State of the Climate

NASA has released their global average temperature update for the month of November. It’s hot



For the climatological year (December through the following November), 2016 comes in the hottest on record by a sizeable margin:


The calendar year isn’t complete yet, but the year-so-far average shows that it too will come in as hottest on record — for the third year in a row:


Sea ice in the Arctic dipped very low, the lowest November value on record:


The year-so-far average anomaly is the lowest on record:


Down south in the Antarctic, sea ice had actually been expanding recently. But this November it not only hit a record low, it hit a truly stunning record low:


Perhaps the south-pole sea ice has reversed course, but this extreme, however extreme, isn’t enough (yet) to establish a trend.

The reason for temperature increase, including the dramatic decline of Arctic sea ice, is the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere — and the reason for that is us. The two most important man-made greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide (CO2):


and methane (CH4):


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18 responses to “State of the Climate

  1. It’s disturbing how little things have cooled down since the end of El Nino. The GISS data shows 19 consecutive months – beginning with May, 2015 – in which the monthly temperature anomaly has been either the warmest on record or the second-warmest on record. (Although July 2015 is in a three-way tie for second.)

    Another way of putting it: 13 months ago, a temperature anomaly of .95 degrees Centigrade would have been the 2nd highest in the GiSS dataset. Now it’s the 10th highest.

  2. Not sure what the first two graphs are showing. Is one global and one land only? Also the NASA calendar year graph is titled with the wrong months, should be Jan-Dec, rather than Dec-Nov (otherwise it’s no different from the climatological year, except it is different).

    Thanks for keeping up to date. That Antarctic graph is scary.

    [Response: The second graph is the same data, but starting about 1970 for a closer view of more recent changes.]

  3. Please add a FB button so can be shared with friends…twitter too.

    [Response: I’m not on FB or twitter, so it won’t let me.]

  4. It’s hot

    But, but, but, it’s el Nino.

    • Allegedly “It has now been replaced by a La Nina event”!

      However the sadly deluded “experts” from the BoM think otherwise:

      “An INACTIVE status means there is little sign of El Niño or La Niña developing in the coming months.”

    • Chris O’Neill,
      You may jest “But, but, but, it’s el Nino.”

      That nice Woy Spencer hasn’t just got one TLT measurement – he’s got two. So he must know a thing or two. (Perhaps that’s why Woy’s being coy with his graph this month.)
      UAH TLT v5.6 gives a global temperature anomaly for last month of +0.61ºC, the hottest November anomaly on record. And the v6.0beta5 was also the hottest November on record.
      Of course we all know those land anomlies are the ones which will first pick up the way things are going, apparently. (I know that because that nice David Rose said so.) And both v5.6 & v6.0beta5 show a healthy rise in anomaly from October to November with v5.6 the fourth warmest land November on record & v6.0beta5 the top warmest land November.
      So it is hot. And that may still be partly the residual El Nino effect. Back in 1997/98, it took until the middle of 1999 for the satellite temperatures to drop to pre-El Nino levels, although that was under La Nina conditions.

  5. Dear Tamino and co,

    I follow that temperatures are higher, but how does the CO2 and CH4 fit in? I get uncertainty, I get probability, and I get models. In this case though I do not get how you go from ‘change in temp is because of atmospheric CO2’. So please, can you explain the correlation between CO2 and temperature, or CO2 and sea-ice extent?

    Specifically, if you only know CO2, how accurately can you determine temperature anomaly? How skillful is that prediction when compared to a model that says 0 correlation?

    Is it possible that you’re over estimating the certainty of your data? Some of the sea ice extent changes seem quite small…

  6. Dear Will,

    Do you “get” physics?

    Of course correlation != causation, but nonetheless please see:

    How do you define “quite small”?

    • Thank you to everyone who responded. I am familiar with the idea behind the green-house effect. Myth Busters et al…

      Jim Hunts question to me is bang on; ‘Do you get physics?’. No, I do not– that’s why I rely on statistical tests to validate models.

      Jim, I define quite small as ‘relatively little or no change’, such as early 1980s for the arctic, and the tiny oscillations in the 90s for the antarctic. Some of the antarctic changes looks smaller than 1%. Given the measurements being plotted are aggregate measurements the question begs to be asked– what is the measurement uncertainty?

      What is the accuracy of the model Delta[t] = -3000000m^2/TonCO2[t]? Eyeballing, it looks to be ~1000000m^2.

      Is it better than saying Delta[t] = Delta[t-1]? (t is time)

      Barton: Great collection of data. Ty!

  7. Will, I have some web pages about this. See especially the ones about how the greenhouse effect works, and the page on the CO2-temperature correlation. (Correlation, BTW, is a number, and can be measured. It’s not a vague guess about how maybe things are related.) In brief, greenhouse gases absorb infrared light better than sunlight. Thus sunlight passes through air to the ground, the ground heats up, radiates IR, and the greenhouse gases absorb the IR. They radiate as well, and some of that “atmospheric back-radiation” goes back down to the ground. The more GHGs in your atmosphere, the hotter the ground, all else being equal.

  8. Tamino, on the fourth graph (Calendar Year temp anomaly) you accidentally kept the “Dec-Nov” label from the Climatological Year graph immediately before it. Presumably that should be “Jan-Dec”.

    [Response: Yes, it should.]

  9. Looks like Will may be ‘Just asking questions’.

  10. Will,

    One thing to keep in mind about CO2 causing warming. It was predicted in 1850 based on the chemical properties of CO2. In 1896 Arhennius estimated the effect of a doubling of CO2 on temperature and was not too far off current estimates (he was a little higher than current estimates). Recent observation have confirmed those predictions. Since it is a confirmation of a prediction that is a much stronger case than observing a correlation and then suggesting a cause.

  11. OT: Who/where online can I find a carbon-flow nerd? Is David Archer* interacting with the hoi polloi online? I’m trying to wrap my head around scales of carbon sources and sinks: For example, how much carbon has been sequestered from timber crops into A-frame housing or has been captured by plastic in landfills, etc. Is there any worthwhile advantage to the delay of carbon buffered in landfills or household products? Stuff like that.
    *I only remember that he mentioned a “missing sink” in one of his books.

  12. Thanks to everyone who responded.

    The Arrhenius equation doesn’t output global mean temperature. A brief attempt to find one that did came up nil. I do not doubt that it is a useful component in understanding a volume of gas but that’s not comparing apples to apples. Tamino is talking about planetary atmosphere here, not a container in a lab.

    Barton: I follow your reasoning behind GHG and global warming right up until the ‘all else being equal’. All else isn’t equal because CO2 isn’t the only part of the system. The types of equation described by Arhennius are useful precisely because of their ability to respond to change ‘unequally’ (sigmoid). They are like light switches that don’t want to be ‘in the middle’, so rapidly swing to on (0.999) or off (0.001.

    I am trying to understand based on my own experience with hypothesis testing and statistics. Where is the smoking gun?

    [Response: It’s not about the “Arrhenius equation.” It’s his 1896 paper “On the Influence of Carbonic Acid in the Air on the Temperature of the Ground,” here.

    There’s this (why Mike Mann’s work has been the subject of such vicious attack) and this.

    Do you believe cigarette smoking causes lung cancer? Where’s the smoking gun?]