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No El Nino, But July of 2017 was the Hottest on Record. So What the Hell is Going on?

According to NASA’s GISS global temperature monitoring service, July of 2017 was 0.83 C hotter than the NASA 20th Century baseline (1.05 C hotter than 1880s). That’s the hottest July ever recorded in the 137 year global climate record.

In the Pacific, ENSO conditions remain neutral. And since 2014-2016 featured one of the strongest El Ninos on record, you’d expect global temperatures to back off a bit from what should have been a big spike in the larger warming trend. So what happened?

(Top image shows July of 2017 global temperature anomalies compared to July of 2016 global temperature anomalies [bottom image]. July of 2016 was cooling into a weak La Nina relative to one of the strongest El Ninos on record. This year, ENSO neutral conditions prevail coordinate with rather strong polar amplification in the Southern Hemisphere as temperatures in the Southern Ocean off West Antarctica hit an 8 C warm temperature anomaly [!!]. Images provided by NASA GISS.)

During July of 2016, the world was backing away from a very strong El Nino and heading into the mild global temperature trough of a weak La Nina. Cooler conditions in the Equatorial Pacific were starting to put a bit of a damper on the extreme global temperature departures that, earlier in the year, hit as high as 1.55 C above 1880s averages during February.

The La Nina lag during July of 2016 was enough to pull global surface temperatures down to 1.04 C above 1880s averages. However, the added heat pumped out into the system by both fossil fuel produced greenhouse gasses and the shift to strong El Nino appears to have generated a step change in the global temperature regime. So despite a weak La Nina dominating during fall of 2016, global temperatures remained in a range of 1.06 to 1.21 C above 1880s averages during August through December.

2017 Still Trending Toward Second Hottest on Record

Moving into 2017, overall global temperatures have backed off from the extreme heat seen during 2016. But only a little.

Adding in the record hot July at 1.05 C above 1880s averages, we find that 2017, so far is 1.16 C hotter than 1880s overall for the first seven months. That’s just 0.05 C shy of the record global heat that appeared in 2016. Not really much of a back-off at all.

July’s own record wasn’t a very impressive warm departure from 2016 — beating it by just 0.01 C. But what it does reveal is that there is an extraordinary amount of heat roaming the surface airs and waters of our world. And since all that extra heat will tend to resist cooling into Northern Hemisphere winter as it transfers poleward, we can probably expect that relative temperature anomalies will again rise as we move away from Northern Hemisphere summer. With departures likely continuing to exceed 1.05 or even 1.1 C above 1880s for most months going forward.

Already, early GFS model runs indicate that August of 2017 will likely be warmer than July. And this month might even come close to challenging the 1.21 C above 1880s averages achieved during 2016. However, using GFS global averages as an indicator is not a perfect oracle. So we wait on the August numbers from GISS and NOAA a month from now for final confirmation.

Furthermore, we do have a relatively weak cool Kelvin wave rippling along beneath the Equatorial Pacific at this time. This wave should shift the ENSO pattern to the cool side of neutral by Northern Hemisphere fall. A pattern that should also tend to nudge overall global temperatures downward. Recent falls in the north, though, have tended to exhibit very extreme polar warming. And a similar trend this year would tend to offset any Pacific Equatorial cooling. Lastly, the cooler ENSO neutral pattern is likely to still be a warmer general forcing than the weak La Nina that appeared during late 2016. So there is at least some potential that some months during fall of 2017 will be warmer than those during fall of 2016.

Considering these trends, the best available predictive analysis from NASA shows that 2017 is likely to be about 1.1 C warmer than 1880s or the second hottest year on record globally overall. NASA’s Gavin Schmidt gives this range a 77 percent likelihood of bearing out. But note the error bar in Gavin Schmidt’s above tweet. In other words, the presently far more unstable climate appears to be quite capable of serving up some relatively nasty surprises.

Links:

NASA GISS

NOAA ENSO Forecast and Analysis

Global and Regional Climate Anomalies

Hat tip to Redsky

Hat tip to Joe Romm

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No El Nino — But March of 2017 Was the Second Hottest Ever Recorded

According to today’s report from NASA’s global temperature monitor, March of 2017 was the second hottest such month recorded in the 137 year climate record.

Temperatures for the month were 1.12 C hotter than NASA’s 20th Century baseline and 1.34 C hotter than 1880s averages. These warm temperatures likely represent a climate state not seen on Earth since at least the Eemian climate epoch of 115,000 years ago. They are also now in a range that is producing serious geophysical changes such as glacial melt, sea level rise, sea ice melt, more extreme weather, and declining ocean health.

(Temperature anomaly distributions during March of 2017 is indicative of continued, global warming related polar amplification. Image source: NASA.)

Much of the excess heat during March, as has been the case with many recent months, has focused at the poles. The northern polar region in particular saw considerable above average temperatures with extreme +4-12 C anomalies focusing over Siberia and the Russian side of the Arctic Ocean. 2-4 C above average conditions, meanwhile, blanketed much of Antarctica.

A key benchmark — sea surface temperatures in the central Equatorial Pacific — remained near average. Typically, warmer than normal temperatures in this region associated with El Nino tend to help push the world to new high temperature marks as the warm side of natural variability combines with the considerable effects of 405 ppm CO2 levels (along with other greenhouse gasses).

