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Globe’s Unbroken Warm Streak Approaches 29 Years

The globe’s unbroken hot streak is inching closer to 29 years, with new data showing that October was the 344th consecutive month with global average surface temperatures above the 20th century average. 

According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released on Monday, the global average surface temperature for the month of October was 1.13°F above the 20th century average (1961-1990) for the month. That’s enough to make this the seventh-warmest October on record in what is also likely to be the seventh-warmest year on record, according to a recent report from the World Meteorological Organization. The last time the globe had a cooler-than-average month was February 1985, and the last cooler-than-average October occurred in 1976, shortly before Jimmy Carter beat Gerald Ford in that year's presidential election.

Global temperature departures from average for October 2013, which was the seventh-warmest October on record.
Credit: NOAA

Australia is among the red areas on this month's temperature map. The country continued its streak of 15 straight months with above average temperatures. This October was 2.57°F above average, making it the nation's seventh-warmest October and keeping Australia on track to have its hottest year ever. Some areas within the country dealt with even more extreme heat. For example, temperatures were 6.48°F above the long-term average in Sydney, according to Australia's Climate Council. That helped fuel intense bushfires, with thick smoke darkening the skies above the city for days and leading to some of the poorest air quality on record there. Brisbane's average temperature in October was 83.84°F, its hottest on record for the month.

Above average temperatures extended to the opposite end of the globe as well, where Alaska had its record-warmest October with temperatures running 8.8°F above average.

It was a different story in the Lower 48 states, though. Warmth in the Northeast was balanced by cooler temperatures overall, and the U.S. was one of the few places around the globe with cooler than average temperatures for the month. That’s in part because every state west of the Mississippi (except for Texas) was on the cool side.

Cold weather was responsible for the strong blizzard that walloped South Dakota in early October. The storm whipped winds up to 70 mph and dropped up 3 feet of snow across Wyoming and South Dakota, but some individual totals were much higher. Lead, S.D. picked up an astonishing 55 inches of snow over 3 days. More than 20,000 cattle were lost and economic losses are estimated to be $1.7 billion. The widespread cattle losses led to a rare Presidential Disaster Declaration for an October snowstorm.

In Europe, Spain’s temperature ran hot enough to have its sixth-warmest October on record. On the southern side of the Mediteranean, a good portion of northwest Africa experienced its hottest October on record. Christopher Burt of Weather Underground reported that temperatures in Matam, Senegal hit 111.2°F on October 19th and 20th.

Annual peak Antarctic sea extent since 1979. The peak is generally seen at the end of Antarctic winter.
Credit: NOAA

October also marks the end of winter in Antarctica. Over the course of that dark season, sea ice accumulates and stretches its icy grip around the continent, peaking in late September or early October. The region's sea ice reached its maximum extent on September 22 this year, setting an all-time record of 7.52 million square miles. Though sea ice has since receded, it still covered 7.5 million square miles this October, setting a monthly record. That's over twice the area of the entire U.S. and beats the previous October record set in 2006 of 7.33 million square miles.

This continues a trend of growing Antarctic sea ice, which has been expanding by about 1.1 percent per decade since 1979. Scientists do not view this Antarctic sea ice expansion as a sign that global warming is slowing, however. The Southern Hemisphere's sea ice is mostly new ice that forms in the winter and disappears in the summer, and Antarctic sea ice is growing at a much slower rate than its Arctic counterpart is disappearing. Recent research also suggests shifts in Antarctic winds patterns could be a bigger driver of changes, with some contribution from the loss of ozone in the upper atmosphere.

Related Content
Australia has Hottest September as Wildfire Threat Grows
Alaska Roasts During October, Reigniting Wildfire
Foliage Season Under Fire from Climate Change
Winds of Change: Why Antarctic Sea Ice Is Growing
The Last Time CO2 Was This High, Humans Didn't Exist 
2013 On Track to be Seventh Warmest Year Since 1850
Greenhouse Gases Have Soared to Record Levels: WMO
Forget the Melting Arctic, Sea Ice in Antarctica is Growing!


By Eric Peterson (Front Royal, VA 22630)
on November 19th, 2013

“above the 20th century average”

Why pick the 20th century average?  The early 20th century had some of the coldest years worldwide in centuries.  Do you believe it would be better to return to such cold temperatures?

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By William Irvine (Dayton, Ohio 45419)
on November 20th, 2013

Why are you referring to the average surface temperature between 1961 and 1990 as “the 20th century average”?  Shouldn’t your first sentence be “The globe’s unbroken hot streak is inching closer to 29 years, with new data showing that October was the 344th consecutive month with global average surface temperatures above the 1961-1990 average” instead of “above the 20th century average”?  It looks like you are overstating your results in a manner calculated to make those results sound more dramatic than they are.

