November 2015 is second-warmest in known history, NASA says, as this year stays on track for record warmth
November 2016 was the second-warmest November in recorded history, NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies announced last week, with an average global temperature that was less than one-tenth of a degree Celsius lower than the record-setter of 2015.
Last month was also 0.95 degrees Celsius (1.71 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than the average November during the years between 1951-1980 and kept Earth on the path to the warmest year the planet has experienced in the 136 years in which consistent weather records have been maintained.
November 2015 was 1.02 degrees Celsius warmer than the mean for the month during that 29-year period.
The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration announced Monday that, according to its calculations, November 2016 was the fifth-warmest in recorded history. NOAA said that last month’s average global temperature was 0.72 degrees Celsius (1.31 degrees Fahrenheit) above the norm for the month.
NOAA’s assessment of the month’s place in climate history is based on 122 years of records.
As the year approaches its end, there is little doubt that it will be the warmest known in either 122 or 136 years. NOAA’s statement explained that this year’s average temperature to date is 0.94 degrees Celsius (1.69 degrees Fahrenheit) above the mean for the past 122 years, while NASA’s methods indicate that the year-to-date mean temperature is 1.02 degrees Celsius (1.84 degrees Fahrenheit) above that for the period 1951-1980.
Earth’s Arctic region has been the part of the planet where warmth has been most pronounced this year.
NOAA’s 2016 Artic Report Card, which the agency released earlier this month, indicated that the extent of summer sea ice in the region this year was tied with 2007 for the second-lowest since 1979 and that average surface air temperatures there in the year that ended on Sept. 30 were the highest since at least 1900.
The mean air temperature in the Arctic has warmed by 3.5 degrees Celsius (6.3 degrees Fahrenheit) since 1900, a pace that is twice as fast as that experienced by the rest of Earth.
The continental United States experienced warmer temperatures than normal for the first 11 months of this year from coast-to-coast and from northern border to southern border. This graphic, prepared by the National Centers for Environmental Information, shows that no region in the mainland U.S. experienced an average temperature that is lower than the mean of the past 122 years:
NOAA’s new weather satellite reaches geostationary orbit; promises improvement in weather forecasting
The nation’s most advanced weather satellite has reached geostationary orbit and will soon begin helping the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration improve weather forecasting.
Capable of imaging the entire western hemisphere of Earth every 15 minutes and the continental United States every five minutes, GOES-16 is expected to improve NOAA’s ability to predict and track thunderstorms, tornadoes, and hurricanes and anticipate solar activity that can impact human activities on Earth.
“The next generation of weather satellites is finally here,” NOAA administrator Kathryn Sullivan said in a statement released after the satellite was launched Nov. 19. “GOES-R is one of the most sophisticated Earth-observing platforms ever devised.”
Sullivan was referring to the generic name for the series of satellites to be launched in the next several years, of which GOES-16 is the first.
The key to GOES-16’s likely impact on meteorology is the satellite’s Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI).
Basically a sophisticated photography instrument, ABI will observe Earth across 16 bands of the electromagnetic spectrum. That is an improvement from weather satellites currently in orbit, which can only make use of five spectral bands.
ABI will also provide a four-fold increase in image resolution and transmit data back to Earth five times faster than is possible with current satellites.
GOES-16 is also equipped with a device that permits the mapping of lightning. The Geostationary Lightning Mapper detects short duration changes in near-infrared radiation, which indicates the presence of atmospheric electrical activity. GLM will operate over North America and South America and the marine areas immediately adjacent to those continents.
A device on the satellite known as Extreme Ultraviolet and X-Ray Irradiance Sensors will detect solar flares, which will in turn assist ground-based agencies in preserving communication and navigation capability when the flares occur.
Another instrument, the Solar Ultraviolet Imager, will allow for observation of other solar activity such as coronal holes and coronal mass ejections. These events can subject satellites and even the International Space Station to risks of increased radiation and disrupt Earth-based communications, navigation, and transmission of electricity.
The GOES-16 satellite is powered by a solar array.
Clifford F. Mass, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle, said that the potential of the GOES-16 satellite to improve accuracy of forecasts is significant. He explained that the challenge will be to make the most optimal use of the data it provides.
“How do you use the sensor information to create a physically consistent three-dimensional simulation of the atmosphere? That’s something that can be worked on.”
Weather satellites have been crucial to meteorology since the first, TIROS-1, was launched by NASA on April 1, 1960. Since then countries including China, India, Japan, and Russia have joined the United States in building an extensive network of weather satellites in orbit.
