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This Is What Global Warming Looks Like

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Global warming has accelerated during the past three decades, which have each been unusually warm. In fact, the most recent decade from 2001-2010 was the warmest since instrumental records began in 1850, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). 

While the rate of global warming has slowed in the past several years, possibly due to natural climate variability, the long-term temperature trend clearly shows that we’re living on a warming planet.

This interactive shows just how warm average global temperatures have been over the past three decades, particularly on a backdrop of warming that extends back several decades, based on data reported in a recent WMO report. It shows the global average surface temperature (land and sea) for each decade since 1880, and the dotted line shows what the 30-year average was from 1961-1990. The numbers are an average of temperature records from the three main global surface data sets kept at the U.K.’s Hadley Center, at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as well as at NASA. 

And the warming trend is just as evident when you look at yearly temperatures and not just the decadal trends.

When you look more closely at the annual temperature record, you can see how the long-term warming trend — for the most part caused by human activities — is manifesting itself along with shorter-term natural variability in the climate system. Each of the past 27 years has been warmer than average (based on the average from 1961-1990). In fact, according to NOAA’s data set, each month for more than 28 years has had a global average temperature that was above the 20th century average, meaning that anyone younger than 28 years old has never experienced a cooler-than-average month on earth.

LINKS TO EACH DATA SET


Hadley Centre
UK Met Office:
Data

National Climatic
Data Center - NOAA
:
Data

NASA-GISS
Data

One of the biggest sources of natural climate variability is known as the “El Nino/Southern Oscillation,” or ENSO, which causes sea surface temperatures to warm and cool in a recurring cycle over a large area of the tropical Pacific Ocean. El Nino and La Nina events can help swing global average temperatures upward or downward with respect to their long-term average for a year or two. Typically, El Nino years are warmer than La Nina years.

What’s been remarkable about the climate of the past few decades is that even years when La Nina events took place, with their cooling influence, have still been much warmer than average. A string of La Nina events since the year 2000 has likely helped dampen global temperatures slightly, thereby slowing the increase in global temperatures. Despite the La Nina events, though, the past several years have still been among the warmest on record.

This graphic is based on data from the three major climate centers. For each data set, we calculated what the temperature anomaly was in degrees Fahrenheit relative to the 1961-1990 baseline, and then averaged the anomalies of all three data sets.

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Comments

By Paul Budline (Princeton, NJ)
on August 13th, 2013

And this is what “Nobody Cares” looks like.  Better ramp up the scare tactics: 


August 13, 2013 2:16 pm

Not a single person showed up at the Georgetown waterfront Tuesday for a climate change agenda event put on by Organizing for Action, the nonprofit advocacy group born out of President Obama’s 2012 campaign, the NRCC wrote in its blog.  The event page for the “Climate Change Day of Action Rally” disappeared after rainy weather appeared to drive away whatever people planned to attend. The embarrassing showing follows the news that only one volunteer stayed for an OFA Obamacare event in Centreville, Va., last week to work the phones:

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By Mike Mangan (Comstock Park)
on August 13th, 2013

Fortunately, we still aren’t as warm as we were in the Medieval, Roman, and Minoan Warm Periods. That should be unfortunately since these were all periods were mankind thrived. The greatest leap forward in collective health and wealth worldwide has occurred during the mild warmth we’ve enjoyed since the end of the Little Ice Age. Which reminds me, wasn’t it nice of Mother Nature to warm us up naturally from the end of the LIA? Say, when did that natural warming stop and the evil Republican warming takeover?

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By Steve Goddard (Fort Collins CO 80525)
on August 13th, 2013

Satellite data shows no warming for the past 17 years, which is more than half of the last three decades.

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By Dave (Basking Ridge, NJ 07920)
on August 14th, 2013

Satellite temperature data?

The preferred indicator for global warming (NASA, NOAA, CRU and others) is a globally averaged temperature change in surface (sea) and near surface (land) temperature as provided by in situ measurement devices / thermometers.