(The highest global CO2 levels in 4-15 million years is the primary driver of the present global warming event. During April through May, seasonal atmospheric CO2 levels peak. But since the mid 19th Century global CO2 levels have risen from 280 parts per million to the present average of 405 parts per million — primarily due to fossil fuel burning. Image source: The Copernicus Observatory.)

But despite near average ocean temperatures in this zone and a lack of El Nino conditions, March of 2017 was just 0.16 C cooler than the record warm March of 2016 and fully 0.2 C warmer than the, now third warmest, March of 2010.

NOAA models still predict that El Nino is about 50 percent likely to form during late summer — which could help to push 2017 temps into an even warmer range. But high uncertainty remains in this forecast. All that said, even without El Nino, the first three months of 2017 have averaged 1.26 C hotter than 1880s averages — which is 0.06 C warmer than the 1.2 C departure for the whole of the record-hot year of 2016. In other words, the first three months of 2017 were a hair hotter than the record hot 2016 annual averages. And with no El Nino providing an assist to these temperatures, it’s pretty clear that the world has entered a new, hot territory and left the tamer past decades far behind.

Links:

NASA GISS

The Copernicus Observatory

NOAA’s El Nino Diagnostic Discussion

Hat tip to Cate

Hat tip to Entropicman

May Marks 8th Consecutive Record Hot Month in NASA’s Global Temperature Measure

According to NASA, the world has just experienced another record hot month.

May of 2016 was the warmest May since record keeping began for NASA 137 years ago. It is now the 8th record hot month in row. In other words, since October, every month has been the hottest such month ever recorded (October vs October comparison, November vs November etc). And May’s record is just the most recent high mark during a period that has now vastly exceeded all previous measures for global temperature tracking.

The month itself was 0.93 C above NASA’s 1951-1980 baseline measure. It’s the first month since October that readings fell below the 1 C anomaly mark. A range that before 2015 had never before been breached in the 136 year climate record and likely during all of the approximate 12,000 year period that marks the Holocene geological epoch.

It’s a reading that is fully 1.15 C above 1880s averages. A very warm measure in its own right but one that is thankfully somewhat removed from the 1.55 C monthly peak back during February of 2016. To this point, it’s worth noting that hitting 1.5 C above 1880s temps in the annual measure is the first major temperature break that scientists consider to be seriously threatening to human civilization and the life support systems of planet Earth. And we’re getting close to that mark now. However, considering the fact that El Nino is now transitioning toward La Nina, it appears that 2016 averages may peak closer to 1.2 C.

May Was Hot Pretty Much Everywhere

Geospatially, hottest readings again centered near the Poles. Particularly, a region of the Barents Sea experienced temperatures above 4 C hotter than average for the month in the north. More disturbingly, in the south, a region of 4 to 9.4 C above average readings dominated a large zone over West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula. This area is of particular concern due to numerous destabilized ice masses that are now accelerating toward the Southern Ocean and that have the ability to dramatically raise global sea levels over rather short time intervals.

Global Temperature record again set in May

(Another picture of a record warm month globally provided by NASA. This time, highest above normal temperatures centered over the near polar regions of the Barents Sea and the vulnerable and rapidly destabilizing ice sheets of West Antarctica. Image source: NASA GISS.)

Overall, extents of above average readings covered most areas of the globe. Exceptions included the North Atlantic cool pool southeast of Greenland that has been prevalent now for the better part of two years, a storm and trough related cool pool in the North Central Pacific, and storm and trough related cool zones over the Central US, Central Asia, and the Southern half of South America. Storms in these regions generated record rainfall amounts over Texas, Argentina and Russia during the month as global temperatures fell from El Nino peaks and some of the record atmospheric moisture load was wrung out.

Analysis of the May Global Zonal Anomalies Map finds that polar amplification dominated — resulting in peak temperature readings in zones near 75 North and 75 South Latitude.

NASA zonal anomalies May 2016

(Hot poles, cooler, stormy mid-Latitudes is a sign that climate and weather impacts related to human-caused climate change are starting to ramp up. Image source: NASA GISS.)

Cooler readings in the mid 40s North Latitude and mid 50s South Latitude indicates that the climate change related deep trough zones are starting to get more fully involved (highlighted by various severe and record flooding events occurring around the world during this time).

As climate change advances and global temperatures push toward the 2 C mark, we can expect more heavy involvement in storm generation as the Poles continue to more rapidly warm and as ice sheets speed destabilization — generating the powerful regional climate variations and greater atmospheric moisture loading that greatly amps up peak storm potential energy.

Looks Like 2016 is Settling into a Range near 1.2 C Above 1880s

On the whole, the first six months of the climate year starting in December have averaged 1.36 C above 1880s readings. A strong departure that the second half of the year will almost certainly not repeat. Given current guidance along with a developing transition to La Nina, temperatures should fall into a range between 0.95 and 1.15 C above 1880s for the second half of the climate year.

A 1.2 C annual 2016 departure is firmly within the range of estimates for global temperatures that occurred within the Eemian climate period around 115,000 years ago. At that time, global ocean levels were between 16 and 25 feet higher than they are today. And if such warm temperatures continue for any significant duration, we could expect oceans to at least rise by as much (especially considering the fact that about 15-20 feet worth of sea level rise is locked into the ice of glaciers that are now in the process of heading into the global ocean).

