3 C above average is also observed near and just south of the Equator. But despite an extreme El Nino, these departures are nowhere near those seen in the upper Latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. Pretty much all zones except for the heat sink region in the 60s South Latitude over the Southern Ocean and the far south over Antarctica experienced above average temperatures for the month.

Conditions in Context — Signature of Climate Change in the Anomaly Maps Continues, Global Temperatures to Settle Back into a New High Range

The extreme polar warming, the visible warm air slots facilitating Equator to Pole heat transfer, and the overall very strong global temperature departure for February continue to express the signature of human forced climate change as predicted by many of the global model runs. The extreme Winter heat in the Arctic — while a sign of things to come during this strong El Nino year — is also an early blow to snow and ice in the Arctic for 2016 and 2017. Already, snow totals are at or near record low extent levels. Meanwhile, sea ice volume during February returned to near new record low levels as measured by PIOMAS. As a result, the melt risk to both sea and land ice in the Arctic will likely be quite high over the next two years.

GFS_anomaly_timeseries_global

(GFS temperature anomaly time series shows peak February 2016 global temperatures falling off implying a March global temperature average that will likely be somewhere between January and February values. Perhaps in the range of near 1.4 C above 1880s or 1.2 C above the NASA baseline. Image source: Karsten Hausten using GFS data.)

It is worth noting, though, that February of 2016 will likely be the highest monthly temperature anomaly we see for some time. A record El Nino is fading away from peak intensity and NOAA is now predicting a 50 percent chance of La Nina conditions by Fall. We can expect to see global temperatures now begin to fall off a bit as a record El Nino starts to fade. To this point, 2016 will likely hit a departure range near 1.2 or 1.3 C above 188os values. Post 2016 temperatures will likely hover up to 0.2 to 0.4 cooler than those values during La Nina years, with new global records possible at the onset of El Nino again in the 3-5 year timeframe.

To be very clear, though ENSO sets the short term trend, the long term trend is governed by a human forced accumulation of heat-trapping gasses. And as long as that continues, the heating we’ve experienced will also continue. Finally, since we are now very close to hitting dangerous 1.5 and 2.0 C warming thresholds (possible within 5 years for 1.5 C and 15 years for 2 C in the worst case), we should be very clear that we are just passing the most recent peak in a long progression. The trend, therefore, is up and we have now been thrust into more dangerous times.

Links:

NASA GISS

The Roof is On Fire

Japan’s Met Agency

NOAA El Nino

Karsten Hausten

CIRES1

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Japan Meteorological Agency — September of 2015 was Hottest on Record — NASA not Far Behind

With a monster El Nino firing off in the Pacific and with atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations now in excess of 480 parts per millions CO2 equivalent, global temperatures for 2015 continue to shatter new all-time records. It’s a sad upshot of continued energy dominance by myopic fossil fuel special interests and the big money investors who have backed them now for the better part of 135 years.

As of September of 2015, temperatures in the global measure provided by Japan’s Meteorological Agency rocketed to 0.5 C above the 1981 to 2000 average or about 1.2 C above average temperatures last seen at the beginning of the 20th Century.

Global temperature anomalies September of 2015

(Japan’s Meteorological Agency shows that global temperatures sky-rocketed to a new record in September. Image source: JMA.)

This departure is a whopping 0.4 C above baseline rates of increase and a significant 0.15 C above the old record high for September set just last year (2014). Perhaps more notable is that all of the five hottest Septembers have occurred since 2009. A very strong global warming signal for the month and one that has left the 1997-1998 El Nino years in the dust.

NASA Shows September of 2015 was Second Hottest on Record

Though NOAA has yet to chime in with its monthly global temperature and climate analysis, NASA’s own GISS temperature monitor also shows September hitting near record heat. According to NASA, September of 2015 came in 0.81 C hotter than its own 20th Century benchmark average and about 1.01 C hotter than 1880s averages. This puts September of 2015 as a solid 2nd hottest in NASA’s record and just behind the new record set for September just last year.

