UPDATE, Jan. 20, 2015
Some people apparently are skeptical about whether 2014 was
actually the warmest on record. They cite probabilities provided by
government researchers to support their skepticism. But at least
some skeptics seem confused about the meaning of this statistical
Andrew Freedman of Mashable
tackles the subject in a straightforward way. But the best point in
his piece comes in the final paragraph:
At the end of the day, the discussion about a single calendar
year obscures the more important long-term trend of warming air
temperatures, warming and acidifying oceans along with melting ice
sheets, all of which are hallmarks of manmade global warming.
Including 2014, 13 of the top 15 warmest years have all occurred
Last year turns out to be the hottest year on record for the
Earth’s surface, according to climate researchers who analyzed
average temperatures across the globe.
The year 2014 adds yet another dramatic page to the record book,
which now shows that the 10 warmest years since 1880 have occurred
since the year 2000 — with the exception of the record year of
1998, which now stands as the fourth warmest on record.
The data were released this morning, with additional information
provided in a telephone conference call with scientists from NOAA —
the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — and NASA —
the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The two agencies
conducted independent analyses of their data, coming to the same
conclusion about the record year of 2014.
Across the Earth, the average temperature in 2014 was 1.24
degrees Fahrenheit above the annual average of 57.0 degrees F, with
records going back to 1880. That breaks the previous records of
2005 and 2010 by 0.07 degrees F. It’s also the 38th consecutive
year that the annual global temperature was above average.
Since 1880, the Earth’s average surface temperature has warmed
by about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit, mostly driven by an increase in
carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases released into the
atmosphere, the researchers said. Most of the warming has come
since the 1980s.
Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space
Studies, made this comment in a
“This is the latest in a series of warm years, in a series of
warm decades. While the ranking of individual years can be affected
by chaotic weather patterns, the long-term trends are attributable
to drivers of climate change that right now are dominated by human
emissions of greenhouse gases.”
Although some skeptics have raised questions about whether
global warming has been occurring in recent years, Schmidt said any
short-term pause does not change the overall trend. In fact, the
temperature rise seen for the past year fits perfectly onto a graph
of the decades-long trend line for temperature rise.
Ocean conditions such as El Nino or La Nina can affect
temperatures year-to-year, Schmidt said. Since these phenomena can
cool or warm the tropical Pacific, they probably played a role in
temporarily “flattening” the long-term warming trend over the past
15 years, he added, but last year’s record-breaking temperatures
occurred during a “neutral” El Nino year.
This past year was the first time since 1990 that the global
heat record was broken in the absence of El Nino conditions during
the year. If El Nino conditions are present at the end of 2015, the
researchers said the chances are high that the record will be
broken again this year.
As I mentioned in
yesterday’s post in Water Ways, strong regional differences
were seen last year in the contiguous United States, with several
western states experiencing record highs while the Midwest suffered
through an abnormally cold winter. Other cold spots can be seen on
the global map, but the hot spots more than balanced them out to
break the heat record.
Much of the record warmth of the Earth can be attributed to
record heat accumulated across the oceans. The average ocean
temperature in 2014 was 1.03 degrees higher than the longterm
average of 60.9 degrees, breaking previous records set in 1998 and
Record months for ocean temperatures were seen from May through
November, with January through April each among the all-time top
seven, while December was the third warmest December on record. The
all-time monthly record was broken in June of last year, then
broken again in August and again in September. Such sustained
warmth in the ocean has not been seen since 1997-98 — during a
strong El Nino.
On the land surface, the average temperature was 1.8 degrees
higher than the long-term average of 47.3 degrees F, or the fourth
highest average land temperature on record.
Europe is expected to report that 2014 was the warmest year in
at least 500 years, according to information from the
World Meteorological Organization. Last year surpasses the
previous record set in 2007. Much of that warmth can be attributed
to the second-warmest winter on record, followed by a record-warm
According to the WMO report, 19 European countries have reported
or are expected to report that last year was their hottest year on
record. They Austria, Belgium, Croatia, the Czech Republic,
Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, The
Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden,
and the United Kingdom.
Around the world, precipitation was near average for 2014, the
third year that near-average precipitation was measured for
The 10 warmest years on record, in order:
1. 2014, 1.24 degrees above average
2 (tie). 2010, 1.17 degrees above average
2 (tie). 2005, 1.17 degrees above average
4. 1998, 1.13 degrees above average
5 (tie). 2013, 1.12 degrees above average
5 (tie). 2003, 1.12 degrees above average
7. 2002, 1.10 degrees above average
8. 2006, 1.08 degrees above average
9 (tie). 2009, 1.06 degrees above average
9 (tie). 2007, 1.06 degrees above average
For further information, check out:
— Annual 2014 from NOAA, and
Temperature Analysis from NASA.
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