NOAA: Second Hottest May On Record Globally, Hottest For Northern Hemisphere

NOAA has released its “State of the Climate Global Analysis” for May 2012. Here are the highlights:

  • The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for May 2012 was 0.66°C (1.19°F) above the 20th century average of 14.8°C (58.6°F). This is the second warmest May since records began in 1880, behind only 2010.
  • The Northern Hemisphere land and ocean average surface temperature for May 2012 was the all-time warmest May on record, at 0.85°C (1.53°F) above average.
  • The globally-averaged land surface temperature for May 2012 was the all-time warmest May on record, at 1.21°C (2.18°F) above average.

This warmth is particularly impressive because, as NASA noted earlier in the year, “The cool La Niña phase of the cyclically variable Southern Oscillation of tropical temperatures has been dominant in the past three years” –  and that is normally associated with cooler global temperatures. NOAA points out, “ENSO neutral” ocean conditions just emerged in May.  It’s just hard to stop the march of manmade global warming … other than by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, that is.

Unfortunately, this record-breaking Northern Hemisphere warmth for May is in the worst possible places, with temperatures as much as 5°C (9°F) above the 1971-2000 base period over large parts of both southern Greenland, home to a fast disintegrating ice sheet, and northern Russia, home to vast stores of frozen carbon in the form of the permafrost (aka permamelt).

Last year, a major study by NOAA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center, found that thawing permafrost feedback will turn Arctic from carbon sink to source in the 2020s, releasing 100 billion tons of carbon by 2100. Then Nature published a study waring that thawing permafrost could cause 2.5 times the warming of deforestation. We need to act to reduce emissions quickly before this “anomalous” temperature becomes the norm for the tundra.

As I discussed last week, NOAA said there was a “50% chance” an El Niño will develop in the second half of the year, which NASA says would lead to “rapid warming.” This NOAA report underscores that point, and they provide this fascinating chart (which is year-to-date temps for 2012 compared to other very warm years):

The heat is on. Stay tuned.

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30 Responses to NOAA: Second Hottest May On Record Globally, Hottest For Northern Hemisphere

  1. NASA data also shows that May was tied for the warmest May in their record, tieing with 1998 and 2010:

    The Mar-May map shows the amazing warmth across North America that led to the U.S. having the warmest spring on record:

  2. Michelle M says:

    Well, let’s all vote for climate change deniers, and maybe it will all go away! After all this is a conspiracy by the left to make Al Gore wealthy. Heck, NC has people trying to make sea level rise illegal. How’s that for fighting climate change!

  3. David Goldstein says:

    Here we go…the various variable indicators; ENSO, Solar activity, (who knows about aerosals?) are coming out of the relatively negative arc of the last decade or so…if they align in the ‘positive’ for a couple years-any predictions about where global temps go? I’m thinking perhaps a jump of another .3 C VERY quickly, to over 1 C total warming.

  4. Adrian Cockcroft says:

    The last graph showing year to date anomaly doesn’t seem to match any of the numbers quoted above, why isn’t the dot for May in the graph at the top of the comparison?

  5. Paul Klinkman says:

    Joe, I’m sorry to report this, but here’s tomorrow’s headline for you. The Arctic sea ice extent is now a quarter of a million square kilometers below 2007’s record-breaking pace. Because the ice is so thin now, this record-breaking trend may continue. Some people forecasted a few years ago that the Arctic Ocean may be completely clear of ice by 2013. I don’t know, but the summer of 2012 may make a pretty good run at it.

  6. Mike says:

    When temps did not go up deniers where quick to say global warming was over. As warming increases again they will say it is due to El Nino or the sun or black carbon from Asia.

  7. Mark Shapiro says:

    The Arctic won’t be completely clear of ice for quite a while, BUT the Arctic sea ice decline is happening much faster than IPCC main projections, as is Greenland and Antarctica ice sheet loss.

    Much faster.

  8. Paul Klemencic says:

    Paul Klinkman: Be very careful with the wording. Most knowledgeable people commented that the North Pole could be ice free by 2013, which is possible. Others commented that the summer Arctic ocean could be ice free by the same date, which would be extraordinarily unlikely. Neither of these comments were “forecasts”; simply some “chance” of these events. Skeptics are having a field day with these comments.

    Just getting the North Pole to an ice free condition would be very tough. The ice pack has only been pushed back to around 82N so far, and clearing the remaining distance to the pole would require the right combination of weather and winds, in addition to the weakened state of the pack, at just the right time of the season (late August and early September when the fractured and weakened pack can be pushed around). The chance of this happening this year or next is a pretty low percentage bet. But it could happen. There was an outside chance last year, but the weather shifted in August. The ice pack was getting pushed around quite a bit, and was susceptible to loss if the right weather conditions had prevailed.

    This year, the ice on the Russian/Siberian side is a mess. There is a good chance that the 2007 minimum will be breached. But getting an ice free North Pole is much more difficult; and there’s no way all the ice in Arctic will melt completely out this summer, or any summer in the near future.

  9. Paul Klemencic says:

    I should have said “some knowledgeable people said the North Pole could be ice free”, not “most… ” . My bad, especially considering I was trying to comment accurately. Ugh! Chalk this up as an “own goal” for me.

