Extreme warming forces climate scientists to add hot pink to temperature map

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Surface temperature anomalies relative to 1951-1980 mean.

Last month I reported on a new paper by NASA’s James Hansen and Makiko Sato (see Hansen: “One sure bet is that this decade will be the warmest” on record).  Kate at ClimateSight sighted a new color in the chart, “pink, which is even warmer than dark red.”

For those wondering why the x-axis jumps to 11.1°C, I emailed Hansen that very question, and he explains, “the numbers on the far right and far left of the color scale give the most extreme value that occurs in that particular (set of) map(s).”

It’s no surprise that new colors and extended ranges are need, given the accelerated Arctic warming we’ve been seeing.  As I reported in January, Canada sees staggering mildness as planet’s high-pressure record is “obliterated”:

Temperature anomalies in North America, 12.10-1.11

Surface temperature anomalies for the period 17 December 2010 to 15 January 2011 show impressive warmth across the Canadian Arctic”¦.

The largest anomalies here exceed 21°C (37.8°F) above average, which are very large values to be sustained for an entire month.

The NSF-sponsored researchers at UCAR/NCAR posted some staggering data on just how warm it has been in northern Canada:

To put this picture into even sharper focus, let’s take a look at Coral Harbour, located at the northwest corner of Hudson Bay in the province of Nunavut. On a typical mid-January day, the town drops to a low of -34°C (-29.2°F) and reaches a high of just -26°C (-14.8°F). Compare that to what Coral Harbour actually experienced in the first twelve days of January 2011, as reported by Environment Canada (see table at left).

  • After New Year’s Day, the town went 11 days without getting down to its average daily high.
  • On the 6th of the month, the low temperature was -3.7°C (25.3°F). That’s a remarkable 30°C (54°F) above average.
  • On both the 5th and 6th, Coral Harbor inched above the freezing mark. Before this year, temperatures above 0°C (32°F) had never been recorded in the entire three months of January, February, and March.

Both NOAA and NASA data showing 2010 tied with 2005 for hottest year on record.  As meteorologist and former NOAA Hurricane hunter Dr. Jeff Masters of Weather Underground reported last November, “The year 2010 now has the most national extreme heat records for a single year-nineteen. These nations comprise 20% of the total land area of Earth. This is the largest area of Earth’s surface to experience all-time record high temperatures in any single year in the historical record.”

NASA may have added pink to their maps, but the climate situation has been code-red for a while.


29 Responses to Extreme warming forces climate scientists to add hot pink to temperature map

  1. Raul M. says:

    If I get it right greenhouse gasses
    absorb the suns energy on contact
    and release that energy to all else
    as heat. Hot spots are where gasses
    accumulate and release heat more
    than normal absorption by all else?

  2. paulm says:

    Do GHG’s warming properties become more pronounced if they are at warmer temperatures?

  3. Douglas says:

    Forget hot pink. Let’s call this “Inhofe” pink.

  4. Fire Mountain says:

    And how much does this reflect feedback loops, the warming feeding the warming? Studies are certainly suggesting that this is happening in the Arctic, with terrible implications for release of carbon sinks in tundra, peats and hydrates. And if warming is feeding warming,then prospects for human control of warming are decreasing. And the world goes on like nothing is happening. Astounding!

  5. Jeandetaca says:

    Joe,Sorry to use this comment as a request.
    I am unable to re find your post with the chart of the variation of record high and record low in the USA (between 1950 and 2010, I remind approximativly).
    I now understand that this chart is a very good picture to explain how T° records evolve during global warming (more high records, less low records; it seems obvious, but eventually powerfull to link the average and the exceptionnal).
    Thank you for the link (unable to find it with the search field).

  6. L. Carey says:

    Jean, are these the charts you’re referring to?

  7. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

    Good post. Yes. Higher temperatures are already felt in India.

    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

  8. Raul M. says:

    Is there a connection with prevailing
    winds that would let GHG build up
    in the hot spots? Does NASA’s TES
    Satellite graph build-up ghg trends
    with changes in the Artic’s oscillation
    pattern’s? And is there so much new
    ground showing in Greenland to be a
    historic geological event?

