NOAA: Warmest May, spring, and Jan-May on record

NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center has published its monthly “State of the Climate Report.”

The combined global land and ocean surface temperature was the warmest on record for May, March-May (Northern Hemisphere spring-Southern Hemisphere autumn), and the period January-May.

The warming in May is greatest precisely where climate science suggested it would be — the high northern latitudes (see “What exactly is polar amplification and why does it matter?” — precisely the worst possible place from the perspective of amplifying feedbacks (see “Tundra 4: Permafrost loss linked to Arctic sea ice loss“):

NOAA 5-10

And it bears repeating, the record temperatures we’re seeing now are especially impressive because we’ve been in “the deepest solar minimum in nearly a century.” It’s just hard to stop the march of manmade global warming, well, other than by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, that is.

Finally, the Arctic sea ice extent continues to break records itself, as data from both the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) make clear:

NSIDC 6-10

Will we break records for the whole year?

In Arctic sea ice extent, maybe — see NSIDC director Serreze says, “I think it’s quite possible” we could “break another record this year”).  In global temperature, probably (absent a deep La Ni±a developing soon) — see NASA: The 12-month running mean global temperature has reached a new record in 2010 “” despite recent minimum of solar irradiance.  And in Arctic sea ice volume, almost certainly — see Arctic death spiral: Naval Postgrad School’s Maslowski “projects ice-free* fall by 2016 (+/- 3 yrs)”.


27 Responses to NOAA: Warmest May, spring, and Jan-May on record

  1. R Clifford says:

    Has anyone quantified the amount of additional heat that will be absorbed in the Arctic once it is ice free for 1 week, 1 month, 2 months, all year? I’m sure it’s an enormous number, but not sure how enormous.

    I believe Dr. James Lovelock mentioned it in one of his speeches to the Royal Society, but I am thinking it was a general estimate rather than a precise number. I wonder how all the additional heat will impact fall weather in the Northern Hemisphere.

  2. prokaryote says:


    A disappearance of the Arctic ice cap during the sunlit period of
    the year would radically reduce the local albedo and cause
    an annually averaged 19.7 Wm−2 increase in absorbed so-
    lar flux at the Arctic Ocean surface, or equivalently an an-
    nually averaged 0.55 Wm−2 increase on the planetary scale.
    In the clear-sky scenario these numbers increase to 34.9 and
    0.97 Wm−2 , respectively.

  3. PurpleOzone says:

    Has there been any discussion of how the oil on the Gulf of Mexico will impact the temperature of the water?

    Oil has to have a smaller albedo than the water; is there enough oil on the surface to increase heat absorption significantly?

  4. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    The 14 June sea ice extent is a record low for this date.
    The multi year ice is rotten.
    The Amundsen is a 1200 class ice breaker, it should be able to handle ice 4 foot thick. Instead it was handling ice flows 24 foot thick, and a very much thicker ice ridge.

    Same story from Science Daily

    William seems a little less concerned;

    The folks at Watts up with that have a different spin. Just deny reality.

  5. Tim R. says:

    And how does Obama respond in his most important address to the nation? Maybe more efficiency, maybe a renewable electricity standard, maybe more research and development money, maybe something else.

    Face it: Obama doesn’t get climate.

  6. ozajh says:

    You’re pushing the proverbial uphill as long as large areas of the US and North-Western Europe show neutral or cooling on the NOAA chart.

    There might be a sea-change in opinion within the corridors of power if the May anomalies for the US North-East continue through to August. (Especially if the power infrastructure can’t handle the air-conditioning load.)

  7. Doug Bostrom says:

    prokaryote says: June 15, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    And worked out using those numbers it’s a mind-boggling rate, ~60-120TW. Even the additional rate based on lost summertime albedo so far is still solidly in eye-bugging territory. For purposes of comparison, global generation capacity is ~16TW.

    So in joules accumulated over a year that would be expressed using the technical term “ginormous amount of heat,” meaning bigger than our intuitive grasp.

    I suppose rounding off terawatts is sort of telling in itself.