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By Ron Henzel (Cape Coral, FL)
on November 20th, 2013

The carbon sequestered in fossil fuels was originally in the atmosphere. We’re just putting it back.

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By freed
on November 20th, 2013

And still, there has been no global warming for the last 17 years.

You may choose to arbitrarily use the 20th century average to torture the statistics to pretend that everything is getting hotter. What yoiu say is true, and relevant. But it is not the whole truth, and the fact remains - there has been no global warming in the last 17 years.

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By andyuk (uk)
on July 26th, 2014

” But it is not the whole truth, and the fact remains - there has been no global warming in the last 17 years.”

wrong. the atmospheric temps are steadily rising. 1998 was a dramatic el nino spike. the graph prior to that and ignoring the 1998 spike, to today shows an upward slant.

however its more dramatic because 90 % of the heat is going into warming the oceans. most of the rest is going into melting the arctic. what is left goes into atmosperic warming. the fact that there is warming here too shows how dramatic the warming actually is. global warming means everything in the system, not just the atmosphere.

the scary thing is that as the ocean gains heat there is a dumping into the atmosphere. this is causing a stepped rise that we see in the graph, rather than a even rise. and as more arctic ice is melted, more and more heat will go into the oceans and atmosphere, accelerated by loss of albedo.

in the future it is inevitable we will see an acceleration in global warming. many experts now say earth will be pretty toasty by 2050 and near uninhabitable by century end. some even suggest near term extinction of humanity by 2050, although i think its probably an exaggeration. even if its half as bad, its enough reason to terminate industrial civilization, or at least ban the worst of our excesses like cars and aviation and attempt to do something fast.

but even if we manage to terminate industrial civilization to stop runaway greenhouse, we wont be able to maintain 420 nuclear plants. so in the end, i think its probably curtains for us.

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By Andrew (Charleston, SC)
on November 21st, 2013

Misrepresenting the data twice in the first 2 paragraphs does not lend support to this article.  Calling 29 years of data (1961-1990) the “20th Century Average” is a gross misrepresentation.  If you were to try again by calling it “Last 29 years are warmer than the previous 29 years, but pretty average overall” it would at least be honest.

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By Andrew Freedman (NEW YORK)
on November 21st, 2013

William and freed - the 1961-1990 average is used as the 20th century average by NOAA, whose statistics show the last cooler than average month on a global basis was in 1985. This is not something we arbitrarily calculated to sound more dramatic.

Freed - Despite widespread claims on blogs, the globe has warmed in the past 17 years, just at a slower rate than it had been previously. The 2000s were the hottest decade on record, for example.

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By FreedomFan (Birmingham/CA/77840)
on November 21st, 2013

“Globe’s Unbroken Warm Streak Approaches 29 Years”

Really?  Does this look like a “warm streak”?

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By William Irvine (Dayton, Ohio 45419)
on November 22nd, 2013

Andrew: Please provide a link in support of your claim that NOAA refers to the average temperature for the 1961-1990 period as the average temperature FOR THE 20TH CENTURY.  It is doubtful that they would be this ignorant of the meaning of an average temperature for a period of time.  It would be like referring to the average temperature for October 6, 2012, as the average temperature for the month of October 2012, or even for the year 2012!  And if they do indeed make such an obvious blunder, that is no reason for you to repeat it.

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By Garhighway (New York, ny 10024)
on November 22nd, 2013

Some interesting objections here:

1/ it’s not right to include the early 20th century
2/ it’s not right to confine the comparison to the late 20th century.

OK, so those two are contradictory. Par for the course: deniers don’t have to be consistent.

Then there’s the “no warming since 97” meme. Do you notice how those folks never, ever pick a different starting year? Could it be that if they did their argument would collapse? Could that be a pick, fat cherry pick?

And then from non-sequitur land we have the carbon simply returning to the atmosphere from whence it came. Talk about missing the point.


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By Eric Peterson (Front Royal, VA 22630)
on November 24th, 2013

” the 20th century average (1961-1990) “

I missed that in my first read.  That is incorrect as described here: Specifically they state:  “The global and hemispheric anomalies are provided with respect to the period 1901-2000, the 20th century average”

Furthermore that doesn’t change the fact that it is inappropriate to compare current temperatures to the 1901 to 2000 average since the early 1900’s had some extremely cold global average temperatures.  A recent study claimed that the early 20th century temperatures were the coldest in several thousand years.

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