NASA’s measure shows that four of the five hottest Septembers have all occurred since 2012 (ranking 2014 first hottest at +0.90 C, 2015 second hottest at +0.81 C, 2013 tied for third hottest with 2005 at +0.77 C, and 2012 as fourth hottest at +0.75 C). 2015’s +0.81 C departure is also well in excess of the +0.56 C departure seen in 1997 during the ramp up of what was then the strongest El Nino on record with averages for Septembers of 2014 and 2015 now at about +0.30 C above 1997 levels. A jump that falls neatly in the range of temperature increases predicted by IPCC and following the +0.15 to +0.20 C per decade accelerated rate of increase seen globally since around 1980.

Despite Strong El Nino, Northern Hemisphere Polar Amplification Really Heats up in September

NASA’s geographic distribution of temperature anomalies map tells a rather interesting tale for September. One that may have implications for Northern Hemisphere weather further down the line as Fall and Winter progress.

Land Ocean Temp Map September of 2015

(NASA’s global temperature anomalies map shows strong warming at both the Equator and the Northern Hemisphere Pole during September. A signature that hints strong south to north heat transfers are at play. Image source: NASA GISS.)

As expected with a strong El Nino, we see a lot of heat building up along the Equatorial zone and especially in the Eastern Pacific where land-ocean temperatures hit a strong range of +2 to +4 C above average. A bit odd, however, is a strong heat plume visibly rising off this hot zone, traversing the western land mass of North America and entering the Arctic through the gateway of the Canadian Archipelago (CAA). Notably, high Arctic temperature anomalies in the zone north of the CAA also spike to levels in the range of +2 to +4 C above average. It’s a kind of south to north heat transfer that we would expect to see less and less of as El Nino strengthens and the storm track flattens out. But ridging over the North American West along with associated heat continued to remain in force throughout September providing a pathway for heat to enter the upper Latitudes.

Other strong, though somewhat less robust, Equator to Pole heat transfers appear visible over Europe on up through Scandinavia, and ranging along a diagonal between India, China, Mongolia and Kamchatka. It’s a heat signature picture of a mangled Jet Stream completed by trough zones and cool pools over Alaska, in the ominous region of the North Atlantic between Greenland and England, in Central Asia, and just east of Japan. Most notably, the cool pool associated with a weakening Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) and all-too-likely due to the decadally increasing rates of glacial melt outflows from Greenland remains a dominant feature in the North Atlantic. It’s a cool pool signature that was predicted in almost all the global climate models in association with overall human forced warming of the atmosphere and ocean. One that can drive weather instability in the North Atlantic. And one that has been a nearly constant features since at least 2012.

NASA zonal anomalies

(Zonal anomalies graphic also shows strong equatorial and polar warming. Image source. NASA.)

NASA’s zonal anomalies map paints a picture of both Equatorial and Northern Hemisphere Polar heat with temperatures well above average over most regions of the world. The primary exception is Antarctica and the Southern Ocean which, during recent years, has acted as an atmosphere-to-ocean heat sink. Notably, a very strong storm track in the region of 50 South Latitude has driven powerful winds which have forced atmospheric heat into the ocean depths while also forming an atmospheric barrier to heat conveyance over Antarctica.

High Latitude regions between 85 and 90 North showed the most extreme temperature departures with a +1.6 C positive anomaly for the region. Temperatures drop somewhat to between +1 and +1.3 C from 30 to 70 North before rising again to around +1.4 C near the Equator. Anomalies drop off southward ranging from near +0.7 C around 30 South before dropping into negative values in the atmosphere to ocean heat uptake zone in the Southern Ocean near 60 South.

Winter Weather for 2015 May Feature Some Unexpected Twists

Overall dispersal of heat shows a notably high degree of Northern Hemisphere polar amplification at a time when El Nino should be spiking heat at the Equator, increasing Jet Stream strength, and pushing the Northern Hemisphere Polar zone to cool somewhat. The fact that the Pole remained at higher positive temperature anomalies than the Equator during September even as El Nino cracked +2 C above average heat in the Nino 3.4 zone hints that this Winter may show more waviness in the Jet Stream than is typical during a strong El Nino year. As a result, weather patterns typical to El Nino during Northern Hemisphere Winter may show marked variance.