  8. pointer says:

    Hi, can someone point me to information on the link between solar activity and global temperature? I’m really confused as to whether there’s actually a link. I thought some sceptics had proposed this years ago (e.g. Laut) only to be debunked and the link shown to be non-existant. But Joe keeps mentioning it…

  9. Sarah says:

    Water already absorbs 97-99% of incoming solar radiation, so even black oil can’t increase absorbance by much (but ice can reduce it by a lot). Oil could trap a little more of the absorbed energy at the surface instead of having it spread through the top 100 m of water.

  10. robhon says:

    Tim R… I don’t agree that Obama doesn’t get climate. His problem is that he has to govern. And he has to govern in one of the most difficult political climates for many generations.

    I think Obama “gets” climate. He just has to manage a longer horizon for success.

    Hang tight. He’s our best and most realistic opportunity to get significant movement on this issue. Let’s not be lobbing “short rounds” out there.

  11. George Ennis says:

    None of this matters when it comes to shaping public opinion.Just look at thee places on the globe where it is heating up most and it is not in the lower 48 states. Until the droughts and heat waves set in in earnest expect no policy changes.

  12. Peter Mizla says:

    With so much Climate Science upping their ante on the growing risks of climate change-Obama seemed to not understand the serious risks we may be facing.

    I am sure he has all the information we have-yet chose to not utter hardly a word-perhaps because the polls show lukewarm support.

    The reason why we are unlikely to get any kind of agreement for real reduction in CO2 within the 10 years is politicians still are not sure if the predictions of dire consequences of doing nothing will cause the calamitous events predicted.

    So basically we will have to wait for more serious and widespread global events before anyone begins to take notice- is this not the same attitude when the financial crises began 2 years ago, and the crappy regulations that led up to the gulf tragedy?

  13. prokaryote says:

    pointer, have a look

    False sunshine trend explained by nonuniform data

  14. prokaryote says:

    Peter Mizla “With so much Climate Science upping their ante on the growing risks of climate change-Obama seemed to not understand the serious risks we may be facing.”

    I like to hear more official statements – from more agencies. Currently i have not the impression that the world is working on this issue with what would be required to fix it. If we stop all emission today, the temperature will still rise.

    We need every single hand worldwide to fix this – with negative carbon action.

  15. Peter Mizla says:


    I tend to agree with you- I am sure the President is well aware of what we are facing- and has much more detailed data then we could only hope to read here and elsewhere.

    There is much data and information from the NOAA, EPA, IPCC & National Academy of Sciences that is not released to the public.

    I agree that if we stop all emissions the planet will still warm- but the lack of progress each day globally does present us with more undesirable outcomes and growing risks.

    Sadly politics and special interests are preventing progress on climate change. When climatic events begin to really impeded us as a culture with increasing floods, fires, heat waves and drought- perhaps then Americans and others will begin to see that their world is in fact being changed.

    Currently the weather events though increasingly strange- have not been linked to climate change- by most News organizations- that could change in the near future.

  16. prokaryote says:

    We need a international governmental body to for transition on mass scale.
    That means strict rules when it comes to emission guidance. Standards and support for the 3rd world. They need to produce biochar for us and in return need our technologies and expertise. An unstable nation will just keep driving emissions. This is a radical new approach which is a necessity to cope with abrupt/catastrophic scenarios.

    If anyone has a better idea, i like to hear it. I know Lovelock’s warning that we risc extinction from an several thousand years event or Hansen’s warning about the venus syndrome.

  17. prokaryote says:

    It was also the 303rd consecutive month that was hotter than the 20th century global average for that month, according to Deke Arndt, chief of the climate monitoring at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center.

    “Since February 1985, every single month has been warmer than its 20th century average,” Arndt said by telephone from Asheville, North Carolina.

    The long-term warming trend, along with reports that Arctic sea ice covered less of the ocean and snow covered less ground around the world in May, is consistent with the science of climate change, Arndt said.

  18. mike roddy says:

    Prokaryote, #16,

    I agree that we need an international body to take serious action, but so far these efforts (Copenhagen) have failed. There seems to be too much self interest, leading to chaos.