We’re Well Behind the Curve in Providing Adequate Mitigations to a Rapidly Worsening Climate Situation

Atmospheric CO2 levels peaked at 407.7 parts per million in May as well. A jump of about 3.8 parts per million above peak readings during May of 2015. A new record that not only represents the highest levels of atmospheric carbon ever experienced by human beings (and likely the highest ever seen in the past 15 million years), but one that also marks a record rate of accumulation. A combined overburden and unprecedented rate of increase in heat trapping gasses that now represents a very serious global hazard.

If carbon dioxide levels were to remain so high we could expect global temperatures to, over the course of 300-500 years, hit near 3 C above 1880s levels and oceans to rise by as much as 60-120 feet. Adding in methane and other greenhouse gasses — current CO2 equivalent for all global heating gas estimates are now in the range of 490 parts per million. Enough to warm the Earth by about 4.6 C over hundreds of years and to, among other things, eventually raise oceans by 120 t0 200 feet.

Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide The Keeling Curve

(Record May temperatures coincided with record levels of atmospheric CO2. We haven’t seen such high levels of CO2 since the Middle Miocene Climate epoch — a period that occurred 15 million years ago. Image source: The Keeling Curve.)

Continued human fossil fuel burning makes an already bad climate situation worse. The rate of emission from human sources is probably at least ten times faster than the build-up of heat trapping gasses that set off the last hothouse mass extinction event — the PETM — about 55 million years ago. In addition, an Earth System response in the range of 10-30+ percent of the human emission each year is possible by the end of this Century. A dangerous amplifying feedback whose emergence grows more likely the longer human beings continue to add heat to the global atmosphere and ocean system.

May of 2016, therefore, is just the most recent heat record along a path toward an ever-worsening global climate situation. Current rising rates of renewable energy and efficiency adoption do provide a growing mitigation effort to combat the harmful systemic problem of fossil fuel burning and a related very high rate of human carbon emission. But the fact that we are, at best, looking at a decades-long energy transition and an eventual dropping of the human emission to near zero by 2030 to 2050, means that climate hazards will continue to rise for some time to come (an absolute practical best case will probably achieve 450 ppm CO2 and 550 ppm CO2e at peak — very dangerous levels of heat trapping gasses that we’ll want to reduce at the most rapid rates possible). In addition, serious challenges both to the rate of energy transition and carbon emissions cuts coming from various political and economic powers around the world threaten to either push the time of hitting zero carbon emissions back or to remove the possibility of such a necessary mitigation altogether.

Links:

GISS Global Temperature Analysis

Eemian Sea Level Rise

Holocene Geological Epoch

The Keeling Curve

Ten Times Faster Than a Hothouse Extinction

Hat Tip to Kevin Jones

NASA — World Just Had Seven Months Straight of Record-Shattering Global Heat

It’s not just that we’re seeing record global heat. It’s that 2016’s jump in global temperatures may be the biggest single-year spike ever recorded. It’s that the world may never again see annual temperatures below 1 C above preindustrial averages. And it’s that this high level of heat, and a related spiking of atmospheric greenhouse gasses due to fossil fuel emissions, is now enough to begin inflicting serious harm upon both the natural world and human civilization.

Seven Straight Months of Record Heat

Last month was the hottest April in the global climate record. Not only was it the hottest such month ever recorded — it smashed the previous record by the largest margin ever recorded. And this April has now become the seventh month in a row in an unbroken chain of record global heat.

Stephan Rahmstorf Temperature anomaly

(When graphed, this is what the hottest April on record looks like when compared to other Aprils. Note the sharp upward spike at the end of the long warming progression. Yeah, that’s for April of 2016. Image source: Dr. Stephan Rahmstorf. Data source: NASA GISS.)

According to NASA GISS, global temperatures in April were 1.11 degrees Celsius (C) hotter than its 20th Century baseline average. When compared to preindustrial readings (NASA 1880s), temperatures have globally heated by a total of +1.33 C. And that’s a really big jump in global heat, especially when one considers the context of the last seven months. When one looks at that, it appears that global temperatures are racing higher with a fearful speed.

About this raging pace of warming, Andy Pitman, director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science at the University of New South Wales in Australia recently noted in the Guardian:

“The interesting thing is the scale at which we’re breaking records. It’s clearly all heading in the wrong direction. Climate scientists have been warning about this since at least the 1980s. And it’s been bloody obvious since the 2000s.”

Record Atmospheric Carbon dioxide levels

(Record atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, as seen in this Sunday May 15 Copernicus Observatory graphic, are the primary force driving an amazing spike in global temperatures during 2016. Image source: The Copernicus Observatory.)

Though 2016 is likely to be a record hot year, overall readings have moderated somewhat since earlier this year as El Nino has begun to fade. But that doesn’t mean we’re out of the danger zone. Quite to the contrary, we’re racing toward climate thresholds at a never-before-seen pace. And that’s really worrisome. Peak monthly readings this year hit a ridiculous +1.55 C above 1880s averages at the height of El Nino during February. And April’s current monthly record is now tied with January of 2016 in the NASA measure. In total, the first four months of 2016 now average +1.43 C above 1880s baselines or uncomfortably close to the +1.5  C mark established by scientists as the first of many increasingly dangerous climate thresholds.

According to Pitman:

“The 1.5C target, it’s wishful thinking. I don’t know if you’d get 1.5C if you stopped emissions today. There’s inertia in the system. It’s [now] putting intense pressure on 2C.”

And when mainstream scientists start to say things like that, it’s really time for the rest of us to take notice.