  9. PAUL DONOHUE says:

    I understand that on Venus where there is a runaway green house effect, the poles are as hot as the equator and the dark night side is as hot as the day side. As global warming is progressing on Earth, we see the same thing developing. The poles and nights are getting relatively hotter. To me this is conclusive proof of global warming due to the man made green house effect.

  10. Gnobuddy says:

    @4 – Fire Mountain says: “…if warming is feeding warming,then prospects for human control of warming are decreasing.”
    Fire Mountain, in my opinion, you touched on is THE most important single milestone in this whole catastrophic process of climate collapse – to wit, at what point do we lose all possibility of affecting the final outcome as positive feedback mechanisms take over?

    Some years ago James Lovelock pointed out that a complete loss of all the arctic ice would change the earths albedo enough to effectively double the excess solar forcing (heating) due to the past two centuries of human-made C02. In other words, at that point the effect of the positive feedback has already equaled all the damage that people have done. You could take that as the tipping point.

    Personally, I think that view is way too optimistic, particularly considering all the other positive feedback mechanisms it glosses over (such as the methane release from melting permafrost you referred to).

    Based on what I know so far, my hunch is that we’re already past the tipping point, we just haven’t fully realized it yet (How do you get the glaciers back? How do you get that extra 4% of moisture back out of the air? How do you re-freeze the thawing permafrost?).

    I wish I knew what James Hanson’s private thoughts on the subject were.


  11. Pete Dunkelberg says:

    Raul # 1, I’m afraid you don’t get it right. Solar radiation is mostly visible light and near infrared. This is absorbed by land and sea.
    Land and sea radiate the energy away (obviously they don’t keep getting hater forever). This radiation is longwave infrared radiation, also called thermal infrared. Greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere (mainly water vapor and CO2) absorb this radiation. Molecules of these gases then radiate longwave IR again, but in a random direction. When the concentration of greenhouse gasses is higher, more of this radiation goes back to the ground or the ocean and less of it escapes into space, until the earth warms up a bit and again radiates enough out the top of the atmosphere to balance the incoming energy.

  12. Colorado Bob says:

    Regional warming occurs in a series of steps rather than as a gradual trend, a new study by Victoria University has found.

    Climate scientist Professor Roger Jones from the Centre for Strategic Economic Studies told the Greenhouse 2011 Conference in Cairns this week that south-eastern Australia had experienced two large steps in warming during the past 45 years. The evidence showed most of the change was not due to natural climate variability.

  13. Colorado Bob says:

    “On the Mornington Peninsula, grapes have ripened at least three weeks faster since an abrupt shift in 1998. The forest fire danger index in Victoria has increased by almost 40 per cent from 1997.

    “Most planning for adaptation to climate change is based on assuming gradual change. These findings have the potential to completely alter how we manage changing climate risks.”

  14. Raul M. says:

    Hi Mr. Pete #11
    what you wrote does seem to
    get complicated, but what I
    may be trying to get at is if
    hydrates are destabilizing in an
    area and the winds make for a
    vortex situation encircling said
    area does TES see it and does
    NASA make trend charts depicting
    such as a hot spot?

  15. Chris G says:

    Once we are aware that we’ve passed a tipping point, should we change the status to code blue?

    The impression that I got from James Hansen’s – Storms of My Grandchildern is that he is very worried about the fate of his grandchildren. It doesn’t matter what his best guess is as to whether or not we have passed a tipping point. If continue BAU, we simply won’t know for sure until it is too late to avoid some dire circumstances. How would you test that?

    The only way I can readily think of is if you can measure a decline in human CO2 output and a continuing increase year over year in CO2 content in air and sea. In other words, it will not be until after we have taken action to fix our contribution to the problem that we can know if we have done it soon enough. So, we can act as though we already have passed the tipping point and continue BAU (because whatever we do won’t really matter in the long run), or we can do our level best to try to avoid that coming to pass.

