Climate

Hottest 12 Months On Record Globally Thanks To Warm January, Reports NASA

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In January, the planet continued the warming trend that made 2014 the hottest calendar year on record. NASA reports that last month was the second-hottest January on record (after 2007), while the Japan Meteorological Agency ranked it the hottest.

Significantly, there has never been as hot a 12-month period in NASA’s database as the previous 12 months (February 2014–January 2015). This is using a 12-month moving average, so we can “see the march of temperature change over time,” rather than just once every calendar year.

While it has been cold for those of us living in a slice of the eastern and northeastern U.S., the rest of the country and the globe is quite warm, with large parts of North America and Asia experiencing nearly off-the-charts heat. That’s clear in the NASA chart below for January temperatures, whose upper range extends to a whopping 8.1°C (14.6°F) above the 1951-1980 average!

Global temperatures in January vs. 1951-1980 average.

Global temperatures in January vs. 1951-1980 average. Via NASA.

What’s remarkable is that we keep breaking the 12-month global temperature record even though we still haven’t started an El Niño. It is usually the combination of the underlying long-term warming trend and the regional El Niño warming pattern that leads to new global temperature records, as NASA has explained.

But the human-caused warming is simply too strong to be denied, as it were. If we want to slow it down and ultimately stop it before it destroys a livable climate, it will take some serious cuts in carbon pollution ASAP.

Even though we just set the 12-month global temperature record, we are all but certain to blow past that record for the period March 2014–February 2015. That’s because February 2015 will replace February 2014 in the 12-month record, and last February was relatively cool globally whereas this February is on track to be on quite warm globally (notwithstanding the U.S. East Coast).

“The last 12 months have been the hottest 12 months ever recorded,” said climate expert Professor John Abraham. “So far, this February is much hotter than last year’s. This means that in a month, we will again break the all time record. These records just keep falling.”

This calendar year is extremely likely to set the record for the hottest calendar year if we do finally see an El Niño, but it could easily set the record as long as we don’t see a La Niña. In any case, humans have pushed atmospheric CO2 to levels not seen for millions of years, when the Earth was considerably hotter and sea levels up to 100 feet higher. So we are going to be breaking annual and monthly temperature records on a fairly regular basis for a long while.

h/t Greg Laden