Geostationary weather satellites, which permit constant observation of large areas on Earth’s surface, premiered in December 1966 when ATS-1 was sent skyward. In the 1970s NOAA began deployment of the GOES series of satellites, which work in pairs to observe atmospheric conditions from the west coast of Africa to the western Pacific Ocean.
Altogether the U.S. has sent at least 58 weather satellites into orbit.
The first in NOAA’s new Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R series, the 2,800 kilogram-sized GOES-16 is now 35,800 kilometers away from Earth.
GOES-16, which earned its name when it reached stationary orbit above the equator on Nov. 29, is designed for ten years of operation. It will commence observations and data transmission next year, after testing of its instruments is completed.
The launch of GOES-16 does not address an ongoing concern among meteorologists that a gap in weather satellite coverage at the planet’s poles might occur. A 2016 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office said that the risk that an existing satellite in polar orbit might fail could leave a lapse of coverage before the launch of a new spacecraft, JPSS-1, in March 2017.
The records kept falling as July 2016 set new benchmarks for heat.
NASA said Aug. 16 that last month was not only the hottest July in recorded history, but also the hottest month known since temperature record-keeping began in 1880.
“It wasn’t by the widest of margins, but July 2016 was the warmest month since modern record keeping began in 1880,” Dr. Gavin Schmidt, director of the agency’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said. “It appears almost a certainty that 2016 also will be the warmest year on record.”
This July’s mean temperature was 0.1 degrees warmer than the previous July record holders that occurred in 2015, 2011, and 2009, according to NASA’s study.
The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration confirmed July’s status as the heat pacesetter for all months on Aug. 17.
NOAA said that July 2016 was 1.57 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the average 20th century July and 0.11 degrees Fahrenheit above the previous record-holding month of July 2015.
That continued a decades-long trend for the month of the year that is the peak of summer in the northern hemisphere.
“July 2016 marks the 40th consecutive July with temperatures at least nominally above the 20th century average,” NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information said in a summary of the July temperature data. “July 1976 was the last time July global land and ocean temperatures were below average.”
The trend is not limited to every year’s July.
A new record for the warmest month of its kind has been set in each of the past ten months, according to NASA, dating back to October 2015.
NOAA pegged the hot streak at 15 record-setting months in a row.
The disparity is the result of differing methodologies used by the two agencies.
For the year of 2016 through the end of July, NOAA found that mean worldwide temperatures were 1.85 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average.
The next-hottest January-July period came in 2014, when the average was 0.34 degrees F below this year’s measurement.
Both agencies use meteorological stations around the world to obtain air temperature data and ship- and buoy-based instruments to measure sea surface temperature. Antarctic research stations are also used to gather the data that underlies their monthly global temperature analysis reports.
A United Nations agency has predicted that the planet’s recent streak of record-setting hot years will reach a new threshold this year.
The World Meteorological Organization also noted in the July 21 statement that the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide has reached “new highs.”
The current level of CO2 in the atmosphere exceeds 400 parts per million, a concentration not known on Earth since the Pliocene epoch, which ended about 1.8 million years ago.
In June the average concentration reached 407 parts per million, which was 4 ppm greater than in June 2015.
A WMO official pointed to the trend as a reason to emphasize public policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
“This underlines more starkly than ever the need to approve and implement the Paris Agreement on climate change, and to speed up the shift to low carbon economies and renewable energy,” Petteri Taalas, the agency’s secretary-general, said.
The WMO statement highlighted a streak of record-setting hot months in its prediction.
NOAA also said that June was the 14th consecutive month to set a heat record.
“Another month, another record,” Taalas said. “And another. And another. Decades-long trends of climate change are reaching new climaxes, fueled by the strong 2015/2016 El Niño.”
WMO also pointed to reduced Arctic sea ice during summer months, increased precipitation in some regions, and widespread bleaching of coral reefs as indicators of the climate trend that is likely to put 2016 in the record books.
The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere above our planet’s South Pole reached the worrisome threshold of 400 parts per million.
At least four million years have past since the last time carbon dioxide was so plentiful in the air above the South Pole, according to a statement announcing the milestone released Wednesday by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration.
No region of Earth remains below the 400 ppm threshold.
“The far southern hemisphere was the last place on earth where CO2 had not yet reached this mark,” Pieter Tans, the lead scientist of NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network, said. “Global CO2 levels will not return to values below 400 ppm in our lifetimes, and almost certainly for much longer.”
The South Pole is slower to demonstrate increases in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations driven by human combustion of fossil fuels because that region is so remote from the populated, and economically developed, areas of Earth.
Another federal government entity, the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., recently warned that the South Pole would soon cross the 400 ppm threshold.