A Record Hot World Made by Fossil Fuel Burning and Consistent With Scientific Predictions

Looking at where the globe warmed the most, we find greatest extreme temperature departures during April were again centered over the climatologically vulnerable Arctic. Alaska, Northwest Canada, the Beaufort Sea, a huge section of Central Siberia, the West Coast of Greenland, the Laptev and Kara Seas, and a section of North Africa all experienced monthly temperatures in the range of 4 to 6.5 degrees Celsius above average. Monthly ranges that are screaming-hot. A notably larger region experienced significant heat with temperatures ranging from 2-4 C above NASA’s 20th Century baseline. Overall, almost every region of the world experienced above average readings — with the noted exceptions linked to extreme trough zones related to climate change altered weather patterns and ocean cool pools induced by warming-related glacial melt.

Record Global Heat April

(NASA’s picture of a world with a severe and worsening fever during a record hot April of 2016. Image source: NASA GISS.)

These counter-trend regions include the Greenland melt zone of the North Atlantic cool pool, the trough zone over Hudson Bay, the trough zone over the Northwest Pacific, and the oceanic heat sink zone that is the stormy Southern Ocean. Observed amplification of warming in the Northern Polar Region together with formation of the North Atlantic cool pool and the activation of the heat sink zone in the Southern Ocean are all consistent with global warming related patterns predicted by climate models and resulting from human fossil fuel burning pushing atmospheric CO2 levels well above 400 parts per million during recent years.

Record Heat Spurs Unprecedented Climate Disasters

This pattern of record global heat has brought with it numerous climate change related disasters. Across the Equatorial regions of the world, drought and hunger crises have flared. These have grown particularly intense in Africa and Asia. In Africa, tens of millions of people are now on the verge of famine. In India, 330 million people are under water stress due to what is likely the worst drought that nation has ever experienced. Australia has seen 93 percent its Great Barrier Reef succumb to a heat-related coral bleaching. And since the ocean heat in that region of the world has tipped into a range that will force more and more frequent bleaching events, it’s questionable if the great reef will even survive the next few decades.

Pittman in the Guardian again:

“The thing that’s causing that warming, is going up and up and up. So the cool ocean temperatures we will get with a La Niña are warmer than we’d ever seen more than a few decades ago … This is a full-scale punching of the reef system on an ongoing basis with some occasionally really nasty kicks and it isn’t going to recover.”

In Florida, ocean acidification due to fossil fuel emissions is providing its own punches and kicks to that state’s largest coastal reef. A different effect from warming, acidification is a chemical change caused by ocean waters becoming over-burdened with carbon. Kind of like a constant acid rain on the reef that causes the limestone it’s made out of to dissolve.

And if the above impacts aren’t enough to keep you awake at night, unprecedented May wildfires also forced the emptying of an entire city in Canada. Islands around the world are being swallowed by rising oceans due to ice sheet melt and thermal expansion. Cities along the US Atlantic and Gulf Coasts are experiencing ever-worsening tidal flooding events. Glacial melt in Greenland and Antarctica is accelerating. And the Arctic sea ice is so thin and melting so fast that some are questioning if any of it will survive come September.

La Nina is Coming, But it Won’t Help Much

It’s worth noting that global atmospheric temperatures will temporarily cool down from 2016 peaks as La Nina is predicted to settle in by this Fall. However, greenhouse gasses are so high and Earth’s energy balance so intense that the global ocean, ice and atmospheric system is still accumulating heat at an unprecedented rate. As La Nina kicks in, this extra heat will mostly go into the oceans and the ice as the atmosphere cools down a little — preparing for the next big push as El Nino builds once more.

global-warming-since-1850

(Global warming spirals toward dangerous climate thresholds. Graphic by climate scientist Ed Hawkins.)

This natural variability-based shift toward La Nina shouldn’t really be looked at as good news. A massive plume of moisture has risen off the global oceans during the current heat spike and as global temperatures cool, there’s increasing risk of very large flood events of a kind we’re not really used to. La Nina also produces drought zones — in particular over an already-suffering California — and the added warming from rising global temperatures will add to drought intensity in such regions as well.

With global temperatures predicted to hit around 1.3 C above preindustrial averages for all of 2016, it’s doubtful that the world will ever even again see one year in which temperatures fall below the 1 C climate threshold. And that means faster glacial ice melt, worsening wildfires, more disruption to growing seasons and crops, more extreme storms and rainfall events, faster rates of sea level rise, expanding drought zones, more mass casualty inducing heatwaves, expanding ranges for tropical diseases, increasing ranges for harmful invasive species, and a plethora of other problems. Over recent years, we’ve tipped the scales into dangerous climate change. And with global temperatures increasing so rapidly, we’re getting into deeper and deeper trouble.

In the end, our best hope for abating these worsening conditions is to rapidly reduce global carbon emissions to zero or net negative. Until we do that, there’s going to be a ramping scale of worsening impacts coming on down the pipe.

Links:

NASA GISS

Dr. Stephan Rahmstorf

April Breaks Global Temperature Record

The Copernicus Observatory

Ed Hawkins

Hat tip to Suzanne

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

Hat tip to DT Lange

 

 

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

Halfway to 2 C — According to NASA, We Just Blew Past an Ominous Milestone

2 C.

It’s the amount of warming past pre-industrial times that the IPCC says we should try to avoid this Century in order to prevent the worst consequences of human-caused climate change. It’s the so-called safe limit, even though there’s nothing really safe about it and we should probably be aiming more for a below 1.5 C target.