  16. As I understand it Raul M has got it all (or quite a lot) wrong. Greenhouse gases absorb the sun’s energy as re-radiated from the earth’s surface and the hot spots, at least hot spots in the sense of the ‘pink’ areas in the maps above are rather created from the way oceans and more especially atmospheric circulation (wind, cyclones, depression systems etc) move the heat around …… but somebody correct if I’m wrong, or maybe put it in better more precise language……

  17. Chris G says:

    Raul M (#14),
    I think you are getting confused by the nuances before you have gotten a good grasp of the fundamentals. For instance, methane converts to CO2 (chemistry details aside) after a relatively short time; so, depending on the timescale of interest, where the methane is being released is of more or less interest.

    We already know that CO2 is not 100% uniformly distributed because, in part, plant growth is seasonal and industrial areas contribute more than some other areas. However, we say that CO2 is a uniformly distributed gas because it gets mixed around on a much shorter timescale than its residence time. This would be in contrast to, say, water vapor which tends to precipitate and has a lot more variability with location and altitude than carbon dioxide does.

    A better awareness of CO2’s distribution would improve the models, but a) unfortunately, that satellite did not make it into orbit. and b) the fact that CO2 concentrations have to be estimated or smoothed does not invalidate the general workings of modeling the its effects.

  18. Ted Nation says:

    Joe, from your post:

    “Surface temperature anomalies for the period 17 December 2010 to 15 January 2011 show impressive warmth across the Canadian Arctic….

    The largest anomalies here exceed 21°C (37.8°F) above average, which are very large values to be sustained for an entire month.”

    Is this an error? The hot pink anomalies in the high arctic are 11 degrees C. How can there be anomalies double that for a full month? Please elaborate.

  19. Zetetic says:

    @ Douglas #3:
    I was thinking something along similar lines. Say for instance…

    Inhofe Incendiary Orange
    Koch Brothers Key Lime (an extra-florescent green)
    Monkton Mauve
    Upton “turn-coat” Ultra-Marine

    Of course all of the colors should have an unnatural look to them.

  20. Richard Brenne says:

    Ted Nation (#17) – You ask an important question, and my understanding is that the most meaningful records don’t conveniently happen during one entire calendar month or year, but in a more random time period such as the one described here. So while the average was surpassed by 11.1 degrees C in Cold Harbor during the calendar month of December, it was 21.1 degrees C during the almost month-long period described.

    I remember hearing that when it happened and was blown away then and am blown away now.

    It’s too bad we couldn’t get all climate deniers and the powers that be denying and delaying action living in Cold Harbor during such a time, or the moon or Mars or whatever comet is leaving the solar system permanently. . .

    I feel CP just set an all-time record for the depth of discussion including all the philosophical and theological implications of our doom, expertly expressed by CP All-Time All-Stars Mulga Mumblebrain (kicking off the entire thing with comment #97), Sailesh Rao and Ed Hummel, interrupted only by some boorish buffoon.

    This is now dozens of posts below on the April 9 Weekend Open Thread here:

  21. Chris G says:

    Phil (#16),
    From a 30,000 ft perspective, you can look at it this way:

    GHGs act as insulators.
    The map does not show temperatures; it shows how much difference there is between the baseline and recent readings.
    The areas that are pink are not warmer than the areas that are white; they are just warmer than they used to be.

    It’s kind of like if you are cold, but you are at an equilibrium with your surroundings; your feet might be 65 F and your core 98 F. If you put a blanket over your entire body, your feet might gain 20 degrees and your core zero. That’s not a very good analogy, but the point is that the anomalies have more to do with radiative properties (Earth continues to receive more energy from the sun at the equator than it does at the poles, but it is better insulated over all.) than with effects of circulation.

  22. PurpleOzone says:

    What color will they use for the next step — magenta?

  23. Joan Savage says:

    Ted Nation (#18)

    I was also curious also, and went clicking through the links to the source of the 21C anomaly slide. Click back and forth from slide to slide on the animation link below to the previous and next images, and the 21C anomaly seems largely to occur in early January 2011.