Temperature data obtained remotely and by satellite instruments (microwave) certainly has its advantages and applications for many things but tends not to be of the best quality – yet at least - for developing the above types of datasets. This is because of various interference and inter satellite calibration issues. The best quality data is of course always the preferred quality. In this context, satellites do provide a useful way to get data on stratospheric cooling – which is a very much less widely reported indicator of global (surface) warming – though some are looking at a way to get that data via ground-based VLF.

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By Scott (crown point, in 46307)
on August 14th, 2013

I must be looking at the wrong bar graph. I’d better find some satellite data and fast.

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By Michael
on August 14th, 2013

@Steve Goddard.

Satellite data shows an apparent stop in surface warming for the past ~17 years. Unfortunately, the phrase quoted below from the article is incorrect, and the data refutes your statement as well.

“A string of La Nina events since the year 2000 has likely helped dampen global temperatures slightly, thereby slowing the increase in global temperatures.”

That string of La Nina events has NOT dampened global temperature rise at all. It’s merely pumped the heat into the deep ocean, which has shown significant warming over the last two decades. That’s what the ENSO does: it pumps heat into and out of the ocean, warming the atmoshpere during El Nino events, and cooling it during La Nina.

Additionally, all ten of the warmest years on record are within that same time period of 17 years. (Normally bad form to quote from Wikipedia, but check the sources and the data: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instrumental_temperature_record#Warmest_years)

So, yes, global warming is real, no, it hasn’t stopped, and yes, we’re doing it.

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By Craig
on August 14th, 2013

Mike is wrong: there is no evidence of average global temperature being higher than they are today during any of those previous times. Perhaps he has been mis-led by reading lies on crank blogs?

And the serially-wrong Steve Goddard needs to give it a rest. Why does he pick “17 years”? Cherry-picking is dishonesty.

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By Eric Peterson (Front Royal, VA 22630)
on August 16th, 2013

Dave says: “Temperature data obtained remotely and by satellite instruments (microwave) certainly has its advantages and applications for many things but tends not to be of the best quality – yet at least - for developing the above types of datasets.”

Dave, the surface temperature record is polluted with urban heating and can’t be fixed.  The satellite record is imperfect but much better for measuring the global average because it samples everywhere, not oversampling in cities and other built-up areas.

For example, the Norfolk, VA station is part of USHCN, used to obtain the US average temperature and global temperature plotted in the article: http://shpud.com/weather/main.php?g2_itemId=48 Here’s the temperature trend for Norfolk: http://shpud.com/weather/main.php?g2_itemId=142 In a rational science that station would have been removed from the set a long time ago.  But in the irrational world of climate science, they use that upward trend in Norfolk to create a higher upward trend in neighboring rural stations that don’t have as much upward trend.

The result is that the trends that Andrew displayed in his graphs are about double the actual trends measured more precisely by satellite.

Michael says “It’s merely pumped the heat into the deep ocean, which has shown significant warming over the last two decades. “

That is speculation only supported by one climate model (Levitus 2009).  It is unverified.

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By Dave (Basking Ridge, NJ 07920)
on August 16th, 2013

@Eric:

The data processing somersaults are quite tortuous in and of themselves for microwave surface temperature measurements and although IR is much better in that “corrections” respect there is then the fact that cloud coverage severely degrades IR data. Of course it would indeed be nice if we could enhance the accuracy of net global surface warming data using consistently good quality satellite derived temperature data. One day that may happen and the consensus will then be to adopt it for that purpose. But that’s not the case today. But to your specific urban heat island point describing why you nevertheless think satellite data is instead superior to ground data. Satellite surface temperature data is in all cases calibrated by ground sensors and then interpolated. This ensures propagation (absent weighting considerations) of ground sensor errors – which include residual city heat correction errors.