1 C.

It’s the amount of warming between pre-industrial times and, according to the latest data from NASA, the first half of 2015. In other words, temperatures during the first six months of 2015 are now at least halfway toward freeing some of the nastiest climate monsters in the closet.

*   *   *   *   *

According to NASA GISS, June of 2015 was tied with 1998 as the hottest of any June in the entire 135 year global climate record. Coming in at +0.76 C above NASA’s 20th Century average, June follows May at +0.73 C (4th hottest), April at +0.71 C (tied for 3rd hottest), March at +0.91 C (second hottest), February at + 0.89 C (hottest), and January at +0.81 C (2nd hottest).

Combined, these average out for a +0.80 C departure from the 20th Century in the NASA measure. That’s an extraordinary amount of heat — +0.18 C above 1998 levels and +0.05 C above 2014, which was the previous hottest year on record.

But, perhaps most importantly, this reading is the first consistent break at 1 C above 1880s levels. An ominous benchmark and halfway to the catastrophic 2 C warming we really, really want to avoid.

June Takes On El Nino-Type Temperature Pattern

June 2015 hottest on record NASA

(NASA’s geographic temperature anomalies for a record hot June in 2015. Image source: NASA GISS.)

Looking at the June temperature anomaly map, we find very large zones of 2-4 C above average readings running up toward the Northern Hemisphere Pole. The first of these zones rides up over Western Asia. Covering most of the region from the Caspian Sea on northward, this area features two anomalously hot zones ranging to as high as a +4.7 C anomaly in intensity. The second of these zones issues from the developing El Nino in the Eastern Pacific, rides up over the hot ‘Blob’ of ocean water in the Northeastern Pacific, invades Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, and then enters the Beaufort and Chukchi seas. This zone also features large expanses of +2 to +4 C above average temperatures.

Overall, most of the globe saw above average readings with only the region just south of Greenland, a small zone just west of the hot ‘Blob,’ and an area of somewhat cooler readings over West Antarctic showing below average readings.

Zonal anomalies June 2015

(Zonal anomalies began to pick up the El Nino signal during June. Note that equatorial heat gain nearly matches that of the Northern Hemisphere pole. Image source: NASA GISS.)

Under El Nino —  a climate condition the globe is steadily transitioning toward — we would expect to see relative warming near the Equator and relative cooling near the poles. During June, we begin to see this signature with the Equator warming up to a substantial +1.2 C positive anomaly. Antarctica also followed this trend as that polar zone dipped into the -0.4 to -1.2 C negative anomaly range (60 to 90 South). Meanwhile, the Northern Hemisphere Polar zone (60 to 90 North) showed significant hot readings in the range of +0.9 to +1.4 C anomalies.

Overall, the entire globe from 50 South on northward experienced above average to much hotter than average temperatures in the zonal measure. A clear and powerful heat signal for June of 2015.

Building El Nino Likely Means More Heat to Come

With the first six months of 2015 finished and with El Nino still strengthening in the Pacific, it appears that a record hot year may already be a lock. In addition, further warming may be in store.

The current El Nino appears to be roughly on a similar development track, as far as timing and possible intensity, to the 1997-1998 El Nino. Given this rough allegory, we are approximately at the same place, climatologically speaking, as July of 1997. During that event, global temperatures didn’t really start taking off into severe record high ranges until Fall of 1997 through Summer of 1998. If the ocean to atmosphere heat loading for the current event proceeds in similar fashion, we could expect to see even more extreme temperatures than we are currently experiencing by Fall and running on through at least the first season or two of 2016.

Extreme El Nino By October

(Record-breaking El Nino by October? NOAA CFSv2 models have been spitting out some pretty extreme results. If we see anywhere near this level of sea surface warming the Central Pacific, the heat records thus far for months during 2014 and 2015 may soon be left in the dust. Image source: NOAA CPC.)

Looking toward July’s forecast, there is a bit of a caveat. That month is typically cooler globally due to a lessed impact of the greenhouse gas heat forcing. This is due to the fact that greenhouse gasses are concentrated most heavily in the Northern Hemisphere and such greenhouse gasses are most efficient at heat trapping during night time and winter. As such, we may see a bit of a dip in the July readings below June. But if this current El Nino gets involved as the models predict, it’s likely to be record-breaking heat that pushes some very ominous global temperature thresholds all the way through from August 2015 to at least early 2016.

Let’s just hope we don’t close too much more of the gap to 2 C. It’s really starting to get scary out there.

Links:

NASA GISS

GISTEMP

NOAA CPC

Hat tip to Wili

(Please support public, non-special interest based, science like the fantastic work written about here and conducted by the experts at NASA and NOAA.)

Accelerating Global Warming? NASA Shows February of 2015 was Second Hottest on Record

The Earth started out 2015 very hot. A record hot range that some researchers are now saying may be the beginning of a period of accelerated global warming.

***

For the global temperature measure, February of 2015 was another extraordinarily warm month. One more hot month in an unbroken chain stretching all the way back to the mid 1980s. The second hottest February in the whole of the NASA record ever since temperature monitoring began in 1880.

In total, NASA GISS shows February of 2015 topping out as the warmest February of the new millennium at 0.79 degrees Celsius above the 20th Century average. A reading 1.06 C above temperatures measured during 1880. Only February of 1998 was hotter (Of all of the super El Nino year of 1998, only February and June still hold records as hottest months in the NASA measure).

