Will 2014 Set a New Temp Record?

November 12, 2014


When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.

I gave a talk last weekend in a local church social hall. To my great satisfaction, their were some crusty old denier types in the crowd, who went off on the “no warming in (insert number since 1998 el nino event) years” crock.  I was online, so able to quickly navigate to the graph above – which is the University of Colorado’s very helpful page tracking satellite measure of sea level rise.
My point was, this is a thermometer.

We all know what a thermometer is – its a vessel of a known capacity, filled with a fluid of a known volume. When you add heat, by placing in baby’s butt, for instance, the fluid expands, as the laws of physics dictate, and we read a rise in temperature.
The global ocean is also a vessel of known capacity, filled with a fluid of a known volume.  And if we are adding heat, it should rise – which is indeed what we see – a rise due to expanding water volume, and increasingly, the input of melting polar ice sheets. Just ask Miami.

There is no process that will cause this kind of rise, other than a warming planet. Period.
What we would not be able to explain is sea level staying flat or droppng – since we know the planet is gaining heat.

It will be interesting to see the cognitive dissonance on the Fox & Friends types, if NOAA and/or NASA announce another ‘hottest month” during the current North American polar vortex driven cold snap.
In fact, 2014 stands a chance of breaking the 2010 record for warmest year – another blow to the “warming pause” talking point.

I have the privilege of listening in on well known atmosphere and ocean experts as this event unfolds.  Without giving away identities, I’ll follow Chatham House rules and summarize the main talking points that I’m hearing:

… the fact that 2014 will be the hottest year on record for two of the four main institutes (NOAA and JMA) and possibly NASA as well is a golden messaging opportunity for three reasons…

1. Hottest year on record always gets play
2. Will kill the “pause” meme.
3. Is a great opportunity to point out that everyone who said global warming “stopped” was full of it.

It’s been noted that, in the past, record temps have usually been reported during El Nino years, when a lot of heat is coming out of the Pacific ocean.  As the NOAA graph below indicates, the red El Nino years are hottest, but the blue, La Nina years, when the Pacific is absorbing and storing more heat, continue to get warmer and warmer overall. We’ve had some very, very warm La Nina years in the last decade.  The 1998 El Nino stands out as the largest in our historical record, and hence the trick of cherry picking temp measurements from that anomalous high point, (1998, NOT 1997, or 1999)

Despite all the predictions, the Pacific has flirted with, but not officially gone into El Nino conditions this year.  A knowledgeable correspondent tells me:

If 2014 breaks the record, it will be without an El Nino contribution.  There’s about a 4 month lag before changes in ENSO are reflected in surface temperatures (about 6 months for the lower troposphere).  So we already know the ENSO influence on 2014 temperatures.  I checked last week; it was as ENSO-neutral of a year as they come.  The net ENSO influence on 2014 surface temps was basically zero.

But another expert cautions on the Nino/No Nino talking point:

I would be careful about arguments involving with/without El Nino. In my view, it is a muddled picture. There has been relatively persistent warmth in the eastern tropical Pacific and that has contributed to global warmth in the way a traditional El Nino would contribute to global warmth. So whether or not it is a classic El Nino …it is definitely an El Nino-like pattern of warmth that has contributed to the global warmth we’ve seen in recent months. I’m convinced of that.

If we set a new global temperature record (as I think we will), no reason at all to get into the weeds about whether it was an El Nino year etc. That might be of interest to some in the blogosphere, but the mainstream media coverage could care less…
I had posted this El Nino primer earlier in the year:

Finally, another well known oceanographer writes;

El Niño physics is not a yes or no issue; the official NOAA definition of an El Niño is simply defining a subjectively chosen threshold for what to officially call an El Niño event. The current warm global temperatures are certainly helped by a rather warm tropical Pacific, even if it’s still been hovering below the NOAA threshold for being called a proper El Niño event.