  10. Peter M says:

    Ice is declining rapidly in the arctic now, but its way too early to say this trend will continue. Ice free or ice mostly gone? 80% or more would mean ‘ice free’.

  11. Dan Miller says:

    So how is May 2012 the 2nd warmest globally when it is 6th warmest in the chart?

  12. Joe Romm says:

    Ah, you are reading the chart wrong. That is the year to date!

  13. Joe Romm says:

    Not many folks think the Arctic will be ice free by 2013. Effectively ice free (80%) by 2020 is certainly possible.

  14. Joe Romm says:

    Because that is year to date temps, as labeled.

  15. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    ‘Wealthy and FAT!’, Michelle. Get your ‘facts’ right!

  16. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    This news won’t be a headline anywhere in the Australian MSM sewer. Anthropogenic climate destabilisation is nowadays a forbidden topic, so the only chance of it being mentioned is in the Murdoch swamp, when the denialist industry has come up with some lies concerning the situation. Those lies will definitely get a run.

  17. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Exactly-or ‘natural variability’. They can keep that subterfuge up indefinitely, and will.

  18. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    So, following James Lovelock’s conjecture that an ice-free Arctic Ocean in summer will absorb as much extra heat as all the anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases, we can be relieved that by 2020 this will only amount to 80% of that dread total. What a relief!

  19. nyc-tornado-10 says:

    that graph is confusing, it took me some time to figure out that it is an average of the months from the beginning of the year, not just the current month.

  20. nyc-tornado-10 says:

    The prediction of an ice free arctic in 2013 was made by the navy post graduate school almost 10 years ago. It was based on the rapid loss of arctic sea ice volume, which until now has declined much faster than area or extent, volume is down 75%, area and extent were down around 40% in 2007 and 2011. Eventually, the area and extent will catch up with volume, and this was projected to occur between 2013 and 2019, based on this research (this is an 80% loss of area/extent, with the remaining ice being in sheltered parts of the arctic). 2013 is the earliest year it would happen, the most likely being 2016. Another ideal melting season like 2007, and much of what is left will dissapear.

  21. Colorado Bob says:

    Bringing my water harvester tomorrow.

  22. Colorado Bob says:

    600 gallons , not a small amount. Plus, everything extra that used to flow down the alley. I have control of that as well.

  23. Joe Romm says:

    Are you seriously citing one of my own posts? The point of that piece is that Maslowski even then was modifying his crude projection — “Maslowski tells me he means more than an 80% drop from the 1979-2000 summer volume baseline of ~200,00 km^3.” He hasn’t moved off the full range of his prediction (i.e. by 2019) but he is working on a more rigorous model and is withholding further statements until then.

  24. Joe Romm says:

    NOAA’s chart is somewhat confusing, yes. I tried to clarify it a tad.

  25. Michael Stefan says:

    It looks like we will see a lot more of this in the coming months; check out the latest SST charts:

    In fact, the Multivariate ENSO Index already has us in El Nino conditions, as of April-May:

    During April-May 2012, all of them [MEI component fields] flag El Niño features – a big change from even just last month.

  26. From Peru says:

    The from East to West, NINO 3 zone is heating up fast. It is already at +1ºC anomaly east of 135W:

    So far, the main obstacle to an El Niño developing is a cool area in the North Pacific. The global map of SST anomalies is this:

    (see all maps here:

    If this anomalies continue growing to the west we will have at least a moderate El Niño in a few months.

  27. Uncle Buck says:

    Spot on Mulga. Australian MSM makes the US look “fair and balanced”.

  28. John C. Wilson says:

    Just an edit. You have an extra zero in the figure for ice volume. It was twenty thousand cubic kilometers.

    End of season last year we were down to four thousand cubic kilometers. By the 80% method being (very loosely) mentioned here one could say the ice is already gone. Year to year drops of twenty-five hundred cubic kilometers are not uncommon in the record. The ice is extremely tenuous. Look at what’s been happening in the couple days since this string of ice comments was made. Graphs are all headed straight down.

  29. nyc-tornado-10 says:

    “this is an 80% loss of area/extent”

    This should have read volume. I am surprised that the volume is that close to an 80% loss already, it appears that it will be 80% or more within 3 years, possibly this summer. How soon will it take for the area and extent to catch up, and “let the sun shine in”? There is somthing here that we are very afraid to reckon, and understandably so.

  30. Jack Burton says:

    Yes, some of the natural cycles have favored cooling the last few years. If these start to go neutral or start to favor warming, like say solar output, then I also believe we could see a sharp warming. By sharp, I mean something that will be clearly evident even to the man on the street.
    The last 4-5 years have still seen extreme weather events, and now we stand to add sharp warming to that trend.
    Just think of the late Russian summer heat wave that broke all records. Imagine the same heat wave now taking place in the face of a series of warming biases.
    I told a friend last weekend that we may see some record heat in the next 2-3 years, he was not convinced as I think he has bought into the climate deniers agenda. I expect to be the one to say “I told you so!”
    My guess is that all the climate scientists ,except a few, have been scared by the anti climate change gang into being too conservative in their predictions. I am betting the end of the cooling bias of the last few years will trigger extreme heat events. Look at the heatwave in southern Greenland lately. Unbelievable! Imagine that now with solar and pacific el nino favoring warmth. This march it was 82 degrees for several days running here in northern minnesota. Normally we are well below the freezing point at those dates in my area!