But perhaps most importantly, the average of 2015’s first two months is 0.77 C above the 20th Century. This is just behind 2007 (by just 0.02 C) as the hottest two-month start of any year during the past 135, and likely hotter than at any time during the Holocene and possibly in the past 120,000 years altogether.

Temperature Map February NASA

(Global temperature anomaly map. Image source: NASA.)

Global temperature anomaly analysis by NASA shows extraordinary warmth for much of the Northern Hemisphere. In particular, most of the land mass of Asia experienced far above average readings. Temperatures in this zone measured as high as 8.4 degrees Celsius above average for the entire month — yet one more extraordinary period of departure for a rapidly warming region.

The North American West Coast through to Alaska also showed much warmer than normal readings. A pattern coincident with both a vast pool of warm water in the Northeastern Pacific and a ridiculously resilient ridge of high pressure (and coincident high amplitude wave in the Jet Stream) that has formed for seasonal periods over the region since the winter of 2012-2013.

Abnormal warmth was also pervasive through the tropics, the Arctic, Africa, Australia, sections of East and West Antarctica, and over most Oceanic zones. The only region experiencing colder than normal readings was the Eastern Half of North America. An area in the downward sloping trough of the prevalent Rossby Wave and associated hot-cold dipole pattern that has been so common for North America during recent winters.

Zonal Anomalies Feb 2015

(Temperature anomaly by Latitudinal Zone for February of 2015. Image source: NASA.)

NASA’s zonal anomalies measure shows very strong polar heat amplification, which is a tell-tale of the human greenhouse gas heat forcing, at the Arctic Circle line (66 North Latitude) and continuing on northward. Zonal anomalies peaked at around the 66 degrees North Latitude line in the range of 2.8 C above average for the entire month. Anomalies declined poleward but still maintained 1.5 to 2.5 C above average ratings.

Though somewhat cooler than the Northern Polar Region, the rest of the global also showed above average temperatures in almost all zones. 30-60 North showed readings ranging from 0.5 to 2.5 C above average, the tropics maintained about a +0.6 C above average range, 30-60 South ranged between 0 and 0.6 C above average with a dip in the heat sink and high wind region of the Southern Ocean. The Southern Polar Region showed the only zonal below average reading with -0.2 C between 85 and 90 South, but the entire region of 60-90 South ranged about 0.15 C hotter than average.

Conditions in Context

The main features of the current globally hot February are a weak El Nino in the Central Pacific (declared by NOAA in early March), a strong positive PDO pattern of very warm sea surface temperatures throughout the Pacific and an extreme polar amplification in the region of 60-90 North Latitude.

According to IPCC forecasts and Pacific Ocean warming impact studies, both the El Nino, which has tended to shift more toward the Central Pacific, and the amazing polar amplification are indications of what was expected in a world seeing a rapid accumulation of greenhouse gasses through the mechanism of human fossil fuel emission. The North American Rossby Wave pattern combined with extremely warm temperatures in the West and cold, stormy and snowy conditions in the East, was also predicted as a potential upshot of warmer than normal readings at the pole reducing temperature differentials from North to South and encouraging weakness and waviness in the Jet Stream (Francis). PDO intensification, contributing to a warm water pool off the North American West Coast and coincident mid Pacific El Nino may also have a teleconnection-type (Where large weather patterns reinforce and enhance the formation of other large weather patterns that may be hundreds or thousands of miles removed from the first. Some have poetically referred to teleconnection as an atmospheric dance.) influence with the ridging pattern in the west and the related troughing pattern in the east.

In global climate models, cool pools of water near Greenland and West Antarctica are also implicated in potential trough/Rossby Wave type patterns (severe frontal storms) which may also be influencing the extreme weather seen in the Northeastern US during February. These pools are associated with glacial melt and coincident fresh water outflow. In the North Atlantic, this has implications for global thermohaline circulation. A strong thermohaline circulation is essential for ocean mixing and related ocean health.

Overall, the global temperature disposition, extreme temperature anomaly, and related strange weather patterns are anything but a normal. They are instead indicative of the kinds of extraordinary climates and extreme weather both computer models and researchers have predicted as a direct result of human-caused warming.

Entering a Rapidly Warming World

entering a rapidly warming world

(Even with a rapid draw down in human emissions to RCP 4.5 levels, computer model essays show 40 year average rates of warming will likely accelerate over the next few decades. Image source: Near-Term Acceleration in the Rate of Temperature Change.)

To this point, it appears that some climate models are in agreement that the period of the next few decades are likely to see an accelerated warming trend. Decadal rates of warming, during this time, are expected to accelerate to between 0.2 and 0.25 C per ten years, even if human greenhouse gas emissions are rapidly drawn down. The result would be about 1.4 to 1.6 C worth of warming above 1880s levels by or before 2040. Without a rapid draw-down, and a continuation on the current catastrophic path of fossil fuel burning, recent model essays from Dr. Michael Mann indicate that humans could exceed the 2 C warming threshold by the mid 2030s.

Links:

Near-Term Acceleration in the Rate of Temperature Change

GISS Surface Temperature Analysis

Paleoclimate Implications For Human-Made Climate Change

Warming Arctic May be Causing Heatwaves Elsewhere in the World

The California Weather Blog

Increasing Intensity of El Nino in the Central Equatorial Pacific

Evidence Linking Arctic Amplification to Extreme Weather in the Mid-Latitudes

Greenland Melt — Exponential?