But yes, 2014 is not an El Niño year in the usual definition and if it breaks a record nevertheless, this is something that can be said. The fact that El Niño conditions may well cross the threshold to become official in the next months makes it likely that 2015 could even top 2014 in global temperature in my view, given the delay of peak warmth after El Niño conditions. Speculative at this point, but if new records were set in consecutive years that would be something. Probably media will then say “the pause is over”, even though there never was any significant pause. But it is so much easier to explain to the public that the pause is over than to explain to them why there was none despite all the talk about it…

Below, a brief NASA interview with Oceanographer Josh Willis on “the pause”.

I interviewed Josh for this extended piece a year ago.

If indeed we do get a record warm year, its possible that an El Nino may yet develop going into 2015, leading to an even warmer record next year.

New Scientist:

Since the last big El Niño event in 1998, when ocean temperatures last peaked, they have remained relatively stable. Such periods are not unexpected, but research is increasingly indicating that the recent slowdown in global surface air temperature rise is down to heat being absorbed by the world’s deep oceans, leaving the surface, and therefore also the air, cool.

But when Axel Timmermann of the University of Hawaii in Honolulu analysed the most recent publicly available monthly data from the UK Met Office, he found that the ocean surfaces are now the hottest they have been since records began. In July this year, ocean surfaces were 0.55 °C above the average since 1890, just beating the previous record of 0.51 °C in 1998. In the North Pacific, the temperatures were about 0.8 °C above average, which is 0.25 °C warmer than the 1998 peak.

“It’s a remarkable situation and I’ve never seen warming of the North Pacific like that,” Timmermann says. The sea surface temperatures could drop back to what they’ve been recently, he says, but unless there is a dramatic drop soon, it will mean the end of the current hiatus in warming. “This will bias the trends over the next two or three years,” says Timmermann.

Land surface temperatures are much more variable than ocean temperatures. The ability of the world’s oceans to absorb extra heat is believed by many to be behind the recent pause in global warming. Now some researchers say the increased ocean surface temperatures are a strong sign that this hiatus could be coming to an end.

“In the North Pacific, the hiatus is definitely finished,” says Wenju Cai from the CSIRO, Australia’s national research agency in Melbourne. He says that while the global surface temperatures – which include land temperature too – aren’t at record highs yet, the slowdown in warming is more-or-less over: “In our mind the hiatus is already finished, because oceans are 70 per cent of the surface.”


It’s a little like being strapped into a not-so-fun roller coaster you would like to get off, but can’t.
Stay tuned.


10 Responses to “Will 2014 Set a New Temp Record?”

  1. redskylite Says:

    All rational people must accept the temperature statistics being produced by NASA, NOAA, JMA and other independent/national meteorological bodies (for example Hong Kong Observatory). The climb clearly shows temperatures are performing as forecasted by physics (Arrhenius published first calculation of global warming from human emissions of CO2 in 1896 – his formula is still good) and later by supercomputer modelling, and we all should be concerned if not alarmed.

    The fact is the climb and figures shown are generally global, they are a lot worse in the higher latitudes especially the Arctic (methane, loss of albedo etc.) and getting stronger as time goes by due to negative feedbacks and amplifiers.

    The U.S is now the number 2 CO2 emitter, having been overtaken by industrial China, but a number 1 democracy.

    There is no excuse to not accept reality, people who think it is all a giant conspiracy should consult counselling or psychiatry. People who deny for profit should look deep within, and society should no longer tolerate such anti social behaviours.

    At least the US and Chinese leadership have recognised the problem by the recent historic deal and the resultant international pressure is considerable.

    Science/media needs to find an even louder resolve and finally convince the voting public directly, the case has never been stronger.

    • The main reason for China topping the emissions is that the west has moved a larger portion of their production there. So instead of manufacturing goods in democracies where pollution regulation can be done with some success, we leave it to other countries to clean our conscious about our country not being the main contributor anymore… a pretty silly tactic knowing that CO2 knows no borders.

      About El Nino, i dont think the planet really needs such systems to try to vent heat from the oceans, the whole planet is in a constant state of El Nino as it tries to get rid of some of the excess heat. A futile battle as the CO2 keeps returning the heat down into the oceans again, and will do for decades still even if we cut all our emissions today.