    Europe is more or less headed on the right path, and certainly has good intentions. Maybe serious negotiations among the US, China, and India could accomplish something, since the three of us are projected to do the most damage. There could be mutual trade and technology sharing agreements, along with specific commitments to change emissions paths.

    Countries that seem to be refusing to take any steps- Russia, Canada, and Australia- would face quiet economic sanctions.

    A lot of us have figured out what we need to do. As with clean power, though, it’s all about deployment.

  19. prokaryote says:

    Gulfs remain after UN climate change talks in Bonn

  20. Peter Mizla says:

    It will also be interesting to see how much Ice retreats this summer in the high latitudes of the Arctic. I wonder how much of a sensation it would cause if it mostly dissipates-we shall see.

    The media thus far has been MIA regarding reporting something as important as Ice decline and the various increasingly destructive weather events. Who is silencing them?

  21. BBHY says:


    The media has been reporting that climate change is controversial and debatable. Showing solid proof that it is real, serious and incontrovertible destroys their carefully crafted narrative. Don’t expect a lot of coverage of ice reduction by main stream media.

  22. Peter Mizla says:


    Ok, then what is their ‘narrative’ (the Media)? Let the planet fry as long as they get their advertising revenue from the far right corporations that want to place ads with a specific media company>? Oh yes I know to please the clueless Tea Party etc……

  23. Lou Grinzo says:


    The forces driving the media’s behavior aren’t quite that simple, but no less harmful.

    They’re under economic siege, thanks to the Internet, among other factors. This means they have fewer resources to cover topics requiring special knowledge, like energy and climate. On top of that, they now have a huge incentive to prolong the debate, since it riles up readers on both “sides” of the issues, which draws eyeballs and therefore advertising dollars. They are in the position of being arms merchants in this metaphorical war; they care more about prolonging the “debate” than they do which side is right or if/when that side will prevail.

  24. The whole event is in a way reminiscent of the Challenger explosion, when engineers said stop stop STOP, it’s too cold, and the brass overrode them. So I’m wondering, Does BP have any engineers on its executive board? In the days when many executives rose through the company, knowing a particular business rather than Business In General, there would have been engineers, and they would have said, our consultants and the guys on the rig are saying stop, it’s gonna blow, we must STOP. I would think that the presence of appropriate technical personnel at the highest levels would be something stockholders and raters would pay attention to in all these technical sorts of businesses.

  25. Chris Dudley says:

    Tim (#5),

    It is worse than that. In the speech he mentions the Waxman-Markey legislation that passed the House. The three “new” ideas are included in that legislation. So, it looks like President Obama does not even understand what is on the table. I suspect that he, or the policy folks who worked on that part of the speech, might have been trying to throw support for having these things is legislation in the Senate but that is not how it came out.

  26. gilgit says:


    I think you are referring to older denier talking point about the sun being the cause of global warming so it’s OK to pollute all we want. Scientists looked at it and showed that the small changes in the sun brightness over the past 100+ years would cause extremely small changes in temperature. Much smaller than those observed (and the sun has actually gotten very slightly dimmer since the 80s).

    But there are some changes (the 11 year sun spot cycle is one) that are always going on. The past couple years the sun has been noticeably less active – less active than at any point in the last 100 years. The effect is small (and Joe often mentions that the effect is small), but his point is that even with this small decrease we are still setting records.

  27. Esop says:


    Peter Laut is actually the Danish physics professor that has debunked the solar theories of “skeptic” (and fellow Dane) Henrik Svensmark multiple times.
    The denialists had a ball during the La Nina induced cooling of 2008 and early 2009, since it happened at the same time as the record low in solar activity. Slight problem for the deniers was the fact that temperatures skyrocketed from April 2009, when the La Nina faded. The solar minimum is now having its peak cooling effect, due to thermal lag, but we are still setting temperature records every single month. In other words, it is now proven that the impact of the sunspot activity has a negligible effect on the average global temperature, it is being far outpaced by warming due to emissions of greenhouse gases. Scandinavian newspapers made the proposed link between low solar activity and a cool period in February 2008 front page material that year. Now that nature has proven the solar theory wrong, we see no mention of the humiliating failure. Strange, isn’t it?