Far Worse than Being Beaten With a Hockey Stick

Earth Entering a New Period of Rapid Temperature Change

Hat tip to Bassman

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.

*   *   *   *

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

NASA: October 2014 Tied For Hottest on Record

October 2014 Hottest on Record

(October was again a global temperature record setter. Image source: NASA.)

NASA’s monthly global temperature analysis is in and the results are once again record-making. For according to NASA’s global monitor, world temperatures were 0.76 degrees Celsius above the Earth average for the mid 20th Century.

This high temperature departure ties 2005 for hottest in NASA’s 136 year record. A temperature level that global ice core data points toward being hotter than at any time in the past 130,000 years. A record hot month in a string of record hot months for 2014. A resurgence to record high marks amidst an unprecedented spate of rising temperatures that has lasted now for more than a century running.

Global land ocean temperature index

(Global temperatures have risen by more than 1 degree C above their low mark at the start of the 20th Century. It is a human-driven pace of warming 15-20 times faster than at the end of the last ice age. Image source: NASA)

Polar Amplification Again Prominent

As in recent months, hottest temperatures were again focused near the poles. The northern polar region in particular observed much hotter than normal readings with a very large zone experiencing +2 to +5.5 degrees C above average temperatures for the entire month. East Antarctica also saw much warmer than normal temperatures with monthly averages spiking from +2 C to more than 4 C above the 20th Century average.

Overall, much of the world showed hotter than normal temperatures with cooler than normal readings confined to sections of the Southern Ocean and Eastern Europe. Small and isolated pockets of cooler than normal readings were found in diminutive oceanic zones. Meanwhile, the rest of the world experienced warmer than normal to much warmer than normal readings.

zonal readings October

(Zonal temperature departures by latitude. Image source: NASA)

Zonal readings also showed very strong polar amplification in the Northern Hemisphere with surface temperatures averaging at 2.6 degrees Celsius above normal in the region above 75 degrees North Latitude. A spike in temperature to +1.3 C above average was also observed in the region of 80 degrees South Latitude.

The Southern Ocean again appears to be the primary zonal heat sink as the only region showing below average temperatures in the range of -0.38 C below average. As we have seen in previous analysis, this region is currently the principle atmosphere-to-ocean heat transfer band. Ocean heat uptake in this region has been shown through recent studies to have resulted in very rapid warming of the top 700 meters of Southern Hemisphere ocean waters. It has also played a role in the more rapid glacial destabilization observed among Antarctica’s increasingly fragile ice sheets and ice shelves.

Polar Amplification Sees Late Fall Vortex Disruption, Severe Dipole Anomalies

Northern Hemisphere polar amplification is a primary contributor to the polar vortex disruptions and extreme Jet Stream distension we’ve seen since about 2005. Current conditions also indicate an extraordinary dipole again developing with heat pooling in the Arctic near Alaska and in the maritime zone between the Kara Sea and Greenland. Already in November, this has caused an extreme meridonal avection of polar cold air over the continents even as warm air drives north toward the pole over Atlantic and Pacific Ocean regions.

Arctic Anomaly Map

(Warm air invasion of the Arctic forcing temperatures to 1.9 C above average drives polar air over Central Asia and Eastern North America on November 19 of 2014. Such displacements of cold air during Northern Hemisphere winter are directly tied to global-warming related polar amplification. Image source: GFS/University of Maine)

2014 Close to Hottest On Record

Currently, NASA’s global temperature average for the first ten months of 2014 puts the year at 0.664 C above the global average. 2010, the previous hottest year on record, stood between 0.66 and 0.67 degrees hotter than the 20th Century average. So we are now in record-making territory for 2014. Any further months with average temperatures above 0.67 C would continue to cement 2014 as a new record holder.

In any case, the excessive heat for 2014 is at least likely to place it among the top 1-4 hottest years even if November and December show less extreme warm temperature departures. An extraordinary degree of warmth for a year in which official El Nino status has yet to be declared.

With global political leaders retaining an overall laissez faire attitude to positive action on climate change and with powerful fossil fuel interests gaining power in the US Congress (Republicans), it is unfortunately very likely that ongoing massive greenhouse gas emissions in the range of 50 billion tons of CO2 equivalent each year will continue to add more heat to the world’s oceans, atmosphere, and glaciers. As time moves forward, this will vastly increase the risk of catastrophic weather and geophysical change events. We see such events now in Brazil, California and across an expanding range of regions. But these early outliers are mild compared to the potential extremity of events as time moves forward and catastrophic emission rates increase.

As with other brands of risk, including financial risk, the world’s current economic and political leaders have shown a terrible ineptitude in working to prevent catastrophic and destabilizing loss. One hopes that political and economic leaders will wise up. But, currently, there is very little to indicate that urgently needed changes will be forthcoming.

Links:

NASA GISS

GFS/University of Maine

IPCC 2014: Adaptation and Vulnerability

(Note edited to include the Eemian, which is probably still hotter than this monthly average by about 0.8 to 0.9 C at peak warming)

Antarctic Heat Heralds Hottest September in the NASA Record

September 2014 Hottest on Record

(Global temperature anomaly map for September of 2014. Note extraordinary bands of very strong positive temperature anomaly ranging the globe with hottest zones at or near the poles. Image source: NASA GISS.)