“Throughout humanity, we have lived in an era with CO2 levels below 400 ppm,” Ralph Keeling, director of the CO2 Program at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, said in an NCAR statement released May 12 . “With these data, we see that era drawing to a close, as the curtain of higher CO2 spreads into the Southern hemisphere from the north. There is no sharp climate threshold at 400 ppm, but this milestone is symbolically and psychologically important.”
NOAA data obtained at the South Pole indicates that the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide there was about 336 ppm in 1980 and has generally been rising since that time.
Humanity’s ongoing alteration of Earth’s atmosphere has now caused eleven straight months of record heat.
The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration announced April 19 that March continued the streak with an average worldwide temperature that was 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit above the twentieth century average for the month.
The month cemented the place of 2016’s first quarter as the warmest three-month period, relative to the norm, in recorded history.
“The departures are what we would consider astronomical,” NOAA climate scientist Jessica Blunden told the Associated Press. “It’s on land. It’s in the oceans. It’s in the upper atmosphere. It’s in the lower atmosphere. The Arctic had record low sea ice.”
“Everything everywhere is a record this month, except Antarctica,” Blunden continued in her AP interview. “It’s insane.”
March 2016 exceeded the previous record departure from the March mean for the period 1880-2016 by 0.54 degrees Fahrenheit.
The heat was particularly evident over land, where air temperatures last month were 4.19 degrees Fahrenheit above the twentieth century mean.
The agency also said that the average temperature above both land and sea surfaces across the globe during the first three months of this year was 2.07 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the twentieth century average. That is another record, exceeding the previous record set last year by 0.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
In the United States record heat was experienced in nearly every part of the country.
Deke Arndt, the leader of the climate monitoring branch at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, wrote in an April 12 blog post that every one of the nation’s climate divisions – sections distinguished by long-term climate patterns – was “warmer than normal” last month.
“The nationwide warmth was the result of unusual, and in some cases, record warmth, generally moving west to east across the CONUS,” Arndt wrote.
The acronym CONUS refers to the continental United States.
Up in the Arctic, the seasonal ice cover continued to shrink in March.
The average amount of territory in the Arctic that was covered by ice during the month was 7.02 percent below the 1981-2010 average and was the second-smallest ice cover during March since record-keeping began in 1979.
Arctic sea ice reached its maximum extent on March 24. Covering 14.52 million square kilometers (5.61 million square miles), it was the smallest maximum on record and was 1.12 million square kilometers (431,000 square miles) below average.
“I’ve never seen such a warm, crazy winter in the Arctic,” Dr. Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo. and a professor of geography at the University of Colorado, said. “The heat was relentless.”
Serreze explained that, while the powerful El Nino that occurred this past winter may have helped drive down Arctic ice cover by causing circulation of warm air currents, the overall trend downward cannot be attributed to ENSO events.
“The system has always been variable,” he said. “It’s not like we’re going to set a new record each year. That’s not how the system works. If we recovered in the next year or two that would not be a surprise at all, but it would only be a temporary recovery.”
The average air temperature in the Arctic between Dec. 1 – Feb. 28 was 4-11 degrees Fahrenheit above average for that time period, according to an NSIDC press release.
January continued a streak of hotter-than-average months, according to the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, going into the record books as the hottest January since climate records have been kept and continuing a recent streak of consecutive warmest monthly temperature benchmarks.
According to the National Centers of Environmental Information, a bureau of NOAA, the worldwide average atmosphere and ocean surface temperature was 1.04 degrees Celsius above the 2oth century average. That is the second-highest deviation from the global norm ever recorded in 137 years of record-keeping, trailing only December 2015.
NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies released data last week indicating that January represented the greatest departure from the global average atmosphere and ocean surface temperature, with the worldwide measurement reaching 1.13 degrees above the global average of the last century.
The record-breaking warmth was especially pronounced in the Arctic, where temperatures above 75 degrees north latitude were 7 degrees Celsius above average and temperatures. That would explain the report released last week by the National Snow & Ice Data Center, which indicated that January’s Arctic ice pack is lower than it has been in any January in recorded history. The NSIDC data shows that January’s Arctic ice pack was more than a million square kilometers less than the 1981-2010 average.
The NOAA report indicated that Sub-Saharan Africa, most of South America, the Middle East, and southwestern Asia also experienced significant warmth last month. Some areas experienced anomalous rainfall, particularly the United Kingdom, Ireland, some parts of western Europe, New Zealand, parts of Brazil and southern South America, and parts of China. Others were abnormally dry. Those areas included parts of Mexico and northern South America, some areas in Australia, portions of Asia, and a small part of northwestern Africa.
January was also the ninth consecutive month in which the record for highest average monthly air and sea surface temperature has been broken, according to NOAA.
1976 was the last year in which Earth experienced a January that was colder than average.