If this is the case, rainfall amounts for Southern and Central California may be less than expected for a typical strong El Nino year. Heavy rainfall events may shift northward toward Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and Alaska. A northward angling storm track over Western North America would tend to reinforce trough development in the east while providing major storms for the US East Coast and Northeast as the higher amplitude Jet Stream wave taps more Arctic air than is typical. Meanwhile, warm waters off the US East Coast in the range of +2 to +5 C above average will provide both heat and moisture as fuel for storms moving down any trough feature. Extra heat and moisture provided by El Nino will also tend to preferentially increase storm intensity all along the storm track even as temperature differentials at the sea surface in the North Atlantic provide further instability for storms that are likely to hit high intensity along a track between Iceland and the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, these features, combined with warmer than normal sea surface temperatures in the newly ice-liberated Barents, could result in warmer and stormier conditions for Northern Europe and Scandinavia.

Globally, we are likely in for a record hot Northern Hemisphere winter for 2015. Combined with one of the strongest El Ninos on record, such a high temperature excession may well put us into a number of entirely new, and potentially very stormy, weather contexts. Comprehensive monitoring and updates to follow.

Links:

Japan’s Meteorological Agency

NASA GISS

Monster El Nino + Climate Change Means Not Normal Winter is On the Way

World Ocean Heartbeat Fading?

Living in a World at 480 CO2e

The Hothouse Yet Worsens — Japan Meteorological Agency Shows June of 2015 Was Warmest on Record

The global June temperature measures are starting to come in and indications are that the past month was a brutally hot beast.

According to Japan’s Meteorological Agency, June beat previous all-time hot temperatures of 0.68 C above the 20th Century average set just last year (2014) by 0.08 C. Coming in at 0.76 C above the global 20th Century average and about 0.96 C above 1880s values, this past June was the hottest since Japan began taking measures in 1891. By comparison, El Nino years 2010 and 1998 came in as tied for third hottest at 0.51 C above 20th Century average levels respectively.

June 2015 hottest on record

(Severe global heat during 2015 continues with a record hot June. Image source: Japan Meteorological Agency.)

As we can clearly see in the Japan measure, June-to-June temperatures show a steady increase from the 1890s onward with most recent years warming substantially above trend line. A visible pace of warming directly at odds with recent false rumors of a global warming ‘hiatus.’ Meanwhile, the nearly 1 C worth of global warming since record keeping began in 1891 has proceeded at a pace roughly 25 times faster than the warming that occurred at the end of the last ice age.

Record June heat caps off a record hot first half of 2015 amidst a still strengthening El Nino in the Equatorial Pacific as well as numerous heat-related weather events across the globe. In the US, a continuation of a severe western drought drove Lake Mead below the rationing line for the first time in its history. California extended extreme drought conditions and a record fire outbreak consumed more than 2 million acres of forest, tundra and permafrost in Alaska. In South America, water rationing continued in Brazil’s most populous city of Sao Paulo as severe drought conditions pervaded over much of South America, Central America and the Caribbean. In India and Pakistan severe heat and humidity pushed wet bulb temperatures to dangerous levels — setting off two mass casualty events that left thousands dead and tens of thousands hospitalized. Northern Hemisphere sea ice hit third lowest extent on record and an odd blob of hot water in the Northeastern Pacific continued to harm marine life as waters grew more stratified and toxic due to heat-related causes.

image

(Very hot temperature anomalies throughout the Eastern Pacific running from Equator to Northern Hemisphere Pole were a major contributor to record-breaking global heat during June. Still warming waters in the Equatorial zone are likely to pump still more heat into an atmosphere overburdened with human greenhouse gas emissions through at least early 2016. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

So far, with El Nino still building and with global CO2 levels rising to a record 404 parts per million in May, 2015 is leading 2014 as the hottest year on record by a significant 0.07 to 0.1 C margin. Substantial westerly wind bursts during late June and through mid July have increased the likelihood that the 2015 El Nino will be a strong to record-breaking event — backing still more ocean warmth into an already over-heated atmosphere. As such, there is a strong potential that record warm global readings will maintain current intensity or even worsen through to the end of this year.

Links:

Japan Meteorological Agency

Pause? What a Joke

Monster El Nino Appears to Be on the Way

Lake Meade Below Rationing Line for First Time in its History

Worst June on Record for Alaska Wildfires

Drought Rages From Caribbean Through South America

Human Hothouse Kills Hundreds in Pakistan

Hat tip to Wili

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