    The previous figure in Joe Romm’s post brackets that time period with the maps of the December 2010 and February 2011 anomalies of 11.1C.

  24. OregonStream says:

    Hey Joe, you might want to have a listen to this interview with Richard Muller on NPR:
    Apparently “ClimateGate”, and his deniers vs. extremists narrative, still lingers?

  25. K. Nockels says:

    A lot of newbys posting here today. Before you can ask a relevent question or dispute a point it is usually a good idea to know the subject.

  26. jyyh says:

    Dec17-Jan15=30d=1month,maps are Dec&Feb,NOT Maximum Detected Anomaly during any 30d=1month period,which would also be an interesting figure to look@.

  27. Jeandetaca says:

    To L.Carrey. Thank you so much! How do you perform to find them back?

  28. Anne van der Bom says:

    I wonder if this new pink colour was went through the proper consultation procedure.

    At least it should be audited.

    It seems the selection of this colour was, as can be expected from the socialist scientists, a secretive process and they have not, I repeat NOT, disclosed their data for proper public consultation. Time for an FOI request.

  29. Ed Hummel says:

    I just wanted to make a brief comment about the just ended winter season in central Maine since what we get here has a strong correlation to what’s happening in the Canadian Arctic.

    We started out November, December, and the first half of January with our ridiculously (for us!) mild conditions continuing as most of our precipitation came as some heavy rain events and we had very little snowpack over the northern two thirds of the state. This was in stark contrast to the much ballyhooed “cold and snow” of northwest Europe as well as parts of the US further south and west. In my humble opinion, all this happened as a direct result of the amazingly warm Canadian Arctic that lasted through this time period (probably abetted in turn by the unusually warm North Atlantic of last year) and which delayed the winter freeze up of Hudson’s Bay and much of the usual ocean areas adjacent to eastern Canada. None of the usual cold air that Maine gets at this time of year was available to cool us down to our normal levels.

    Then once the sea ice finally starting filling in and Hudson’s Bay finally froze over in January, I noticed a definite change in the overall circulation to one a little more “normal” for this time and place. From the middle of January until the present time (second week of April) we have been under a cold regime similar in recent history to what central Maine experienced in 1997 and 2007 when we ended up with deep snow packs that lingered well into April (actually into May in 1997). However, unlike those other years, the one fact that has really jumped out at me this year is how, despite a very cold circulation pattern affecting us since mid January, the monthly average temperatures have been just slightly below normal for February and March rather than much below as was the case in the past. In that respect, this past winter has been quite unusual.

    However, the average person around here doesn’t realize that this past winter has actually been near normal because a comparison with last year’s extremely “warm” winter, when every month was way above normal, with only half the usual snowfall, and with an extremely early ice-out of all area lakes (most were a month earlier than usual!), still sticks out in people’s minds. Therefore, to the average Mainer, this has been another “long, cold winter”, even though the data don’t really support that belief.

    Based on what has been happening in the Arctic the last few years, I would expect such abnormal winters to continue around here and make skiing and snowmobiling (two of Maine’s prime industries) very iffy propositions. At least this winter, as an adequate snow pack finally developed over most of the state, I didn’t see all the brand new snowmobiles sitting on grass in some front yards with for “sale signs” on them. But based on Jim Hansen’s feelings about what’s coming in 2012, I have a feeling that I’ll be seeing many such signs next winter once again. I’m actually looking forward to next winter already just to see how it all turns out, even though the vegetable garden in front of my house is still half covered with a rapidly melting “glacier” and my wife and I can’t wait to start planting.

    And Richard (#20), thanks for tying up our little discussion over the weekend that included Mulga and Seilish. I don’t usually get a chance to often converse with such perceptive people here in the Maine woods! And thanks also to Joe for having this blog and giving us the chance to have such discussions by people and perspectives from all over the world. This blog is unparalleled in providing a forum for commentary for experts and average citizens alike as well as actually being a valuable news source on a wide range of issues that all have a bearing on our climate and the environment in general. Such things actually makes me feel just a bit more optimistic that we just might reach enough people to come out of this thing a little better than anyone has a right to expect!