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By John Ward (Gainesville /FL/32605)
on August 18th, 2013

Eric, the bogus claim about urban heat having any significant effect on measurements of world climate has been disproved over and over. Frequently repeating statements such as this doesn’t make them any less erroneous. For a discussion on why the claim isn’t true on three levels of complexity, see this:  http://www.skepticalscience.com/surface-temperature-measurements.htm

The warming of the ocean has been verified by Meehl et al. (2011), Levitius et al. (2012), Nuticelli et al. (2012), and Balmaseda et al. (2013), and Guemas et al. (2013). Data on the ocean warming can be found at http://www.nodc.noaa.gov/OC5/3M_HEAT_CONTENT/basin_data.html

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

Dave, you say “The data processing somersaults are quite tortuous in and of themselves for microwave surface temperature measurements and although IR is much better in that “corrections” respect there is then the fact that cloud coverage severely degrades IR data.”  We are only looking for the temperature anomaly so unless the cloud coverage is changing over the long run it will not affect the trend.  If the cloud cover is changing over the long run, then we can’t say much about attribution of global warming.

And you say “Satellite surface temperature data is in all cases calibrated by ground sensors and then interpolated.”  Once again, we are not interested in temperature therefore no calibration is needed.  All we care about is anomalies.

John Ward, when you claim that “the bogus claim about urban heat having any significant effect on measurements of world climate has been disproved over and over”, do you agree or disagree that Norfolk Virginia and hundreds of urban sites like it should not be included in the USHCN?  If we include such stations with provably increased urban heating, should we average those increases into surrounding stations?  How can that be considered legitimate?

Levitus 2009 is based on a full climate model.  It starts with the assumption of a certain amount of warming based positive feedbacks from weather which it then calculates has gone into the deep ocean.  It is circular logic.

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By Dave (Basking Ridge, NJ 07920)
on August 21st, 2013

Eric: Clearly you want to discredit the generally accepted global warming data as expressed in the data sets of surface temperature anomaly and as reported in this article. I understand that. It is a common theme and profound sentiment at the heart of climate change denial. On a much different level, periodic reviewal is good practice. But your last comment is puzzling to the point of bizarre in its lack of correspondence to reality as evidenced by current technology and current practice.

In an ideal world where instruments would be near perfect with ideal sensitivity, resolution,  noise and overall long term stability characteristics - for instance displaying negligible drift - and where the signal received is solely an accurately known function of the measurand, in this case surface temperature……….your suggestion – at least the first part - would actually work. Of course that’s not the case in practice. For instance at the very basic textbook level one immediately has the problem of surface emissivity (some call it emittance). Accordingly, to generate your hypothetical superior measurement of global surface temperature anomalies from uncalibrated radiance difference measurements over time from these satellite instruments would – among other things - require that the surface emissivity map is both well known and did not change significantly. Whereas surface emissivity is instead variable, especially over land being markedly different for different terrains, different vegetation, times of year and so on. This primary consideration applies to both microwave and IR.

Also, of course clouds matter quite considerably for IR surface temperature measurements from space. Surface temperatures vary and cloud cover varies. Cloud top radiances also vary. The integrity of remote measurements of surface microwave radiance are also severely impacted if it happens to be raining…

Your various categorical statements here are not backed up by the facts suggesting a serious deficit in relevant experience and understanding and/or an out of control desire to sow as much confusion around as possible.

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By Eric Peterson (Front Royal, VA 22630)
on August 22nd, 2013

“It is a common theme and profound sentiment at the heart of climate change denial. “

Dave, thank you for reading my mind.  Another common and profound sentiment in scientific realism is that singe precise pyrgeometers looking down evenly at the entire surface do a better job than a myriad of varying quality thermometers scattered in poor to acceptable locations.

“Your various categorical statements here are not backed up by the facts suggesting a serious deficit in relevant experience and understanding and/or an out of control desire to sow as much confusion around as possible.”

Dave, I appreciate your specific critiques of any of my claims.  I am also glad to respond to them.

“Cloud top radiances also vary. The integrity of remote measurements of surface microwave radiance are also severely impacted if it happens to be raining…”

Talk about sowing confusion…  Once again you are ignoring the fact that we are measuring anomalies over the long run, therefore rain and clouds in the short run do not matter.  OTOH if you believe there is a trend in rain and clouds then say so and back it up.  Also explain how it fits with the theory of global warming.