  2. rlmrdl Says:

    After watching what has been happening in NZ over the last couple of years;
    Record Drought 2012/13 summer
    Wettest May on record locally
    Winter drought 2013
    Another drought February-May 2014
    Very wet, cold, windy spring (my tomatoes are still not in the ground 3 weeks after their usual plant-out date)

    I have another hypothesis. That the ENSO is broken. The last 3 years have been ENSO neutral years which predict any kind of weather at all, which we have certainly been having. Then, in May this year we saw El Nino prediction at 80% confidence. By September it was down to 62-65%, now 58% but following the biggest Kelvin Wave ever recorded.

    My hypothesis is that ENSO only works within a particular temperature range and once we exceed that range the whole process ceases to function.

    Unfortunately I’m not a climate scientist, nor am I a funder of same, but if I had some $$ to spare I would be looking at that as a research project.

  3. Peter said:

    “There is no process that will cause this kind of rise, other than a warming planet. Period. What we would not be able to explain is sea level staying flat or droppng – since we know the planet is gaining heat.”

    You underestimate the deniers. They’ve already got this one figured out. Sea levels only appear to be rising because the islands and continents are sinking.

    The sinking is a natural process, not human-made. It’s been going on ever since the Earth was created 6000 years ago.

    But it’s not to worry, because the Yellowstone Volcano is going active and soon North America will start rising. And, of course, North America is the whole world – if them other countries like China and Europe sink into the ocean, serves ’em right.

    • But it already corrects for GIA. It is not an argument.

      “The correction for glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA) accounts for the fact that the ocean basins are getting slightly larger since the end of the last glacial cycle. GIA is not caused by current glacier melt, but by the rebound of the Earth from the several kilometer thick ice sheets that covered much of North America and Europe around 20,000 years ago.”

  4. The point can be made that it is a better thermometer. It is better because it includes the full ocean and not just the surface (SST). It also represents Ices melt both sea ice (2-3 %*) and glacial melt. Energy going in the ocean is more than 90% while the atmosphere is only 3% . Seasonal variations in sea level is induced by continental water mass. The contributions from thermal expansion (1.6 ± 0.5 mm yr–1) while melting (1.2 ± 0.64 mm to sea level rise per year). The missing 0.3 ± 1.0 mm per year of sea level rise is likely due to incomplete data for both thermal expansion and mass losses for melting snow and ice.

    In fact it(seathermometer) is used to reconstruct paleo sea level. See “Reconstructing sea level from paleo and projected temperatures 200 to 2100AD” Free copy below


    *Ice Displaces its weight not is volume (deferent density). It is shown that the melting of ice floating on the ocean will introduce a volume of water about 2.6% greater than that of the originally displaced seawater. The melting of floating ice in a global warming will cause the ocean to rise. If all the extant sea ice and floating shelf ice melted, the global sea level would rise about 4 cm. (http://phys.org/news5619.html) http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-246X.2007.03472.x/pdf

  5. j4zonian Says:

    Sorry, I’m not understanding how people can not understand the prodigious power of dissociation. (Just kidding, I do understand it; it’s just frustrating.) We’ve already had 2 hotter years than 1998, and the deniers just completely ignore the fact; in “discussions” online they seem to simply not read postings pointing it out, not comprehend it in their reality-defying way, or just lie about it, in their reality-defying way. There’s been a discussion after one Atlantic article between 2 idiots, one a denying delayalist, the other an incompetent, ineffectual, nasty anti-delayalist troll–FOR MONTHS! Every day I get emailed somewhere between 5 and 20 posts by these 2, and they’ve covered the same points 50 times at least. It’s an excellent example of the power of denial, on both sides. Even if 2014 were demonstrably the hottest year in 2 billion years it would make very little difference in this debate.

    I’m posting the link to prove the point, but I strongly recommend not bothering to look at these morons.

    http://www.theatlantic. com/magazine/archive/2014/09/how-to-talk-about-climate-change-so-people-will-listen/375067/

    Arguing with these folks in rational ways is largely pointless after the first few exchanges. They need psychotherapy, whether individual, group or mass (in the form of symbols and memes spread by what media we can still influence. Arguing against their points only reinforces them; I recommend responding with no mention of their points, simply referencing the truth and making our points

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