April 2012: Earth’s 5th Warmest On Record And La Niña Officially Ends, So The Heat Is On.

JR: It’s remarkable how warm it was globally in April considering that we were only just coming out of a double dip La Niña. If we don’t triple dip, we’ll set more temperature records soon. Indeed, NOAA models predict a good chance of an El Niño forming in the late summer, which would make it quite likely next year would be the hottest on record. As for April, you’ll note it was hot in the ‘wrong’ places again — over much of the tundra, which is a carbon time bomb.

UPDATE: Tropical Storm Alberto, the first named storm of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, has arrived. Details here.

Figure 1. Departure of temperature from average for April 2012. The most notable extremes were the warmth observed across Russia, the United States, Alaska, and parts of the Middle East and eastern Europe. There were no land areas with large-scale cold conditions of note. Image credit: National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) .

— Jeff Masters via Wunderground

April 2012 was the globe’s 5th warmest April on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). NASA rated April 2012 as the 4th warmest April on record. April 2012 global land temperatures were the 2nd warmest on record, and the Northern Hemisphere land surface temperature was 1.74°C (3.13°F) above the 20th century average, marking the warmest April since records began in 1880. Global ocean temperatures were the 11th warmest on record, and April 2012 was the 427th consecutive month with ocean temperatures warmer than the 20th century average.

The last time the ocean temperatures were below average was September 1976. The increase in global temperatures relative to average compared to March 2012 (16th warmest March on record) was due, in part, to warming waters in the Eastern Pacific, due to the La Niña event that ended in April. Global satellite-measured temperatures for the lowest 8 km of the atmosphere were 6th or 4th warmest in the 34-year record, according to Remote Sensing Systems and the University of Alabama Huntsville (UAH). April temperatures in the stratosphere were the 1st to 4th coldest on record. We expect cold temperatures there due to the greenhouse effect and to destruction of ozone due to CFC pollution. Northern Hemisphere snow cover during April was 4th smallest in the 46-year record.

Wunderground’s weather historian, Christopher C. Burt, has a comprehensive post on the notable weather events of April in his April 2012 Global Weather Extremes Summary. Notably, national heat records (for warmest April temperature on record) occurred in the United States (a tie), Germany, Austria, Poland, Belarus, Lithuania, Moldova, Hungry, Croatia, Ukraine, and Slovakia as well as the cities of Moscow and Munich.

La Niña officially ends
According to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC), La Niña conditions are no longer present in the equatorial Pacific, where sea surface temperatures were approximately average as of May 13. The threshold for a La Niña is for these temperatures to be 0.5°C below average or cooler. CPC forecasts that neutral conditions will persist though the summer, with a 41% chance of an El Niño event developing in time for the August – September – October peak of hurricane season. El Niño conditions tend to decrease Atlantic hurricane activity, by increasing wind shear over the tropical Atlantic.

Figure 2. Arctic sea ice extent in 2012 (blue line) compared to the average (thick grey line.) The record low year of 2007 (dashed green line) is also shown. Arctic sea ice was near average during April, but has fallen well below average during the first half of May. Image credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).

April Arctic sea ice extent near average
Arctic sea ice extent was near average in April 2012, the 17th lowest (18th greatest) extent in the 35-year satellite record, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). This was the largest April Arctic sea ice extent since 2001. However, ice in the Arctic is increasingly young, thin ice, which will make it easy for this year’s ice to melt away to near-record low levels this summer, if warmer than average weather occurs in the Arctic.

— Jeff Masters co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990. This piece was originally published at the WunderBlog and is reprinted with permission.

10 Responses to April 2012: Earth’s 5th Warmest On Record And La Niña Officially Ends, So The Heat Is On.

  1. John Tucker says:

    The warmer water does no hold as much CO2 – combined no doubt with increases from Japan.

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  2. Doug Bostrom says:

    No article referencing climate data should fail to include that future access to such information is under threat from the ideologically fixated GOP.

    Last year the NOAA Climate Service was axed, this year the GOP is hewing further into our ability to perceive our world.

    Enjoy the availability of climate statistics while they last, consider your future voting choices if you prefer living in the world without wearing a blindfold.

  3. roy hanson says:

    El Nina is stopping, what causes this ocean current to fluctuate.

  4. Sasparilla says:

    Excellent article Joe and good catch on Tropical Storm Alberto off the US East Coast – I wasn’t even aware of it.

    Having a tropical storm in the Atlantic (and off the East Coast in particular) is rather unusual, if memory serves the Atlantic Hurricane season doesn’t start until June (and normally we don’t have much activity in June). Here’s NOAA’s Hurricane Center site.

  5. Oakden Wolf says:

    Yup. So now we can wait and see if a year where the Pacific is normal for half of it can set another global temperature record.

  6. MorinMoss says:

    Off-season storms are fairly unusual.

    See below for a list of all recorded ones since the late 18th century

  7. BBHY says:

    I’m sure the oil and coal industries will be willing to step in and supply us climate information.

  8. Joan Savage says:

    Apparently we are likely get a few months of ENSO-neutral conditions in summer in the Northern Hemisphere before the El Niño starts.

  9. Mark E says:

    FYI, you appear to have a typo in your “Carbon time bomb” link