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By Dave (Basking Ridge, NJ 07920)
on August 23rd, 2013

Eric, and anyone else still following this… another twist eh? Ok. One last time for all of us on this and then a good weekend to all.

Of course a measurement of the total thermal radiation from Earth into space is useful and desirable. This is in fact currently done as part of the CERES NASA mission. Such a measurement, along with others from the various instruments on that particular craft, also provides a measurement of the net thermal balance of our planet or rather the degree of imbalance between the amount of heat entering the planet from the sun versus that incrementally smaller amount which is being radiated back out into space. That mean difference, reported in flux units, is a measure of net global warming and is of course of great interest by itself to climate studies.

However, this does not yield, cannot yield and is not intended to yield, a measurement of global mean surface temperature. You just can’t get there from here by that method.

In terms of temperature, it does allow one to instead calculate the planets temperature as seen from space, which is something different, and also of interest. This temperature is known as the emission temperature. Earth’s emission temperature is about or just below zero degrees F (about 255K). Pretty cold. The difference between that low temperature and the planets much higher mean temperature on the surface is due to the net warming effect of atmospheric greenhouse gases. Our atmosphere keeps us warm. Currently, of course that greenhouse effect is higher than it used to be due to the enhanced levels of CO2 etc due to anthropogenic emissions and which are hence above what they used to be. This is resulting in a net thermal imbalance. This directly measurable heat imbalance is driving the net increases in the global mean surface temperature that we know as global warming. We instead of course also monitor surface temperature directly and as a separate project(s) to obtain a direct measure of this effect via the mean surface temperature anomalies as described and reported in this article and in the preferred manner – for the various reasons as I have discussed before.

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By Eric Peterson (Front Royal, VA 22630)
on August 27th, 2013

“However, this does not yield, cannot yield and is not intended to yield, a measurement of global mean surface temperature. You just can’t get there from here by that method.”

Dave, as I said above, we don’t need to measure the temperature, just the change in temperature.  The calibration of the flux measurements to produce temperature measurements is not necessary, although they do that anyway.

“Currently, of course that greenhouse effect is higher than it used to be due to the enhanced levels of CO2 etc due to anthropogenic emissions and which are hence above what they used to be. This is resulting in a net thermal imbalance. This directly measurable heat imbalance is driving the net increases in the global mean surface temperature that we know as global warming”

You said above that the satellite measures that imbalance and I agree.  All I am adding to that is we would like to know the change in that imbalance since the fact that enhanced CO2 changes the imbalance is well-known both in theory and reality.  What is not as well understood is the amplification of CO2 warming by positive feedbacks and diminishing of warming by negative feedbacks.

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By Sierra Nevada Solar (Santa Monica, CA)
on August 27th, 2013

I wasn’t convinced either, but then I saw some of the graphs - showing that yes, the climate fluctuates quite a bit, but at the same time just keeps inching upwards and upwards amid the fluctuations.  You can clearly see it in an animated graph in this video http://youtu.be/ldVF6sGNltU.

You also see the changes in how the north pole is getting hotter.

Some say that it’s stabilized, but that’s the trend.  It’ll go down again but then raise…but this time by much more, unless we do something.

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By Stephen (02139)
on August 28th, 2013

You can argue all you want about the best ways to measure temperature and how much it is rising.  Unfortunately, the proof of global warming is actually found by looking at the melting of our polar ice caps and the rising sea levels.  Glacial ice that has existed for tens of thousands of years is suddenly disappearing over the course of a decade.  This rapid change is not a natural phenomenon unless brought on by a large meteor or other catastrophic disaster.