Another hottest month on record for the global climate. And this one is a bit of a doozey.

According to NASA GISS, September of 2014 saw global surface temperatures that were 0.77 C hotter than the 20th Century average. This record beats out 2005 by a rather strong 0.04 C margin and represents the 3rd month in the GISS record for 2014 that was either the hottest or tied for the hottest (May, August and September).

Ocean surface heat and anomalous warmth at the poles were deciding factors for the new September record with very few regions of the global ocean surface showing cooler than average temps and with extraordinary heat at the poles, especially in Antarctica. This southern polar zone experienced average monthly temperatures as much as 8.7 above the global average across a relatively broad zone. Both East and West Antarctica observed this very strong polar amplification with East Antarctica experiencing the peak anomalies.

zonal anomalies map september 2014

(Zonal anomalies by Latitude in the NASA GISS measure. Image source: NASA GISS.)

The zonal anomalies map for September of 2014 showed no latitudinal zone experiencing cooler than 20th Century average conditions. A rather extraordinary feature considering most months show cooler than 20th Century average conditions along at least some latitudes.

Most extreme heating occurred at or near the poles with the 75-80 degree South Latitude zone showing an extraordinary +3.4 C departure from the global norm and the 80-90 degree North Latitude zone showing a strong +1.75 degree positive anomaly.

The only zone showing near 20th Century average temperatures was the heat sink region of 55 to 60 degrees South Latitude in the Southern Ocean. In this climate region a strong storm track combines with an expanding fresh water wedge issuing from melting Antarctic glaciers to force down-welling and atmosphere to ocean heat capture. A heat capture that was alluded to in a recent scientific paper which found the upper Southern Ocean contained between 24 and 55 percent more heat than expected.

This heat sink region, featuring an expanding fresh water wedge has been instrumental in somewhat higher than normal Antarctic sea ice totals. An impact that is, ironically, driven both by Antarctic continental ice melt together with an increasing storminess in the Southern Ocean and waters more heavily laden with salt issuing from the equatorial zone. A highly unstable confluence that results in local surface cooling as the ocean takes a heavy dose from the human riled heat engine.

Conditions in Context

No El Nino yet, despite two warm Kelvin waves and somewhat favorable atmospheric conditions throughout the months of August and September. But sea surface temperature in the Equatorial Pacific region remain somewhat hotter than normal — bending toward the warm side of ENSO neutral. Overall ocean surface warmth, however, was extraordinary throughout September, pushing well above the global average and ranging, in GFS models, from 0.7 C to 1.2 C above the already hotter than normal 1979 to 2000 average.

Overall, three more record or near record hot months would put 2014 in serious contention for hottest year on record (2014 is running 0.65 C hotter than average, the global record is 0.67 C above average for 2010). A rather odd result considering we still see no El Nino and almost every recent hottest year has been spurred on by this powerful atmospheric variability driver. A record hot year in 2014 with no El Nino could well be an indication that the human forcing is beginning to over-ride natural variability and that the ENSO signal, though still very powerful, is becoming more and more muted by an increasingly substantial human heat forcing.

Links:

NASA GISS

It’s Worse Than We Thought — New Study Finds that Earth is Warming Far Faster Than Expected

Earth Surface During August of 2014 Was Hottest Ever Recorded

The monthly global temperature records just keep falling…

Despite no El Nino declared, an extraordinarily hot global ocean surface keeps dumping heat back into the atmosphere. This transfer resulted in the hottest March-through-May period in the global record and has pushed numerous record spikes in the global measures this summer. By August, according to NASA, the global average had again climbed to never-before-seen levels.

As of yesterday’s report, NASA showed that the Global Land-Ocean Surface Temperature Index had climbed to 0.70 degrees Celsius above the mid 20th Century average and about 0.95 degrees Celsius above the 1880s average. The previous record high for the period was set in 2011 at 0.69 degrees C above the global 1951 to 1980 average.

global temp maps

(Global surface temperature departures according to NASA GISS. Image source: NASA.)

Throughout the world, global ocean surface temperatures showed extraordinary departures above average for the month. Greater variance was experienced over continental land masses and over the polar regions.

Zonal anomalies showed far greater heat amplification near the southern polar region, especially in the region near 80 south latitude. In the Northern Hemisphere the tundra region near 60 north latitude focusing in Northeast Siberia near the methane emitting zone of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, the region north of the Caspian Sea, and Baffin Bay and Northeast Canada showed the greatest high temperature anomalies. Only the high Arctic and regions in or near the southern ocean showed widespread and significant cooler than average zonal readings.

You can see these zonal anomalies in the graph provided by NASA below:

August zonal anomalies

(Temperature departures by latitudinal zone. Image source: NASA.)

A Catastrophic Pace of Warming

To understand these record high global temperatures, it is useful to consider the broader paleo-climate context. In this context, the global temperature difference between 1880 and the last ice age was about 5 degrees Celsius. So the current temperature departure, driven by human greenhouse gas emissions, is equal to about 1/5 the difference between the 19th century and an ice age, but on the side of hot.

As it took about 12,000 years for the post ice-age warming to occur, the recorded pace of warming since 1880 is about 20 times faster than that period of extreme Earth system change. With the predicted pace of warming expected to increase even further and with ice sheets still covering the surface of the Earth (which greatly help to mitigate the pace of warming spikes), this current velocity of change is both likely unprecedented and catastrophic.

Links:

NASA GISS

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