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By Susan C. Harris (06830)
on August 29th, 2013

Temperature records from around the world clearly show that the Earth has been warming since 1880. http://clmtr.lt/cb/wMA0fx

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By Eric Peterson (Front Royal, VA 22630)
on August 31st, 2013

“Unfortunately, the proof of global warming is actually found by looking at the melting of our polar ice caps and the rising sea levels”

The north pole sea ice is melting, but the Antarctic sea ice is expanding.  The melting of land ice at both poles is trivial or nonexistent.  Sea levels are rising one inch per decade and that is mostly from warming oceans expanding, not from ice melt.

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By Jeff Johansen (Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44118)
on September 17th, 2013

An interesting discussion, but with enormous flaws in the climate change denialist argument.  The supposed flaws in the LSAT (Land Surface Air Temperature) due to poor siting of weather stations and the urban heat island make no difference in the total story.  The indicators of climate change are not just LSAT records.  they include 1) rising sea surface temperatures, 2) rising marine air temperatures, 3) rising sea levels, 4) rising ocean heat content, 5) rising specific humidity in the air, 6) stratospheric cooling, 7) decreasing September Arctic Ice Extent, 8) decreasing global glacier mass balance.  All of these indicators are clear evidence of recent, sudden, unprecidented warming in the climate.  Urban heat island effects and poor siting of weather stations are pretty meaningless arguments in the face of all these indicators.  I suppose Eric might try to nitpick at each one of these data sets for a different reason, but they tell a concerted, consistent story.  Climate denialists can not give a consistent rationale for why all of these lines of evidence converge on a single conclusion.  The earth is warming in an unprecedented fashion.

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By Lionel A Smith (Fareham/Hampshire/UK)
on September 18th, 2013

Mr Goddard,

What satellite outputs are you looking at?

I don’t see your picture here:

http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/rss/from:1996/plot/rss/from:1996/trend/plot/uah/from:1996/plot/uah/from:1996/trend

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By Arno Arrak (Dix Hills, New York 11746)
on November 13th, 2013

The author knows nothing of global warming when he states that it has accelerated within the last three decades. There is no long-term warming whatsoever during these decades and the only actual warming was a short three-year step warming that accompanied the super El Nino of 1998. It was caused by the large amount of warm water the super El Nino carried across the ocea. It raised global temperature by a third of a degree Celsius, and then stopped. There has not been any warming since 2002 when it reached its maximum and the standstill that began then is still with us. The author is of course right when he states that first decade of this century was the warmest ever. But he is dead wrong to attribute this to any global warming because it is of oceanic origin thanks to that step warming brought to us by the super El Nino. That super El Nino is itself a once a century occurrence and should not be averaged in with surrounding fields.  Prior to its appearance there was an alternation of El Ninos and La Ninas, with five El Nino peaks occurring between 1979 and 1997. The author does not have the El Ninos and La Ninas right on his chart which gives an entirely imaginary picture of temperature development. The El Ninos in the eighties and nineties behaved regularly and returned to the prevailing average temperature after they had peaked. Mechanically that was accomplished by the La Ninas that follow each El Nino as part of the ENSO oscillation.  Checking the mean temperature of the eighties and nineties shows it to be constant for 18 years. But you don’t see this in any official temperature curve used by the IPCC. What they do is to show you a fake warming called “late twentieth century warming” in the eighties and nineties. Undoubtedly that is what misled the author to claim warming there.  I discovered this skullduggery when I did research for my book “What Warming?” I even put a warning about it into the preface to my book. Nothing happened for two years but then suddenly the big three of temperature, GISTEMP, HadCRUT, and NCDC, decided all in unison to stop showing this fake warming. They did it by aligning their data for this period with satellites. It was done in secrecy and required cross-Atlantic cooperation. This means that now, in addition to the current fifteen year standstill of global warming, we have another standstill to add to it. This works out to 33 years free of greenhouse warming instead of the 30 years of warming the article claims.

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By Jeffrey E Ehrlich MD (Clermont, FL 34711)
on January 2nd, 2014

To Arno Arrak,  Your assertions are incorrect.  Data from numerous sources all confirm an increase in temperatures world-wide, more pronounced in the last 30 years.  See http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/global/2013/11.  There is no secret trans-Atlantic conspiracy to alter data.

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